Gripen for Poland

Kraków 2008-03-18

The multi-purpose combat aircraft SAAB JAS-39 Gripen for Poland. 

Hungarian SAAB JAS-39 D. 2018. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman
Hungarian SAAB JAS-39 D. 2018. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman

Hungarian SAAB JAS-39 D. 2018. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman
Hungarian SAAB JAS-39 D. 2018. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman

The multi-purpose combat aircraft SAAB JAS-39 Gripen for Poland.


To leave no doubt to the reader, we were in favor of Poland's purchase of SAAB JAS-39 Gripen multi-purpose combat aircraft. We considered this aircraft a successful construction and well suited to our defense needs. Future cooperation in the development of subsequent aircraft versions would be significant for Poland. The Swedes have several dozen years of experience behind them in the production of turbojet combat aircraft. Already in the 60s the SA-35 Draken fighter aircraft offered by SAAB won the aviation market of several countries. Similarly, his successor JA-37 Viggen was a successful construction. This country with a small population belongs to the elite club of countries that develop modern fighters and other planes by their own forces. SAAB JAS-39 Gripen is the latest product of SAAB Avionics and BAe Systems (formerly British Areospace) combined forces.

The JAS-39 Gripen is an interesting aircraft for European conditions. It was the first 4th generation fighter in active service. Built mostly from composite materials, it is a difficult opponent for enemy radar stations. As to the allegation, about the lack of experience in armed conflicts - that's where the European fighters Hunter, Canberra, Lightning, G.91, F-104, Draken, Harrier, Jaguar, Tornado, Etendard, AMX Rafale, Typhoon and others not checked at the time of purchase in any war?

JAS-39 Gripen also has the ability to take off and landing, which makes it an attractive aircraft for Polish Aviation. The ability to start from a short distance (DOL) is one of the basic maneuvers that Polish pilots have been learning for years. Since 1964, they have successfully launched and landed MiG-21 fighters on highways. A 400 - 500 m long runway is enough for the JAS-39 Gripen.

The beginning of the 90s.

Already at the beginning of the 90s, it became clear that sooner or later the Polish Army would be equipped with military aircraft coming from the West. Among the aviation producers hoping to win the Polish market, there was the Swedish company SAAB. SAAB, taught by numerous failures in selling its aircraft, has already gained considerable experience and was well prepared for the presentation of its products. We will only mention the lost contract for a new fighter jet for Western European countries in which SAAB JA-37 Viggen lost to F-16 and Mirage F-1. It happened at the end of the 70s. Because Sweden, theoretically, is a neutral country, to increase its chances it has associated with the British company BAe Systems.

In 1996, the "Inter Arms 96" military fair was organized at the airport Gdynia - Babie Doły. The star of these shows was the JAS-39 Gripen aircraft in three copies. Planes flew to Poland from Hungary from the Kecskemet base, and flew to the Czech Republic for a show, where they also fought for a contract. The Swedes have prepared very carefully to their day, September 27, 1996. Many officials were brought on board the Swedish Hercules, including the president of British Aerospace, John Weston. The representatives of the Swedish-British group made no secret that they were counting on getting a contract for these planes.

One of the problems with Gripen aircraft was the fact that the avionics of the aircraft is completely integrated with the Swedish system (which is understandable) and it was awaiting unification with NATO systems. Work on this topic has already been undertaken and it was only a matter of time before we saw the effects of these activities. Importantly, actions were also taken to expand the range of armaments carried by Gripen.

The Gripen aircraft was well rated by Polish military; light, manoeuvrable and, above all, suited to our armed forces.

The Polish side was left with complete freedom to choose the weaponry. The Swedish side was also flexible as to the form of transfer of the machines; sale, leasing, renting. Broad cooperation with PZL Mielec was also announced.

On 1999-07-15, the British and Swedish once again announced the possibility of providing JAS-39 Gripen multi-role aircraft for the Polish Air Force. The SAAB-BAe offer was a response to the so-called request for information (RFI), with which on 1999-06-01 the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Poland addressed foreign companies.

As a transitional solution, the SAAB-BAe consortium offered to rent for 16 years 16 Gripen A aircraft and 2 Gripen B aircraft, which were operated in Swedish aviation at that time. Machines in the Polish Army would be 21 months after signing the contract. After five years, the planes would return to Sweden.

The main contract would concern the delivery of new 60 machines from 2012. The value of this contract is estimated at $ 2 billion. The Swedes talked about possible investments in the Polish Armed Industry, which would give savings of up to $ 1 billion, taking into account a period of about 15 years. The offer did not mention armament, leaving this issue only to Poland.

The consortium was also counting on the purchase of another 90 fighters by Poland, which on our part was never taken into account.

It is worth mentioning that in September 1999, the Minister of National Defense of Sweden visited Poland, which proves that the Polish side was treated very seriously. Representatives of the Swedish industry presented their offer under the slogan "Not only Gripen". The Gripen aircraft was presented once again. Its producer, SAAB, produces not only airplanes; also avionics, rockets, optoelectronic equipment. SAAB Dynamics manufactures RBS-15 remotely controlled missiles (offered to Polish Corvette Orkan class ships) to combat ships as well as electronic systems for land, sea and aviation forces. SAAB Training Systems develops simulators and other equipment for pilot training. Close cooperation of SAAB with Ericcson Microwave Systems AB gives access to modern radar technologies, telecommunications and electronic warfare systems as well as avionics, airborne early warning and control systems. The company also deals with defense software for computer networks. A contract with SAAB-BAe for the purchase of Gripen aircraft would provide Poland with significant concessions for the purchase of additional equipment for the Polish Army.


In 2000, one could get the impression that the Polish Government would decide to acquire F-16 aircraft at any moment. It must be said here that at that time Poland planned to acquire one squadron (16 machines) as soon as possible to fulfill the obligations towards NATO, which we joined in 1999. Translating this into our language, the first batch would be used aircraft, and only the next new ones. Americans were slightly ahead of other bidders in their proposals. They could afford it.

In October 2000, J. Steinhoff's commission was to decide whether to accept the US Administration's offer to rent 18 F-16 aircraft, with a sum of $ 220 million. Therefore, a letter was sent with additional questions.

The Polish-language press, however, caused hysteria that it was a letter of intent. The US Congress has begun negotiations on the free provision of 16 F-16 machines to Poland.

To align the positions of other bidders, on November 2000, 27, the Steinhoff commission, via Bronisław Komorowski, sent further RFI letters asking for information on economic cooperation to the UK, Sweden, Germany and France. It was not sent to the USA because the necessary information has already been obtained. In response we obtained; France - rental of 12 Mirage 2000-5 Mk.2 aircraft, USA - free rental of 14 F-16 A Block 15 ADF and 2 F-16 B Block 10 OCU aircraft, Sweden - 16 Gripen Bacht 1 aircraft.


At the turn of the century, SAAB-BAe partners are aware that they are close to conquering the Polish market. On 2001-03-14, the case of the Gripen aircraft goes to the Sejm of the Republic of Poland. SAAB-BAe presents the financing plan for the purchase of the Gripen fighter aircraft in the latest version, which is the 4th generation. At that time, the Americans, considering our low budget, offered the F-16 A / B, i.e. the 2nd generation fighter. During the session of the Sejm, it turned out that the purchase of Gripen would cost Poland from 40 to 170 million $ per year, for 15 years. The manufacturer's representatives also presented Members with the option of renting 18 aircraft (one squadron) for 5 years, with the option of extending for another 5 years. However, they did not provide the price of such an offer, stating only that it was competitive in relation to the American offer.

Mr. Ray Lomas from BAe Systems added that - "Rental costs would be 100% balanced through offset orders at Polish defense factories. Since the fighter has a lifetime of 30 years, we do not require a one-time payment for the aircraft supplied. We have prepared a purchase financing program, 85% guaranteed by the Swedish and British governments. Assuming that the cost of buying the aircraft will be $ 1 billion, and the payment will be spread over 15 years, the annual installments will be from $ 40 to 170 million. Installments would amount to around $ 40 million for the first 5 years. In addition, we offer the option of a 4- or 5-year grace period. Therefore, during the first years of implementation of the contract, the Polish government would incur very little expenditure. This is important in the perspective of charging the budget in the near future with high installments related to the repayment of foreign debt. Of course 100% offset is guaranteed. "

The General Electric industrial group, which is one of the American partners of SAAB-BAe Systems, is responsible for 40% of the construction of Gripen (GE manufactures engines for Swedish fighters, among others).

In April 2001, BAe Systems and PZL Mielec signed a preliminary conditional agreement that final assembly of Gripen aircraft may take place in Poland. Similar agreements were concluded with the Americans and the French. BAe Systems envisaged placing production of wings for regional passenger RJ / RJX aircraft in Mielec. On April 4, 19, a contract worth £ 6 million was signed and assumed the production of patches for 18 aircraft per year. Already from April 2001, the transfer of technology and machines began, and the first patches were to appear at the end of 2001. PZL Mielec has been cooperating with BAe Systems since 1999, and they produce about five thousand parts for various types of aircraft. Among other things, for the Hawk training aircraft, the Raytheon XP Corporate Jet commercial aircraft, the U125A marine patrol aircraft and Gripen. The British made no secret that a "river of orders" for the production of parts and components could flow to Mielec and other aviation factories in Poland if the Swedish-British Gripen wins the tender for a new fighter for our army.

On 2001-04-12, the ambassadors of France, Sweden, the UK and the US received in Warsaw tender documentation for the supply of new multi-role fighter aircraft for the Air Force and Air Defense. The tender concerns the purchase, rental or lending of 16 WSB aircraft by the end of 2003, and the purchase of 44 aircraft in subsequent years.

The Ministry of National Defense expected that from the beginning of June 2001, we would choose between Swedish-British, French and American proposals. If the Polish parliament adopted the act on equipping the army and financing a multi-task purchase, the first - rented, used - planes would, in accordance with the objectives agreed with NATO, land in Poland in 2002. By 2006, we were supposed to buy 60 new fighters. You will have to pay it back by 2015. According to unofficial estimates, the "largest military contract of the Third Polish Republic" has a value of 2.5-3.5 billion dollars.

In June 2001, it was already clear that in the decisive game, the so-called short list, there were three offers. Mirage 2000, Gripen and F-16.

However, the final decision began to be delayed, due to significant talks on the offset and it was already evident that Poland would not deal with this topic before the upcoming parliamentary elections.

At the end of June 2001, a point concerning WSB aircraft was under the debates of the Sejm. The Sejm adopted the bill. By 2003, modern machines will have 16 copies, and by 2006, 60 copies. 369 deputies voted in favor of the bill, there were 9 against and 4 abstentions. Equipment purchased as part of the program for equipping the armed forces with multi-role aircraft will be duty free. The Ministry of National Defense will also train staff as part of the project.

According to the plan, by 2001-07-13, two teams of the Ministry of National Defense were to carry out technical and financial evaluation of the offers. Between July 2-26, 2001, talks will be held with company representatives specifying the terms and subject of the contract. By 2001-08-13, the final specification of the offers that were to be received by the Ministry of National Defense - in the final version - by 2001-08-27 was to be ready. On August 28-28, envelopes with final specifications were to be opened. Until 2001-09-10, the offer was to be selected, and by 2001-09-14, the contract was signed.

At this point we must write about the scandal regarding the employment of the aircraft to choose a consulting company that was to receive payment for the servant in the amount of 2-3% of the contract. Count from $ 3.5 billion. Scandal. I couldn't find out who was behind it. Fortunately, this did not happen.

In June 2001, information arrived in Poland that the Czechs would buy 36 Gripen aircraft and have an offset worth 150% of their order. For us it is important because we know that the Czechs have already made the choice and the position of SAAB BAe Systems has increased. It is worth presenting the opinion of the Americans who, like the French, have already withdrawn their offers, explaining the unfairness of the conditions set by the Czech Republic.

In turn, according to the amended Act, offset can be invested not only in the arms industry. In Poland, expenditure on fighters must, according to the law, be balanced by purchases, investments, and ordering services throughout the entire Polish industry. Talks began at the beginning of September 2001 with representatives of SAAB, BAE System, Lockheed Martin and Dassault Aviation. The situation was still boring. Because, despite the applicable laws, the final number of aircraft and the shape of the offset were not known.

In September 2001, Hungarians decided to rent 14 Gripen aircraft (12 single seats and 2 double seats). The lease agreement stipulates that after its expiry the planes will stay in the country and the government will pay USD 428 million for them, of which 70% will return in offset contracts.

We will only mention that a dozen or so months ago, the Hungarians were dissatisfied and claimed that the Gripen aircraft offered them only beautiful years, but there is nothing to fight for. After which they demanded planes as proposed to Poland.

That is why information from the USA reaches Poland that Americans are angry, that their identical offer was rejected. The US Congress debates were dominated by the problem of selling aircraft to Central Europe, and manufacturers began to exert more pressure on the White House and US Congress. In addition, experts on both sides of Wielka Woda agreed that European companies have more chances than Americans. As a result, rumors circulated in the Polish Senate about a significant decrease in support for the second wave of NATO enlargement. At this point, Poland is becoming the center of attention, because the Swedish-British offer is very attractive. It includes the leasing of 16 aircraft and the sale of another 16. The most interesting thing is that there is no cash payment. The Swedes would receive the payment in the form of parts produced for them by Polish Industry.


In January, SAAB-BAe revealed the details of its latest offset and credit offer. It was prepared for the visit of Prime Minister Leszek Miller in Stockholm. Swedish Gripen was the main topic of conversation with Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson. The attractiveness of the tender enabled high definition of its terms. The most important condition was crediting the purchase so that Poland could get fighters right away. However, pay when the central budget is able to bear this burden (default in 2010). This requirement of SAAB-BAe has been fully met.

The purchase would take place in two credit rounds. The first, export, would be provided by a group of international banks (including KBC, Commerzbank, Hypo Vereinsbank, ABN-AMRO - SAAB-BAe cooperates with each of them). The second loan would be granted by Polish banks, specifically operating in Poland. Due to the fact that the loan would be guaranteed by the British government credit guarantee agency (ECGD) and its Swedish counterpart:

It would be possible to guarantee 100% of the cost of aircraft and the cost of buying spare parts, as well as training pilots, technicians, operators, etc .; Repayment spread over 15 years (or longer); The cost of servicing the loan in the first 10 years would not exceed 0.05% of GDP; A loan in Złotów (protection against exchange rate risk) or in Euro; A loan taken out by Poland will not affect our credit position.

Offset: The minimum offset value is 100% of the order. 10 years to fulfill obligations. 50% in the first 5 years. Offset orders would be received before Poland picks up 60 fighters. 17 workplaces are to be covered by the program.

The problem with an offset of 150% of the order is due to legal provisions. With the provision saying that 50% of the investment is to go to the defense industry, Poland would not be able to use the $ 3.5 billion investment.

In January 2002, the second round of talks began. It concerned industrial cooperation. The offers were unsatisfactory. Therefore, all governments were required to submit corrected offers by February 28, 2002.

In February 2002, the number of aircraft took shape. It was set at 48 WSB, giving up the plan to acquire 12-16 used machines. In place of used aircraft, the ex-German MiG-29 was entered. This draft was adopted by the Polish Sejm on 2002-03-20, and the President of Poland signed on 2002-03-29.

In April 2002, the contract was valued at PLN 14 billion and it was not excluded that the loan would be given by the bidders themselves. I must admit that we were in a comfortable situation at that time. When it comes to negotiations, because when it comes to air combat units, they were gradually demolished due to the lack of planes. Talks with individual bidders were much more peaceful. Less information was already infiltrating the press at that time, and what was being written was at least unbelievable. As taxpayers, we could wait for the announcement of the tender's outcome, believing that the choice would be the best possible.

The contract signed on 2002-12-27.

On Friday 2002-12-27, the Lockheed Martin victory was officially announced in the WSB competition for Poland, gaining 90 points out of 100 possible. The declared offset amounted to over USD 9.5 billion (277% of the offer price), but after conversion by Poland, USD 6 billion (170%) was included. The consortia defeated it; Gripen International (JAS-39 C / D Gripen) scoring about 90 points. The offset offer was to amount to approximately EUR 7.5 billion (233%), but only EUR 4.7 billion (146%) was included. And Dassault Aviation (Mirage 2000-5 EPL / DPL), which was disqualified because the offset offered (EUR 3.8 billion - 105%) after conversion by Poland was valued at EUR 2.1 billion, which accounted for only 60% of the contract value (Poland required at least 100%).

According to the deputy minister of national defense - Janusz Zemke, the American offer was the most comprehensive. The Commission awarded her 90 points out of 100 possible. A committee of 23 people made the decision unanimously. In total, 93 specialists evaluated individual parts of the offers. Interested companies were talked for 53 days.

However, the contract may not be signed if, by the end of May 2003, no orders have been placed that US companies have committed to locate in Poland. In this case, the Polish Government will start talks with producers Gripen, which slightly lost to the F-16. This is important because the Ministry of Economy, through its secretary Andrzej Szarawarski, has repeatedly emphasized that offset proposals are far from satisfactory and Americans should complement them. At the same time, the F-16 has not been installed in Poland.


We didn't see the Gripen plane in the Polish sky. From the perspective of several years, it is difficult and unnecessary to be fooled. But looking at our neighbors, the Czechs, the childhood period of our Jastrzębia is calmer than their JAS-39.

Written by Karol Placha Hetman