1) SAAB is hoping–but Canada has not operated a non-US fighter, other than the CF-100, since the the 1950s, and the only NATO members flying the Gripen are Hungary and the Czech Republic (recent Gripen news here). Swedish Gripens did work with NATO air forces during the 2011 Libyan operation but with a limited role. Still, the Gripen is the least expensive of the planes involved in our government’s current fighter questionnaire:
Saab Says Gripen Export Chances Rise as F-35 Buyers Review Plans
Saab AB (SAABB) says sales prospects for its Gripen fighter are improving as country’s such as Denmark and Canada reconsider buying the Lockheed Martin (LMT) Corp. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and others set fighter purchase plans.
Sales of current model Gripens and the NG, the next generation model [now called the "E"], may exceed 300 units in the next two decades, Eddy de La Motte, head of Gripen Exports said today. A lease of fighters to Malaysia, a new sale to Finland and a follow-on deal with Thailand are possible, he said in an interview.
European and U.S. combat jet makers such as Boeing Co. (BA), Lockheed Martin and European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. are battling in numerous overseas markets as domestic orders come to an end, risking the closure of production facilities. Saab secured Gripen’s future with an agreement from its home country, Sweden, and Switzerland to jointly develop the new version to be delivered from 2018.
“We can now offer a fixed price, fixed performance and fixed timetable,” de la Motte said. “The outlook is better than anything I’ve seen.”
Canada opened talks with Saab after the country in December decided to review options amid concerns over mounting costs for the F-35 it was set to buy. “We have got a formal request,” de la Motte said, while adding a decision has not been taken to mount a sales campaign.
“Canada has strong ties to the U.S. and we are really looking at trying to assess our chances,” he said.
The Stockholm-based company is more bullish about the outlook in Denmark, another F-35 program partner, where the government said last week it would pick a combat aircraft in 2015. “It is ideal timing,” de la Motte said [see: 'Dassault Aviation SA (AM) to extend their offers beyond a March deadline as it considers its plans, de la Motte said…
Saab secured a 47.2 billion Swedish krona ($7.32 billion) development pact for the Gripen NG in February and expects to book an order to build 60 of them before year end, Chief Executive Officer Hakan Buskhe said at the time. Switzerland plans to buy 22 aircraft [not done deal yet].
2) LockMart shuffle:
Lockheed VP retires amidst F-35 criticism
The head of Lockheed Martin’s aeronautic unit announced Monday he will retire from the company on April 5. Within his portfolio is the most expensive weapons program in the history of the U.S. military — the Joint Strike Fighter.
Since last September, the military’s top officer heading that program, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, has gone on the offensive criticizing Lockheed Martin for maintaining a poor relationship with the Pentagon and not taking the steps to control costs and ensure the program’s health over the next 40 years.
However, Lockheed Martin said in a statement that Larry Lawson’s decision to retire was made for personal reasons and had nothing to do with the comments Bogdan has made in the past few months. Marillyn Hewson, the newly appointed CEO and president of Lockheed, has also selected Orlando Carvalho, the head of the the F-35 Lightning II program, to take over for Lawson.
In place of Carvalho, Hewson has selected Lorraine Martin to take over the F-35 program. It’s a natural step up for Martin who is serving as the executive vice president and general manager of the program. Both moves seem unlikely if Lawson was forced out by Lockheed leadership because of Bogdan’s displeasure with the relationship between the F-35 program office and Lockheed Martin…
While Bogdan has taken the uncommon step of criticizing a lead defense contractor in public, others have pointed to progress in the F-35 program, albeit modest progress from a low point in a program riddled with cost overruns and missed deadlines.
The Government Accountability Office issued a report in which the investigators wrote that the “current outlook is improved,” however the “long term affordability is a major concern.” The report also highlighted that the F-35 program accomplished seven of its ten “key management objectives” in 2012.
Carvalho and Martin must face the forthcoming challenges of maintaining the program in the midst of the budget cuts brought on by sequestration and the continuing resolution. Despite the F-35’s stature and the priority it receives from the Pentagon, it must still sustain a seven percent cut under sequestration [emphasis added, that will slow US production and keep costs up--see also: “Five Military Cuts That Would Fix Sequestration”]…
Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute