Saab has launched a new derivative of its Gripen C, which it believes is ideally suited to meeting the future adversary training needs of the UK and USA.
Unveiled as a full-scale replica at the DSEI exhibition in London on 12 September, the Gripen Aggressor is the Swedish manufacturer's proposed solution for the UK's air support to defence operational training (ASDOT) requirement, and part of the US Air Force's adversary air (ADAIR) opportunity.
Key adaptations would include replacing the fighter's live weapons with a simulation-based capability to fire air-to-air missiles, and fitting a dummy structure in place of its current cannon. The aircraft would also gain Saab's PS-05 Mk IV radar and an air combat manoeuvring instrumentation pod, while retaining its intra-Gripen fighter link and Link 16 functionality.
"The DNA that goes into the aggressor is based on the C/D-series, and it will benefit from development programmes for the [Gripen] E and C," says Richard Smith, Saab's head of Gripen marketing and sales. "We are not selling this aircraft as a fighter, but to hone fighter pilot skills," he adds.
Pointing to the advanced age and limited performance of types currently employed for such duties – such as the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk – Smith notes: "We see that the [market] requirements have shifted, and increased in terms of the advanced capabilities being requested. We believe we have a product which matches the requirements, and we can make the business case work."
Smith declines to comment on Saab's potential partnering opportunities for the UK's ASDOT requirement, citing the programme's competitive nature. However, he says only limited development work would be required to prepare new-build Gripen Cs for the aggressor role, and that the airframer will be able to meet the expected delivery schedule.
With reference to the USAF's ADAIR need, he notes: "We believe there's space in a certain category within that requirement that fits an aircraft system like Gripen."
"The big challenge today is getting value for money against a genuine adversary threat," says Smith, who adds that having air forces prepare their combat pilots during manoeuvres against the same model of aircraft represents "negative training".
"There is a market opening for high-end aggressors, with requirements that reflect modern fighters – supersonic, high turn-rate, agility, and fuzed sensor suites – and the ability to grow as the fight develops."