If you wanted a chunky glimpse of the cold political stuff that everyone knows goes down in a fighter competition in which the Americans have a horse, a clutch of the recent Wikileaks cables
provide just that. It's simple (if you missed it): according to these cables (between the US Embassy in Oslo and the State Dept), the Americans denied the release of a US-built AESA radar for the Gripen-NG being pitched for a Norwegian requirement two years ago, while simultaneously bringing to bear political pressure ("high-level Washington advocacy
") on the Norwegian government to choose the F-35 instead.
The cables provide the starkest view of how the threat of future political/diplomatic relations are very unsubtly yoked to weapon contracts. It's common knowledge that this is the way it happens, but here it is, in black and white. One cable ends, a touch frazzled, with, "Other advocacy efforts would contribute to helping [Norway] recognize the seriousness of their decision and resist the temptation of making a short-term expedient choice, but damaging long-term interests."
This is two years ago. Shortly after, Saab decided to call off all discussions
with the Americans, French and Israelis (IAI was reportedly pressured by Washington to pull out of talks) and go in for the Selex Galileo RAVEN AESA
, currently under development testing, and part of the configuration on offer to the Indian Air Force in the MMRCA competition.
You can pretty much bet that Tim Roemer has cables going out asking for the same sort of thing (including high level visits
to impress the point) ahead of an Indian decision on the $12-billion contract next year, but there is at least one very serious question: Do the Americans still have leverage over the Gripen NG/IN, considering that the airplane's engine (F414G), avionics suite, head-up/down displays, environmental control system, air data computer, life support system, pressure regulator, shutoff valves and radar altimeter are American built? Worth thinking about, notwithstanding the fact that Saab (like the other five contenders where applicable) was made to submit a government-endorsed guarantee
that all subsystems on the aircraft were export-cleared if not from the country of the principal integrator's origin.