Hungary – The Story so far
(Source: Gripen International; issued Sept. 18, 2007)
The Hungarian Air Force has leased 12 single-seat Gripen Cs and two twin-seat Gripen Ds, with final deliveries planned by year-end. (Photo © Láslo Tóth/Gripen Int’l)
The current Hungary lease contract was signed between FMV and the Hungarian Ministry of Defence, in February 2003, for the supply of 14 Gripens.

This lease and purchase agreement, consisting of twelve (12) single seat and two (2) twin seat aircraft, will benefit Hungary substantially, combining an outstanding product with the best combination of price, financing and long term industrial cooperation.

By choosing Gripen, Hungary became the first NATO member state to operate the latest generation, high performance, multi-role combat aircraft to fulfil its national, NATO and European defence needs. The Hungarian aircraft are equipped with a retractable Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) probe, capability to use NATO interoperable weapons including Laser Guided Bombs (LGBs), an advanced electronic warfare system, On Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS), English language full colour cockpit displays and NATO interoperable communications suit. This ensures the Hungarian Gripen can operate world-wide, from NATO or dispersed bases, jointly with alliance Air and Ground Forces.

As part of this lease and purchase agreement Sweden has also provide comprehensive operational and tactical training for pilots and maintenance technicians. Sweden has also provided Ground Support Equipment, simulators, Mission Support System (MSS), spare parts and an extensive Integrated Logistical Support (ILS).

In parallel to the lease/purchase contract, Gripen International has committed to provide offset and industrial cooperation to a value of 110% of the agreement value, which includes investments equalling 32% of the agreement’s value. The full offset program will be delivered within 14 years from the contract signed in 2001.

Gripen International has already delivered over 978 MUSD (the equivalent of 93% of the total obligation.

A vital part of this successful offset deal is the ability of the supplier to adapt and adjust according to new business and investment opportunities allowing Hungary to expand and develop. This is another area where Gripen excels. In order to take advantage of Hungary’s strategic position and skilled and highly qualified workforce, Gripen has been able to adapt and expand the offset deal into exciting new areas.

Dr, Szabó Sándor, Head of the Offset Section, Ministry of Economy and Transport has this to say about the Gripen aircraft and the benefits that the contract has given to Hungary.

“So from the pilot perspective, Gripen is a delight to fly. It is the perfect solution for Hungarian Air Force, for both NATO assignments and for Hungarian Air Force assignments. As a pilot myself I can say that Gripen itself is easy to operate on the ground and in the air. So flying is real fun. So Gripen is cost effective and easy to operate. In my opinion Gripen is a perfect solution for the Hungarian Air Force. For many Hungarians the word ‘Gripen’ means not only a high tech Swedish fighter but also a fantastic long-term economic development programme. The programme is running ahead of schedule and I’m confident that the whole country will continue to benefit, both from the new defence capability that Gripen brings and from the long term economic benefits of the offset program.”

So far 11 aircraft have been delivered to Hungary and the remaining 3 will be delivered at the end of 2007. The last batches of Hungarian pilots are now at F7 Såtenäs for their conversion training on to Gripen.

In May 2007, Hungarian Air Force Gripens flew to Italy for their first international deployment, Exercise Spring Flag 07, in Italy.

“The aim of the exercise,” says Hungarian Air Force Colonel Nandor Kilian, “was to deploy our Gripens overseas, operate them with minimum support from an austere location, be interoperable and co-operative – and expose our pilots to an air picture with large numbers of active aircraft. We took four aircraft – two Gripen Ds and two Gripen Cs – but we flew all of our operational missions with the two-seat Ds to give maximum exposure and experience to our team of nine pilots.”

Exercise Spring Flag 2007, held at Italy’s Decimomannu air base in Sardinia, was a major NATO event involving combat assets from France (E-3), Germany (F-4F ICE), Italy (AV-8B, F-16C, Tornado ECR and Eurofighter Typhoon), NATO (E-3) Turkey (F-16C). Electronic warfare support was provided by the dedicated Falcon 20 jammers of the NATO MEWSG (multi-service electronic warfare support group). Tanker support came from Italy, the UK and the US.

The Gripens flew as part of the hostile ‘Red Force’, largely conducting beyond visual range air battles with the ‘Blue Force’. Colonel Kilian recalls, “We flew 24 sorties over the two-week exercise, and we launched every day with our two planned Gripen Ds. We were the only participants to have a 100% operational record with the scheduled aircraft.”

“In Hungary we just don’t have large numbers of aircraft to train with, but in Spring Flag we faced COMAO (combined air operations) packages of 20, 25 or 30 aircraft. The training value for us was to work with that many aircraft on our radar – and even with our limited experience we could see that the Gripen radar is fantastic. We would see the others at long ranges, we could discriminate all the individual aircraft even in tight formations and using extended modes. The jamming had almost no effect on us – and that surprised a lot of people.”

“Other aircraft couldn’t see us – not on radar, not visually – and we had no jammers of our own with us. We got one Fox 2 kill on an F-16 who turned in between our two jets but never saw the second guy and it was a perfect shot.”

“Our weapons and tactics were limited by Red Force rules, and in an exercise like this the Red Force is always supposed to die, but even without our AMRAAMs and data links we got eight or 10 kills, including a Typhoon. Often we had no AWACS or radar support of any kind, just our regular onboard sensors – but flying like that, ‘free hunting’, we got three kills in one afternoon. It was a pretty good experience for our first time out.”

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