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.
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?