02 maj 2008

Colombia to buy Erieye and Jas Gripen? Part 2

I feel the need to write something here on my blog for all my readers and visitors from Colombia, that have found my reporting both in Swedish media and here on the blog, about the possibility for Colombia to buy the Swedish military air plane Jas 39 Gripen and the Saab/Ericsson air-borne radar system Erieye, interesting.

Here is what I know so far.

Colombias vice president, Francisco Santos Calderón, came to visit Sweden in five days in the middle of april. The first two and a half days stay here in Sweden where supposed to be a secret, but I and another reporter found out about it and could write a peace about it in the web edition of Dagens Media (a business newspaper about marketing and media), four hours before the presidents plane landed at Arlanda. I also wrote a follow-up analysis here on the blog.

The story was focused on the fact that the Swedish government kept the first part of the presidents visit a secret from Swedish media, as requested by the president and his business partners here in Sweden, as far as I know.

The original plan was for the president to arrive here in Sweden at Arlanda airport outside Stockholm in Friday afternoon at 14.15, cloaked and only to be received by a small “under the radar” Swedish delegation that was able to squeeze into three unmarked cars, or something like that. The Swedish government was according to the original communications plan supposed to send out an official press release after two and a half days, in sunday afternoon, where they would announce that the president would visit Sweden the coming monday and tuesday, where he would meet with the Swedish deputy prime-minister and minister for enterprise, Maud Olofsson, among others.

Under the first secret part of his stay here in Sweden, the President would meet with several potential business partners, among them a highly ranked top official at the Swedish defence industry and Jas Gripen manufacturer Saab, with whom the president is a very dear and close personal friend.

Now, the Swedish law and regulation about selling and exporting military equipment are very strict, especially when it comes to potential buyers in parts of the world where the political situation is unsafe or there is some kind of potential military conflict on the horizon.

But, there are exceptions from that rule. If the military equipment could be used for not only military purposes but also for some kind of civilian purposes (so called dual use), the Swedish Authority ISP (Swedish inspection of strategic products) could give go ahead for the deal to be made.

After the article in Dagens Media and a small follow up about the affair in the biggest Swedish morning paper a couple of days later Dagens Nyheter, the ISP released a back ground memo about the possibility of Saab making a deal with Colombia and selling Erieye to them.

The ISP has given a go ahed for Saab to sell Erieye to five countries, among them Chile and Colombia.

Now, that is what I know and what is confirmed information. What do I then know about Jas Gripen and the possibility for Colombia to buy them? Nothing much really.

I have talked with a reliable and central placed source in Saab, who is frankly and flat our refusing to answer any questions of mine about my speculations regarding a possible Jas Gripen deal with Colombia. The only thing he is confirming is the thing I already knew, that ISP has granted permission for an Erieye deal with Colombia.

How come I choose to write about not only Erieye, but also Jas Gripen then? Well, simply because I think there is something more going on here. If the deal was only about Erieye, why did the president feel the need to sneak into Sweden like this, and how come he has become such a close and dear personal friend to a very highly ranked top executive in Saab?

And, (here are all you informed readers in Colombia much better judges of this than I am), isn´t it rather strange for Colombia to buy only Erieye to flank the Kfir planes used today in the Colombian Airforce, especially when you take into consideration that president Chaves in Venezuela just have gotten himself some state of the art Russian SU-30MKV fighters.

Shouldn´t Colombia in the same time as they buy Erieye also upgrade their fleet of fighters? But, and here is a big but, as a reader wrote to me commenting on the analysis in the blog, don´t you forget Plan Colombia, in which the USA is pouring in hundreds of million of dollars into Colombia.

My short answer is; no, I haven´t forgotten about Plan Colombia. And that is why I think that in the end it is impossible for the Colombian government to buy something else than F16 from USA when they are about to upgrade the Colombian fleet of airfighters. The deal will be made from political rather than military arguments, that is.

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