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Sweden Turns Over Gripen Jets

Published fredag 31 mars 2006 kl 10.24
Leni Björklund, Swedish Defence Minister, left, greets Gabor Toth, chief pilot of the Hungarian Air Force's Puma Unit after landing with a new Swedish made Gripen JAS 39 fighter jet on the military airfield of Kecskemet.

Sweden officially turned over the first five of 14 Swedish-made jets leased by Hungary on Thursday.

The new Gripen JAS-39C/D jets arrived last week at an air base in Kecskemet, some 85 kilometers south of Budapest to replace Hungary’s aging fleet of Soviet-made MiG-29s.

The other nine Gripens are set to be delivered by December 2007 and are expected to be ready for action in 2008.

Until then, the jets will be used to train Hungarian air force pilots and technical staff.

At Thursday’s ceremony, Swedish Defense Minister Leni Björklund handed the jets’ logbooks to her Hungarian counterpart, Ferenc Juhasz, symbolizing that Hungary was now responsible for the Gripens.

In 2001, Hungary signed a contract estimated to be worth US$968 million to lease the jets for 10 years.

Björklund said the deal, including an offset agreement under which Swedish companies must make investments in Hungary and buy Hungarian products, had contributed to strengthening the relationship between the two countries.

Hungary is the third country, after Sweden and the Czech Republic, to operate this type of Gripen jet.

Hungary, which joined NATO in 1999 and the EU in 2004, has the option to buy the jets at the end of the lease.

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