Fighter Friday, part 2: Gripen E

As if bringing you one major European fighter programme update within a week wasn’t enough, two full days at Saab’s Linköping site on Monday and Tuesday allowed me to also get a full update on the status of the developmental Gripen E.

If you are of the view that the design which won selection in Sweden, Switzerland and Brazil is a “paper aeroplane”, you should think again. Assembly work is now happening for the first of three E-model test aircraft, while a risk-reduction platform (once called the Gripen Demo, and now referred to as aircraft 39-7) has so far logged 300 flights, proving key systems and airframe attributes. The trio of test jets will be flown from the middle of 2015, and deliveries will commence after a military type certification milestone is met in early 2018, says Saab.

Gripen E

Already published on Flightglobal’s defence channel, the article covers Saab’s innovative use of a model-based design technique, which it says will cut development costs by 50% versus the current Gripen C/D. For a platform which offers supercruise performance, an impressive radar and electronic warfare suite and a reduced signature, that’s remarkable, even by the Swedish company’s own standards. “BS”, some will reply, but the big claims being made by it mean that the E has to deliver what it is claiming: particularly if it is to get anywhere near a sales target of 350-400 export examples.

We don’t have long to wait to see whether the first units will be ticked off, as the results of Switzerland’s public referendum on the Gripen Fund Law will be known on 18 May. Saab is placing pre-deal contracts with local suppliers, in anticipation of getting the backing it needs for the 22-aircraft buy, but interestingly has stepped back from getting directly involved in the debate.

The story also brings you the best look to date at what the production Gripen E will look like, with its beefed-up airframe and new-look engine intakes, and explains how Saab will produce it for the Swedish air force from “upgrading” its current C-versions.

Check the new model out: if its developers are right, you could be seeing plenty of them from late this decade.

NOTE: The choice of fighters for today’s posts stems purely from my having just reported on them both: hopefully, I’ll be able to produce similar items around other designs (such as an update on the Dassault Rafale, which I covered in detail last year) in the future. Out of interest, which would you buy? And particularly if you had only a real-world budget to play with?

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9 Responses to Fighter Friday, part 2: Gripen E

  1. Guest 15 March, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    You can see in the plan form rendition the “area-ruled” Rafale-style wingtip launchers; it shows that Saab is giving attention to RCS-reduction in the Gripen E.

  2. C Ritic 18 March, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    I think part of the reason Gripen development seems to be proceeding smoothly is that it’s not a mega project that tries to do everything. There’s more focus on a few areas with e.g. the engine being a finished, subcontracted article.

    It also helps that they’re alone in the new model Western budget segment after all the others turned out very expensive. A successor to the Mirage of sorts.

  3. Michael Powell 18 March, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    I would keep Typhoon as our main strike/fighter. For the navy I would get the beautiful Rafale M, and instead of the expensive F-35 I would get Grippen in huge numbers as a fighter and a secondary role as a strike aircraft and FFAC. All European RAF and RN!

  4. Mike Wheatley 19 March, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    “Out of interest, which would you buy? And particularly if you had only a real-world budget to play with?”

    In the real world, (a) your airforce cannot be purchased in one go, (b) you can’t change the historical purchases, (c) ~of course~ a 2018 aircraft would have been better if we had been able to buy it back in 2003, but equally ~of course~ we don’t have a time machine in the real world.

    Also: different countries need different things.

    Having said that, the range on the Grippen-E is very impressive.

    So,
    (1) If I was advising (as if!) most nations in the world, it would be the Grippen-E
    (2) If my client nation was threatened by a really high-end enemy airforce, then I’d still recommend Typhoon.
    (3) The USN would be better of with the Rafale-M. (70% Rafale-M, 30% F-35C.) Won’t happen of course, but that’s my technical assessment, for what it is worth.
    (4) The mid-life refits of the QE class carriers is an opportunity for change. Being able to properly schedule the cats-and-traps conversion should significantly reduce the costs. Also the EMALS should be cheaper by then. So, a navalised Grippen-E is possible.
    On the other hand, the F-35C should also be cheaper by then, and a Taranis-based UCAV should be available.

  5. puppethead 20 March, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    The anti-F-35 crowd are getting a bit tedious. The UK simply cannot afford to modify its CVFs with arresting gear (they know: they’ve checked!), so whilst they may be able to launch STOBAR Typhoons or Rafale Ms (at light weights, with a full deck run, as there won’t be catapults either) there’s no way of RECOVERING them aboard afterwards. No Harriers left, so either the RN ends up with the world’s two biggest LPHs, or they go with the only STOVL combat aircraft in production, the F-35B. Reality check, people…

  6. Craig Hoyle 20 March, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    I’m with you, puppethead: there is zero chance that we will see a navalised Typhoon flying from the deck of the RN carrier/s – the big lesson from the variant switch debacle was that it was prohibitively expensive, and only something to be decided on before they cut steel.

  7. Layman 26 March, 2014 at 5:31 am #

    To answer the question as to which would we buy-
    I would liken each to an animal, each one with strengths – the best airforce should ultimately have a range of capabilities, rather than only one type.
    Rafael – Arabian horse – a thoroughbred, but very expensive
    Typhoon – Tiger – capable, also expensive
    F35 – camel – in a positive way, versatile
    Gripen – leopard – value for money

  8. Ciaran 28 March, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    For any nation that has F-16s, the Gripen is a perfect replacement.
    Any nation with F-15 or F-18, Rafale without a doubt.
    Sorry Typhoon, too specialized to be of any use.
    F-35 is an incredible platform, pity about the plane.

  9. Nanodino 28 March, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    Damn, google makes it hard to find some red flag 2013 results. Really curious about how well SU-35 fared against F-18 and Gripen C. F-35 unfortunately was designed to please all forces in US Army so it became something of all an nothing exceptionally. Want an aircraft for land forces, design one like the A-10, want something for navy go for something that has the specs for navy, don’t try to make one for all it will result a plane with some identity issues. Back to searching for red flag results…

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