Saab's Gripen Fighter Jet Becoming Popular Alternative to Larger Jets? [w/video]

Saab is a brand whose destiny seems to change by the week. In the economic downturn, the Swedish carmaker was shuttered, but then a Chinese firm stepped in to purchase the company. 5 months ago Saab announced it would be producing cars again, but for the Chinese market. Thankfully the Saab brand that builds military jets is on far less shaky ground.

Despite having the same name, the car company and jet company are two different entities. The aerospace company was the car company’s parent until 1990, when Saab’s automobile operations were purchased by GM. Many argue that led to its eventual troubles (though some argue that GM’s ownership actually allowed Saab’s car-making efforts to limp on longer than otherwise possible).

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But the aerospace company by the name of Saab is a far different creature. It builds the JAS 39 Gripen, an extremely agile and advanced aircraft. Despite being dismissed by some as being to small compared to other contemporary fighters, Saab won two hotly contested contracts– one in Switzerland and one in Brazil. The two contracts combine for roughly $6 billion:

There are others interested in Saab’s Gripen aircraft, which suggests that there might not be as great of an appetite for the larger fighters on the market. Or it could mean that some are holding out for more advanced (stealth, supercruise, etc) fifth generation aircraft. The only current fifth-gen fighter is the Lockeed Martin F-22 Raptor of the United States Air Force. This jet has a significant advantage of being stealth even when armed, and you can bet competitors are scrambling to create an aircraft of similar attributes.

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It is a credit to Saab’s Gripen that despite the eventual introduction of such fighter jets, it continues to sell well, and shake up the international military aerospace market.