Airbus announced on August 30 that it along with the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense is withdrawing from Canada’s effort to acquire a new fighter aircraft. Airbus Defense and Space, which was pitching the Eurofighter Typhoon, notified the Liberal government Friday that it was not going to bid.
The decision was made after a detailed review of the tender issued by the federal government in mid-July. The move leaves only three companies in the $19 billion contest: Lockheed Martin Canada with its F-35; Boeing with the Super Hornet; and Saab, which is offering an updated version of its Gripen fighter.
Gripen remains the only lightweight 4+ generation fighter type in service, its performance and operational economics are both world-class, and it has become one of the most recognized fighter aircraft on the planet. Unfortunately for its builders, that recognition has come from its appearance in Saab and Volvo TV commercials, rather than from hoped-for levels of military export success. With its 4+ generation competitors clustered in the $60-120+ million range vs. the Gripen’s claimed $40-60 million, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Sweden’s lightweight fighter? In 2013 a win in Brazil started to answer that question.