Saab pledges Swiss production as eyes fighter jet deal

STOCKHOLM, April 2 Tue Apr 2, 2013 7:01am EDT

STOCKHOLM, April 2 (Reuters) - Defence group Saab on Tuesday pledged to find Swiss suppliers for major components of its Gripen jet as it sought to sweeten a potential deal to sell the fighter to Switzerland.

Sweden's Saab said it would find Swiss companies to develop, produce and assemble components including the rear fuselage, tail cone and weapons pylons of the aircraft, business that in total was worth about 200 million Swiss francs ($211 million).

The upper house of the Swiss parliament earlier this month halted the country's 3 billion euro purchase of 22 Gripen fighter jets, approving the deal in principle but voting against the financing package it requires.

Saab's decision would boost the share of business allotted to Swiss firms, which Saab has already pledged will amount to 100 percent of the value of the Swiss contract, as it would also involve overseas deliveries.

The company said the components to be produced in Switzerland related both to the Gripen E jets that might be ordered by the Swiss and to the 60 fighters that have already been ordered by the Swedish military.

"Swiss industry participation is not limited to the Swedish and potential Swiss aircraft, but includes future orders of Gripen E," Saab said in a statement.

"The transfer of knowledge will provide the companies with the skills and competence to compete for major orders from other aircraft manufacturers in the civil and defence sectors."

The Gripen fighters would replace Switzerland's aging Northrop F-5 Tiger fighters, a move unpopular with some because it will require spending cuts in other areas such as education.

"We are currently in discussions with Swiss companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises, throughout all regions of Switzerland," said Lennart Sindahl, head of Saab's business area Aeronautics.

($1 = 0.9479 Swiss francs) (Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Louise Heavens)

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