Gripen - the Future for India or Brazil?
The India M-MRCA competition for a tender of over a hundred modern fighters has seen the Gripen pitted against the MiG-35 Fulcrum, Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Boeing F-18E Super Hornet, and an updated version of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The JAS 39 Gripen variant marketed to India reportedly performed well in even extremely high altitude tests, and is well liked for its reliability record. If the fighter had a weakness in the Indian M-MRCA fighter competition, it was its relatively short range - a significant consideration to a large nation like India. However, the Gripen is apparently being considered for a separate Indian project to purchase a next generation naval fighter for India's future aircraft carriers. A navalized version of the Gripen has not been deployed yet, but the aircraft's small size and durability bodes well for the success of a navalized variant.
Unfortunately for Saab, in 2011 it was confirmed that the Eurofighter and Rafale made the shortlist for the M-MRCA contract, and the Gripen fighter had lost out to its European competitors. Though India's government has not publicly disclosed the details behind its selection, a probable component is the reported difficulty that the Gripen had in starting its original engines at the very high altitudes that dominate much of the Indian frontier. It has been rumored that special engines needed to be flown into India to re-equip the demonstrator aircraft, which may well have contributed to its decision even though the replacements performed well.
Brazil is another potential Gripen fighter customer, and it is rumored that the Gripen was the preferred option of the Brazilian military during a competition with the F-18E Super Hornet and Dassault Rafale fighter jets to replace older Brazilian jets currently in service. However, statements by French president Sarkozy indicate that the Rafale has been chosen as part of a wider military technology export deal, so the true status of a Brazilian Gripen purchase is unknown.
Regardless of the outcomes of the Brazilian and Indian competitions, the jet is seen as a worldwide contender for many nations' future fighter needs, and is even seen in some markets as the perfect complement to the expensive, high tech Eurofighter.