Saab makes final offer for Finland’s HX fighter programme

Swedish defence company Saab has presented its best and final offer (BAFO) for Finland’s HX fighter programme, the last of the five industrial participants to do so, outlining a package of 66 aircraft across two types.

The offer includes 64 single-seat Gripen E fighters and two GlobalEye multi-domain airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platforms, in addition to an undefined quantity of missile systems in the weapons package, which itself adds up to around 20% of the cost of the offer. Saab’s offer was valued at €9bn for platform and systems acquisition.

Gripen E [Saab]
Saab's best and final offer for Finland's HX fighter programme includes 64 examples of the firm's new single-seat Gripen E multi-role fighter. Saab

Presenting its BAFO on April 30 during on online media briefing, Saab officials outlined that the weapons package included MBDA’s Meteor and SPEAR missiles, in addition to Diehl Defence's IRIS-T and Taurus' KEPD 350 systems. Additional undisclosed weapons were also included, although it was confirmed that the Spear EW variant was not part of the offer.

Magnus Skogberg, Gripen Campaign Director for Finland, outlined the HX fighter programme was a “functional procurement”, meaning that Finland outlined its required capabilities, which was then left to industry to determine how to best to meet these needs. Given the inclusion of GlobalEye, this may suggest some sort of AEW&C capability is being sought by Finland.

Brazilian Gripen E [Saab]
Brazil is also an operator of the Gripen fighter, previously ordering 36 E/F variants. Saab

Regarding the inclusion of GlobalEye, Skogberg said that the company had “not noted this type of element in the other bidders” for the HX programme.

During a subsequent media roundtable, Skogberg told Key.Aero that the envisaged production schedule would see the 64 Gripen E aircraft delivered to Finland from 2025-2030, although declined to provide an annual breakdown. Initial operating capability would be required to be reached by 2027.

Should Saab’s offer be accepted, it was anticipated that the GlobalEye’s would be delivered in 2026 and 2027. The platform’s Saab ERIEYE ER radar is capable of detected threats at ranges of up to 550km, or 450km when operating at low level.

GlobalEye [Saab]
Saab's offer to Finland's HX programme includes two GlobalEye AEW&C aircraft. Saab

Given the set budget and a requirement from Finland the operating cost of the aircraft should not exceed 10% of the annual defence budget, aspects such as cost-per-flight hour and maintenance would have been central to discussions. Saab officials said that the low operating cost of Gripen E was one of the reasons that enabled the inclusions of GlobalEye in the package.

Col Torgny Fälthammer, head of the Gripen programme, Air Staff, Swedish Air Force, told Key.Aero that while it was not possible to disclose the cost-per-flight hour of the Gripen variants “there was a big difference” between it and other platforms entered into the programme by industry.

It was also revealed that more than 30% of the value of the programme would benefit Finnish industry and academia, with elements such as final assembly and engine manufacture being performed in Finland to build up its indigenous maintenance capability. 

GlobalEye [Saab]
The GlobalEye's ERIEYE ER radar is capable of detecting threats up to 550km away, or 450km at low altitude. Saab

An April 29 release by Finland’s Ministry of Defence disclosed that Finnish Defence Forces Logistics Command has received the final quotations for the HX Programme from the five manufacturers. Evaluation of the offers will be completed in Q3 2021 and a decision on the winning tender made at the end the year.

Competing for the lucrative programme, which will replace Finland’s current fleet of F/A-18 C/D Hornet aircraft, is Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale platform, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and Saab’s Gripen E/F fighter.

Finland’s parliament had earlier approved a programme budget of €10bn for the programme, including €9.4bn for platforms acquisitions, €579m for system introduction and €21m to cover programme preparation costs.