Czechs and Swiss Boost Hope for Swedish Gripen

By on Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The interim Czech government said it plans to renew its lease of JAS Gripen fighter jets, while a parliamentary committee in Switzerland said yes to a proposed 23 billion kronor ($3.5 billion) purchase of the Swedish-made warplanes.

Following two days of discussions of the deal that would see the Swiss military purchase 22 JAS Gripen jets, the security and defence committee of the Swiss parliament voted 14-9 in favour of the deal. The deal now moves for a vote in front of the full parliament on September 11th.

The committee had previously given the deal a thumbs up in the spring, but some politicians expressed concerns, prompting the government to review and clarify the deal.

As the new Gripen E is still in development, there remains uncertainty as to whether Saab and Sweden can deliver what they’ve promised and that Switzerland may end up with what some called an “Ikea-plane” instead of a “Super-JAS”.

Meanwhile, outgoing Czech prime minister Jiri Rusnok said this week that the government expects to renew its lease on 14 Swedish fighter jets beyond 2015.

“The negotiations are at an advanced stage. The ball is actually in our court. The Swedes are awaiting our final answer to their recent offer,” he told reporters on Monday.

The new contract with Stockholm over the supersonic JAS-39 Gripen combat jets could be inked at the end of the year or in early 2014 by the new government, he added. Snap elections are scheduled for late October.

The Czech military paid nearly $1 billion to lease the Gripens for a decade starting 2005. The aircraft include 12 one-seater JAS-39 Cs and two two-seater training JAS-39 Ds.

In July of last year, former Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said Stockholm was being “uncooperative” regarding the renewal. According to press reports, the Swedes had been refusing to lower the lease price.

Necas stepped down in June amid a spy and bribery scandal. The president appointed a new technocratic government led by Rusnok, but that cabinet lost a confidence vote this month.

“The next government will make the final decision on the Gripens, but this (Rusnok) cabinet will do its utmost to facilitate it,” Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek said Monday. He added that the new contract will be a better deal for the Czech Republic and valid for “a period longer than ten years”.

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