STEWART PENNEY / LINKÖPING
Manufacturers say upgrade now under test should simplify fighter's weapon integration
Saab and BAE Systems are testing new flight control system (FCS) software for the Gripen that should make it easier, cheaper and quicker to integrate new weapons with the multirole fighter.
Mike Bielby, engineering manager new business at Saab/BAE joint venture Gripen International, says a key Gripen design concept is to deliver a platform that does not require major modifications to meet customer requirements. This makes it possible to compete with rival fighters despite the Gripen's smaller production batches.
Another aim is to retain the Gripen's carefree handling regardless of the load carried. "The basic concept is that it should always feel like a Gripen," says Bielby.
A key cost in modern fighter programmes is clearing new weapons with the platform, with many customers having unique armouries. Bielby says Saab/BAE will have a baseline weapons package to which growth options can be added. "Previously new stores configurations had to be analysed and flight cleared, then g and angle-of-attack limits defined," he says. These limits would then be used to upgrade the FCS software, which then needed reclearance.
To address this, the two companies have developed new FCS software that will ease integration and provide aircraft role changes in-service simply by telling the aircraft, says Bielby. If the weapon is a 1760-databus compatible "smart store", the weapon itself informs the aircraft, which will configure the FCS.
"All likely permutations of equipment have been analysed and the key boundary points, g, angle-of-attack, angle-of-bank, have been built into the parameters," says Bielby. "Unless there is a significant change in the nature of the weapon, we don't have to modify the FCS."
Saab/BAE have been developing the system for several years and it is in the latest software load on the upgraded JAS39C now in Swedish air force test and evaluation.
Source: Flight International