Diplomacy / Hungary to expand Gripen fleet with four new aircraft 

Hungary to expand Gripen fleet with four new aircraft 

Hungary will expand the Gripen fighter bomber fleet of the defence forces with another four new aircraft, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán Viktor announced on Friday in Budapest, after he had talks with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. 

In the Prime Minister’s view, with the prolongation of the contract on the Gripen aircraft, the country’s military capabilities will significantly increase, and its ability to take part in missions abroad will also be strengthened. In the changed security environment, due to the Russo-Ukrainian war, it is of special significance that the Hungarian air force is able to take part in ally missions with its own equipment also outside the territory of the country, he pointed out. 

Mr Orbán said he also agreed with his Swedish partner on the prolongation of the agreement on logistics services related to that military system, as well as on its extension to training. 

The Prime Minister highlighted that an agreement had been reached on the opening of a centre of excellence focusing on artificial intelligence by Saab and the Hungarian Defence Innovation Research Institute; cooperation will also start in the field of research and development. 

He recalled that during the first term of the incumbent government coalition, between 1998 and 2002, there was a debate about whether Hungary needs an air defence capability of its own, and if so, what technology it should be based on. The first Orbán Government decided on cooperation with Sweden, and therefore Hungary switched to the Gripen system. 

He indicated that they have now reached an important point as the contracts on the aircraft will come to an end soon, and additionally, he continued, as “we were penniless” when we bought the first Gripens, “we couldn’t buy as many as we would have truly needed.” 

In answer to a question, he stressed that with the signing of the agreements, Hungary has decided to maintain and increase its own air defence capability by magnitudes in the long term which means that Hungary will remain a part of NATO’s joint missions in which Member States are able to provide airspace defence for one another. With this, we are enhancing our commitment to NATO, he stated. 

Mr Orbán thanked the Swedish prime minister for his visit to Hungary, and in reference to Sweden’s NATO accession, he also highlighted that the Hungarian Parliament will convene on Monday in order “to adopt the necessary decisions” with which they will close one chapter and open another. 

In answer to a question about what has changed Hungary’s opinion on the issue of Sweden’s NATO accession, Mr Orbán said NATO membership means that the countries taking part in the alliance are prepared to fight for another, and if one wants to maintain such a strong relationship with someone, there is a need for trust and mutual respect. 

He added that cautious and prudent preparations had been made by both parties with a view to rebuilding the trust that had existed before, “but had somewhat faded recently.” This “has taken some time,” Mr Orbán observed, adding that it is not that the Hungarian opinion has changed; it is about having seen a process through, all the way from the starting point to its completion. 

At the same time, he rejected claims that the signed Hungarian-Swedish defence agreement had played a decisive role in this. “This is not a business agreement, a mere business deal that there is NATO membership in exchange for Gripens,” he stressed. He pointed out that Swedish-Hungarian defence cooperation had a much longer history than Sweden’s intention to join NATO. It is natural, however, that a defence agreement helps much to restore trust between the two countries; at the same time, we should not look upon it as a deal, he pointed out, stressing that not only is he satisfied with the final outcome, but he enjoyed every step of the process of trust-building. 

The Prime Minister described the meeting as extremely interesting, exciting and successful, stressing that “we succeeded in mutually clarifying our good intentions.” Recalling important memories of the trust between the two nations, he spoke about the fact that Sweden was a true friend of Hungary in 1956 when it took in refugee Hungarians, and was also a decisive partner during our EU accession when it argued for swifter enlargement. 

Mr Orbán said he and the Swedish prime minister also spoke about EU affairs, with special regard to the fact that Hungary will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union shortly. He highlighted that in the first half of 2023, Sweden provided an excellent presidency – earning everyone’s appreciation – for the European Union, and they received a promise that Sweden would share its experiences. 

He said he and Mr Kristersson further covered issues such as global economic competitiveness and the development of a common EU security and defence policy, and agreed that we must fight against illegal migration and the two countries must provide assistance for each other in the interest of the elimination of organised crime. 

The Prime Minister referred to trade cooperation between the two countries as a genuine success story, indicating that every year we break our trade records; compared with 2010, the volume of trade has doubled and is soon to reach EUR 3 billion. 

He also said there is important and successful cooperation between the two countries on the issue of nuclear energy, regarding which they cooperate in the “Brussels political arena.” He said he is happy to acknowledge that there is also a Swedish actor involved in the implementation of the Paks II project, and that it is favourable for Hungary that last year as many as 70,000 Swedish tourists came to Hungary, thereby contributing to the performance of the Hungarian economy. 

Prior to the press conference, representatives of the Hungarian and Swedish governments signed an agreement on the lease of JAS-39 Gripen aircraft and support services, the amendment of the agreement on the provision of related services, as well as an agreement on logistics support and related services for JAS-39 Gripen aircraft. 


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