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Saab to submit Gripen multi-role fighter aircraft tender for Brazil

By Laura Reid

“Brazil & Sweden/Norway” recently interviewed Bengt Janér, campaign director of Gripen Brasil, established by Gripen International - The swedish company whitch acts as a prime contracting organization, responsible for marketing, selling and supporting the Gripen Multirole Fighter Aircraft WorldWide. Gripen International was set up by Saab and Bae Systems to market the gripen for export markets. Bae Systems is Building the main landing gear unit and wing attachment unit.

Gripen International combines the strength of its international industrial partners, which are among the world’s most experienced and respected manufacturers of aerospace and defense equipment. The Gripen International team is committed to establishing long-term industrial partnerships with all Gripen customers. These relationships cover a wide spectrum of industry and are not limited to the defense and aerospace business sectors.

At the beginning of October, Saab welcomed the formal Request for Proposal (RFP) for the supply of new fighter aircraft for Brazil. “Saab will submit a bid including 36 Gripen NG (Next Generation) to meet the requirement for future multi-role fighter aircraft for the Brazilian Air Force. We are convinced that the Gripen NG is the perfect fit for Brazil’s future needs,” said Lennart Sindahl, Executive Vice President of Saab. The company serves the global market with world-leading products, services and solutions ranging from military defense to civil security. Saab has operations and employees on all continents and constantly develops, adopts and improves new technology to meet customers’ changing needs.

Saab also offers transfer of technology with unrivalled access, enabling autonomy and increased national security, as well as an outstanding industrial participation package that will generate partnerships and long lasting business opportunities. The Gripen NG offer from Saab is supported by the Swedish Government.

Johan Lehander, Managing Director of Gripen International, and Bengt Janér. (Photo: Per Kustvit)

Next year

On October 1, the Gripen fighter was announced to be on the short list as one alternative to equip the Brazilian Air Force. The issue of the formal RFP, which Saab will hand in the answer to in the beginning of February 2009, is the next step in the process. Brazil is expected to make a decision during next year.

The Gripen NG has been selected as one of the three candidates under consideration for the Brazilian Air Force, the others being the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Dassault’s Rafale. The fighter jets excluded from the tender were Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, Eurofighter’s Typhoon and the Russian Sukhoi SU-35, which neighboring Venezuela bought recently.

The Brazilian Air Force wants a next-generation multi-role fighter jet to replace its entire fleet over the next 15 years. Its initial requirement is for a batch of 36 fighters, although the total program is for 120 aircraft to be delivered from 1014 until post-2020.

New office

On October 22, Gripen International inaugurated its Brazilian office in Brasília, where Janér is responsible for coordinating efforts for the sale of the Gripen NG for the Air Force’s F-X2 contest.

Present for the occasion was Bob Kemp, Senior Vice President for International Sales & Marketing at Gripen International, who gave a presentation about the Gripen NG and the current status of the Gripen program in the world, its delivery to clients and excellent sales prospects.

“We are today in a comfortable position. But in a while we will be in a dominating position in the world fighter market,” Kemp said at the end of his presentation. Also present were Swedish Ambassador Annika Markovic, Christer Olsson, the Swedish Military and Aviation Attaché in Brasília, and Mats Warstedt, Group Senior Vice President of Marketing at Saab.

According to Janér, “the Brasília office opening shows that Saab is committed to the Brazilian government in enhancing its relationship with Brazilian institutions, specifically the Ministry of Defense, the Brazilian Air Force, Army and Navy, as well as the Ministry of Industry and Trade.”

Janér granted us the following interview:

B&S/N: First of all, could you give a brief background of yourself? What were your activities when you were appointed director of Gripen Brasil?

BJ – I was born in Sweden and moved to Rio de Janeiro with my parents at an early age. I am very happy my parents chose to live in Brazil, and they provided me with the best of both worlds. We used to travel to Sweden every other year which gave me the opportunity to maintain the language and culture close to my heart. After university I joined Cia T Janér and worked with Bofors, then Ericsson icrowave and Saab until 1990 when, together with my father Anders, and other partners, I started Quadricon. We focused on the defense market. Last year, I was asked by Saab if I would be interested in joining Gripen International as the Campaign Director for Brazil. It was an honor to accept that position to represent a fascinating hightech product and hopefully join my two favorite countries even closer together.

B&S/N: Brazil has revived its delayed search for a next-generation combat aircraft, having in June issued requests for information to six bidders for its new FX2 contest, including Saab’s Gripen NG. At the end of September, the latter was selected among the three finalists picked by the Brazilian Air Force, with a decision expected next year for 36 aircraft to be delivered beginning in 2014. Could you make some comments about this?

BJ – Brazil is seeking a long-term partner to increase its capabilities in operational and industrial areas. My primary challenge is to convince the Brazilian Government that Saab and Sweden are the best technological partner for Brazil. Sweden is the only country outside the UN Security Council that develops and manufactures latest generation fighter aircraft. It is the independent choice. I believe our strength lies in three key words: excellence, reliability and affordability – this is after all the trademark for Swedish products in general. The Swedish Air Force is known for its operational capabilities. It was the fourth largest air force in the world during the 60s with approximately 50 squadrons! It is a world leader in operational capability, even though it has been reduced in size dramatically in the past years. Finally, Brazil has an extremely capable aerospace industrial base. We have a lot in common.

B&S/N: Could you give us some details about the Gripen Demonstrator, which made its maiden flight in Sweden in May and is a flying test platform for the next generation of Gripen aircraft?

BJ – It is important to reinforce that the Gripen Demo program is just a stepping stone to the Gripen NG (Next Generation) design. The Gripen Demo aircraft will test and develop many of the essential systems and capabilities that will be applied to the Gripen NG. The latter will have a GE F414G engine, an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, carry 40% more internal fuel, and have an approximate 50% increased range compared to the previous model. The NG also features a repositioned landing gear, increased maximum take-off weight, new avionics, communications and electronic warfare, as well as a very advanced datalink.

B&S/N: How would you compare the Gripen fighter to its competitors in terms of the Brazilian market? Do you believe Brazil will have the financial conditions to acquire such an advanced aircraft?

BJ – Compared to our closest competitor, the Rafale carries 8 tons of payload with two engines while the Gripen carries 6 tons with one engine, saving a lot of fuel, spare parts and money. The Gripen NG is extremely advanced, with newer electronics compared to the competition. Saab is open to discuss technology transfer and work-sharing in development and production. The Gripen NG program drives the development of new technologies for existing and potential customers. The aircraft’s 30-40 year lifecycle will enable Brazil to have a state-of-the-art aircraft and still make significant savings. Another important aspect to consider is the Brazilian aerospace industry. Saab offers a complete technology partnership with Brazilian companies. By partnering with Saab, Brazilian aerospace companies like Embraer, Atech and Aeroeletronica will be able to configure the aircraft to Brazilian requirements and increase its technical capabilities in systems integration, among other areas.

B&S/N: What are Saab’s plans for Brazil and what are your main challenges as head of Gripen here?

BJ – As many Swedish industries Saab has been present in Brazil for a long time, ever since our Saab Scandia commuter aircraft flew here in the fifties. Naturally we see Brazil, a regional superpower, as a big potential market in the future. Not only in regards to the Gripen fighter but also other defense equipment in our portfolio. In Brazil we can learn a lot from other successful Swedish companies, especially through our close ties with our main shareholder, Investor. Through Swedcham and the Swedish Trade Council we hope to get a better understanding of which areas can be developed to support the campaign. We see Sweden and everything it stands for as a good selling point in Brazil, as in many other markets.

B&S/N: Does the company plan, if necessary, to develop a new generation fighter aircraft specifically aimed at the Brazilian market?

BJ – We always work very close to our customers to give them a product that is tailor made for their needs. I can give South Africa as an example since we are delivering 26 aircraft to them at this moment. They have, in their Gripen aircraft, South African components and electronics and will integrate their own missiles that are, by the way, being developed together with Brazil.

B&S/N: The Norwegian-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce is a partner in this magazine. How is Saab’s Gripen offer to Norway coming along?

BJ – Norway is now finalizing the process of procuring a future fighter to replace their old American F-16s. Now there are just the Gripen NG and the American F-35 left. The F-35 is a fighter under development by Lockheed Martin to replace their old workhorse F-16. Norway has always used American fighters and the personnel in the Norwegian Air Force are all trained in the US so it is a big surprise for a lot of people that the Gripen is seen as a serious alternative by the Norwegian Government. The interesting thing is that Norway is investing in the Gripen Demonstrator program. There are two factors behind our strong position in Norway. First of all cost. Governments today must be really careful how they spend the taxpayers’ money. It is hard to explain the reason to buy an expensive product just because it is made in America when you can get the same or better for a much lower price somewhere else. Secondly, Sweden offers true partnerships—both when it comes to the product and, not less important, industrial cooperation. After we started marketing the Gripen NG in Norway, there have been a tremendous number of entrepreneurs and industrialists traveling back and forth between Norway and Sweden finding new ways of cooperating in all sectors of the society. I’m hoping that this will be the case here as well now when we have started marketing the Gripen NG in Brazil.

B&S/N: Is there anything you would like to add?

BJ – Having worked with Brazilian-Swedish business relations my entire life I’m looking forward to continue doing this in the future now as a director for Saab and Gripen in Brazil. I’m quite confident that the Gripen program will be a success especially since I have two very strong pillars to lean on for support in the form of Investor and the Swedish Government, which are both actively supporting Gripen exports all over the world. And with the support from the Swedish community in Brazil, I am confident we can make this happen.