Monday, 28 July 2014

Saab bails out of Denmark.

Not going to happen.
Saab has declined to enter a bid in Denmark's recently announced fighter competition to replace its aging F-16 fleet.
"We are grateful for the invitation to tender, but as on all occasions like this, we have undertaken an analysis of the situation and choose not to respond to the invitation," 
Like Canada, Denmark hit the "reset button" on its F-35 purchase after concerns about the JSF's price, performance, and reliability.  It is now comparing the Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing Super Hornet, and F-35.  Dassault's Rafale was apparently left out.

Saab's exact reasons for declining Denmark's request for binding information (RBI) are unclear, but seems pretty safe to assume that it believes the competition is heavily weighted in the F-35's favor.  Like Canada, Denmark is a "Level 3" industrial partner in the JSF program.

It could be more complicated than that, however.  Recent success in Brazil, combined with disappointment in Switzerland may have encouraged Saab to be more selective in its prospective client base.  Denmark would be a smaller order (around 30 aircraft), and it just might not be worth the effort to compete against industry giants like Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, and the Eurofighter consortium.  Both Boeing and Eurofighter are desperate to keep their assembly lines running, while Lockheed-Martin is adamant on keeping JSF orders up in order to keep costs down.  Fresh off its victory in Brazil, it would seem Saab has the luxury of sitting this one out.

Denmark was an early partner in the F-16 program, joining Norway, the Netherlands, and Belgium.  History may be serving as momentum here, as Norway and the Netherlands have already committed to the F-35.  Belgium may not be far behind.

"Danish Special" Saab 35 Draken
What does this mean for Canada?

Probably nothing much.  Saab declined Canada's "request for information" seeing it as political smokescreen.  It has mentioned that it would reconsider a Canadian bid if Canada announced a full and open competition.  With a new fighter purchase delayed well until 2020, it is still too soon to predict whether or not this will happen.

[UPDATE:  Thanks Kjell!]  Boeing was told to limit its bid exclusively to the two-seat F/A-18F.  Two-seat variants are known to be more expensive and heavier.  This could very well be stacking the deck in favor of the single-seat-only F-35.

A similar issue happened in S. Korea, when Eurofighter's bid was disqualified when it 60 aircraft offer did not include enough two-seater Typhoons.  South Korea then went on to purchase 40 single-seat F-35s.

It makes you wonder if Eurofighter received stipulations for Denmark as well...


  1. Seems like Saab's running out of options. The way I see it Brazil is the best they got if everything turns out well and they will be fine for sometime, then they'll have to content themselves with tenders from countries who can only afford to buy a squadron of 12 or less. Even at that level they'll have to compete with EDA f16's.
    Too bad fighter procurement is not a national security decision. If only Sweden is a geopolitical powerhouse.

  2. Nicholas Jongebloed2 August 2014 at 19:53

    Love the website Doug - you do a terrific job.
    How about an article comparing the F-20 and the Gripen? Seems to me like they have much in common. (Small, cheap, single engined, same flaw in regards to cockpit rear visibility design). Would be quite interesting. Kind regards.

  3. Thanks!

    That's a great idea about the F-20 and the Gripen. I'll look into it!