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Saab GRIPEN Update

Saab touts GRIPEN as the best next-generation fighter aircraft

Saab is witnessing strong growth across its entire family of GRIPEN fighter aircraft both at home and abroad, officials proclaimed today.

Addressing a media roundtable in London on 23rd November 2016, Head of the Gripen Product Unit at Saab Aeronautics, Jerker Ahlqvist explained how both development and production programmes for GRIPEN C/D and E/F variants remained on schedule for customers worldwide, including Sweden and Brazil where deliveries of GRIPEN E are expected to begin in 2019 and beyond.

There is good potential to increase this in the future,” Ahlqvist explained while highlighting recent responses to multiple requirements across Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa, South and North America.

On 22nd November, Saab responded to a Request for Information (RfI) issued by the Finnish government where a Request for Proposals (RfP) is expected in 2018. Elsewhere in Europe, Saab is expecting to respond to RfPs from Belgium and Bulgaria as well as the monitoring of ongoing negotiations between the Swedish and Slovakian governments for the procurement of GRIPEN C/D aircraft.

In Asia Pacific, Saab is paying particular attention to developments in India where the Ministry of Defence has expressed an interest in the procurement a fourth generation, single engine fighter aircraft which could be manufactured indigenously in line with Made In India guidelines.

Ahlqvist explained: “We have responded to the expression of interest. GRIPEN is the perfect system for India. The next stage we believe will be a RfP although we are not sure of the timeframe, but according to Indian sources, this will be in the near future.”

Elsewhere, Saab has not yet given up on Indonesia’s pursuit of a next-generation fighter aircraft following media reports explaining how the Su-35 had already been selected. “We believe the GRIPEN C/D is the perfect F5 replacement for them,” Ahlqvist added.

In Africa, Sweden continues to conduct government-to-government negotiations with Botswana for the procurement of GRIPEN C/D while in South America, Saab is awaiting the release of a RfP in Colombia. “We are waiting to see what this looks like,” he continued.

Finally in North America, Saab has not given up on requirements in Canada following a decision on 22nd November to buy F-18 fighters. As Ahlqvist explained: “The next step is to open an acquisition programme for the replacement of F-18 system entirely over a five year timeframe. We are definitely interested in participating if it’s an open and transparent programme.”

Referring to upgrades for GRIPEN C/D fighter aircraft, Ahlqvist explained how the MS20 upgrade was now operational with the Swedish Air Force. In July 2016, Saab described how the Swedish Air Force and Defence Materiel Administration had successfully certified a “revolutionary enhancement” to GRIPEN’s operational capabilities.

Speaking at the Farnborough International Air Show in the UK, Major General Mats Helgesson, Chief of Staff of the Swedish Air Force explained: “After extensive testing by the FMV and the GRIPEN Operational Test and Evaluation Unit, all of the new MS20 functions including the METEOR missile are now fully integrated with GRIPEN.”

The upgrade includes a suite of new capability options ranging from air to air, air to surface and ISTAR missions, dependent upon customer preference. “Operators are free to choose how, when and to what extent they implement the new capabilities that the upgrade enables,” Saab literature reads.

Specifically, the upgrade includes the integration of MBDA’s METEOR Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile (BVRAAM) which the company described as a tactical missile with strategic effect capable of engaging targets out to a range of 100 kilometres.

Its unrivalled no escape zone (three times greater than any current BVR missile) will dominate the future air to air battlespace, giving a decisive capability to Gripen and its pilots,” it was added.

The upgrade also includes integration of Boeing GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb munitions for high precision and long range strike missions. ISTAR upgrades include Enhanced Link 16 and Data Link for Close Air Support; Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System; CBRN protection; and ISTAR reconnaissance capability.

We are working with other GRIPEN C/D customers to offer this and the Czech Air Force will also get this upgrade,” Ahlqvist explained while describing how modified aircraft would become operation with by the end of 2016.

The Czech Air Force modification features the base components of the MS20 upgrade although it will involve the service’s own organic communications and weapons suites.

Turning his attention to future developments for GRIPEN variants, Ahlqvist proclaimed the inauguration of the GRIPEN Design and Development Network (GDDN) in Gaviao Peixoto, Sao Paolo, Brazil. Opened on 22nd November 2016, the joint venture with Embraer and other industry parties has been founded to consider the development of “future versions” of the Brazilian Air Force’s GRIPEN aircraft.

The GDDN provides us with an extended development capability and a proof of concept for India,” Ahlqvist concluded.

Meanwhile, Saab Aeronautics’ Head of Operations, Lars Ydreskeg, described how the first GRIPEN E fighter, designated Test Aircraft 39-8, would conduct its first test flight in the second quarter of 2017.

We are on track for the first customer delivery in 2019 as well as initial operating capability with required functionality,” he explained. “High speed taxiing will take place very, very soon.”

Finally, Saab Aeronautics explained how it was integrating its Distributed Integrated Modular Avionics (DIMA) electronic architecture model on board GRIPEN aircraft. The capability has been implemented as computer engineering developments continue to outpace aeronautical engineering developments.

Describing how DIMA-capable fighter aircraft could provide more continuous upgrades in the future, Ydreskeg explained how the solution would allow for a more modular system of systems more suited to the particular operational requirements of the operating air force.

Our objective is to change the tactical functions- such as integrating different sensors- in a matter of weeks instead of years,” Ydreskeg concluded.


Andrew White

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