When Saab first hinted that its offer would include Canadian-built Gripens, many assumed that Bombardier would be the likely partner.  It seems obvious, Bombardier is Canada's largest (only?) aircraft manufacturer, and they certainly could use the extra cash.

The trouble is with that assumption is that Bombardier does not build military aircraft.  Well...  Sort of...  Bombardier designs have been used as the underlying platform for several military aircraft, notably Raytheon's Sentinel R1 and Saab's GlobalEye and Swordfish (all based on the Global 6000), but Bombardier itself has never aspired to compete in the defence market.  Sure, they did buy out the remains of Canadair, but that was forever ago.

Saab has instead chosen to partner up with IMP Aerospace and Defence.  This announcement likely threw a few people off, as IMP is not as well known as Bombardier.  Also, technically, IMP does not actually manufacture any aircraft itself. 

I say "technically" because, while IMP does not build any aircraft of its own design, it does tear apart and rebuild plenty of aircraft.

CP-140 Aurora with Block IV upgrades.  (Real airplanes have curves)
If you have seen a CP-140 Aurora, CH-149 Cormorant, CH-124 Sea King, CH-146 Griffon, or even the Snowbirds; you have more than likely seen IMP's handiwork.  IMP has been responsible for maintaining, updating, and refurbishing these iconic Canadian aircraft for decades.  IMP (under the guise of Cascade Aerospace) is also modernizing Canada's CT-130 Hercules fleet.

As you can see, while IMP may not have the same name recognition as Bombardier, they are a major player in Canada's aerospace and defence industry.  The fact that they seem to be experts in keeping ancient designs like the Sea King and Tutor flying well beyond their intended service life speaks well of their competency.

IMP Aerospace is kind of a big deal.  The fact that is flies under the radar is a good thing.  Instead of constantly looking for government handouts or crying foul when things do not go its way...  It simply gets the job done.

CC-130s at IMP's Cascade Aerospace facility.
If Saab is awarded the FFCP, it will likely mirror the process it took with Brazil.  That means the first few Canadian Gripens will be built in Sweden, followed by the majority being assembled in Canada.

IMP does have several options as to where it assembles Canadian Gripens.  It already has facilities in Halifax, NS and Abbotsford, BC.  It also has the option to acquire a new facility in a more centralized (read: more politically convenient)  location.

Most likely, IMP and Saab would choose the Halifax location.

Purchasing or building a new facility makes little economic sense.  Saab is selling the Gripen on its affordability.  Why spoil that by throwing money away building a new facility or even purchasing then converting an existing one?  Building or purchasing a facility could also lead to unacceptable production delays.

That leaves IMP with the choice between its Abbotsford and Halifax facilities.  Of the two, Halifax makes the most sense.

IMP Halifax should just be finishing its work on the Aurora and converting American VH-71 Kestrels into Canadian Cormorants.  This certainly leaves plenty of space and capacity.  Halifax also happens to a port city and closer to Sweden, reducing shipping costs of subassemblies build in Saab's main facility.

Any political argument goes out the window when you realize that Atlantic Canada is a hotly contested region with a longstanding history of economic troubles.  Some may complain that Nova , Scotia "got its due" with the CSC contract, but that deal has lost some of initial luster as some work gets outsourced, and an even larger portion gets re-routed to Davies Shipyard in Quebec.

Volvos being assembled...  In Halifax?
Oddly enough, the Gripen would not be the first Swedish-Canadian product built in Halifax.  Back in 1963, Volvo opened its first North American assembly plant in the Bayer's Lake area.  Not only was this Volvo's first factory outside Sweden, but it was the first foreign-owned automobile factory in North America.

This factory has long since shut down, but it is an interesting footnote in its similarity to the Saab/IMP proposal.

Coming soon to Halifax?
Years ago, if anyone would have suggested that Nova Scotians would be building Swedish fighter jets, that person would have their sanity questioned.  Now, it is a real possibility.  It really shouldn't.  After all, Nova Scotia is where powered flight got its Canadian start.


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