Fighters loan is bait for Gripen deal with Poland

British Aerospace and Sweden’s Saab are bidding to sell Poland 60 Gripen fighters, in an unusual deal that involves Poland borrowing planes from the Swedish airforce while it waits for its new fighters to be built. If the £1.2bn deal goes through, BAe would build up to 45% of each fighter through its joint venture […]

British Aerospace and Sweden’s Saab are bidding to sell Poland 60 Gripen fighters, in an unusual deal that involves Poland borrowing planes from the Swedish airforce while it waits for its new fighters to be built.

If the £1.2bn deal goes through, BAe would build up to 45% of each fighter through its joint venture with Saab, bringing valuable work to BAe’s Warton and Salmesbury plants in Lancashire.

Poland has a long-term requirement for 150 aircraft, but lacks the finance to pay for them now.

To sweeten the deal, BAe and Saab have arranged for the Swedish Air Force to loan a squadron of 18 Gripens to Poland for five years while the new Gripens are built.

Poland’s existing fleet of Soviet MiGs needs updating and Germany’s Dasa already has a deal to upgrade the country’s MiG-29s.

As well as BAe and Saab, Poland has also asked Dasa, US firms Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and Dassault of France to bid for the initial order of 60 fighters, to be delivered by 2012.

The BAe/Saab bid includes a provision to give work to Polish defence firms including PZL Mielec, with which BAe already has a parts deal for its Hawk jet trainer. The value of the Polish manufacturing work would at least match the cost of the fighter contract, BAe said.

BAe and Saab are also chasing possible orders from the Czech Republic and Hungary for 36 and 30 fighters respectively. BAe believes the Czechs will decide their needs in 2003, when Hungary is also expected to make a choice.