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​Gripen Aggressor enters the fray in US red air competition

Saab is exploring the burgeoning red air market with its Gripen Aggressor, but the new adversary aircraft could face a tough competition against cheaper, former military jets.

Last week, Saab unveiled a new derivative of its Gripen C at the DSEI exhibition in London. The Aggressor is outfitted with simulation-based capability to fire air-to-air missiles and Saab's PS-05 Mk IV radar and an air combat manoeuvring instrumentation pod.

This week, Saab officially announced its intent to target the US Air Force’s adversary air (ADAIR) contract, though private contractors appear lukewarm on the new platform.

“We’re looking at all options at this time and it’s a highly capable fighter,” says Sean Gustafson, vice-president of business development at Draken International, which has already captured the USAF’s interim red air contract for Nellis AFB, Nevada. Draken holds 100 aircraft in its private fleet, including Douglas A-4 Skyhawks acquired from New Zealand, Aerovodochody L-159s and 20 recently acquired Dassault Mirage F1s from Spain.

Draken’s competitor, Textron Airborne Solutions, acquired 63 French F1s this month but is considering the Gripen Aggressor to fulfill the USAF’s 150 aircraft requirement for the ADAIR contract. But while Textron believes the Gripen’s capabilities would suit any aggressor programme, acquiring the aircraft boils down to Saab’s pricing, says ATAC chief executive Jeffrey Parker.

“The issue is right now it’s a slightly different model because we’re talking new aircraft versus former military aircraft,” he says. “So above all ATAC and US industry have to be able to create value for the [Defense Department], and the way we do that right now is by using former military aircraft.”

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