Sweden should develop ‘super jets’: MPs

If the Swiss purchase of the fighter Jas Gripen goes through, Sweden should develop ten new advanced E/F model "Super-Jas", according to a proposal by the Riksdag's defense committee.

Sweden should develop 'super jets': MPs

“Yes, once we have taken the decision in the committee on December 15th,” said Cecilia Widegren, Moderate MP and deputy head of the Riksdag’s Defense Committee, to news agency TT.

A Defense committee majority has reached an agreement that Sweden should develop up to ten of the E/F model Jas if “Brazil or any other country” places an order for the fighter jet.

The proposition will be officially agreed by the Riksdag in two weeks time.

This would mean that the government in 2012 could be deciding on a development of up to ten aircraft, as long as the Swiss deal goes though.

However, the Greens want Sweden to upgrade the existing Gripen fighter jet and argue that the new E/F model would be too expensive.

The party spokesperson on defense, Peter Rådberg, said that it is very likely that it is a Super-Jas model that Switzerland wants, which would influence Sweden’s decision on future air defense.

He added that Switzerland is paying 22 billion kronor for the deal ($3.29 billion), which would indicate a billion kronor per fighter – a price tag significantly higher than for the existing planes.

“This is a lot more expensive. Previous calculations have estimated about half a billion per aircraft, so there’s a lot that indicate it is a E/F model that they are asking for, but we will see. We don’t have all the information at the moment,” he said to TT.

“Developing ten planes will cost tax payers enormous amounts of money.”

However, the Social Democrats are positive to the development of the ten super fighters, if the Swiss deal goes through.

“Getting this order at this point is good for Sweden. It is important both for the armed forces and for Sweden as a nation. It shows that Jas Gripen is a fighter and a defense system that has earned international respect,” said Social Democrat Peter Hultqvist, head of the Riksdag Committee on Defense, to TT.

Saab had prepared quotes of both a C/D and E/F version of the Jas Gripen fighter jet for Switzerland. At the Swiss press conference on Wednesday it was the E/F version that was discussed, according to TT.

On Thursday there were speculations in Swedish media as to what would happen if Switzerland later were to change its mind.

“All I can say is that the Swiss government yesterday chose Gripen after reviewing a number of other alternative possibilities for Switzerland,” defense minister Sten Tolgfors said to TT on Thursday.

“It is my firm belief that they are doing so because they are convinced that this is the best choice for Switzerland and that this choice will be anchored in the political system, so I choose not to speculate about that,” he said.

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Fresh bribery claims in Swedish jet scandal

Swedish defence firm Saab paid around a billion kronor to shady middlemen as part of a controversial deal to sell fighter jets to South Africa, according to documents obtained by a Swedish tabloid.

Fresh bribery claims in Swedish jet scandal
A Jas 39 Gripen jet flies above Cape Town in South Africa. Photo: AP Photo/mbr/The Star

Saab's sale of 28 Jas 39 Gripen aircraft – later reduced to 26 – to South Africa has been tainted by scandal and corruption allegations ever since it took place back in 1999.

The Swedish defence giant has always denied any wrongdoing in the deal which was mainly carried out by a subsidiary owned by Saab and British BAE and has said that no evidence of any suspect deals has turned up in its internal investigations.

But according to Sweden's Expressen newspaper, internal BAE documents handed to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), a UK-based government authority that investigates fraud and corruption, show that money was paid out to shady agents suspected of being involved in bribery.

According to the paperwork, 7.25 percent (or 13 billion kronor – $1.58 billion) of the total sales of the Gripen planes and the British Hawk aircraft was potentially handed over to secret agents. According to Expressen, the claims formed part of a UK investigation into bribery allegations linked to this cash.

Other classified documents published by the newspaper on Thursday suggest that BAE's former head of marketing for South Africa and Asia, Allan MacDonald, told SFO officers several years ago that Saab had been kept informed of all costs and the agents involved.

“I gave them more information than they had ever got before and they were informed about the arrangements with the agents on chief executive level. They knew,” the documents suggest he said.

In a statement to Expressen published on Thursday, Saab's press spokesman Sebastian Carlsson dismissed the claims that almost a billion kronor was handed to agents, but did not deny that large payouts were made.

“There's nothing strange about a person receiving compensation for the work they do. So I mean, that's not the problem, if there is a problem. The problem would in that case be what a person does,” he told the newspaper.

“If it was 7.5 or 6.5 or 4.5 or 10.5 percent [is irrelevant]. That's nothing, that's what it was like 'in the good old days'. But I can tell you that if back then you had these kinds of commission-based contracts in the export industry, the sums could sometimes be high,” he added.

Saab is one of the world's leading defence and security companies and has around 14,700 staff around the world. It is not connected to Saab Automobile.

Earlier this year it was ranked as one of the European arms companies best at tackling corruption by the Transparency International thinktank.