New Gripen variants studied by Saab

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Saab-led Gripen International is studying future development options for its Gripen multirole fighter, including the possible installation of a more powerful engine, increasing the type’s overall size and maximum take-off weight, and the potential availability of a carrierborne strike variant.

Intended to boost the long-term export prospects for the single-engined Gripen – as competition increases from rival types over the next decade – the enhancements could result in a modification package similar to the Super Hornet enhancement to Boeing’s baseline F/A-18, say industry sources.

While the Gripen’s current Volvo Aero-supplied RM12 turbofan engine could be further modified to deliver a 10-15% increase in thrust to meet future fighter requirements in Denmark and Norway, company officials say the installation of the larger General Electric F414 could provide 25% more power, increasing the aircraft’s operating range and payload.

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New Gripen variants studied by Saab

If implemented, use of the F414 would require major structural changes to the current Gripen airframe, with these to include a larger centre fuselage barrel, enlarged engine inlets, redesigned nose gear and a need to provide additional internal fuel capacity, say industry sources.

Other potential capability enhancements for the Gripen include the proposed integration of an active electronically scanned array (AESA) for the aircraft’s Ericsson PS05 multimode radar from around 2012, says Jonas Branzell, the company’s project manager for airborne radars. A multi-channel AESA could be available from 2015, followed by a fully multifunctional system from 2018, he says. Both would draw on technologies developed during Ericsson’s ongoing Nora demonstration project.

Models of enlarged and carrierborne fighter concepts of the Gripen are expected to be unveiled at the Farnborough air show in mid-July, says Gripen International.

The latter is understood to have emerged as a potential candidate to meet Indian navy maritime strike requirements, but could also be offered to countries like the UK if the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter project encounters future difficulties.