Wednesday, 9 January 2013


 The always enjoyable Defence Watch, by David Pugliese has recently hosted a two-part series by Kyle Meema arguing in favour of Canada purchasing the JAS 39 Gripen NG. 

The series has an excellent description of the pros and cons of the various alternatives. Canadian Defence Matter’s take on the options available can be found at The Gripen argument goes like this:

“Saab JAS 39 Gripen NG: Arguments in favor of the Gripen are similar to those for the F-16. Its shorter range and single engine, like the F-16, may not recommend it for long patrols over arctic wastes but in sufficient numbers it would be perfectly capable of mounting an air defence over major cities or supporting Canadian troop contingents overseas. Some, undoubtedly misguided, parties might even consider these efforts to be more important than protecting the tundra. The Gripen is a modern aircraft, a relatively new design capable of being refitted with all the latest bells and whistles as they become available.”

Much of Meema’s argument is based on the relative costs involved. Needless to say, this is where the arguments begin. Nobody even knows how much an F-35 is going to cost. Figures for the Gripen are a probably a little more firm, if anyone is talking. One thing that is known for sure is that Switzerland purchased the Gripen based on the belief that it would be the most cost effective, if not to say cheapest.

For Canadian Defence Matters the best thing about a Gripen buy would be the opportunity to buy a reasonable number of aircraft. 65, the current maximum number quoted for an F-35 purchase is not a reasonable number. It fails to reach the critical mass needed to sustain operations. Without adequate numbers any purchase becomes largely symbolic and a waste of money.