Saab's Demo aircraft to highlight Gripen NG capabilities

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Saab will later this year begin flight testing possible elements of its Gripen NG (Next Generation) multirole fighter, having unveiled a technology demonstrator airframe at its Linköping site on 23 April.

While externally nearly identical to the current Gripen C/D, the Demo airframe has 3,500 new parts, including a General Electric F414G engine which will also be used in NG aircraft likely to be produced after 2015.

 
© Peter Karlsson/Gripen International

With an output of over 22,000lb (98kN), the F414G (below) produces 20% more thrust than the Gripen's current Volvo Aero RM12 powerplant, and will enable supercruise performance of Mach 1.1 with air-to-air weapons, says marketing director Magnus Lewis-Olsson. Ground testing up to full afterburner use has been completed, and aircraft integration took place in March.

 
© Craig Hoyle/Flight International

Other changes to the converted B-model aircraft, which at 7t has an empty weight just 200kg (440lb) greater than the Gripen D, include a 2t increase in maximum take-off weight, to 16t. A new main landing gear housed in the wing root has freed up space for 40% more internal fuel, which will increase unrefuelled ferry range to 4,070km (2,200nm).

The new undercarriage configuration also means two Terma heavy stores pylons have been added to the aircraft's belly, with two 907kg GBU-10 laser-guided bombs carried for the roll-out.

 
© Craig Hoyle/Flight International

Saab has meanwhile confirmed its radar selection for the demonstrator programme, with its Microwave Systems business unit to integrate a Thales-supplied active electronically scanned array antenna with its PS-05/A sensor for flight testing from mid-2009. "This is the first step towards more extensive co-operation in developing a next-generation AESA," says Peter Andersson, Saab Microwave Systems' product manager for Gripen radar.

Cockpit systems from Honeywell and Rockwell Collins will also be trialled on an avionics rig prior to being integrated with the Demo aircraft from next year.

Some of the enhancements will be offered to current operators as upgrades, or as retrofit options to new customers.

Saab-led Gripen International will on 28 April submit responses to requests for proposals from India and Norway, and also lists Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Romania and Switzerland as potential customers.

"We have never seen such interest in the Gripen," says Saab chief executive Åke Svensson.