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.
In the past, Gripen embraced technologies that designers modified tofit specific needs – as was the case with the General Electric F404engine that Volvo turned into the fighter’s RM12 powerplant. For theGripen NG, Saab went directly to GE and asked for an F414, the latestversion of the F/A-18E/F’s engine with minimal changes. The F414Gfeatures some adjustments to the full-authority digital engine controland power supply, largely because Gripen is a single-engine fighter(whereas the F/A-18E/F has two engines). This seemingly innocuouschange allows Saab to reduce engine costs 20%, even though the F414 isa higher thrust engine with a greater sticker price than the F404.
This design approach permeates the Gripen NG, says Kemp. Supplierssuch as Honeywell and Rockwell were asked to provide their latestproduct and let Saab worry about integrating them, rather than devisingtailor-made derivatives for the Gripen NG. To keep costs low, the NGmay embrace the same pilot helmet used on the F-35.