A future fighter will eventually succeed Swedish Air Force Gripen E fighter jets but “fact finding” continues in order to support an acquisition decision. (Saab Twitter)

WASHINGTON — The Swedish military has asked local defense giant Saab to conduct “conceptual studies for future fighter systems,” the company announced today.

“This includes conceptual studies of manned and unmanned solutions in a system of system perspective, technology development and demonstrations,” Saab said in a press release. The Stockholm-based firm said it would work with government agencies and industry partners on the study.

The announcement comes after Saab CEO Micael Johansson called for additional study in an interview with Breaking Defense in September.

At the time, Johansson said Saab was already part of an initial Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) study but said he hoped the agency “will now move forward with a more comprehensive study and put more money into it so we can test and simulate things.”

Weeks after those comments, an official speaking at the International Fighter Conference in Madrid told the audience that Sweden planned to delay a decision on how to approach its future fighter jet needs until 2031 and in the meantime would be assessing the “risks and possibilities” of different approaches.

Three options are on the table: Either “build a system, develop a system with someone, or… acquire a system,” the official said, speaking under Chatham House Rules. “It’s an open question.”

Saab, it appears, has been contracted to answer at least part of that question.

For a time Sweden had been party to the UK-led Future Combat Air System (FCAS) but has paused its participation. FCAS is one of several competing international initiatives to explore next-generation “system of system” concepts in which a new fighter plays a central role in a multi-part combat effort.

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Sweden, however, is not in the greatest of hurries as it weighs its options; the Saab-made Gripens it flies now are expected to be able to serve for decades to come.

“We do not have an immediate need for a new fighter, which perhaps is different for other nations,” Gen. Lars Helmrich, director of air and space systems at the Swedish Defence Material Administration, said at an event hosted by the Swedish Air Force Fan Club in Paris in June 2023. “We’re looking to start early [for planning purposes] and be better situated for when we need to decide on the next fighter. It’s a matter of pace.”