Saab commits to big offset program if it wins Bulgarian deal

SOFIA (SeeNews) – Swedish defense and aerospace group Saab AB will attract large Swedish investors to Bulgaria in a multimillion-dollar offset program if it wins a fighter jet supply deal with the country’s army, a senior Saab official said yesterday. Saab has expressed interest to supply its Gripen fighter jets to the NATO newcomer country, in a deal estimated at around $1.0 billion (849.5 million euros) that is expected to be launched next year at the earliest. It will face competition from Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which have offered their F-16 and F-18 jets. «What you can rely on is that we will have a commitment, Saab, and our owner… We will work with the network we have to see how we can find the best solution for Bulgaria. The network is the industry relation we have in Sweden, within the Investor group, and with others around the world of course,» Kjell Moller, senior vice president and general manager of the SAAB Industrial Cooperation, told SeeNews. Saab AB’s parent company Investor Group also holds stakes in several other Swedish firms, including ABB, Atlas Copco, Ericsson and Scania. The Bulgarian government will require the winner of the fighter jets deal to secure investments equal to at least 80 percent of the contract value in parallel programs that should include training of personnel to operate and maintain the equipment, creating new jobs and businesses in Bulgaria, transferring know-how and securing market for Bulgarian goods abroad. «It is up to your government to give recommendations – how much should be investment, how much should be export, how much should be technology transfers and so on. We will commit to a level of offset by 100 percent,» said Moller. He added that Bulgaria’s offset requirements would be discussed later yesterday with the Economy Ministry. «Then we will discuss that in home with our industry and see what to come up with,» said Moller, but he noted that detailed talks would start no sooner than next spring. «The F-18 are good aircraft as the F-16 are as well, but they are old. The main issue is the operating cost, which for an F-18 is huge compared to Gripen. Gripen is half the cost to operate,» said Moller.