Saab's sorry saga in Switzerland is settled.

Not gonna happen.
It seems that the long soap opera that was Switzerland's Gripen acquisition has come to a sad end for Saab.

On May 18, 2014, 53% of voters of voters voted "NO" on purchasing the Saab Gripen E...  Or any other jet fighter.

So what happened?

Swiss politics.

In December, 2011, the Saab Gripen was selected to replace Switzerland's F-5E Tiger II.  The selection itself was controversial, with an infamous "leaked" report stating that the Dassault Rafale was the obvious winner and that the Gripen tested was not suitable.  This report has been neutered somewhat since, as some of the requirements were rather odd.  It also tested the Gripen C model, not the improved Gripen E.  The Swiss government would end up defending its Gripen choice, as did the Swiss military.

The Swiss Gripen selection was enough to encourage the Swedish government to approve "NG" (next generation) Gripen funding.  With two purchases on the horizon, the Gripen NG was worth developing.

While the Gripen's purchase was approved by government vote, at 22 for, 20 against, 1 abstaining and 2 absent, the vote did not have enough of a majority to release funding for it.  This caused for further delay.  It also opened the door for factions like Group for Switzerland without an Army (GSoA) to collect enough signatures to force the issue into referendum.

Two absentee senate votes and 50,000 signatures proved to be enough to dismantle a $3.5 billion fighter deal over six years in the making.

Despite Saab's offer of generous offsets and a the potential for Sweden to purchase Swiss Pilatus PC-21 trainers, 53% of Swiss voters voted "NEIN" or "NON".  The referendum has effectively kiboshed the Swiss Gripen purchase.

While the vote certainly is disappointing for Saab, it certainly wasn't much of a surprise.  Switzerland's defense strategy could be best described as lackadaisical.  Currently, the Swiss air force only works during regular business hours, between 8am and 5pm.  Recently, when a hijacked commercial airliner threatened to enter Swiss airspace, Italy and France had to do intercept and escort duties.

Thankfully, Canada's RCAF is 24/7.

Saab still has commitments from Sweden for 60 Gripen Es, as well as a tentative agreement with Brazil for 36.  The Brazilian deal is still not finalized, and recent protests over government spending could leave the deal in doubt.

Perhaps the Swiss referendum will encourage Saab to be more aggressive in marketing the Gripen to nations like Canada.

One has to respect Switzerland's democratic process, and fighter purchases in general have been rather unpopular lately.  But could a similar fate happen in Canada?  Thankfully, no.  While some do question the need for a CF-18 replacement, the general consensus is that Canada will need new fighters.  Concerns over the F-35 are more focused on the aircraft's costs and suitability for Canada.

Many, including myself, believe that the Gripen would be a fantastic fit for Canada, either as Canada's only fighter aircraft, or as part of a mixed fighter fleet.

C'mon, Saab...  We'd make a great team.


  1. I don't know if you follow the politics in Sweden or even care, but its a massive debate right now regard the situation in Europe (with Russia roaring like a bear and what not...)
    The swedish defence minister has gone out and "decided" two things (not 100% decided):
    -Order +10 Gripen E (a total of 70)
    -Build totally NEW aircrafts and keep the old Gripen C/D instead of modifying the old ones to E. This makes the fleet huge when the new E's are done, (at least 100C + 70E)

    Both these decisions make production costs for a partner nation cheaper from my point of view...

  2. What an interesting turn of events. I admire Swiss democracy, and their neutral stance in the world. If every nation held their ideals/ beliefs we could drastically cut defence budgets around the world, and use that capital for people/culture development. That being said, I'm disappointed in the result. Even Costa Rica has a police/defence force, and there always seems to be bullies. Their nation did have to deal with the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. Those ideals/values, and the fact the purchase was from another nation with similar values, should have propelled then to this purchase. The Swiss would have supported the economy of a Nation with those values. I would have no problem if Canada adopted a referendum style democracy like this. Maybe we wouldn't get such bad deals on the purchase of military equipment.....

  3. The French speaking wants only Rafale and will vote No for anything else.

    The German speaking wants Gripen, the more economic solution, and will vote No for Rafale.

    The Italian speaking don't know what they want.

    We all know what The Group for Switzerland without an Army wants...

    How can anything, ever, be decided this way ?

  4. It does seem difficult, doesn't it? Hopefully this decision won't come back to bite the Swiss. Relying on other nations' militaries strikes me as a rather dangerous notion, especially when some of those nations (e.g. Italy) are cash strapped.

  5. They should take complete advantage of how Russia is acting to support the acquisition of newly-built airframes. That way it will help their economy, finance further Gripen development and, maybe more importantly, leave second-hand low-cost aircraft available for other nations that are cash strapped.


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