In the past, Gripen embraced technologies that designers modified to fit specific needs - as was the case with the General Electric F404 engine that Volvo turned into the fighter's RM12 powerplant. For the Gripen NG, Saab went directly to GE and asked for an F414, the latest version of the F/A-18E/F's engine with minimal changes. The F414G features some adjustments to the full-authority digital engine control and power supply, largely because Gripen is a single-engine fighter (whereas the F/A-18E/F has two engines). This seemingly innocuous change allows Saab to reduce engine costs 20%, even though the F414 is a higher thrust engine with a greater sticker price than the F404.
This design approach permeates the Gripen NG, says Kemp. Suppliers such as Honeywell and Rockwell were asked to provide their latest product and let Saab worry about integrating them, rather than devising tailor-made derivatives for the Gripen NG. To keep costs low, the NG may embrace the same pilot helmet used on the F-35.
Gripen NG's edge
AvWeek-er Robert Wall's cover story today about Saab's hopes for the Gripen NG contains some interesting perspective on the Swedish manufacturer's unique design philosophy.
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