At the end of last month, Swedish aerospace defense company Saab has joined the competition to find a replacement for the aging CF-18 fleet of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Saab’s new fighter jet the Gripen E will compete in a $19 billion-dollar competition for 88 new jets in the Canadian Air Force. In addition, Saab hopes to have the jet assembled in Canada by Canadian firms, as they did with their successful Brazilian contract. Saab is one of 2 European companies, competing to win the contract, with the other being Airbus with their Eurofighter Typhoon.
Near the end of 2017, the fighter jet competition was launched in hopes of finding a replacement for the aging fleet. Currently, the fighter jets currently in the competition are the F-35, Eurofighter Typhoon, Super Hornet, and the newest competitor, the Gripen E.
The new Gripen E was based on an older generation JAS 39, which was designed to counter invasions from other countries during the Cold War. However, the JAS 39 was introduced in 1996, 5 years after the end of the Cold War.
Compared to the other jets in the competition, the Gripen E is robust and rugged. It can take-off and land in snow-covered runways at 800 meters, and takes 10 minutes, factoring in the conscripts, to rearm and refuel before going back to fighting. The robust design of the Gripen E could potentially give it an edge compared to the other jets in the competition. According to Per Alriksson of Saab Aeronautics, the Gripen “has Arctic DNA built into it… (and) it is pretty good in operating in dispersed locations (like Canada) .”
The Canadian government has been desperate to find a replacement for their aging CF-18 fighter fleet. The CF-18 Hornet was introduced in the Canadian military in 1983 and considerations for replacing the jet began since 2010. Canada has been a contributor to the production of the F-35 Lightning II jets and had considered purchasing these jets earlier this decade. However, due to the increasing costs of the F-35, the replacement jets have been reconsidered.
As the CF-18 Hornet fleet ages, a replacement must be considered soon. As a temporary solution, Canada ordered 18 Super Hornets from Australia in 2017 as a temporary replacement due to their similarities to the F-18 fleet. The first Super Hornets arrived in February 2019 in CFB Cold Lake and will be delivered until 2021. However, the currently existing CF-18 Hornets will have to serve another decade before the 88 new generation fighter jets could be in full operation.
American and European firms vie with each other to secure the contract for the 88 new replacement jets. Saab recently joined and has offered Canada on why its jets stands above the rest of the competition. Saab, as well as the other firms, hopes to win the competition.