Fighter jets contract leaves Saab fuming

19 December 2008
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19 December 2008 | Jake Kanter

Defence equipment supplier Saab Group has reacted angrily after the Norwegian government awarded a contract for a new fleet of fighter jets to its rival Lockheed Martin.

Saab said the decision had "very little" connection to the goals set out during the procurement process, and showed evidence of "faulty" and "weak" decision-making. The Swedish firm added that the Norwegian administration did not give robust reasons why Lockheed Martin's bid was successful.

Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian prime minister, announced in November the US firm had won the contract to supply 58 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) jets. He said the bid was more competitive than the Saab's Gripen combat aircraft on price, technology and combat capabilities.

Saab said this analysis was based on incomplete and faulty data that had no relation to the bid it was asked to submit. The firm argued the number of aircraft ordered was changed from 48 to 58 and the life-cycle of the planes was extended from 25 to 35 years. Saab argued that these specifications had been altered so dramatically it could not have matched the price of the JSF even if it had given Norway 48 Gripens as a gift.

Pål Bjørseth, manager of the fighter jet programme for the Norwegian government, said his team completed a full and thorough procurement process. But he admitted that around two-thirds of the cost estimates made about the Gripen were not based on Saab's bid information - it was based on government predictions, such as future exchange rates.

SMdec2008

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