Saab, a pioneer in aerospace and defence technology, has unveiled its latest fighter aircraft the Gripen-E. In a pomp and color filled event held at Saab’s Linkoping facility in Sweden, Swedish Defence Minister, Peter Hultqvist flanked by the Swedish Air Force Chief of Staff, Mats Helgesson, unveiled the state-of-the-art Gripen E to the world. The event was graced by Saab Chairman, Marcus Wallenberg, Saab CEO, Håkan Buskhe and head of business area Aeronautics, Ulf Nilsson.
The Gripen-E is based on the proven Gripen fighter platform and the development for the aircraft began in July, 2013. According to Saab, the Gripen-E fighter aircraft has been developed keeping in mind the future operational needs of the air forces across the world. The Gripen saga began with the Gripen-A/B version and has overtime evolved to be one of the most technological superior aircraft. Gripen features an extremely flexible and modular design, which has allowed Saab to continuously upgrade the aircraft.
President and CEO Saab, Håkan Buskhe, on the sidelines of the event was quoted saying “Nations need modern air defences to uphold national sovereignty. Meanwhile, the cost in relation to other investments in society needs to be reasonable. Therefore, Saab has developed design and production methods for the Gripen E to both increase capability and to reduce costs”.
Ulf Nilsson, Head of Aeronautics Business – Saab, speaking about the Gripen-E said the aircraft features ‘A revolutionary avionics system, a more powerful engine, improved range and greater payload capability’. Ulf went on to discuss about the new ‘AESA radar, IRST systems, advanced EW and communication systems’ which make the Gripen-E a smart fighter. Addressing the cost concerns, Ulf Nilsson said “Gripen E guarantees affordable airpower with a balanced design to beat the cost curve”. He summed Gripen-E’s capability saying “More Power, More Capable, More Gripen”.
The Gripen-E aircraft features more than 100 developments over its predecessor, the Gripen-C/D aircraft. Gripen-E is powered by a single General Electric’s (GE) developed F414G turbofan engine. The F414 power unit is extremely powerful and allows the aircraft to attain supersonic speeds. The super cruise technology enables the aircraft to sustain these speeds without engaging the fuel guzzling afterburners.
Making Gripen-E smart is the highly advanced avionics package that has went on-board the aircraft. The eyes and ears of the fighter is undoubtedly the state-of-the-art Selex developed ES-05 Raven AESA radar system. The AESA radar enables the fighter to simultaneously track multiple targets in multiple directions. The aircraft features Infra Red Search and Track (IRST) system which allow it to beat even the latest radar and detection systems. These latest sensor suites enable Gripen-E to maintain an unhindered situational awareness in the fluid battlefield.
Gripen-E is equipped with 10 external weapons pylons which enable it to carry extremely high amount of payloads. Being a ‘swing role’ fighter, the aircraft is designed to fly with both Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground weaponry systems. The aircraft can carry multiple BVRAAM (Beyond Visual Range Air-Air Missile) and guided munitions. The advanced Electronic Warfare (EW) system enables the fighter to fend off any tracking radars. The primary weaponry system is complemented by a Mauser BK27 high velocity gun. These weapon systems make the Gripen-E an extremely lethal platform that can wreck havoc over enemy territory.
Gripen-E is a certified NATO-interoperable fighter aircraft that features cutting edge network centric warfare technology. Another star feature of the Gripen-E is its turnaround time. Saab claims the turnaround time to be less than ten minutes when the aircraft is in air-air mission and the same to be at around twenty minutes when the aircraft is performing air-ground missions. Gripen also features an unmatched Short Take Off Landing (STOL) capability.
Swedish Air Force has committed itself with the Gripen-E program and plans to operate these able jets under their wings by the late 2018’s. Brazilian and Switzerland Air Force will receive the Gripen-NG fighter, an export variant of the Gripen-E by 2019. Saab has confirmed that various African countries are in final stages of negotiations for signing a contract to acquire the smart fighter.
Saab’s Gripen offer to India.
Saab has been offering the capable Gripen to India ever since the now deceased MMRCA tender was floated. Even though, IAF had initially opted for the Rafale the air force has now terminated its commitment for 126 multi-role aircraft with Dassualt, the manufacturer of Rafale. This move has left the combat aircraft market in India wide open.
Though Gripen had lost out to the Rafale, Saab hasn’t lost its campaigning spirit. IAF has an urgent need for more than 7 squadrons of medium multi-role combat aircraft. Sensing this dire need of the IAF, Saab since the last year has been vigorously lobbying for the Gripen in India.
Saab in its renewed efforts has offered the Gripen-NG to India with absolute Transfer of Technology. Going an extra mile, the company has offered to transfer its global production and assembly line to India. The aerospace giant has also expressed its willingness to help India with the design and development of Tejas Mk-1A and Mk-2 aircraft.
The Gripen is a highly capable aircraft and at the same time is a cost effective option. The introduction of Gripen-E, an extremely smart fighter has fortified Saab’s hold in the aerospace market. The lucrative ToT offers being put forward by Saab may very well see the Gripen-NG flying in Indian Air Force’s color in the future.