Botswana is in talks with Sweden for the purchase of eight surplus JAS-39C/D Gripen multi-role fighters. The matter was confirmed by Försvarets Materielverk (FMV), a Swedish government agency responsible for managing arms procurements involving the country’s armed forces and defence vendors. Saab told IHS Jane’s that although talks are underway or ongoing, the process was still in its early stages.
Comment and Analysis
The mainstay fighter fleet of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is currently comprised of 15 Canadair CF-5. The CF-5 is a Canadian license-built version of the Northrop F-5 Tiger II.
Botswana has a relatively ambitious modernization program lined up for its armed forces in the short and medium-term. In addition to new fighter aircraft, it is also seeking new armoured vehicles, including new generation tanks such as the K2 Black Panther (from South Korea).
The potential Gripen acquisition is interesting, especially for Quwa considering that we have discussed the JF-17 Thunder’s market potential at length. Botswana is the kind of market that Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) is trying to penetrate with the JF-17; it operates aged old generation aircraft, and is eager to upgrade to a modern multi-role fighter with contemporary avionics and weapon systems.
We previously stated that second-hand or surplus JAS-39C/Ds would emerge as competition for the increasingly dwindling market (of air forces seeking low-cost multi-role fighters). The Gripen is a mature and capable design, and the BDF’s Air Wing has traditionally operated Western equipment. If Botswana’s long-term economic prospects remain strong, it is likely that Sweden will offer term financing as well.
The rest simply depends on Botswana’s defence needs. Being a landlocked state north of South Africa, it is unlikely in need of stand-off range weapons or anti-ship missiles. An affordable and basic armament package could likely be had from Saab. Moreover, the Gripen would enable the BDF to achieve a level of synergy with South Africa, which also operates the JAS-39C/D Gripen.
The F 5 was an inexpensive plane to operate and fits into Botswana’s defence stratagem. The Gripen is a totally different beast and again in very small numbers so is it overkill?. That also means Botswana going to be dependent on SA and Sweden for Operations and Maintenance for its life cycle. I wonder what that’s going to cost them over and above the planes? Bottom line not sure what you’re going to do with the Mercedes when you’ll be most comfortable with a Toyota while running Suzuki’s.
It’d be prudent on Botswana’s part to acquire spare parts and a hedged maintenance support package (of 10-15 years) up front with the aircraft purchase. A lot will depend on the term financing arrangements Sweden would be willing to extend, that’ll depend on how Sweden assesses Botswana long-term economic outlook. I think things will line up for them.