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F-35 Popularity “Kills” Europe’s Aerospace Industry

The dominance of the American-made F-35 fighter jets in Europe has compelled European fighter jet manufacturers to rely heavily on markets outside of Europe, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, to generate sales and ensure the sustainability of their companies.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — Recently, French media have expressed concerns about the future of the European aerospace industry due to the “enthusiasm” of European countries themselves to acquire fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets from the United States.

The indirect fear is that the European countries’ “enthusiasm” for purchasing F-35 fighters may, in turn, “kill” its very-own aerospace industry.

Most recently, Portugal hinted that it is the latest and 14th European country to decide to acquire American-made fighter jets to replace its previously used F-16 fighters.

In late November, the Chief of Staff of the Portuguese Air Force, General João Guilherme Rosado Cartaxo Alves, described the F-35A fighter as the most suitable choice to replace the country’s F-16AM/BM fighters.

The popularity of the fifth-generation F-35 fighter, manufactured by the United States, has solidified its position as the preferred choice in Europe.

However, it raises questions about the future of European fighter jet manufacturers, including Dassault Aviation (Rafale), BAE Systems, Leonardo, Airbus (Eurofighter Typhoon), and Saab Group (Gripen).

F-35B
F-35B

 

Lockheed Martin, the developer of the F-35, estimates that by the year 2030, around 550 of the fifth-generation fighter jets will be operational in Europe, including squadrons of F-35s operated by the United States at Lakenheath Air Base in England.

Many senior officials from European fighter jet manufacturing companies have expressed disappointment over the dominance of the F-35 in their continent.

Political leaders in France have even called on their European counterparts to campaign for “buying European goods” in an urgent effort to counteract the frenzy of neighboring countries purchasing F-35s.

The dominance of the F-35 in Europe has forced European fighter jet manufacturers to rely on markets outside of Europe, especially in the Middle East and Asia, to generate sales to ensure their continued existence.

Dassault Aviation, the developer of the Rafale fighter, now spends more time promoting its flagship fighter in the Middle East and Asia.

F-35

Potential buyers include Saudi Arabia, which is reportedly considering acquiring 100 Rafale fighters, in addition to additional orders from Qatar, India, and Egypt.

For Saab Group, the developer of the Gripen fighter, high hopes are placed on Thailand, which is said to be considering adding Gripens to its current fleet, as well as the Philippines which has stated that the F-16 fighter jet offered by the United States as “too pricey.”

In terms of affordability, the Philipppines is understably leaning towards the Swedish-made Gripens.

Saab Group has also reportedly submitted an offer to India, but prospects are slim, as New Delhi is more interested in increasing its ownership of Rafale fighters.

The disappointment of European fighter jet manufacturers about the dominance of the F-35 in their own continent is undeniable, and they have openly expressed it in the media.

Gripen
Royal Thai Air Force “Gripen”

 

Saab Group’s President and CEO, Micael Johansson, reportedly told journalists in Scandinavia about his “disappointment” regarding the failure of their Gripen fighter to attract buyers other than the Swedish Air Force.

 He mentioned that the Gripen failed to meet its export market targets and blamed political factors for the failure.

The last time the Gripen fighter successfully won a contract to supply aircraft to a foreign country was in 2014, a decade ago, when it secured a deal with Brazil to purchase 36 Swedish-made fighters worth $5.4 billion.

Regarding the performance and capabilities of the Gripen fighter, Johansson stated that there is no significant difference between the Gripen and its competing fighter jets. — DSA

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