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The cost of mistake or just mistrust? How the choice for U.S. F-35 over the Swedish Gripen jet fighters will cost extra billions to Norway

Monday, 06 June 2011
Despite the name Scandinavia, signifying a group of countries in the northern Europe which have similar culture and similar ways of doing things, from the look of things it could mean working together. That is not true. There are evidences of great division within the Scandinavian countries working with each other and the pain, in most cases is directed to Sweden, the biggest and most heavily industrialised country in the region.

Swedish company Saab defence produces high level advanced fighter jets that compete with some of the best in the world. When the Norwegians wanted to beef-up their air defence, it was expected that they will just knock at the door next door and order from Sweden.

But they contacted Saab and take a look at its fighter jets and made a promise that they would seriously consider buying. But as time went on and since the market is open and there are other players, after shopping around, they changed their mind and fell for the American
 F - 35.

Defense Minister Grete Faremo during Parliament's fighter-hearing today. Major General Stein Erik Nodeland

Why did they choose the American F-35s instead of Saab’s Grippen? Because, they claimed the American F-35s where cheaper and more efficient. On 20 November 2008 the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, proclaimed that “expert evidence is conclusive that the Joint Strike Fighter or the JSF (F-35) was better for our needs. It is also cheaper." This was all that was needed to push the Sweden Gripen out of their market.

The news that Norway had decided to move on to buy U.S. fighter Jets, the F-35 JSF, came as a great disappointment to both the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt  and the aircraft manufacturer Saab.

Today it turns out that both the jets and the cost have not met their expectation. The cost keep going up while production has not even yet started.    

Presenting at the Norwegian parliament today, Defense Minister Grete Faremo made it clear to the parliamentary committee hearing that the total cost of the combat aircraft purchases from the Americans have increased by around one billion Danish Kronor since 2008 when the order was made.

Also Norway is now taking the view that the main delivery of the combat aircraft will start from 2018, two years later than previously planned, Faremo emphasized.

The  F-35, which are not yet in mass production, will cost Norway Nkr 72 billion in purchases and 120,000 hours of flying time.

Contrast this with the new version of the JAS Gripen that would have cost Nkr580 million each, according to figures presented by calculations made by a Swedish engineering magazine referring to Saab’s own figures as well as reported in Norway’s daily Aftenposten. Norway had expected that the U.S. plane would cost Nkr375 million each.

A total of Nkr 18 billion for the F-35-plan against Nkr24 billion for the Gripen aircraft – speak for itself.  But today the figure is up to Nkr1.3 billion per F-35 aircraft, or a total of Nkr72 billion for all, writes Aftenposten despite the fact that the F-35 will not be delivered in 2016 as planned but instead the first will be delivered 2018 if all goes well.

The cost of the JSF (F-35) today stands at 80 percent more than when the project started and more than 30 percent over when the appropriations were done in 2007.  No project can be expected to continue in that way - especially not during the current economic situation according to critics of the growing cost of the project.
The operation cost of the F-35 is said to cost 33 percent more than the current F-16s. To fly an F-35 will cost a staggering Skr120 000 per hour.

A Gripen costs  Skr24 000  per hour of flying according to people close to the JAS 39 Gripen when they were pitching it for Brazilian sale.

The Foreign affair Editor of Aftenposten, Kjell Dragnes wrote that “No one really knows what the JSF will cost Norway, or when it becomes operational. Israel, which will buy 20 aircraft, said that "the problems are far worse than we have been told." U.S. authorities shall provide to new figures on 14 June.”
By Scancomark.se Team

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