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Hungary signs deal to buy Swedish fighter jets, says Orban

February 23, 2024

The deal for four Saab JAS Gripen warplanes comes after the Hungarian government said it would no longer block Sweden's bid to join NATO. Orban said the deal strengthens Hungary's commitment to the military alliance.

Saab JAS 39 Gripen jetfighters take part in the NATO exercise as part of the NATO Air Policing mission, on July 4, 2023
Hungary currently leases 14 Saab JAS 39 Gripen jetfightersImage: JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday his country was buying four new Saab JAS Gripen fighter jets from Sweden.

The deal, which expands Hungary's fleet of 14 Gripen jets, comes after Hungary U-turned on its threat to block Sweden's accession to the NATO military alliance. 

"Today, we have reached an agreement to add four aircraft to the Hungarian Defence Forces' Gripen fleet," Orban said at a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Budapest. 

He added that the deal would boost Hungary's air defense capability and its commitment to the NATO military alliance.

As well as the jet deal, Hungary has agreed to expand a related logistics contract, Orban said. 

"I strongly welcome this deepened cooperation on advanced fighting capabilities," Kristersson said, adding that the Gripen jets are "a pride of Sweden."

Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, left, shakes hands with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban at the Carmelite Monastery in Budapest, Hungary on February 23, 2024
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R) with his Swedish counterpart Ulf KristerssonImage: Denes Erdos/AP Photo/picture alliance

Hungarian lawmakers to vote on NATO bid

Hungary's parliament is due to vote on Monday to formally approve Stockholm's bid to join the NATO alliance.

Orban's nationalist Fidesz party — whose ruling coalition with the Christian democratic KDNP holds a majority in parliament — indicated it would now support Sweden's bid.

All opposition parties except the far-right Our Homeland movement are in favor of ratification.

Sweden, along with Finland, undid decades of military neutrality by announcing plans to join NATO following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

NATO tackles challenges on Ukraine and spending

But Sweden's bid was held up by opposition from Hungary and Turkey.

Orban, whose nationalist government has kept close economic ties with Russia, had repeatedly delayed the ratification. Hungary was irritated by Sweden criticizing Hungary regarding Orban's record on rule-of-law.  

Turkey, meanwhile, held up Sweden's NATO application, accusing Stockholm of supporting what it called terrorist groups.

Unanimous support among all NATO members is required to admit new countries.

Budapest has faced months of pressure from NATO allies and the European Union to drop its opposition to Sweden's bid.

mm/wd (Reuters, AFP)