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Hungarian Air Force (HuAF) Gripen JAS-39 Fighters

The Hungarian government decided on leasing the Swedish Gripen fighter jet instead of 24 American F-16 jets for the Hungarian Air Force. In February 2001 a decision had been made not to purchase new F-16s, but to lease 24 ex USAF F-16 A/Bs. In April 2001 the Swedish Government revised its proposal to offer leased Gripen Jas 39A/Bs. The Gripen lease proposal was financially and politically more attractive. Hungary's national security cabinet decided that the government should begin talks with Sweden on signing a preliminary agreement for the lease of 14 multi-functional Gripen JAS-39 fighters.

In September 2001 Hungary decided to lease 14 Gripen JAS 39A/B. On 23 November 2001 Sweden's Minister for Defence Bjorn von Sydow signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with his Hungarian counterpart Dr Janos Szabo. The MOU entailed Hungary leasing 14 Swedish Gripen aircraft over a 10-year period, which meant that over 10 years, Hungary will lease 14 Gripen aircraft currently operational within the Swedish Air Force.

On 28 December 2001 FMV (The Swedish Defence Materiel Administration) awarded Gripen International, owned jointly by Saab of Sweden and the United Kingdom's BAE SYSTEMS, a contract for the adaptation and support of Swedish Air Force Gripen swing-role fighters designated for use by the Hungarian Air Force. Gripen International will manage the contract as prime contractor and award a number of sub-contracts to ensure the Hungarian requirements are met. The main sub-contract was to Saab AB (approx 1 billion SEK) to adapt the aircraft to Hungarian needs and support the aircraft over the 10 year period. In compliance with the contracts, 110% of the purchase price had to be invested in Hungary by the Swedish party or rather, had to be used to create opportunities of export-expansion to Sweden for Hungarian companies.

Two years later, the following administration ordered more advanced jets and increased the purchase price to nearly its double. In February 2003, the contract was amended to meet HuAF requirements, with the Gripen C/D variant instead of JAS 39 A/B. On 03 February 2003 the Hungarian government signed a combined leasing/sales contract for 14 JAS-39C/D Gripen of the newest generation that replaced a leasing contract from 2001. The initial plans included only a leasing over 10 years of an older Gripen version, which would not have met the requirements concerning the possibility of carrying laser-guided bombs and the air refuelling capacity for full NATO compatibility. The HUF 130-140 billion purchase would form the core of the new Hungarian air force. As Sweden is not a NATO member, the fighters would have to be modified to comply with the alliance's requirements.

In the presence of the Hungarian Defence Minister Imre Szekeres, the 14 Hungarian Gripen fighters were declared operational, ready to take on NATO Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duty from the Kecskemt airforce base. On 1/9/2009 the Hungarian Air Force declared Gripen operational for QRA tasks (Quick Reaction Alert) over Hungarian territory and air-space. Gripen will now alternate with the remaining MiG-29 fighters on duty providing armed standby protection, to completely replace the Russian built fighters by the end of 2009. "The QRA responsibilities for Gripen in the Hungarian Air Force proves once again that Gripen is a fully NATO interoperable fighter. It is with great pleasure that we see Gripen becoming further established within NATO. We congratulate the Hungarian Air Force and the Hungarian Gripen fighters on this historical event", says Henrik Hjer, Programmes Director at Gripen International.

The Hungarian Air Force announced the assignment of QRA responsibilities to Gripen with a ceremony at the Kecskemt airforce base on 22 December 2008. Representatives from the Hungarian Government and the Hungarian Air Force were present during the ceremony. Later that day two Gripen fighters took off from the Kecskemt airforce base on their first scramble to provide armed standby protection for the first time.

Hungary is the third European nation, after Sweden and the Czech Republic, and the second NATO nation to operate Gripen. The last of the 14 Gripen fighters, bought in an government to government deal between Sweden and Hungary, were formally handed over to Hungary on 28 January 2008. The Hungarian Air Force had already used their Gripen fighters both in Hungary and during international exercises.

The 'Wasp' Squadron will operate the Gripen, and the 'Puma' Squadron will continue to operate the MiG-29.

Commenting on the underfunded state of the country's air force, Hungarian newspaper Magyar Nemzet complained in mid-2015 that "although the Hungarian Air Force has been leasing Swedish JAS 39 Gripen fighter aircraft for nine years, it hasn't been able to buy bombs and other weapons for it due to lack of funding."

The JAS-39 multirole fighter serves as Hungary's main fighter aircraft, with 12 presently. The Air Force had agreed to lease purchase 14 JAS 39 Gripens from Sweden, including 2 dual-seaters and 12 single-seaters, in 2006, at a cost of 13.8 billion forints ($50 million) apiece. The country also had up to two dozen MiG-29 fighters in reserve, which it had previously attempted to auction off.

Hungary was identified by Lockheed Martin officials as one of the possible buyers in presentations to the industry in 2007. Also in a document produced for the Dutch Parliament (Basis Document, 2001) a possible requirement of an unknown number of Hungarian planes to replace the MiG-21 and MiG-29 had been mentioned. However, the facts show this is commercial wishful thinking and has become out of date after the successful introduction (for a 30-year service period 2006-2036) of the Saab Gripen in the Hungarian Air Force. Hungary cannot be considered as a JSF opportunity after the successful introduction of the Saab Gripen. Also there are important budget constraints.




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