SHAH ALAM: SWEDISH company, Saab has upped the ante in its quest to sell its Gripen to Malaysia. It is now offering a couple of its MPA aircraft, the 340 MSA, for free if Malaysia selected the Gripen NG for the MRCA programme.
Saab had offered the Gripen NG together with its AEW aircraft as part of a combo deal. The offer for the free MPA was made- according to industry sources – to Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein at the recent DSEI 2015 in London, UK, recently.
I managed to check out the 340 MSA when it was displayed at the Singapore Airshow in 2014. Check out the video below.
The offer for the free planes could be seen as an act of desperation to some but it make sense as Malaysia has a requirement for 4 MPA as it had been reported previously. However as the MRCA programme remained officially on hold the offer for free MPAs could be deal changer or breaker, based on your outlook of course.
As the MSA is based on the 340, it is likely that the same airframe will be offered for the AEW (though I could be wrong) variant. It must be noted that only Saab is offering the combo deal (not a requirement of the MRCA programme) from the other competitors namely, the Boeing Super Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale.
Of the three only Boeing could offer something similar to Saab, though the cost of the Boeing AEW and MPA variants made it very unlikely. Boeing has the cheaper MSA variant, which came during LIMA 2015, though I have not heard anything of a combo offer let alone a freebie!.
As I had mentioned before the Gripen NG remained the outsider for the MRCA programme as the RMAF seemed to prefer a twin engine solution. However, Saab believed their offer remain attractive as they claimed it is the most economically viable for Malaysia even if the AEW and MPA are excluded.
With both the AEW and MPA already part of the RMAF and the Armed Forces requirements, perhaps Saab may have the winning package. As for the leasing offer of C/D versions of the Gripen to bridge the gap between the retirement of the Fulcrums and the introduction of the NG (in 2019 at the earliest), is still valid, I am told.
Saab has teamed up with Deftech to meet the requirements of the MRCA programme together with the AEW aircraft. However they have not teamed up for the MPA requirement. For that programme, Deftech is working with another airframer.
If the MPA requirement become a programme of record, Saab will offer the Swordfish MPA. Unlike the 340 MSA, the Swordfish is a full-blown MPA complete with sono -bouy launcher and armed with torpedoes and missiles.
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