The head of the Swiss Air Force, Lieutenant General Markus Gygax, anticipates that there will be a yes in a referendum on the Gripen. He expects the first Gripen will be delivered already in 2018.
When the Swiss government last November announced that it wants to buy 22 Gripen fighters for the corresponding 22 billion champagne corks popped at Saab in Linköping.
A better Christmas present could the aircraft builders in Tannefors hardly have hoped for.
Since then a lot has happened. Not least, Saab has been subjected to a smear campaign in the Swiss media and the main competitor, French Dassault, has lowered the price of the Rafale.
The Swiss air force chief, however, gave a clear signal when he was yesterday, during a visit to the Aerospace Forum in Malmslätt, responded to Correns questions:
- I feel confident with the decision made by the Government, says Markus Gygax.
Two steps remain before the deal with Switzerland is completed. In May or June next year, Parliament will vote on the defense budget. If there is a yes to procure new fighter jets, everything indicates that there will be a referendum in 2014.
- Since the Berlin Wall, we have had half a dozen referendums concerning our defense. We have won all referendums, including those related to the purchase of the F-18 (U.S. warplanes). It is easy to imagine that a senior military are worried about a referendum. Markus Gygax does not seem to be the anxious type. In fact, he welcomes a referendum.
- If the people can vote and say yes to us in the future must have a defense, its over with the discussion. Then all of Switzerland will accept the decision. That's how it works in a direct democracy.
"When we get angry"
According to the latest leak to the Swiss newspaper, representatives of the Air Force believe that the Gripen is a "blunt" compared with the two competitors, the Rafale and Eurofighter. Air Force Chief is concerned that the public will have incorrect information for the referendum.
- Every time Switzerland buy a new weapon system, it could be about tanks and airplanes are very expensive, debate breaks out. It's very interesting for the media to report on arms deals.
But the ongoing debate an issue for the defense line?
- There is a problem of public misinformation. When we get angry.
Are you angry?
- No, not really.
The same version
Markus Gygax, who himself is a former fighter pilot, revealed on Friday that although Switzerland Air Force has decided to bet on the same version of the Gripen as the Swedish Air Force. It is about the so-called E / F version with longer range than current versions.
- We will order the exact same version as the Swedish Air Force. We have discussed the needs of our two air forces and has concluded that there are no differences. It is such a complete aircraft.
If the Swiss people will vote yes in 2014 said it may take until 2018 before Saab will deliver the first plane. Then roll it on quickly:
- Saab is able to manufacture an aircraft a month. This means that it takes two years to get 22 aircraft. The last aircraft will be delivered in 2020.
The decision to procure 22 fighter aircraft stands. According to the Air Force chief, it is about 16 single-seater and six two-seater planes.
- For the Swiss, it is difficult to know what is the difference between a Gripen and Rafale or Eurofighter. This is not just about the airplane to buy but also what it costs to maintain the plan for up to 40 years. It is very important. The price difference between the plan is big, really big