A SAAB JAS 39D Gripen flying in formation with a Swiss F/A-18 Hornet through the Swiss Alps (Image © Saab AB / Schweizer Luftwaffe)

Can the Swiss Gripen-E be bugged?

A SAAB JAS 39D Gripen  flying in formation with a Swiss F/A-18 Hornet through the Swiss Alps (Image © Saab AB / Schweizer Luftwaffe)
A SAAB JAS 39D Gripen flying in formation with a Swiss F/A-18 Hornet through the Swiss Alps
(Image © Saab AB / Schweizer Luftwaffe)

Strange stories over the weekend in Swiss and Swedish media. The Swedish frontline fighter SAAB JAS 39E/F Gripen could be bugged, says president Richard Morva of the Swiss Association for Specialists in Combat Electronics (Swiss Crows) in the newspaper Le Matin. Absolutely not true, counters SAAB’s vice president Lennart Sindahl on Swedish public radio.

What lies behind the remarkable discussion seems to be unhappiness by the Swiss electronics pros with a change of a radio system of the SAAB Gripen-E compared to the current C/D-model. Not the Swiss company Roschi Rohde & Schwarz will deliver the new encrypted radio hardware on the Gripen-E, but Rockwell Collins from the United States. According to Swiss Crow’s Morva the American system might have a back door, via which for example the American National Security Agency (NSA) could listen in on the SAAB’s systems.

But SAAB’s vice president Sindahl says on Swedish public radio (SR) that assertion is pure nonsense. “We just buy the hardware from abroad. The software is our own and the encryption keys will still be produced in Switzerland.”

With 18 May, the date of the Swiss people’s referendum on the proposed purchase of the Swedish SAAB JAS 39E/F Gripen for the Schweizer Luftwaffe approaching, advocates for and those against the planned buy are stepping up their efforts to influence the Swiss decision. The Swiss Air Force says it needs the SAABs badly to improve their interception readiness, which has been on a lot of critism lately.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger

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