Thursday, April 8, 2010

AP: Saab AB, Eurofighter to skip Romanian defense expo

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA

Two European defense companies said Wednesday they will no longer attend a defense exhibition to protest a Romanian proposal to buy used U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to modernize the country's army.

Sweden's Saab AB said it was "surprised" by a decision made by the country's Supreme Defense Council last week to recommend to Parliament that Romania buy the secondhand jets. The company said it will no longer participate in the April 13-16 "Black Sea Defense and AeroSpace" trade fair in Bucharest due to the decision.

Eurofighter spokesman Marco Valerio also said Wednesday his company was canceling its participation to protest the recommendation.

Last week, Saab's Romanian marketing director company manager Richard Smith called the F-16s "someone else's junk." Smith said that Swedish company Saab had offered brand new Gripen fighters, with low interest, a generous nonpayment period and 100 percent offset.

He urged the defense ministry to send all offers to Parliament for lawmakers to be able to compare before they vote on whether to pass the proposal.

However, Defense Minister Gabriel Oprea defended the decision to replace MIG 21 Lancer planes with 24 secondhand F-16s, saying Romania needs good-quality planes as a member of NATO. The president's office said the country could not afford new planes. There was no immediate reaction to the cancelations.

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