Saab Gripen : News and Discussions

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    The JAS-39 Gripen: Sweden?s 4+ Generation Wild Card | Military

    The JAS-39 Gripen: Sweden’s 4+ Generation Wild Card

    As a neutral country with a long history of providing for its own defense against all comers, Sweden also has a long tradition of building excellent high-performance fighters with a distinctive look. From the long-serving Saab-35 Draken (“Dragon,†1955-2005) to the Mach 2, canard-winged Saab-37 Viggen (“Thunderbolt,†1971-2005), Swedish fighters have stressed short-field launch from dispersed/improvised air fields, world-class performance, and leading-edge design. This record of consistent project success is nothing short of amazing, especially for a country whose population over this period has ranged from 7-9 million people.

    This is DID’s FOCUS Article for background, news, and contract awards related to the JAS-39 Gripen (“Griffonâ€), a canard-winged successor to the Viggen and one of the world’s first 4+ generation fighters. Gripen remains the only lightweight 4+ generation fighter type in service, its performance and operational economics are both world-class, and it has become one of the most recognized fighter aircraft on the planet. Unfortunately for its builders, that recognition has come from its appearance in Saab and Volvo TV commercials, rather than from hoped-for levels of military export success. With its 4+ generation competitors clustered in the $60-120+ million range vs. the Gripen’s claimed $40-60 million, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Sweden’s lightweight fighter?

    The JAS-39 Gripen is an excellent lightweight fighter by all accounts, with attractive flyaway costs[1] and performance. Its canard design allows for quick “slew and point†maneuvers, allowing it to take advantage of the modern trend toward helmet-mounted displays, and air-air missiles with much wider boresight targeting cones. The “Cobra†HMD completes that capability, and became operational on SAAF Gripens as of September 2011. Power to weight ratio is good, its PS-05 radar mechanically scanned radar gets good reviews, some “radar profile shaping†techniques have been employed to reduce its own signature, and its small physical size can make it a tricky opponent for enemy pilots.

    Short Take-Off and Landing capability makes Gripen a difficult target on the ground as well. Sweden’s defense doctrines avoid dependence on easily-targeted bases, and its fighters are expected to fly from prepared sites next to automotive highways. Gripens can fly from a 9 x 600 meter/ 29.5 x 1,970 foot runway, and land in 600 meters or less – without using a launch catapult or an arrester hook.

    The Gripen has one other asset that is often overlooked: very attractive lifetime operational costs. To date, each new generation of modern fighters has proven to be more expensive than its predecessors to operate and maintain. Since operation and maintenance are over 65% of a fighter’s lifetime cost, this aspect of the defense procurement spiral forces much smaller aircraft orders with each new generation of equipment. The JAS-39 was designed from the outset to counter this trend, and lifetime operating costs were given a high priority when making design and equipment decisions. Many of the Gripen’s competitors have tried, but Saab appears to have succeeded.

    More exact cost figures were offered in July 2010 by Gripen technical director Eddy de la Motte, who quoted less than $3,000 per flight hour for Sweden’s Flygvapnet, and “for the export customers it will be less than $5,000, including maintenance, spare parts, fuel and manpower.†On its face, that’s stunning. By comparison, the USAF places the per-hour cost of an F-15 at $17,000 [PDF]. Even given a likely mismatch between direct flight costs, and figures that include allocated life cycle costs including depot maintenance, etc., that is a big difference. Switzerland is one customer where that difference appears to have been decisive. Swiss evaluations reportedly rated the Gripen at roughly half the O&M costs expected for its twin-engine Rafale and Eurofighter counterparts.

    The Gripen’s equipment commonality and choice are good. Its engine is a derivative of GE’s F404, in wide use on F/A-18 A-D Hornets and many other platforms. A wide variety of international equipment has successfully been tested and integrated with the aircraft, including equipment from American, Israeli, European, and even South African[2] suppliers. Some key slots like radar-killing missiles still need to be filled, but Raytheon’s GBU-49/EGBU-12 Enhanced Paveway GPS/laser guided bombs were added in 2009, and Gripen is serving as the MBDA Meteor long-range air-air missile’s test aircraft for flight trials.

    The end result is an effective lightweight fighter. As an example, the Hungarian Air Force described their experiences at Exercise Spring Flag 2007, held in May at Italy’s Decimomannu air base in Sardinia. Other participants included France (E-3 AWACS), Germany (F-4F ICE), Italy (AV-8B Harrier, F-16C, Tornado ECR and Eurofighter Typhoon), NATO (E-3 AWACS), and Turkey (F-16C), with tanker support from Italy, the UK and the US. The Gripen’s 100% sortie rate was impressive, and it also generated some interesting comments from Hungarian Air Force Colonel Nandor Kilian:

    “In Hungary we just don’t have large numbers of aircraft to train with, but in Spring Flag we faced COMAO (combined air operations) packages of 20, 25 or 30 aircraft. The training value for us was to work with that many aircraft on our radar – and even with our limited experience we could see that the Gripen radar is fantastic. We would see the others at long ranges, we could discriminate all the individual aircraft even in tight formations and using extended modes. The jamming had almost no effect on us – and that surprised a lot of people.
    Other aircraft couldn’t see us – not on radar, not visually[3] – and we had no jammers of our own with us. We got one Fox 2 kill[4] on a F-16 who turned in between our two jets but never saw the second guy and it was a perfect shot.

    Our weapons and tactics were limited by Red Force rules, and in an exercise like this the Red Force is always supposed to die, but even without our AMRAAMs and data links we got eight or 10 kills, including a Typhoon. Often we had no AWACS or radar support of any kind, just our regular onboard sensors – but flying like that, ‘free hunting,’ we got three kills in one afternoon. It was a pretty good experience for our first time out.â€

    To keep the basic Gripen relevant, block upgrades occur about every 3 years. Block 19, in 2009, integrates IRIS-T SRAAM (Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile), NATO’s Link-16 as a supplement to Gripen’s own shared awareness datalink, and the Cobra helmet-mounted sight. Block 20 in 2012 is expected to include enhancements to the PS-05/A radar, and the ROVER close-air-support data link used with such success by American forces.

    Partnerships & Production


    The Industry Group JAS (IG JAS) is the joint venture partnership that develops the Gripen System for the Swedish Armed Forces. Partners included in IG JAS are Saab Volvo Aero Corporation and Ericsson Microwave Systems (now part of Saab Group). The development and production of the Gripen has been one of Sweden’s largest industry projects, consuming up to one-third of the Swedish defense budget in some years.

    The first JAS-39s were delivered in 1993, and the last Swedish plane was due to be delivered in 2007. While exact figures are extremely difficult to come by, sources place the average flyaway cost of the JAS-39 at about $40 million[4] per plane, or about $50 million in current dollars. The whole Gripen production run for all customers, according to current orders, will reach 261 aircraft. This consists of:

    An unspecified number of additional Gripens have also been delivered to the multinational UK Empire Test Pilot’s School, as their fast jet platform.

    On the marketing front, Saab now handles all international sales, and ties to its parent firms like Investor AB allow it to offer an attractive program of industrial offsets to potential owners. An initial Gripen International marketing partnership with BAE gave the Swedish aircraft wide global representation, but BAE had conflicts of interest, and a divestiture formally ended the partnership in March 2010.

    Unfortunately, the Gripen has lost out in or been absent from important export competitions in Austria (Eurofighter), Finland (F-18), India (Rafale, but not closed), Poland (F-16), Switzerland (F-18, but Gripen won a follow-on buy), and Singapore (F-15SG Strike Eagle to replace A-4 Skyhawks). A number of potential opportunities are detailed below, but existing orders will not keep the JAS-39 in production past 2012. Meanwhile, Sweden may be about to downsize its Gripen force to 100 JAS-39 C/D aircraft, flooding the market with second-hand models and choking new production opportunities. All in a market where overall export orders are already below Saab’s expectations.

    A number of factors could be cited as reasons for this situation: purchasing slowdowns across the industry, the inertia of existing relationships and equipment standardization, Sweden’s lack of geopolitical weight in contrast to countries like the USA, France or Russia. In Singapore’s case, its status as a single engine lightweight fighter with limited range also hurt it – as did its partner BAE’s greater interest in promoting its own Eurofighter.

    Still, the bottom line is that the Gripen was dependent on exports for profitability, as a result of the unprofitable contract Saab signed with the Swedish government. The government’s ability to assist with foreign export orders has proven to be very limited, and envisaged export orders have been more in line with skeptics’ predictions, than with corporate hopes.

    Can the Gripen production line survive?

    JAS-39 Gripen: The Way Forward

    One way forward is through upgrades. Most JAS-39s offered in recent export competitions touted important improvements beyond the present C/D versions. The most important is next-generation AESA radar technology, which offers substantial improvements in detection, resolution, versatility, and maintenance costs. Other common upgrades include uprated engines and longer range. Eventually, they were formalized into 2 programs. The test and development program is called Gripen Demo. Production aircraft appear to be headed toward a JAS-39E/F core designation, though they’re also referred to as JAS-39NG, for “next generation.â€

    Regardless of the exact upgrade sets offered, the hope remains the same: that appropriate upgrades would allow the Gripen to continue offering better performance and features than lightweight fighter peers like the F-16 and MiG-29, including new variants like Russia’s new thrust-vectoring MiG-35 and Lockheed’s AESA-equipped F-16 Block 60 “Desert Falcon†flown by the UAE. They’re also intended to allow the Gripen to compete on more even terms with more expensive fighters like the Rafale, F/A-18 Super Hornet, etc. In those competitions, Gripen would be positioned as a lower-budget option with “close enough†capabilities overall, and outright advantages in key areas.

    That competitiveness is essential. Like France’s Rafale, which also depends on exports to finance its ongoing development, the Gripen is finding itself dependent on home government handouts in order to remain technologically competitive. That’s less than ideal, but given the Gripen and Rafale’s status as the future backbones of their respective national air forces, non-competitiveness is hardly an option. Absent further foreign sales, therefore, the question for both aircraft is how badly future upgrade costs will eat into their home market’s fighter procurement and maintenance budgets. Which explains Saab’s eagerness to escape this trap.

    Sensors & C4

    The first set of chosen Gripen enhancements will improve the pilot’s situational awareness, and this set of enhancements is being designed with an eye to retrofit compatibility on existing JAS-39C/D Gripen fleets. The upgrade set includes:

    An AESA radar in place of the present PS-05 is an important future selling point, and has been promised in several of Saab’s recent foreign bid submissions. As of March 2009, Saab is partnered with Selex Galileo to design an ES-05 Raven AESA radar that builds on Selex’s experience with the Vixen 500 AESA, Ericsson’s PS-05 radar, and its Nora AESA experiments. The Raven incorporates an identification friend-or-foe (IFF) function that works in conjunction with the cheek-mounted active array SIT 426 IFF.

    In an unusual twist, the Raven AESA will be movable using a single-bearing system, increasing its total field of view by a factor of 2 to +/- 100 degrees, and improving “lock, fire, and leave†maneuvers. The cost is paid in reliability and maintenance, because the pivot mechanisms create a point of failure and maintenance, whereas fixed AESA radars are mostly maintenance-free. Saab is betting that the improved scan performance will justify the cost. The quality of Raven’s AESA transmit/receive modules, and their integration, will also play a large role in the radar’s final performance.

    Reaching this point wasn’t easy, and the developmental state of its radar has been a weakness for Saab in competitions like India’s M-MRCA. Saab bought Ericsson’s radar group, which also makes the Erieye AWACS radar, in March 2006. Later that year, they began the “Nora†AESA project, but by autumn 2007 they had changed their approach, and looked to leverage existing radar initiatives instead. That would have been fine in a normal marketplace, but underhanded anti-competitive behavior by Dassault and the US government left Saab without a viable partner, and cost them years of time on a critical market feature

    Sensors & Datalinks. Beyond the Raven radar, a passive IRST (infra-red search and track) system will be added to improve the JAS-39NG’s aerial target detection, without running the risk that the Gripen will reveal itself by emitting detectable electro-magnetic energy. The JAS-39E/F’s Skyward-G system is air-cooled, which eliminates the weight and maintenance of cryogenic liquid cooling systems.

    IRST systems are useful against some ground targets, and all aerial targets. They especially enhance performance against opponents with “low observable†radar stealth enhancements. If medium-long range infrared guided missiles like MICA-IR or NCADE are integrated in Gripen at some future date, an IRST system can even provide missile guidance beyond visual range, without triggering the target’s radar warning receivers.

    Link 16 is a situational awareness upgrade, and retrofits are also available for earlier Gripen models. Gripens already had a proprietary datalink that allows them to see a common picture of the battlefield, but the NATO Link-16 standard is more widely used, and adds the ability to share with other types of aircraft, air defense radars, ships, etc. (see June 11/07 entry, below).

    EW/ECM. Electronic warfare enhancements are another component of situational awareness these days, and Swiss evaluations in 2008/2009 rated this as a platform strength. Upgrades are critical, in order to keep the platform current. The JAS-39 E/F will get them.

    Structural/ Mechanical

    Mechanical upgrades are in the works, too.

    Size & Payload. Early projections for the single-seat JAS-39NG showed a larger fighter, in order to carry more fuel, and more weapons on 2 extra stations (10 total). Subsequent reports regarding the JAS-39E/F confirm that the fighter will be longer and wider, but aims to have the same wing loading ratio as earlier models. Empty weight for the Gripen Demo technology development prototype was reported as 7,100 kg, which is up from the JAS-39C’s 6,800 kg, but still well below the 10,000 kg of the F-16E Block 60.[5] Maximum takeoff weight for Gripen Demo was a bigger jump from previous versions, rising to 16,000 kg from 14,000 kg. The derivative JAS-39E/F may end up being even heavier, at 16,500 kg or greater. Maximum payload only jumps from 5,000 kg up to 6,000 kg, however, because of…

    Fuel. One of the Gripen’s handicaps against competing fighters has been its range. A 38%+ jump in internal fuel capacity is meant help to offset the Gripen NG’s weight and power increases, while extending the aircraft’s combat air patrol radius to 1,300 km/ 812 miles, and boosting unrefueled range to 2,500 km/ 1,560 miles. The landing gear is repositioned to accommodate those extra fuel cells. A new underwing 1,700 liter (450 gallon) fuel tank has been flown, and tanks capable of supersonic drop will be tested in future. With the full set of drop tanks, the JAS-39E/F’s total flight range is expected to reach 4,075 km/ 2,810 miles.

    Engine. Hauling all of that around will require a more powerful engine than the current RM12 variant of GE’s popular F404. GE’s F414, produced in partnership with Volvo Aero and in use on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet family, will be that engine. The base model offers a 25-35% power boost over its predecessor the F404, and the developmental F414 EPE could offer another 20% thrust increase on top of that, for a total boost of 50-62%.

    Key F414G alterations for the Gripen will include minor changes to the alternator for added aircraft power, and Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) software that’s modified for single-engine operation, instead of the Super Hornet’s twin-engine configuration. Reports also indicate that Saab will look to add divertless supersonic intakes to the JAS-39E/F. This technology saves weight while offering similar or better engine performance, and can be found on the F-35, as well as on China’s JF-17, J-10, and J-20 fighters.

    Saab Group remains on track with the basic Gripen Demo program, which has also been referenced as the “Gripen MS21″. The next step will involve setting the final specifications for Sweden and for initial buyers, and finalizing the “JAS-39 E/F†design. Development is expected to be done by 2018-2020, with new JAS-39E/F fighters entering service in Sweden around 2023.

    n July 2006, Saab received a SEK 1 billion contract from the Swedish government (about $150 million) to improve the aircraft, and develop the Gripen Demo/NG. This was later followed by a NOK 150 million (about $25 million) agreement with Norway in April 2007, and a set of industrial partnerships with key suppliers. A welter of upgrade contracts, studies, and private investment initiatives have also worked to finance R&D of key components, including the avionics and radar.

    Saab’s approach to those Gripen Demo partnerships has been a departure from past practice. Instead of selecting key technologies and modifying them to become proprietary, as was the case for the F404-based Volvo RB12 engine, Gripen Demo is using far more “off the shelf†parts. As noted above, its new GE F414 engine will feature minimal changes, so the upgraded engine is expected to cost 20% less than the its RB12 predecessor. Suppliers like Honeywell and Rockwell were reportedly asked to just provide their products, and let Saab handle integration. There are even rumors that Saab may embrace the same HMDS pilot helmet used on the F-35, instead of Saab’s Cobra. At present, Saab is leading a team of Gripen Demo partners that include:

    A demonstrator for the new version was rolled out in April 2008, and has been in flight testing since. Current negotiations with the Swedish and Swiss governments are aimed at freezing the configuration for the JAS-39E/F, which will feed back into the final industrial team.

    Future Gripens?

    Other aircraft upgrades are not advertised at present, but have been the subject of industry rumor and conditional commitments.

    Some reports have touted the possibility of a thrust-vectoring engine in future Gripen upgrades, but this was not listed as a selling point in Saab’s submissions to Norway or Denmark, and has not been mentioned in any Gripen Demo descriptions. More probable rumors involve upgrading existing fighters to JAS-39 C+/D+, by adding the improved F414G engine.

    Other reports over the years have focused on a carrier-capable Sea Gripen, and Saab had indicated that it would spend up to half of Gripen NG’s development budget on this variant, if it found a partner. In May 2011, however, an announcement seemed to indicate that the firm was beginning to move forward on its own, with development centered in the UK.

    Carrier landing is usually a very difficult conversion, but Saab can take advantage of the aircraft’s natural STOL(Short Take-Off and Landing) design. The Sea Gripen would add new undercarriage and nose gear to cope with higher sink rate forces and catapult launches, strengthen the existing tail hook and some airframe sections, and improve anti-corrosion protection. Launch options would include both catapult (CATOBAR) and “ski jump†ramp short take-off (STOBAR) capabilities, with maximum launch weight about 1/3 lower for STOBAR launches. Carrier landing speed is already in the required range under 150 knots, but the current 15 feet per second sink rate needs to be able to reach 25 feet/sec.

    India was the initial Sea Gripen sales target; Dec 29/09 materials indicate that this option was raised in Saab’s response to the M-MRCA RFI. India picked the MiG-29K and its own future Tejas LCA Naval variant for its carriers, however, and Gripen is not currently an M-MRCA contender. Sea Gripens also have a possible future role in Brazil as a naval aircraft on NAe Sao Paolo, or as a backup choice to Britain’s F-35C Lightning IIs on the new CVF carriers.

    Export Opportunities

    Time will tell whether the JAS-39 Gripen’s unique combination of performance, price, and life-cycle benefits will find enough buyers in the end, or if it will go down in history as the twilight of Sweden’s indigenous combat aircraft designs. Thus far, buyers have included Sweden (195), South Africa (28), the Czech Republic (14 lease/buy), Hungary (14 lease/buy), and Thailand (12). Switzerland (22) may follow soon.

    Meanwhile, Saab Defence & Security continues to pursue sales possibilities worldwide. The base list comes from a 2006 Bloomberg interview that outlined Saab CEO Ake Svensson’s thoughts about the aircraft’s potential export customers in the coming years. A Reports reoprt from Jane’s, based on that interview, added more specifics. Subsequent developments have closed off some opportunities, and added others.

    Still open

    Baltics: There is an lease requirement for up to 12 aircraft in Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania, but no active pursuit yet.
    Bulgaria: Stated in 2004 that it has a requirement for 20 aircraft. Issued a Request for Information (RFI) to Saab in May 2006. A 2011 RFI cut that to 8 planes.
    Croatia: Was looking for 8-12 aircraft, with an in-service date of 2011. A JAS-39C/D offer has now been presented, with Swedish JAS-39As loaned as an interim force (vid Oct 14/11 entry).
    The Czech Republic: Existing customer. In July 2010, Saab officials said that they saw the potential for up to 10 more planes there. Recent scandals may make just retaining the 14-plane lease a challenge.
    Denmark An offer has been made for replacement of their F-16 fleet with about 48 JAS-39DKs instead of F-35As. The Danes now expect to buy just 25-35 fighters (F-35A, F/A-18E/F, or JAS-39NG), and won’t make a decision until 2014. Gripen is a long shot.
    Greece: Was looking to purchase a second tranche of 30-40 advanced fighters, with the process expected to begin in 2006. That was delayed, then hope was held out, then the 2010 fiscal collapse happened. In limbo.
    Hungary: Existing customer, has extended its existing Gripen lease to 2026. Looking to phase out its fleet of MiG-29s; Saab thinks another 6 aircraft are possible.
    Malaysia: Limping along with MiG-29Ns until 2015, but not happy. Saab sees a chance to sell about 12-18 fighters.
    Slovenia: Believes they require 40 aircraft. They probably can’t afford that.

    Brazil: The canceled F-X program is underway again, as Swensson had hoped, and Gripen is an official contender. Brazil’s industry prefers the Gripen, but the Lula government preferred France’s Rafale. Where will the Roussef government line up?
    The Netherlands: A Tier 2 F-35 partner, but political pressure forced a competing bid, and Saab submitted one in 2008. The bid is considered a long shot at this point, but pressure on the F-35A is rising in Parliament.
    Romania: Was looking for 40 aircraft, but cut that down to 24 used F-16C/D Block 25s. Hasn’t been able to do a satisfactory F-16 deal as of August 2012.
    Switzerland: Was expected to start the process to replace 3 of its F-5 squadrons later in 2006, but starts and stops pushed a decision to 2011. Saab’s Gripen was picked against the Rafale and Eurofighter, but Parliament must ratify the decision, and a referendum is likely. Contract expected around 2013.

    India: Loss. India’s M-MRCA competition for 120-190 fighters. JAS-39IN is out, and France’s Rafale is the pick… if M-MRCA can finish without a restart.
    Norway: Loss. Had a requirement for 44 fighter aircraft to replace its F-16s. EADS withdrew its Eurofighter, then the F-35A won against the JAS-39N, but it may never have been a real competition.
    Thailand: Win. was looking to replace its aging F-5s, and Gripen won, over reported pursuit of more F-16s and even Russian SU-30s. A follow on order brings their total to 12 JAS-39C/Ds, as part of a package that also included S340 AEW planes.
    JAS-39 Gripen: Major Events
    “Live†competitions in which the JAS-39 Gripen is still participating, and which feature dedicated DID coverage including ongoing updates, include:

    Brazil’s F-X2 (suspended/ postponed)
    India’s M-MRCA (Gripen eliminated, but competition not over)
    Switzerland’s F-5E/F replacement (Gripen win, not finalized).
    Formal Swedish approval – with conditions.

    Gripen-F Demo
    (click to view full)
    Jan 17/13: Sweden. The Swedish government gives formal approval to the planned purchase of 60 JAS-39E/F fighters, a bit more than a month after the Swedish Riksdagen voted 264-18-19 in favor.

    This isn’t an order, just approval to negotiate one – and there’s a big condition attached. If Switzerland backs out, and there are no orders from other countries, the Swedish deal will also die. Saab’s Gripen blog | Sweden’s The Local | Aviation Week | UPI.

    Sweden votes for JAS-39E/F; Czech extension; Swiss pick; South Korean opportunity declined.

    Sea or Land attack
    (click to view full)
    Dec 10-13/12: Testing. Swedish and Swiss pilots successfully test the Gripen-F Demo, and its new AESA radar, at Linkoping in Sweden. Swiss DDPS [in French] | Saab’s Gripen blog
    Dec 6/12: Swedish vote. Sweden’s Riksdagen votes 264 – 18, with 19 abstentions, to approve the JAS-39E/F Gripen Next-Generation program. The total estimated cost, including maintenance and operation, is estimated to SEK 90 billion up until 2042. Swedish FXM | Saab’s Gripen blog.

    Sept 23/12: Malaysia. RMAF chief Tan Sri Rodzali Daud tells The Sun Daily that Saab’s offer to lease 18 JAS-39 Gripens is under serious consideration, as a lower cost alternative to buying MiG-29N replacements. Other sources had told the paper that the Gripen and the RMAF’s existing SU-30MKM fighter had been eliminated in technical tests, but Daud stressed that all competing aircraft were still under consideration. He added that a special budget might be necessary to fund MRCA, and that operating and maintenance costs would play a big role in the RMAF’s choice. Indeed, O&M costs have been the main reason behind Malaysia’s desire to retire its MiGs.

    If those criteria turns out to be accurate, then the SU-30MKM’s installed maintenance base, and Gripen’s proven design for low operating costs, could give them an important advantage over the Eurofighter and Rafale in Malaysia. Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet would fall somewhere in between. It’s more expensive to operate than the Gripen, and doesn’t have much commonality with Malaysia’s F/A-18D Hornets, but the joint base at Butterworth, Malaysia would offer Super Hornet interoperability with Australia. Just as the Gripen would offer interoperability with neighboring Thailand.

    Sept 21/12: Sweden’s government presents its 2013 budget request to Parliament, which includes the planned SEK 300 million (about $46 million) to begin paying for Gripen E/F development.

    The challenge is that the agreed formula of SEK 300 million in 2013-14, and SEK 200 million thereafter, only gets them to SEK 2.3 billion by 2023. Unfortunately, the Swedish Forsvaret now says that the Gripen E/F program is expected to cost “cirka fem miljarder kronor†(about SEK 5 billion) above and beyond the current 10-year plan, and the plane is scheduled to enter service by 2023, 10 years after development funding begins. To us, that sounds like “half fundedâ€; we’ve asked the Forsvaret to clarify. Swedish Forsvaret [in Swedish] | Swiss DDPS [in German].

    July 10-18/12: Pilot school? Saab says that they’re moving to establish a new global Fighter Weapons School for Gripen pilots at the SAAF’s Overberg base, in the southern Cape area, along with the Swedish and South African air forces. The first class is said to be targeting an October 2013 opening. Aviation Week:

    “A former site for secret South African/Israeli missile tests, Overberg hosts the SAAF’s test squadron and was chosen because it offers access to maritime, desert and high-elevation training areas, live ordnance areas and instrumented ranges with land targets… The SAAF will provide the school with [4-6] JAS 39C/D Gripens, plus aggressors (opposition aircraft) and targets if necessary, and each student will fly 20 day and night sorties. Discussions with other Gripen operators have already started. Airborne early warning and control aircraft or tankers could be added later.â€

    The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) follows with a sharp rebuke:

    “We would like to place on record that there has never been any discussion between SAAB and the SANDF. It is with dismay that we read such in the media when no interaction whatsoever with regard to the purported school. The Air Force Base Overberg is a sensitive security establishment of the SANDF and will remain solely in the hands of the SANDF. The suggestion therefore that such a school will be established is devoid of truth.â€

    Saab tells defenceWeb that it remains 100% committed to the project, and says that the SAAF was onboard and supportive, “but final and formal approval with South African government bodies is still outstanding.†Saab | Aviation Week | defenceWeb.

    June 18/12: JAS-39E/F. Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman reports from an aerospace conference at Sweden’s Malmen AB, where they’ve discussed details of the JAS-39E/F. They’re hoping that the first 2 development aircraft can fly in late 2013.

    The plane’s new sensor set, avionics, and mission computer will be designed so that they can also serve as JAS-39A-D upgrades. The airframe is another matter. Sweetman describes the airframe as “largely new†compared to the JAS-39C/D, with new mid and aft fuselage sections, and widened blended wing-body sections, based on the design and lessons from Gripen Demo. The overall description involves a longer and slightly wider fighter that maintains the same wing loading, despite a gross weight increase over the JAS-39C/D that has reached 5,000 pounds. It’s also supposed to supercruise with weapons, using divertless inlets. Even with a new engine for those inlets to feed, however, the extra weight will make armed supercruise a challenge. The F414 EPE, which adds more thrust, is reportedly under discussion, but configuring the EPE for more thrust will penalize range.

    Feb 29/12: JAS-39E/F. Sweden’s armed forces publish a report recommending that at least 60-80 JAS-39E/F Gripens be present in the future Swedish air force, with new aircraft beginning to arrive in 2020 and the entire effort lasting until 2030 or so. The military said its aim was to split the upgrade cost with “at least one other strategic partner country,†but did not reveal whom. It eventually becomes clear that the partner is Switzerland.

    This sort of arrangement would usually mean new-build planes, given the extent of the changes, but Saab itself talks about upgrades, and so have earlier reports (vid. Jan 26/12). Either way, Swedish acceptance would stabilize the future of its next-generation Gripen project. Swedish media talk about a SKR 30 billion (about $4.5 billion) project, though the military isn’t discussing any firm estimate yet. Saab | Sweden’s The Local.

    Feb 14/12: Czech mates. The Czech Republic’s government has reportedly decided to pursue a 5-year extension of the 10-year, CZK 19.6 billion (about $1.033 billion) lease-to-buy for its 14-plane JAS-39C/D fighter fleet, rather than opting for an immediate replacement tender. Czech defense minister Alexandr Vondra said that he didn’t expect Czech-Swedish negotiations to last longer than 4 months, but they have.

    The net effect is to freeze the Gripen as the country’s intermediate-term fighters, and make the Czechs’ long-term fighter fleet plan an issue for a follow-on government. Ceske Noviny | Ottawa Citizen.

    Czechs to extend

    Feb 13-14/12: Swiss 2009 evaluation leaked. The confidential 2008/2009 Swiss Air force evaluation results are publicly leaked. Its verdict that the Gripen didn’t meet minimum Swiss requirements for its future fighter directly contradicts earlier statements from Swiss military and political leadership that all 3 planes on offer had done so. This leaves the entire basis of the Swiss selection open to question, and pressure is building across the political spectrum.

    In response, the Swiss have stated that they’re still open to formal offers, essentially touching off another round of bidding. Officials have staunchly defended their pick in the meantime, saying that it met Swiss requirements by the time the final offer was evaluated. Saab’s public stance reinforces both tracks, saying that they are finalizing Switzerland’s JAS-39E/F configuration, while dropping strong hints that they will lower their price in response to Dassault’s maneuvers (vid. Jan 29/12).

    DID has confirmed that at least 2 key attributes did change between the report and the award: the Gripen’s ability to hit multiple targets in one pass, using newly-integrated GPS-guided weapons; and an operational helmet-mounted display. Read “Switzerland’s F-5 Fighter Replacement Competition†for full coverage, including report excerpts.

    Jan 31/12: India loss. Dassault’s Rafale is picked as the “L-1″ lowest bidder for India’s 126-aircraft M-MRCA deal, even after the complex life-cycle cost and industrial calculations are thrown in. Next steps include the negotiation of a contract, in parallel with parliamentary approval and budgeting.

    Until a contract is actually signed, however, India’s procurement history reminds us that even a “close†deal is just 1 step above a vague intention. The contract may take a while. Even the French government sees a deal as only an 80% probability within 6-9 months. The budgeting is likely to be even trickier. The IAF’s exclusion of cost considerations in picking its finalists means that the only question now is: how far over the stated budget will a full Rafale buy go? Some reports place the deal’s cost at around $15 billion – an increase of up to 50% from previous estimates. If economic downturns or squeezed defense budgets make those outlays a big enough issue, early enough in the process, it could have the effect of re-opening the competition. British PM David Cameron has expressed an intent to change India’s mind, and both Saab and Boeing are still positioned within India, in order to be ready for a renewed opportunity. In a competition that’s re-opened for financial reasons, the Gripen would have much better odds. Read “India’s M-MRCA Fighter Competition†for full coverage.

    Jan 29/12: Switzerland. Dassault makes Switzerland a new final offer, after the competition: 18 Rafale fighters for SFR 2.7 billion (EUR 2.24 billion, $2.96 billion), instead of 22 Gripens for SFR 3.1 billion. On a per-plane basis, that’s 17.5% less than Dassault’s reported “final†RFP offer of SFR 4 billion for 22 Rafales.

    The offer is aimed at the Swiss parliament, but the way it was handled looks set to create plenty of enemies. Parliamentary discussions are expected to begin in mid-February.

    Jan 29/12: South Korea. The Korea Times quotes a DAPA spokesman, who confirms that Saab submitted an application to attend the F-X-3 fighter program’s mandatory explanatory session. They were joined by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and EADS. The report adds that DAPA doesn’t see the Gripen as likely to meet its competition’s requirements. Then again, that’s what explanatory sessions are for. Saab itself told the newspaper that it hadn’t decided whether or not it would bid.

    When the bids are submitted, Saab isn’t among them.

    Jan 26/12: Swedish JAS-39E/Fs? Defense News reports that the Swedish government will soon begin examining a proposal from Swedish Air Force Command to upgrade 100 Gripens to next generation status:

    “Some 20 possible new configurations for a Gripen E/F version are being examined by Saab, the AFC and FMV… The AFC advocates that the Air Force’s stock of C/D version Gripens be upgraded on a phased basis to spread the total cost over a five- to 10-year budgetary period. The AFC views the impending government decision, which it anticipates will be made in March, as the most critical funding issue facing Swedish defense.â€

    Jan 26/12: Switzerland. An anonymous letter from a “Groupe pour une armee credible et integree†alleges that Switzerland’s benchmark fighter tests had their results manipulated. The accusations are seen as being detailed and specific enough to prompt Switzerland’s parliamentary sub-committee for security policy to investigate further. 24 Heures [in French].

    Jan 5/12: Czechmate? Financial Times Deutschland reports that Germany is looking to sell some of its used Eurofighters to Eastern European countries, at the cut-rate price of EUR 60-80 million each. The Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia and Romania are named. Even that price is likely to be rather steep for these countries, in comparison to alternatives like used F-16s, unless Germany can propose substantial savings on training and maintenance. Czech defense ministry spokesman Jan Pejsek says that: “I can completely exclude that talks have taken place, even a [informal] probing.â€

    Meanwhile, allegations that the CSSD government’s original deal to buy 24 JAS-39 fighters may have been marred by corruption, is creating uncertainty around the possible 2015 renewal of the 12-year, CZK 20 billion (now around $1.04 billion), 14-plane Czech lease-to-buy deal. The current OSD government is reportedly very cool to the idea, and may be considering less-capable options like the American F-16. Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said in June 2011 that it would be difficult to imagine renewing the contract until the corruption investigation was concluded, and recently added that the country’s deteriorating economic situation would have to be taken into account when making this choice. Czech Position.

    Swiss win; India elimination; Doing the Brazilian limbo; Competition in Croatia; RM12 engine upgrades; Cobra HMD operational; Thais operational; Sea Gripen started.

    Swiss takeoff
    (click to view full)
    Dec 1/11: Swiss win. Switzerland announces their choice – and it’s Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen. Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer estimates the cost of the envisaged deal at up to CHF 3.1 billion (currently $3.5 billion, probably more by 2014), for 22 planes. The DDPS explicitly stated that Gripen also won because it offered lower maintenance costs that made it affordable over the medium and long term. The deal includes a provision for 100% value industrial offsets to Swiss firms. Dassault wasn’t very happy, though they did concede that the Gripen beat them on price.

    For various reasons, a secure contract isn’t expected until some time in 2013. If the contract goes through, Switzerland will join Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa, and Thailand as Gripen operators. Read “Switzerland Replacing its F-5s†for full coverage.

    Swiss pick

    Oct 14/11: Croatia. The Swedish Defence and Security Export Agency (FXM) publicly presents the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen offer, which has already been submitted to the Croatian government. It involves the sale of 8-12 JAS-39C/D fighters, rather than more advanced Gripen Demo/NG planes. Sweden would also loan Croatia some older JAS-39As as an interim force, to avoid a fighter gap as its aged MiG-21s are retired. The offer also support and training agreement for pilots and technicians, and an industrial co-operation package backed by Saab’s delivery record in the Czech Republic, Hungary and South Africa.

    The biggest competitor in Croatia is thought to be the Eurofighter. It’s more expensive than the Gripen, but German influence, and the potential for shared training and support, is expected to make it a competitive option. Vid. March 27/08 entry re: the RFI. Saab Group.

    Sept 20/11: Cobra HMD operational. South Africa’s air force becomes the 1st customer to declare the Gripen’s Cobra Helmet-Mounted Display operational, on 2 Squadron in Makhado. South Africa was the system’s first customer, but Sweden has since ordered its own Cobra HMDs.

    Like all helmet-mounted displays, the Cobra dramatically improves the effectiveness of the plane’s short-range air-to-air missiles, by allowing launches at targets within a much larger field of view. Saab Group.

    HMD operational

    Sept 14/11: Switzerland. The Swiss House of Representatives and Senate approve a SFR 5 billion per year armed forces budget, instead of SFR 4.4 billion. The difference is about $682 million per year, and some of that will reportedly be used to help fund Switzerland’s fighter purchase.

    Sept 12/11: RM12 engine upgrade. Volvo Aero discusses a 2-15% thrust increase for the JAS-39A-D model’s F404-derived engine, at the ISABE 2011 conference in Sweden. They also tout the engine’s record of over 150,000 flight hours without a single major engine mishap, which is indeed impressive. It helps to begin from a very stable, long-serving design like GE’s F404, but it also requires a design focus by Saab and Volvo Aero, extending into the maintenance system used by operating air forces.

    Project leader Torbjorn Salomonsson saw the RM12′s improvements coming from an improved FADEC controller, improved fan and blisks for better airflow, and a new high-temperature turbine adapted from GE advances in the F404 and F414. Volvo Aero head of research, Henrik Runnemalm, added that:

    “We have stated previously that it is possible to significantly increase the thrust of the existing RM12 engine at a very competitive cost. We will then have a more powerful and economical engine. It also means that we can upgrade the 220 engines that the Air Force already has whilst maintaining engine competence within country.â€

    July 8/11: Thailand. In a ceremony at Wing 7′s air base in Surat Thani, The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) officially declares its new air defense system operational. That includes the 6 initial Gripens, the S340 AEW Erieye plane, and the ground command and control systems. The system was originally intended to reach this milestone in September, but they managed to be 2 months early. Saab.

    May 24/11: Sea Gripen starts development. A Saab Group release states that Saab AB will open a new UK headquarters and a new Saab Design Centre in London. The engineering center:

    “…will capitalise on the UK’s maritime jet engineering expertise and is scheduled to open in the late Summer. Initially staffed by approximately 10 British employees, its first project will be to design the carrier-based version of the Gripen new generation multi-role fighter aircraft based on studies completed by Saab in Sweden.â€

    A 12-18 month concept design phase will follow. After that, Saab will need to decide whether or not to build a flight demonstrator. Sea Gripen was initially pushed for India (q.v. Dec 28/09 entry), but with Gripen out of M-MRCA unless something changes, the likely targets would appear to be Brazil’s suspended F-X2 program, or a Plan B for Britain if its F-35 plans go awry. As an example, imagine that catapult installations in the new CVF carriers prove unaffordable, ruling out F-35Cs, while the F-35B STOVL fails its probation and is canceled. With UK firms already providing 28% of the Gripen NG, Sea Gripen could tout itself as a legitimate British alternative to the more-expensive Eurofighter Naval concept. See also Flight International.

    Sea Gripen studies

    May 18/11: Brazil. Official opening of the Swedish – Brazilian centre of research and innovation (Centro de Inovacao e Pesquisa Sueco-Brasileiro, CISB) in Sao Bernardo de Campo, Brazil, which grew out of the Saab CEO’s September 2010 visit to Brazil. So far, the centre has attracted over 40 partners from academia and industry, who will be active partners in the specific projects. Areas of focus will be in Transport and Logistics, Defence and Security, and Urban development with a focus on energy and the environment.

    Saab President & CEO Hakan Buskhe cites a coastal surveillance radar project with Atmos and a datalink development project with ION as examples, and the firm sees many opportunities in Brazil beyond the Gripen project. Civil security will get special attention, as Brazil is hosting both the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games within the next few years. Saab Group.

    April 27/11: Indian elimination. Saab confirms that the JAS-39IN Gripen has been eliminated from India’s M-MRCA competition, which has become a duel between Dassault’s Rafale and EADS/ BAE/ Finmeccanica’s Eurofighter Typhoon. Read “India’s M-MRCA Fighter Competition†for full coverage.


    Feb 22/11: Thailand. The initial batch of 6 Gripen fighters arrives in Thailand. Bangkok Post | MCOT Thai News Agency.

    Thai delivery

    Feb 8/11: India. Saab announces the establishment of a Research and Development Centre in India, with an initial base of 100-300 Indian engineers. Areas of focus would include aerospace, defense, and urban innovation, including civil security.

    See also Saab’s “India – an important part of Saabs production flow“, which covers Saab Aerostructures’ industrial strategy more generally. To date, Saab is working with Tata Advance Material (small to medium sized composite parts), QuEST Engineering (sheet metal and machined parts), and CIM Tools (machining and sub-assemblies).

    Feb 4/11: Bulgaria. Bulgaria issues another fighter replacement RFI, soliciting information from Boeing (Super Hornet), Dassault (Rafale, Mirage 2000), EADS (Eurofighter), Lockheed Martin (F-16), and Saab (JAS-39 Gripen) re: 8 new and/or second-hand fighter jets, to replace its existing fleet of 12 MiG-21s.

    Bulgaria issued a similar RFI in 2006, for 20 jets, but the global economic crash, and Bulgaria’s own issues in trying to pay for past defense purchases, forced a hold. The Defense Ministry has taken pains to emphasize that this is just an exploratory request, and is not the start of a purchase tender. Nevertheless, November 2010 saw the formation of a National Steering Committee and an Integrated Project Team, to draft preliminary fighter replacement operational, technical, and tactical requirements. That followed October 2010 remarks by Bulgaria’s Defense Minister Anyu Angelov, who discussed spending BGN 1 billion (around $725 million) for the purchase of an uncertain number of new fighter jets to replace its MiG-21s, while modernizing its fleet of 16 MiG-29A air superiority jets. Sofia News Agency | Saab | SNA re: Saab visit.

    Jan 17/11: Brazilian limbo. President Rousseff leaves the entire F-X2 competition in limbo, in light of concerns about the financing of the purchase, how much to borrow for the initial fighter purchase, and inter-agency disagreements. The exact commitment is a decision later in 2011, but no contract until 2012. In practice, however, there is no firm timeline or deadline for a decision, the 2011 decision date is later revoked, and domestic spending priorities loom large in Rousseff’s agenda. Which makes this a de facto suspension.

    If it is a suspension, it leaves the situation of every contender in play.

    BAE divests, ends partnership; Swedish sims upgraded; Danish delay; DJRP Reco pod; SAAF just for show?

    Gripen Demo w.
    IRIS-Ts, Meteors, GBU-10s
    (click to view full)
    Sept 23/10: DJRP Reco pod. Thales announces that it has delivered its Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pod (DJRP) for installation and integration flight trials on South Africa’s JAS-39C/Ds. The electro-optic and infrared Thales DJRP completed its factory integration tests at Thales’s optronics facility in Glasgow, Scotland in June 2010.

    Handover of the reconnaissance pod to the South African Air Force (SAAF) will occur after the integration phase.

    Aug 7/10: India. India’s Times Now news show reports that the M-MRCA trials will leave only Dassault’s Rafale and EADS’ Eurofighter in the race. To be confirmed. Brahmand | Livefist.

    July 13/10: Sea Gripen, Exports. Flight International reports from Farnborough on JAS-39NG plans and testing, including plans to allocate development funds for a carrier-based “Sea Gripen†variant, as described above. Having said that:

    “The Sea Gripen will not be developed by Sweden alone… but potential partners could include Brazil and India, who have been offered to do work in their own countries. [Gripen technical director Eddy] De la Motte says the “cost of that programme will be a couple of billion Swedish crowns; more than one billion [DID: over $135 million]. It will be half of the Gripen NG’s development programme cost.â€

    The big challenge is that India has already picked the MiG-29K as its carrier-borne fighter, and Brazil may well close its door by picking the carrier-capable Rafale. Other carrier-using countries have locked in their future fighter choices, with the exception of Thailand and Spain. This means the Gripen would need to win in Brazil, or depend on new countries joining the ranks of naval fighter operators, in order to make Sea Gripen viable. For now, the announcement adds to their existing bid in Brazil, and thanks to the stated need for a partner, it costs nothing up front. With respect to export opportunities overall:

    “Looking out to 2016, Saab-led Gripen International sees multiple export opportunities for almost 230 aircraft with Bulgaria (16), Croatia (12), the Czech Republic (10), Denmark (36), Hungary (six), Malaysia (12), the Netherlands (85), Romania (24), Switzerland (22) and Thailand (six).â€

    Finally, Gripen technical director Eddy de la Motte gave JAS-39 figures of less than $3,000 per flight hour for Sweden’s Flygvapnet, and “for the export customers it will be less than $5,000, including maintenance, spare parts, fuel and manpower.†On its face, that’s stunning. By comparison, the USAF places the per-hour cost of an F-15 at $17,000 [PDF]. Gripen is engineered for significant savings, but there’s also a possible mismatch between direct flight costs, and figures that include allocated life cycle costs including depot maintenance, etc.

    Mid-May 2010: India. Gripen NG demo makes its international debut by taking part in the last phase of the Indian evaluation trials for the M-MRCA competition, following 135 test flights in Sweden. Testing includes high altitude trials at Leh airbase, 3,300m/ 10,826 feet above sea level, as well as testing under tropical conditions and comparative flight tests. Saab AB.

    April 21/10: Raven AESA. Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Galileo provides an update concerning its “Raven 1000P†prototype AESA radar. The radar is flying on the Gripen Demo, and has been demonstrated in air-air and air-ground modes, including long range synthetic aperture radar scans at medium and high resolution imagery. The company says simply that “expected performance has been achieved,†without providing clarifying details, and notes that development and new capabilities will continue. SELEX Galileo release [PDF].

    April 15/10: Romania. Agence France Presse quotes Jerry Lindbergh, a Swedish government official in charge of defense exports, who says that Sweden could provide Romania with 24 new “fully NATO interoperable Gripen C/D fighters, including training, support, logistics and 100 percent offset for the amount of one billion euros ($1.3 billion),†paid off over 15 years with low interest rates.

    In essence, they’re offering newer and better fighters, for the same price as very-used F-16s. Alenia would later match this with an offer of its own for 24 used Italian Eurofighter Tranche 1s, which possess no precision ground attack capability. Read “Nothing But Netz: Romania’s New Fighters†for full coverage of Romania’s fighter buy.

    March 24/10: Danish delay. Denmark decides to delay its fighter decision to 2014, with no delivery until 2018.

    That gives the F-35 a chance to stabilize costs, and win an order it appeared to be losing to Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. The Gripen remains a distant 3rd, but could recover. The US Navy plans to end Super Hornet production in FY 2015, barring exports to countries like India. Aviation Week Ares.

    March 23/10: Exports drive Swedish simulator upgrades. Saab Group announces that Swedish Air Force Wing F 7, based at Satenas, is upgrading from JAS-39 A/B to JAS-39 C/D aircraft and simulators. The Multi Mission Trainer is already converted, and will soon be followed by the Full Mission Simulator.

    What’s driving the conversion is the Thai order. The Gripen instructors at 1st OCTU are now preparing to train the first batch of Thai Gripen pilots, who recently arrived to Sweden.

    March 15/10: Denmark. Danish radio station DR Forside reports that the Tier 3 JSF partner Denmark will pick Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet as its future fighter, instead of the F-35A JSF or Saab’s JAS-39DK Gripen NG.

    According to the report, the ministry’s decision awaits an auditor’s review before being forwarded to the full government and to parliament. The formal contract and delivery date for new fighters are also expected to be delayed, with the F-16 fleet flying on and their replacements entering service in 2017-18. DDR Forside [in Danish] | Aviation Week Ares.

    March 9/10: India. Sweden flies its Gripen fighters into Bangalore for MMRCA-related trials – but India’s Business Standard reports that they’ll be JAS-39D Gripens, not the new Gripen NG. That could get the platform disqualified, depending on the decisions made by the IAF and Indian MoD:

    “The Gripen NG… has always been one of the hottest contenders in the fray. Saab’s default on the MoD’s trial directive, which lays down that the fighter being offered must be the one that comes for trials [leaves it] vulnerable to disqualification… the Swedish Air Force, having opted to buy the Gripen NG, has ordered a series of improvements on the Gripen NG prototype. With those under way, Sweden’s flight certification agency, SMV, has ruled that the prototypes require additional flight-testing in Sweden before the aircraft can be sent to India… Sources close to the Gripen campaign say IAF pilots will be offered a chance to fly the Gripen NG during a visit to Sweden from April 6 to April 10. Gripen International will also ask for fresh dates for bringing the Gripen NG to India for trials.â€

    March 5/10: BAE divests. BAE’s 11.2 million Class B shares in Saab Group are sold to Investor AB, the Wallenberg family’s publicly traded holding company, at SEK 95.50 per share. The 10.2% share is half of BAE’s remaining 20.5% stake in Saab. Following the sale, and some conversions of some Investors AB and all BAE stakes from Class A to Class B shares, Investor AB’s stake in Saab will change from 19.8% of the capital and 38% of the voting rights, to 30% of Saab and 39.5% of its voting rights. Investor AB Head of Corporate Communications, Oscar Stege Unger, reportedly had this to say:

    “[Cooperation between BAE and Saab has] in practice ceased, in as much as Saab manages the Gripen exports itself. There has also been a degree of overlapping between BAE and Saab in larger deals… Now BAE have decided that they do not see this as a strategic holding and want to pull out. We also think that it is good that we clarify the ownership structure.â€

    The March 4/10 closing price for Saab amounted to SEK 106.00 per share, so Investor AB is presumably happy already. Investor AB | BAE Systems | Sweden’s The Local | UK’s Times | UK’s Telegraph | Bloomberg | Defense News.

    BAE divests

    March 4/10: South Africa. South Africa’s News24 reports that the country’s Gripen jets, along with its MEKO-A frigates and Manthatisi Class U209/1400 submarines, are effectively present only for show, given their extremely low budgets for actual usage.

    The SAAF’s current fleet of 11 Gripens will spend 550 hours in flight in the current financial year, which compares to NATO standards of 20 hours per pilot per month (240 per plane per year). Most of that will take place during the 2010 World Cup. In the next 2 years, that meager total will shrink to a fleet total of 250 flight hours per year – or about 9.6 flight hours per plane, per year, with the full fleet of 26 planes.

    Raven AESA partnership; EGBU-12 GPS/laser guided bombs integrated; Brazilian dogfight; Dutch deal delineated; Dassault’s double-cross; JAS-39NG Supercruise.

    Gripen Demo
    (click to view full)
    Dec 28/09: Sea Gripen. Reports confirm that co-development of a carrier-capable “Sea Gripen†design was part of Saab’s response to India’s M-MRCA fighter competition RFI, adding that Brazil’s future fighter requirements were also targeted. Key changes are outlined, and Gripen VP of Operational Capabilities Peter Nilsson tells StratPost that the Sea Gripen is intended for both CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery) as well as STOBAR (Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery – “ski jumpâ€) operations:

    “There will obviously be differences in the MTOW (Maximum Take-Off Weight). In a CATOBAR concept, the Sea Gripen will have a MTOW of 16,500 kilograms and a maximum landing weight of 11,500 kilograms. In a STOBAR concept it depends on the physics of the carrier. Roughly, the payload of fuel and weapons in STOBAR operations will be one-third less than the payload in CATOBAR operations. There will be no differences in ‘bring-back’ capability,†he says.â€

    See: StratPost | Gripen India

    Oct 22/09: Denmark downgrade. Danish Defence Minister Soren Gade says that Denmark plans to purchase just 25-35 jets to replace its 48 operational F-16s, instead of the 48 aircraft originally envisioned. Gade now believes the soonest an agreement can be reached on the purchase would be the start of 2010, and the Copenhagen Post reports that the military has estimated the purchase will eventually cost “at least 100 billion kroner†(at current rates, about $20 billion – presumably, this includes lifetime maintenance and full equipping costs).

    That cost estimate is creating pause, especially in light of a February 2009 report that says the current F-16 fleet still has many hours left in their airframes. The cost imperative to stretch the current fleet runs up against the potential Danish aerospace jobs and manufacturing technology improvements that will accompany any new fighter order. A Danish Defence Command committee was set up in 2007 to evaluate the competitors, which currently include the F-35A, Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon, and Sweden’s JAS-39NG Gripen. Defence minister Garde is quoted as saying that at this point, there is no preference among the competitors. Copenhagen Post | defense aerospace.

    Oct 4/09: Brazil. Brazil’s FAB confirms that revised bids are in from all 3 short-listed contenders, and Saab’s offer clearly has significant support from the Swedish government.

    Gripen International’s revised bid offers a wide range of elements, including: Full involvement in the Gripen NG development program; Complete technology transfer and national autonomy through joint development; Independence in choice of weapons and systems integration; Production in Brazil of up to 80% Gripen NG airframes, via a full Gripen NG assembly line; and Full maintenance capability in Brazil for the Gripen NG’s F414 engine. That last offer would largely remove the threat of future American interference, and it would be interesting to see how Gripen International proposes to achieve it. Gripen International touts “significantly lower acquisition, support and operating costs†for its plane, and all this would be backed by a firm proposal for full long-term financing from the government’s Swedish Export Credit Corporation.

    The additional offers are equally significant. Brazil will have the sales lead for Gripen NG in Latin America, with joint opportunities elsewhere. Saab would join the KC-390 program as a development and marketing partner, and Sweden will evaluate the KC-390 for its long term tactical air transport needs, as a future replacement for its recently-upgraded but aging C-130 Hercules aircraft. Saab also proposes to replace Sweden’s aged fleet of about 42 SK60/ Saab 105 jet trainers with Embraer’s Super Tucano, but it received a SKr 130 million ($18.8 million) deal in September 2009 to upgrade the planes’ cockpit systems, and current Swedish plans would see the SK60s continue in service until mid-2017. FAB release [in Portuguese] | Gripen International release.

    Sept 29/09: Brazil. Embraer release [PDF]:

    “Regarding the article published in the Valor Econômico newspaper, dated September 28, 2009, Embraer clarifies that it is not directly participating in the selection process of the new F-X2 fighter for the Brazilian Air Force and, contrary to what was stated, it has no preference among the proposals presented. Embraer reaffirms its unconditional support of this process, always in close alignment with Brazil’s Aeronautics Command and the Ministry of Defense.â€

    Sept 28/09: Brazil. Brazil’s leading aerospace firm Embraer drops a political bombshell. Embraer’s Deputy Chief Executive for the defense market, Orlando Jose Ferreira Neto, tells Valor Economico that the firm was asked to advise the Air Force re: industrial proposals, and concluded that participating in the JAS-39NG Gripen’s development offers Brazil’s aerospace industry the best long-term benefits. Embraer reportedly saw the JAS-39NG as offering the opportunity to participate in the design process, rather than just producing parts.

    The opinion is a shock, as France’s interest in buying Embraer’s KC-390 transports was expected to leave Brazil’s top aerospace firm solidly on-side for the Rafale bid. T-1 Holdings executives (see Sept 17/09 entry) were also quoted in the article. In response, Defence Minister Jobim fires back to say that the government will make these decisions, not Embraer. Dow Jones | Defense Aerospace translations (note: links will not last) | Valor Online, via Noticias Militares [in Portuguese] | Defesa Brazil [in Portuguese] | O Globo [in Portuguese].

    Sept 17/09: Brazil. Saab announces that over 20 engineers from the Brazilian firms Akaer, Friuli, Imbra Aerospace, Minoica, and Winnstal are already working on the Gripen NG project in Linkoping, Sweden, with the Swedish government’s authorization. The 5 firms will participate as the T1 holding, and would be responsible for projecting and manufacturing the JAS-39BR’s central and rear fuselages and wings. If all goes well, Akaer predicts that as of 2010 a team of at least 150 engineers and technicians from the T1 holding will start working in Brazil, alongside 20 Swedish specialists.

    Beyond Gripen production, the holding’s goal is to form a new Brazilian aeronautical center in Brazil, and some technology transfer in the area of composite materials is reportedly underway already. Shaping the wing of a supersonic craft requires higher quality levels than civil applications, as well as manufacturing challenges owing to thicker and more resistant parts. Management and integration training within a holding structure of this type will also be required.

    Sept 7/09: Brazil. Brazil’s Ministerio Da Defesa announces that Dassault Aviation is now the F-X2 competition’s preferred bidder, and the country will order 36 Rafales subject to further negotiations. The announcement also says that Brazil has secured French cooperation to develop Embraer’s KC-390 medium transport, and possibly buy 10-12 of the aircraft when they’re introduced.

    This sale would be France’s 1st export order for its Rafale fighter, after numerous attempts spanning more than a decade. The twist in this story is that the air force has yet to request final bids, or deliver its evaluation and recommendations.

    Sept 7/09: Dutch deal described. The Dutch TV show KRO reporter does an expose, which claims that the Ministerie Van Defensie (MvD) has knowingly misled Parliament regarding its F-35 procurement plans. The report says that the Dutch Defence Materiel Organization head had told the MvD in 2005 that its plans for 85 F-35s was not sustainable at expected budget levels. But the MvD continued to use that number when describing its planned budget and plans to Parliament, and even signed off on that number in the 2006 production phase agreement.

    The MvD responds that it still intends to buy 85 aircraft, and that a budget increase to EUR 6.1 billion will take care of the gap. Which is true – if the pricing for the F-35As can be relied on. In contrast, KRO reveals that Gripen International has submitted a firm fixed-price bid for 85 in-service JAS-39NLs at EUR 4.7 – 4.8 billion. KRO reporter video [Flash] | Defense Aerospace KRO partial translation | MvD response [in Dutch].

    June 16/09: South Africa. Swedish Chief Prosecutor Christer van der Kwast decides to close the preliminary investigation concerning alleged bribes in connection with the sale of Gripen fighters to South Africa. Saab SVP for Communications and Public Affairs Cecilia Schon Jansson, is unequivocal:

    “No illegal methods have been forthcoming from Saab, and this is strengthened by the fact that the Chief Prosecutor now decided to close the investigation.â€

    See: Chief Prosecurot’s statement [in Swedish] | Saab Group release.

    March 24/09: ES-05 Raven AESA. Saab and SELEX Galileo sign an agreement to develop an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the JAS-39NG. This is both a major milestone event and a contract, so it’s covered in full the “contracts†section, below.

    March 10/09: RBE-2 Dassault double-cross. Aviation Week’s “AESA Radars Are A Highlight of Aero-India†points to problems with the JAS-39′s AESA radar, which stems from Dassault’s acquisition of a large shareholding in Thales. Rather than produce an RBE2 AESA radar that’s available on 2 platforms, Dassault appears to be excluding other options. The hope appears to be that this will lead to more orders for Dassault’s Rafale, rather than just shrinking Thales’ installed base for AESA fighter radars. Aviation Week:

    “In 2007, Saab struck a deal with Thales to provide an AESA antenna for the Gripen Demo program, to be mated with the signal processor from the JAS 39C’s Saab PS-05 MSA radar… Thales will honor the Gripen Demo contract but its AESA will not be available for a production NG.

    Sweden has talked about [Raytheon's] RACR, but would prefer the PS-05/A’s “back end†modules for ease of integration and to stay away from control issues associated with U.S. components. The answer may lie with Selex, which, first as Ferranti, then as GEC-Marconi and subsequently as BAE Systems, was Sweden’s partner on the original PS-05/A.â€

    Selex was also Saab’s partner in the M-AESA R&D project. Selex Galileo’s Italian division has considerable experience with the Grifo family of mechanically scanned radars, while Selex S&AS UK division has already created the Vixen AESA radar for smaller fighters. Korea’s F/A-50 was recently barred from using the Vixen 500E, under an agreement with co-developer Lockheed Martin that did not allow the F/A-50′s capabilities to surpass the ROKAF’s F-16s.

    Feb 2/09: Brazil. Gripen International confirms a Brazilian F-X2 bid involving 36 JAS-39NG aircraft. Their release adds that Brazil will have “direct involvement in the development, production and maintenance of the platform but it will also generate transfer of key technology including access to Gripen source codes.â€

    Boeing confirms that it has submitted a bid involving 36 F/A-18 Super Hornet Block IIs, with the APG-79 AESA radar. It is presumed that Dassault also submitted a 36-plane bid for its Rafale fighter. Boeing release | Gripen International release.

    Jan 21/09: “Supercruise.†A JAS-39NG “supercruises†over the Baltic Sea, flying at 28,000 feet above Mach 1.2, without using afterburners, until the pilot ran out of test area and had to head back to the Saab Test Flight Centre in Linkoping. Saab Group release.

    Very few aircraft can supercruise at all, and the fuel penalty means that most fighters’ time above Mach 1 during their entire service lives is measures in minutes, not hours. Supercruise cannot be operationally useful, however, unless it can be maintained with weapons mounted. The extra weight and drag created by externally-mounted weapons can make this a real challenge, which is why supercruise reports beyond America’s F-22A have been in “clean†configuration, with no weapons carried. Unless details are given to the contrary, the working assumption is that this was a “clean†configuration flight.

    Gripen Demo rollout; Norway loss.

    JAS-39D, Swiss arrival
    (click to view full)
    Dec 18/08: Dutch study. Tier 2 Joint Strike Fighter partner The Netherlands issues a comparative study of the F-16 Block 60+, JAS-39MG Gripen, and F-35A, which has been compiled in cooperation with several organization, and audited by 2 ministries and RAND Europe. It recommends the F-35 as the best combat aircraft. Surprisingly, it also concludes that the F-35 also has the lowest capital costs, and the lowest anticipated life-cycle costs. The issue will now go before Parliament.

    Read “Dutch MvD Report Urges F-35 over Gripen NG, F-16E Fighters†for full details and updates.

    Nov 20/08: Loss in Norway. The first domino falls. Norway chooses the F-35 over the JAS-39, though the way they chose to make that decision and announce it has created controversies, and had a negative effect on relations with Sweden. The decision itself is now controversial as well, after Sabb’s CEO took the very unusual step of holding a public presentation full of very specific criticisms regarding the accuracy and fairness of Norway’s process.

    Nov 6/08: Jane’s publishes “Analysis: Why 2009 could be the year of the Gripen.†It calls attention to the ongoing competitions in Brazil (36+), Croatia (12), Denmark (48), India (126+), the Netherlands (85), Norway (44), Romania (around 40) and Switzerland (36) make final selections, and estimates total sales of up to 523 aircraft worth around $35-40 billion at stake:

    “It will be a truly crucial period in shaping the future of the global fighter market. The common link between these eight contests is the presence of the Saab Gripen in the bidding process… Jane’s believes the Gripen team has reasons for optimism, however. First of all, in terms of the aircraft’s capability, Saab is offering its enhanced Gripen NG (Next Generation) variant for the Brazilian, Danish, Dutch, Indian and Norwegian requirements… According to Saab, further enhancements will be rolled out in three-year increments… Development and incorporation of specific customer-funded requirements is also envisaged as part of a 50-year programme plan… the Gripen NG programme would be accelerated in the event of a contract win and the aircraft would be available to enter service from 2014.

    With regard to cost, the Gripen NG is viewed by Jane’s as competitive in terms of both acquisition and through-life support costs when compared to its rivals. Bob Kemp, sales and marketing director for Gripen International, citing figures produced for the Dutch fighter contest, said Saab believes that the Gripen NG, as part of an 85-aircraft fleet, would cost EUR6 billion (USD7.6 billion) less than the F-35 in terms of life-cycle costs over a 30-year period…â€

    Aug 25/08: Netherlands. Gripen International deivers its formal response to The Netherlands’ F-16 replacement program, which has been re-opened due to ongoing political controversies concerning the F-35′s eventual costs.

    Eurofighter GmbH and Dassault refused to participate in this exercise, citing unrealistic time limits and perceived favoritism, and Saab’s request for an extension was denied. Saab reportedly replied to 85% of the 250 questions that had to be answered by 25 August; some questions with respect to integration with American products were reportedly not answered, as American firms must receive clearance from the US government in order to even discuss that information with Saab.

    The F-35A is still heavily favored, but Saab’s offer is an all inclusive package comprising 85 next-generation “JAS-39NL†Gripen NG aircraft, plus a complete package of training, spares, simulators and support, and industrial co-operation to at least 100% of the total value of a possible contract. Other interesting elements include an option for final assembly in the Netherlands, and a ‘Repairables Exchange Service’ designed to lower costs and reduce their customers’ need for initial inventories of spare parts. Gripen International release | Gripen International Presentation [PDF, 3.2MB] | Gripen International Offer Summary [PDF, 3.2MB].

    July 2/08: Switzerland. Gripen International delivers its initial bid to the Swiss government, and announces conditional industrial partnerships. See DID coverage.

    April 28/08: Gripen International delivers its MMRCA bid to India’s Ministry of Defence. The JAS-39IN is based on the Gripen NG/ Gripen Demo, and includes an AESA radar and an IRST (InfraRed Scan and Track) system, a Transfer of Technology (ToT) program, a life-time logistics support solution sourced from Indian suppliers with support from Saab and its partners, and full industrial offset cooperation. Gripen International release | Saab release.

    Eddy de la Motte, Gripen International’s India Campaign Director:

    “Gripen IN will provide India with a capability that offers complete independence of weapon supply… We will do this by transferring all necessary technologies to enable Indian industry and the Air Force to build, operate and modify Gripen to meet all indigenous requirements over time.â€

    April 28/08: Norway. Gripen International delivers its bid to the Norwegian government. Dagbladet reported, and Gripen’s release confirmed, that Norway added a new wrinkle – a guarantee from Sweden that it would not be the only operator of this fighter type. That guarantee may have consequences for the size of Sweden’s Gripen force.

    Gripen Demo
    c. Gripen International
    (click to view full)
    April 23/08: Gripen Demo Rollout. A 2-seat version of the next-generation Gripen Demonstrator aircraft is ‘rolled out’ to the media and public at a ceremony in Linkoping, Sweden.

    Photos show it equipped with illustrative mock-ups of IRIS-T short range air-air missiles, Meteor long-range air-air missiles, and Paveway precision-guided bombs. Gripen International release | Saab release | Saab: Videos from the ceremony | Gripen: Saab CEO interview & rollout videos

    March 27/08: Croatia. Sweden’s FMV procurement agency announces that it has answered a Request For Information from Croatia, involving a potential lease to buy deal for 12 Saab-made Gripen fighter jets. No prices are quoted at this stage, but Reuters reports that the jets would be former Swedish Air Force planes. Other candidates for Croatia’s air force reportedly include the EADS Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin’s F-16, and Russia’s MiG-29.

    Sweden’s FMV adds that : “This invitation from the Croatian authorities follows the recent receipt of similar invitations from Norway, India, Denmark, Switzerland, Romania and Bulgaria…†Swedish FMV | Reuters report | Reuters Sidebar: “FACTBOX-Balkan candidates offer NATO leaner military muscleâ€

    March 3/08: India. With Gripen competing in India’s MMRCA contest, Saab hosts Indian TV journalist Vishnu Som from New Delhi Television for an episode of his new show, “The Jet Set.†See the full episode: Saab release | Full episode [Windows Media]

    Jan 17/08: Switzerland. The JAS-39 Gripen is one of 4 aircraft solicited in a competition to replace 3 of Switzerland’s 5 aging F-5 E/F squadrons. Other competitors are Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, and EADS’ Eurofighter. See “Switzerland Replacing its F-5s†for more.

    Jan 17/08: Norway. Gripen International announces that it has been formally invited to bid on the Norwegian F-16 replacement fighter contract. It will compete one-on-one with the F-35A lightning II.

    F414 for Gripen Demo; Brazil’s back; Link-16 added; Spring Flag 2007.

    Gripen w. “smokewindersâ€
    c. Gripen International
    (click to view full)
    Dec 21/07: Norway, Netherlands. EADS pulls its Eurofighter out of the Norwegian and Danish competitions, leaving both future fighter programs as a straight-up competition between the JAS-39 and the F-35. The rationales given are vague and make little sense, but many sources believe their key objection is official favoritism toward the F-35. The government-to-government nature of the F-35 deal, it seems, wouldn’t require the same industrial offsets, though the F-35 program has pledged significant production contracts with Denmark’s Terma and with Norwegian firms.

    The Motley Fool, on the other hand, wonders if the same dollar devaluation that’s hammering EADS in the passenger jet market is also creating a price chasm for the Eurofighter. At $100-120 million per aircraft vs. $50-70 million for its Gripen and Lightning II competitors, it was already a significantly more expensive aircraft before dollar devaluation. Bloomberg | Financial Times | Flight International | Motley Fool.

    Dec 13/07: Hungary. Hungary receives its last 3 Gripen fighters from its 14-aircraft lease/buy deal signed with the supplier and Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration (FMV). Its fleet now consists of 12 JAS-39Cs and 2 JAS-39Ds. A Dec 10/07 announcement by Kaj Rosander of Gripen International added that “We have fulfilled our total export [read: industrial offsets] obligations to the Hungarian Ministry of Economy and Transport.†Flight International

    Dec 5/07: Denmark. Gripen International release: “In connection with a Gripen deal with Denmark, Saab is planning extensive co-operation with Danish industry. Saab has signed a large number of agreements for over 100 percent of the contractual value.â€

    Denmark’s F-16 replacement order will cover up to 48 planes, and Saab Group’s DKK 10 billion ($1.9 billion) co-operation agreement with dominant Danish defence company Terma in the areas of aviation, space, defense and civil security includes non-military contracts. Saab’s automotive enterprise remains a significant asset when competitions turn on industrial offsets, and is a much wider focus than Terma’s F-35 related contracts; then again, it has to be, since far fewer Gripens are likely to be produced. The Saab-Terma agreement is spread over 10-15 years, and parts of it are dependent on Denmark selecting the Gripen NG for its air force. See full Gripen release.

    Nov 29/07: Denmark. The Gripen team submitted their formal proposal to Denmark in December 2005, in response to that country’s RFI(Request for Information), but supplementary information was also requested. The Gripen team’s response is formally handed-over, on time. Gripen International release.

    Nov 8/07: IRIS-T. A JAS-39 Gripen fires an IRIS-T short range air-air missile with an operational target seeker for the first time. It was a high g-load test firing using a fully operational missile without a warhead, and was successful at hitting the target over the Vidsel range in northern Sweden. The IRIS-T is a multinational (Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden) 4th-5th generation SRAAM that is currently under development for several air forces. Gripen International’s Jan 16/08 release adds that:

    “The missile is being developed to combat targets at short range and is also designed to strike targets behind the firing aircraft. IRIS-T will enter service alongside the Cobra HMD (Helmet Mounted Display) System…â€

    Nov 5/07: Brazil re-launch. Brazil’s F-X competition appears to be on again, with a $2.2 billion budget for 36 front line fighters. A 50% boost to defense spending in the FY 2008 budget accompanies the announcement. Looks like Brazil may be serious this time, and the Gripen is tagged as one of the contenders.

    Oct 2/07: Gripen International announces that a 10-ship flight of Swedish Air Force F21 Wing’s JAS-39C/D Gripens were hosted by the USAF 493rd Fighter Squadron “Grim Reapers†at Lakenheath, England for joint exercises. Electronic warfare systems were the focus of the exercise, the pilots performed Close Air Support missions and executed air-to-ground attacks against targets defended by simulated surface-to-air missile systems during the week-long exercise. They also flew air combat missions against the Grim Reapers’ F-15C Eagles; unfortunately, no results were given.

    Sept 28/07: South Africa. As is often the case, South Africa’s Gripen purchase involved industrial offsets. Given the nature of South Africa, those offsets involved special quotas for mall and medium “black empowered enterprise†engineering firms. Saab discusses those efforts, with a focus on a 2006 R11 million ($2 million) contract between Saab and Aerosud under which local engineering firms secured sub-contracts for the supply of ground support equipment.

    South Africa’s Aerosud is responsible for the program, including managing and mentoring a select group of BEE companies which manufacture the various items, raising their quality standards so that they could become qualified suppliers to the aerospace industry. Items supplied include electrical test equipment, overhaul platforms and test rigs to tailored engine inlet covers, engine trolleys and cockpit access ladders. Companies supplying these items include Cape Town’s Quad Engineering, ContactServe of Olifantsfontein, and the Tshwane-based companies Vacuform and Hartell. Gripen International feature.

    Sept 12/07: Denmark. Danish Minister of Defence Soren Gade and the Swedish Minister of Defence Sten Tolgfors signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding Gripen at Saab in Linkoping, Sweden. Denmark is planning to replace its aging F-16 fleet of 48 aircraft within the next 10 – 15 years, and are conducting a comprehensive evaluation of different aircraft types. The MoU guarantees that all relevant Swedish information which is needed for the Danish evaluation of the Gripen fighter will be available; in practical terms, the JAS-39DK is now an official member of the fighter competition. Saab release. A Gripen International release adds that the Danish Air Force Chief, Major General Stig Ostergaard Nielsen flew in a JAS-39D during his August 2007 visit to Sweden.

    July 2/07: F414 picked. Saab announces that GE Aviation’s new F414G fighter engine will power its next-generation Gripen models. The F414G is derived from the popular 22,000+ pound/ 96 kN thrust F414-GE-400s that power the twin-engine F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and offers a 25-35% power boost over its predecessor the F404. Key F414G alterations will include minor changes to the alternator for added aircraft power, and modified Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) software for enhanced single-engine operation.

    GE Aviation and Volvo Aero Corporation will be working together on the new F414G fighter engine. Although Volvo Aero has manufactured modified F404 engines under license for past Gripen fighters, GE will be supplying GE F414G engines directly to Saab for the Gripen Demo project, with Volvo as a major sub-contractor. GE is currently delivering 2 F414 Engines, with flight-tests and customer demonstration evaluations planned for 2008-2010. Gripen International.

    July 2/07: Gripen International continues to tout its aircraft for India’s MRCA fighter competition. India Defence reports that the firm has gone one step farther than the July 2006 promise to have all airframe production take place in India. The firm stresses that the aircraft would be next-generation “Gripen Demo†aircraft, and adds that they were “willing to provide all the know-how for India to carry out modifications according to its needs.†This is a very high level of technology transfer, and resembles the benchmark adopted by the partner nations in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter consortium.

    India’s government finally issued the formal RFP for the MMRCA competition on Aug 28/07.

    June 11/07: Link-16 added. Saab announces that Link 16/ MIDS compatibility will become an option on the JAS-39, replacing or complementing the existing Swedish datalink. Full Link 16 certification is planned for 2008. The Link-16 program is part of the SEK 1 billion ($139 million) Version 19 systems upgrade – see July 3/06 entry in the contracts section, below. Finally, this tidbit was interesting:

    “By the late 1950s Sweden’s military thinkers and aircraft builders had recognized the game-changing effect that a linked flow of secure electronic combat data could have on tactics and operations. It is well known now – but was once a highly-classified national secret – that Saab’s J 35 Draken was fielded with one of the world’s first operational datalink systems. Since then, every generation of Saab combat aircraft from Draken to Viggen to Gripen has fielded more and more powerful datalink capabilities.â€

    May 2007: Spring Flag 2007. In September 2007, Hungarian pilots described their experiences at Exercise Spring Flag 2007, held in May at Italy’s Decimomannu air base in Sardinia. It included combat assets from France (E-3 AWACS), Germany (F-4F Phantom ICE), Italy (AV-8B Harrier, F-16C, Tornado ECR and Eurofighter Typhoon), NATO (E-3), Turkey (F-16C), and Hungary (JAS-39C/D Gripen) with tanker support from Italy, the UK and the US. The Gripens were the only participating aircraft with a 100% sortie rate, and generated some interesting comments from Hungarian Air Force Colonel Nandor Kilian re: the Gripen’s radar capabilities and low visual cross-section (see above, or follow the link).

    If you’re curious about the view from inside these kinds of exercises, DID recommends former USAF Air Weapons Controller John S. Green’s “Command and Control†recounting of a 1980s exercise involving American F-15s in Germany.

    Feb 8/07: Norway. “F-35 Lightning II Faces Continued Dogfights in Norway.†Endre Lunde chronicles developments in Norway, including endorsement of the Gripen by one of the governing coalition’s political parties.

    2006 and earlier
    Saab buys Ericsson Microwave; Saab layoffs; Red Flag EW; Terma MoU in Denmark; Terma MRP reco pod.

    JAS-39 landing
    c. Gripen International
    (click to view full)
    Nov 16/06: Red Flag Alaska – Gripen EW rules! Saab’s release discusses Gripen’s performance at Red Flag Alaska. During the 11-day exercise, the 4 aircraft each flew 2 sorties per day, accumulating 340 flight hours (150 ‘on mission’) with a staff of 12 pilots and 35 maintenance technicians.

    In the tactical realm, note the release’s confirmation that the JAS-39 has the ability to drop Laser Guided Bombs carried on one Gripen aircraft, using laser designator pods fitted to another Gripen aircraft. The aircraft’s warning and electronic warfare systems (EWS) also got high ratings: Lt. Col. Lindberg said that:

    “…it was almost impossible for the Red air force to get through our EW systems. We always knew where the air defense was, could avoid them and still do our work, even in very dynamic situations, with the threat getting more complex each day.â€

    Nov 16/06: IRIS-T. Saab announces successful tests with the IRIS-T short-range air-air missile, in order to verify Gripen compatibility. IRIS-T is in production, and is a multinational project that includes Germany, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Norway and Spain. It was developed following German experience with the Russian R-73/AA-11 Archer on East German MiG-29s, which caused them to rethink the entire design philosophy behind ASRAAM and pull out of the multinational project.

    Nov 3/06: Terma MoU. Saab and Danish defence and aerospace company Terma announce a Memorandum of Understanding for a longer-term business relationship. As a first concrete step, Terma and Saab signed a Contract for production of DKK 10 million (about $1.7 million) worth of Gripen parts, to begin immediately at Terma’s facilities in Grenaa, Denmark. Gripen International

    Nov 1/06: Denmark. Danish Aerotech A/S and Saab AB conclude a conditional cooperation agreement worth up to DKK 200 million (about $34.3 million). If Denmark decides to purchase the Gripen fighter as a replacement for its current F-16 fighters, Danish Aerotech is expecting to supply Saab with mechanical, electrical and electronic components as part of the new cooperation agreement. Since its establishment in 1992, Danish Aerotech has been a Saab partner responsible for all maintenance on Danish Saab T-17 training aircraft. Gripen International.

    Aug 23/06: Bulgaria RFI. Gripen International announces its repsonse to Bulgaria’s May 2006 RFI: 16 JAS-39 Gripen C/D aircraft (12 single and 4 two-seater) with full support and training provided in cooperation with the Swedish Armed Forces. Several financing options were outlined, and Saab/GI’s usual 100% offset promise was included. The first aircraft could be delivered within two years.

    July 19/06: India. Saab pledges to conduct all production in India if it wins the MRCA fighter competition, and cites its record of successfully meeting industrial offset provisions.

    June 26/06: Red Flag, ho. Flight International reports that 7 Swedish Air Force Gripens (5 JAS-39Cs and 2 two-seater JAS-39Ds), Two Tp84s (C-130H), and 12 pilots will be headed to Eilson AFB, Alaska under Lt. Col. Ken Lindberg for the latest Red Flag Alaska exercise. As a traditionally neutral country, Sweden has not participated in such exercises before. The Gripens will be deployed with LITENING III targeting pods, and will participate in both air-air and air-ground missions (4-6 aircraft each day, 2 missions per day), including leading mixed air groups from participating nations. They will take off from Ronneby AFB, Sweden on July 13, fly mostly overland without air-air refueling, and arrive on July 17, 2006. This Red Flag Alaska will run from July 24 – August 4, 2006, and is expected to involve 47 fighters and 6 support aircraft from participating countries. See Flight International article for more on the Gripen deployment, and a US Air Force Link article has more background re: the Red Flag Alaska exercises.

    June 20/06: Meteor. The JAS-39 Gripen successfully completes its first test set of MBDA Meteor missile firings. Further flight test campaigns will be performed with the Meteor on the Gripen combat aircraft during 2006 and beyond.

    June 12/06: Saab buys Ericsson Microwave. Saab Group acquires Ericsson Microwave Systems, who make the Gripen’s current PS05 radar – and probably its future AESA radar as well. EMS also makes the Erieye AESA radar that serves on Saab’s S-1000 and Embraer’s EMB-145 airborne early warning aircraft. See DID coverage.

    JAS-39N concept
    (c) Gripen International
    (click to view full)
    May 15-16/06: Denmark, Norway. Gripen International announces the tabling of offers to Denmark and Norway for JAS-39 Gripens to replace those nations’ aging F-16 fleets. The aircraft would have “longer range and greater payload†than existing JAS-39 C/D Gripens, but other than that no details of the offers themselves are released.

    For slightly more background, see also their Dec 9/05 release “Gripen for Denmark – Tailor-made to suit Danish needs!â€

    April 25/06: Swedish cuts? The Swedish Armed Forces submit their 2007 budget proposal, which includes a plan for the reduction of Sweden’s Gripen force to just 100 aircraft. The remainder of the force will either be sold on the international market to approved buyers, or scrapped.

    March 24/06: eDefense Online publishes “Gripens in Hungary Spark EW Revival.†The archive no longer exists, but an excerpt follows:

    “The original decision to lease 14 Gripens from Sweden was made in September 2001 by the country’s previous conservative government. Although many, mostly economic reasons were given for this surprise move against the US offer of Lockheed Martin (Ft. Worth, TX) F-16s, insiders in Hungary say that as a kind of “side effect,†the HDF will have access to a more comprehensive electronic-warfare (EW) system that offers a more “independent†EW capability. While providing “indigenous†EW planning for the customer was included in the original December 2001 contract calling for the leasing of air-to-air-combat-oriented JAS 39A/B aircraft, when the current post-communist government altered the deal in March 2003, more capable hardware was ordered as well. The revised contract includes the lease-to-own of the unique JAS 39 EBS (Export Baseline Standard) HU (Hungary) version, which has a significantly improved EW system compared with its predecessor.â€

    Dec 13/05: Meteor. Gripen is the first aircraft to flight-validate system integration with MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-air missile. Gripen International.

    June 8/05: Layoffs. Saab announced that it will lay off 350 workers in four business units, owing to a reduction of work for the JAS-39 Gripen. The 350 lay-offs involve workers at Saab Aerostructures, Saab Aerosystems, Saab Aircraft and Saab Support. Saab had already laid off 1,000 people in 2003 and 2004; and including this latest move, notice had now been given to 760 people in 2005. The company warns that it expects to lay off a further 1,000 – 1,500 people in 2005 and 2006.

    March 29/05: Terma MRP. Flight tests validate Terma’s new Modular Reconnaissance Pod (q.v. contract, Jan 7/02). Flight tests and evaluation will be ongoing at Saab in Linkoping for approximately a year, and introduction into Swedish service to replace the AJSF-37 Viggens will be in 2006. Saab Group’s release quotes Richard Ljungberg, Saab test pilot and former Swedish Air Force recce pilot:

    “Excellent handling qualities, the digital flight control system took care of everything; it just feels like flying a clean aircraft… We even tested camera functions in the pod together with maneuverability of the aircraft during the first flight.â€

    See also Terma A/S release.

    JAS-39 Gripen: Contracts & Awards

    Gripen NG
    click for video
    Aug 25/12: JAS-39E/F. Sweden’s government announces that they are committed to buying 40-60 next-generation JAS-39E/F fighters, as part of a joint effort with Switzerland who will buy 22 more. To fund this effort, they’ve agreed to commit another SEK 300 million to the defense budget in 2013 and 2014, and SEK 200 million per year after that.
    By the time the 1st planes are scheduled to enter service with the Flygvapnet, in 2023, that extra funding would amount to SEK 2.3 billion (currently almost $350 million), if subsequent governments maintain it. It’s hard to know if that’s enough, as negotiations are reported to be in progress for the system development contract, but if the aircraft includes everything it’s supposed to have, that would be a cheap price. Green Party MP Peter Radberg says that his party calculates the likely development cost at “a couple of billion kronor per year†instead.

    At the same time, the Swiss government issues a statement that there is an agreement in principle between armasuisse and Sweden, completing a Memorandum of Understanding signed on June 29/12. The countries will reportedly share support and upgrade costs under an umbrella model, and final details of specifications, delivery dates, prices, equipment and infrastructure have reportedly been settled, pending final aproval from Swiss political authorities. That will include a national referendum – see “Switzerland Replacing Its F-5 Fighters†for full coverage of that buy. Swedish government Release [in Swedish] & Video | Swedish Armed Forces | Svenska Dagbladet – full statement from 4 party leaders [in Swedish] | Swiss government [in German] | Swedish-Swiss Framework Agreement [PDF, in French] | Saab Group || Sweden’s The Local | Expatica Switzerland | Agence France Presse | Aviation Week | Bloomberg | Reuters.

    JAS-39E/F commitment

    Jan 30/12: Hungarian extension. Hungary opts to extend its lease of 14 Gripens for another 10 years, to 2026, but doesn’t add any more planes just yet. Terms aren’t disclosed, but the Budapest Business Journal reports that:

    “Hungarian Defence Minister Csaba Hende said earlier that extending the lease until 2026 would save the state HUF 63bn [DID: about $290 million]… Government data show the Gripen lease costs the budget an annual HUF 30bn. Training programmes for the aircraft cost an additional HUF 2bn a year.â€

    That would place the 10-year extension at about $1.1 to $1.4 billion equivalent, including training, based on straight-line extrapolation. In 2001 the Swedish and Hungarian governments entered into a lease-purchase agreement, with a further modification in 2003 that included 14 Gripen C/Ds (12 single-seater and 2 two-seater aircraft). All aircraft were delivered in 2006 and 2007, and all 14 aircraft were in operation with the Hungarian Air Force by the end of 2008. The current contract was due to expire in 2016. Saab | Budapest Business Journal.

    Hungarian extension

    2010 – 2011

    JAS-39 over Swedish lake
    (c) Gripen International
    (click to view full)
    Sept 6/11: ES-05 Raven. Curtiss-Wright Corporation announces a $15 million contract from SELEX Galileo to supply rugged embedded digital signal processor modules from 2010 – 2014. The company’s Motion Control segment will develop the DSP modules at its Ashburn, VA facility.

    The firm has confirmed that their DSPs will provide the radar processing for the new ES-05 Raven AESA fire control radar system, and the contract could rise to $25 million over the lifetime of the program.

    July 1/11: Support. Sweden’s FMV issues SEK 1.034 billion (about $159 million) worth of contracts to Saab for a variety of Gripen-related services in 2011.

    First, Saab will undertake continual maintenance and updates for Sweden’s JAS-39C/D fighters, in compliance with the Swedish Armed Forces’ long-term planning. Second, related efforts will work to maintain the Swedish fleet’s operational capability, including technical support, product maintenance, flight testing, and flight simulator operation. finally, Saab will conduct studies regarding further JAS-39 development, and a resource baseline will be laid down for renewed Gripen testing and verification in the long-term. Saab.

    May 18/11: Avionics. Saab announces a SEK 152 million (about $24.1 million) order from the Swedish FMV for cockpit development work on the Gripen C/D fighter, upgrading the material system 39/ edition 19 configuration during 2011-2012.

    March 3/11: Support. Saab announces a SEK 120 million (about $19.1 million) order from the Swedish FMV Defence Material Administration, to provide technical support, product maintenance, flight test and simulators to ensure that Sweden’s Gripen fleet remains ready and operational. The work will be done during Q2 2011, mainly at Saab facilities in Linköping, Arboga, Gothenburg and Järfälla.

    Jan 25/11: Saab announces a SEK 127 million (about $18.2 million) order from the Swedish FMV to modify undeclared sub-systems of Sweden’s JAS-39 edition 19 fighters – the 2009 upgrade baseline. Work will be carried out in 2011 and 2012.

    Nov 23/10: Thai Order #2. Saab receives a SEK 2.2 billion (currently $316.6 million) order from Sweden’s FMV to provide Thailand’s 2nd tranche of fighters (6 JAS-39C Gripens) and equip the 2nd S340 AEW&C aircraft being sold to Thailand.

    There’s also a 3rd component to the overall deal – Saab’s RBS-15F air-launched anti-ship missiles. Precise designations matter here. The FMV specified RBS-15Fs, which are radar-guided Mk.I missiles, without the land attack capabilities of the longer-range, GPS/radar guided Mk.III variants. The RBS-15Fs can be carried on the Gripens to hit ships over 70 km away, using a 200 kg warhead delivered by a stealthy, wave-hugging approach that includes programming for indirect attack vectors, and evasive maneuvers.

    The agreement is reportedly signed by RTAF commander in chief Air Chief Marshal Itthaporn Subhawong and FMV Director General Gunnar Holmgren, and FMV’s announcement would not disclose the full value of the government-to-government contract. Swedish FMV | Gripen International | Saab Group | Bloomberg | Engineering News, South Africa | Flight International | ScandAsia | China’s Xinhua.


    Nov 16/10: Training. Saab announces an order from the Swedish FMV procurement agency, to deliver 3-dimensional (3D) models to the Swedish Gripen simulators, to be generated from aerial images using Saab’s new Rapid 3D Mapping(TM) system.

    Sept 8/10: Meteor missile. Sweden’s FMV military procurement agency gives Saab a 4-year, SEK 312 million (about $42.75 million) contract to integrate MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-to-air missile with their JAS-39 fleet’s radar, displays, and support and maintenance systems like simulators and planning computers. The order includes test flights and test firing, as well as a 2-way datalink for communication with the missile and even “hand-off†targeting after it has been fired.

    The JAS-39 has a head start in this area. It has been the Meteor missile’s test platform since 2006, and has already conducted several Meteor test firings. Work will mostly be performed in Linkoping, Sweden, with some involvement from the Gothenburg facilities. Sweden is now the 3rd country to sign Meteor production orders, after Britain and Spain, but the other 2 countries will mount them on the Eurofighter Typhoon. Saab Group | Gripen International | Defense News.

    Meteor integration

    June 1/10: Support. Saab announces a SEK 230 million (currently $29.4 million) support contract from the Swedish Defence Material Administration. It covers product maintenance, technical support, and basic operations such as test flying, rigs and simulators, in order to ensure that the Svenska Flygvapnet’s Gripens remain operational. Work will be undertaken during the second half of 2010, at Saab’s Swedish plants in Linkoping, Arboga, Goteborg, and Stockholm. Saab AB.

    May 25/10: Avionics upgrades. Saab AB announces a 2-year, SEK 450 million (currently $57.25 million) contract from Sweden’s FMV procurement agency, in order to develop a next-generation set of Gripen avionics upgrades. Saab VP and head of the Aeronautics business area, Lennart Sindahl, explains part of the problem, which is common to all modern combat aircraft:

    “Computers with the best performance possible today will be viewed as inadequate for the tasks facing Gripen in ten years, when the aircraft must remain modern for a further twenty years. Few high-tech products have a service life as long as Gripen.â€

    In response, Saab will develop a completely new avionics system that includes new displays, back-end computing, and features like sensor fusion, the ability to sort and selectively display information with different security classifications, and changes to the electronic system architecture. The challenge is doing these things without breaking existing capabilities, of course, and the new package isn’t scheduled to enter service with Sweden until about 2020. Saab AB.

    March 31/10: MRP 39 upgrades. Sweden’s FMV procurement agency issues a 4-year, SEK 400 million (about $42.3 million) contract to Saab Group to improve the reconnaissance pod’s user interface, and give it night-time capability.

    The Gripen can carry the LITENING-III surveillance and targeting pod, which has full night-time capability, and its ReeceLite relative. This order, however, almost certainly involves Terma’s Modular Reconnaissance Pod (q.v. Jan 7/02 entry, above).

    March 30/10: Saab announces a SEK 600 million (about $82.6 million) support contract for 2010-2011:

    “The contract represents a part of continual system maintenance and updating tasks for the Gripen and complies with the Swedish Armed Forces’ long-term planning for the Gripen… as well as maintaining the material prerequisites for conducting coordinated testing of the flight system. The material prerequisites include renewal of test equipment and test aircraft for testing of the Gripen system on the long term.â€

    March 10/10: Upgrades. Saab announces a 5-year, SEK 2 billion (currently about $280 million) contract from Sweden’s FMV procurement agency, aimed at upgrading the existing fleet of JAS-39 C/D Gripen fighters. On the capability front, upgrades will include improved communications systems, and ECM(Electronic Counter-Measures) defensive systems, upgrades to the existing PS05 radar that will increase its range and add new functions, and integration of additional weapons.

    On the operational front, Saab will be making some changes to reduce operating costs, based on the fleet’s 130,000 hours of flight experience to date. Interestingly, there’s also a project to “reduce the noise and emissions from test runs during engine maintenance.†Work will mainly take place at Saab’s Swedish plants in Linkoping, Gothenburg, Jarfalla, Kista and Arboga. FMV release [in Swedish] | Saab release.

    2008 – 2009

    RTAF Gripens
    (click to view full)
    May 9/09: Thailand. The Thai Democrat Party government cancels its 15 billion baht follow-on option for 6 Gripens. Faced with a drop in government revenues, it slashes the coming defence budget from 171 billion to 151 billion baht.

    Subsequent comments indicate that the purchase may end up being delayed, rather than canceled. That is what happened, in the end.

    March 24/09: ES-05 Raven AESA. Saab and SELEX Galileo sign an agreement to develop a mechanically-pivoted Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the JAS-39NG. Terms are not disclosed.

    The Raven’s base technology comes from SELEX Galileo’s proven Vixen family of AESA radars, but it has evolved while incorporating technologies and experiences from other radars, including the existing PS-05. Part of that evolution is an innovative combination of AESA focus and low signal “leakage†beyond its focus area, with the potentially wider field of regard that mechanically-pivoted radars can posses. The result will be a far more capable radar than previous Vixen offerings. The new joint radar is now known as the ES-05 Raven, and the addition of mechanical rotation to traditional AESA strengths is an interesting design choice that will give the Raven a unique set of strengths (wider scan; lock, fire and leave tactics) and weaknesses (reliability, maintenance). The end quality of its AESA transmit/receive modules, and their integration, will also play a large role in the radar’s final performance.

    The arrangement is initially aimed at Brazil’s F-X2 fighter competition, where it leverages Selex Galileo’s strong pedigree equipping Brazil’s F-5BR fighters (Grifo-F radar) and AMX light attack jets (Scipio radar). Once integrated and proven, of course, the AESA upgrade would be available to any Gripen customer. Saab | Gripen International.

    Raven AESA partnership

    Feb 10/09: Saab and TATA Consultancy Services (TCS) partnered Aeronaoutical Design and Development Centre (ADDC) has been awarded its first contract by Saab to participate in the aerostructural design and development for Gripen NG. Gripen International.

    Feb 9/09: Studies. Saab announces an SEK 400 million (about $49.7 million) order from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) for 2009 studies regarding future Gripen capabilities.

    Until significant export sales are made, Sweden remains the home market and financier of the ongoing upgrades required to keep Gripen current. This order is a continuation of a project that started last year, and will form the base for the Swedish Armed Forces decisions regarding what capabilities and technologies to incorporate in subsequent versions.

    Jan 8/09: Support. Saab announces a SEK 550 million (about $70 million) order from the Swedish FMV procurement agency, to support the Swedish Air Force. Covered activities during 2009 will include program management, product maintenance, support, flight testing, pilot equipment and simulators.

    Gripen Demo rollout
    (click to view full)
    July 9/08: EW. Saab announces a pair of orders from the Swedish FMV procurement agency worth SEK 574 million (about $95.5 million).

    A SEK 324 million order for Electronic Warfare Systems (EWS) will equip Sweden’s aircraft with up to date antennae, transmitters and appropriate electronics, and deliveries will be made during 2008-2009.

    The second contract is a SEK 250 million contract for weapons pylons that will enable the Gripens to use GPS-equipped weapons systems like JDAM bombs; most likely this involves pylons with MIL-STD 1760 circuitry. Deliveries will take place between 2009-2011.

    April 23/08: Thales AESA. Saab announces a contract with France’s Thales to develop a new advanced radar based on AESA technology. Peter Andersson, product manager at Saab Microwave Systems:

    “At present Thales is developing an AESA within a French radar programme and, like Saab Microwave Systems, is one of the world leaders within the radar field. Together we can quickly develop a demo-product that can show the markets the advantages of AESA technology. The collaboration over the antenna is also cost effective and is in line with Saab’s overall strategy of finding industrial partners for Gripen… Our collaboration is for the Gripen demo. We will have to see what happens in the future.â€

    The collaboration is good for Thales, who have been building the RBE2 AESA radar for France’s Rafale fighter. With other future fighter markets locked up, a Gripen deal offers them their best hope of leveraging that technology into wider sales. Both Thales and Saab have experience with AESA radars, but the global fighter market pits them against established competitors in the USA’s Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, and prospective competitors in Russia’s Phazotron and Euroradar (EADS, Finmeccanica’s SELEX SAS and Galileo Avionica, and INDRA).

    Saab Microwave Systems is responsible for the overall radar system and its capability, Thales contributes with the antenna, and Saab Aerosystems is responsible for integrating the final product into the JAS-39. Collaboration surrounding the AESA radar actually started in autumn 2007; integration of the complete radar system will continue during 2008, and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2009. The first test flights are planned for summer 2009, and Saab intends to follow that with customer demonstrations. Saab release

    RBE-2 AESA

    Jan 8/08: IFF. Saab has awarded the Thales Group a contract to supply new IFF(Identification, Friend or Foe) Combined Interrogator-Transponders (CITs) for existing and future JAS-39 Gripen fighters. Price was not disclosed.

    The contract covers a total of 143 aircraft. 68 Swedish Gripens will receive NATO Mode 4 CITs, and another 75 Gripens (47 Swedish, 14 Hungarian, 14 Czech) will be upgraded to Mode 4 CITs with Mode S capability that gives each aircraft its own “squawk†and can tell aircraft apart in a crowded sky. The aircraft will be ready for the transition to the new NATO Mode 5 secure IFF capability, but this will not be part of the current upgrades. Epicos report.

    2007 and Earlier
    Note that this section is not complete. See the Gripen Program Timeline, above, for key milestones and buys involving Sweden, South Africa, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

    Gripen & S-1000
    (click to view full)
    Oct 17/07: Thailand. The Thai government announces a $1.1 billion deal for 12 JAS-39 Gripens and 2 S-1000 Erieye AWACS aircraft. Phase 1 will feature 6 Gripens and 1 AWACS for $600 million, with a $500 million Phase 2 option for another 6 Gripens and the 2nd AWACS.

    Thailand’s current political situation did much to clinch the deal – but it could also serve to unravel it. Read: “Thailand Buying JAS-39 Gripens, AWACS†for full coverage.


    Oct 17/07: Gripen Demo – Go! SEK 3.9 billion ($600 million) contract with the Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV) to upgrade 31 Swedish Air Force JAS-39 A/B Gripens to the very latest JAS-39 C/D standard. The FMV has also given the go ahead for the next-generation ‘Gripen Demo’ variant.

    Gripen Demo

    Oct 3/07: Cobra HMD for Sweden. A SEK 345 million ($54 million) deal between Sweden’s FMV and Saab promises to equip Swedish Gripens with the Cobra Helmet-Mounted Display. South Africa has already ordered it for their Gripens, and an HMD can really add to a fighter’s air-air capabilities.

    July 2/07: F414 picked. Saab announces that GE Aviation’s new F414G fighter engine will power its next-generation Gripen models. The F414G is derived from the popular 22,000+ pound/ 96 kN thrust F414-GE-400s that power the twin-engine F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and offers a 25-35% power boost over its predecessor the F404. Key F414G alterations will include minor changes to the alternator for added aircraft power, and modified Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) software for enhanced single-engine operation.

    GE Aviation and Volvo Aero Corporation will be working together on the new F414G fighter engine. Although Volvo Aero has manufactured modified F404 engines under license for past Gripen fighters, GE will be supplying GE F414G engines directly to Saab for the Gripen Demo project, with Volvo as a major sub-contractor. GE is currently delivering 2 F414 Engines, with flight-tests and customer demonstration evaluations planned for 2008-2010. Gripen International release.

    F414G for Gripen Demo

    April 26/07: Norway. Norway and Sweden sign a Memorandum of Understanding on co-operation in development work on future versions of of the JAS-39, worth NOK 150 million (currently about $25 million) over 2 years, plus the option to further extend the agreement. There was also a Letter of Agreement (LoA) signed between Norway and Saab subsidiary Gripen International that will enable Norwegian companies to undertake advanced development work in a range of high technology areas, such as composites, communication systems, studies and integration work for Norwegian weapon systems, ammunition, logistics and data systems connected to Next-Gen Gripen development.

    July 17/06: UK ETPS. Trainee test pilots at Britain’s world-class ETPS (Empire Test Pilots’ School), which is operated by QinetiQ in partnership with the UK MOD, have signed a new agreement that increases their use of the JAS-39 Gripen. In 2005 all syllabus requirements were met, zero flights were lost due to unserviceability, and where all teaching goals in all areas were exceeded. The new 2006 deal will see a 30% increase in student numbers, a 20% increase in flights per student, the training of a third ETPS Instructor Pilot (IP) and the inclusion of Flight Test Engineer students within a refined syllabus. The 2006 program goes very well, with 56 sorties in just 10 flying days, and no downtime due to mechanical issues.

    The 2006 test pilot students will be drawn from the French Air Force, the United States Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force and Britain’s Royal Air Force. See Saab release for more details.TEXT


    MRP-39 on Gripen
    (click to view larger)
    July 3/06: Dev. Saab received a SEK 1 billion ($150 million equivalent as of 05/07) order from the Swedish Defence Material Administration, covering continued development of the Gripen System. The order reportedly covers various software upgrades, as well as other development activities supporting the long term development of the Gripen system. Work will be performed at Saab Aerosystems and Saab Aerotech in Linkoping, Sweden as well as at Saab Avitronics in Jarfalla and Kista, Sweden. See release.

    March 23/06: Drop tanks. Saab Aerosystems appoints Swiss firm RUAG as single source supplier for drop tanks to the Gripen. At the same time, an initial EUR 4 million order for more than 60 export drop-tanks was announced, with first deliveries scheduled for August 2007.

    Note that entries before 2006 are incomplete at this point.

    Dec 29/05: IRIS-T. Saab receives a SEK 150 million ($18.9 million) contract for integration of the IRIS-T 4th generation short-range air-air missile on the Gripen. Saab is planning to fire the first shot with IRIS-T in 2007, but the integration process will continue to 2009.


    Jan 7/02: Terma MRP. Terma A/S announces a sub-contract from Saab Avionics AB to make Modular Reconnaissance Pods for the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen fleet, in order to meet the Swedish FMV’s request for a new reconnaissance system. Terma bid jointly with Saab on that contract as the partner responsible for the pod system. AerotechTelub is responsible for Integrated Logistic Support, Recon Optical for the CA270 sensor, and L3 Communication for the digital mass memory.

    Terma is contracted to develop, qualify and supply the Modular Reconnaissance Pod (MRP 39), including the Environmental Control System, Electrical System, Ground Support System, and part of the Reconnaissance Management System (RMS). The MRP 39 is conceptually based on Terma’s successful F-16 MRP, but it employs a circular cross-section on the lower area of the pod, and an advanced rotating window section. The rotating window is attached directly to the MRP 39 strongback and can be positioned at various positions along the length of the pod mid-section, giving the system more flexibility to add different sensors with different weight and balance restraints. The window section’s 360 degree rotation is electronically synchronized to the sensor aiming, except for take-off and landing where it is rotated up to a safe position.

    The upper part of the MRP 39 has a square cross-section providing room for the strongback, ducts for the environmental control system, cabling, etc. The idea is to offer more internal pod space, and provide separation that helps eliminate or limit buffeting and dynamic vibrations on the sensitive equipment.

    The Environmental Control Unit (ECU) will be a new, hybrid structure providing both air and liquid coolers and heaters, plus two symmetrical, multi-speed fans. The ECU will be installed in the aft cone of the MRP 39 and it will be handled as a single, line replaceable unit for ease of maintenance. Terma A/S | Saab re: partners.

    Terma MRP 39 Reco Pod


    fn1.’s July 2006 report attempting to estimate the true cost of western fighters placed the JAS-39C Gripen at over $68.9 million per plane based on the offer to Poland, and estimated the plane’s program cost (R&D amortized) at $78.7 million. To give the reader a quick idea of how that benchmarks, costs for the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet were estimated at $ 78.4/ 95.3 million, the Eurofighter at $ 100-120/ 120-145 million, and the F-35 Lightning II at $ 115 LRIP / 112.5 million. Read the full report here. The report also noted Saab’s official response of $35-40 million per plane flyaway costs, however, and acknowledged the problems involved in calculating per-plane figures based on foreign orders due to other costs and terms. [Return to story]

    fn2. Saab clarified that they had not integrated and qualified all of the weapons shown in the “could-have weapons†illustration. Rather, it was intended to display a full range of options that Saab could integrate, in response to customer requests and funding. DID is working on a current list. [Return to story]

    fn3. The Gripen’s “visual stealth†may surprise some people, but it shouldn’t. A lightweight fighter with a small frontal cross-section always has this edge in air-air combat. An especial disparity occurs when fighters like that confront bigger aircraft; American F-4 Phantoms had some nasty experiences along these lines in Vietnam, flying against much older MiG-17s and MiG-19s. A trip to the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, AZ, where a MiG and Phantom are positioned right across from one another, makes the difference clear. Now throw in the Gripen’s high maneuverability, and the widened ‘threat cone’ for modern short-range infrared missiles. An enemy pilot must now scan for threats in a much larger area – when seconds are all he has, he risks missing an oncoming Gripen in a quick scan, or looking in the wrong place.

    In exchange for these advantages, lightweight fighters have traditionally given up the powerful radars that could guide medium-range missiles. Moore’s Law of rising silicon chip power has removed this trade-off, and turned it into a difference of degree rather than an absolute difference in capability. [Return to story]

    fn4. “Fox 2 kill†means an infrared missile shot. Many current Gripens are equipped with Sidewinders, but the plane has also been integrated with the European multinational IRIS-T, and the South African/ Brazilian A-Darter. [Return to story]

    fn5. Many thanks to reader Dave Dogman, who took the time to read the Saab presentation to Norway and noted the typo – it isn’t 8,100 kg empty weight for Gripen NG, but 7,100 (up from 6,800). DID is grateful to him for pointing this out. [Return to story]

    Additional Readings & Sources
    DID thanks Saab and the Swedish FMV for their assistance with this article. Any mistakes are our own.

    JAS-39 Gripen: The Platform
    Gripen International Official Site – See also their PDF brochure “Gripen: Seeing is Believing“. official site – Saab – one name, two different companies
    Air Vectors: The Saab JAS-39 Gripen
    Air Force Technology – Gripen Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft, Sweden
    Swedish FMV Procurement Agency – JAS-39 Gripen. Note that their “Further Development†page re: “Batch 3″ has been largely realized; the future developments discussed here are about the platform’s next steps.
    Flight International (July 13/10) – FARNBOROUGH: Saab plots bright future for Gripen programme. Including a carrier version.
    edefense Online (July 14/05) – Gripen Settles In. From the late and lamented eDefense Online, this excellent article covers the Gripen’s evolution and technical capabilities very thoroughly. Google cache version, of necessity.
    Saab – PS 05/A Fighter Radar. Used to be an Ericsson Microwave product, until Saab bought them.
    Deagel – NORA. Ericsson’s initial AESA radar project involving the Gripen.
    Defense Update – RBE2 – AESA for the RAFALE. Thales’ current offering in the field.
    Thales – Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) RBE2 radar
    Export Competitions: Highlights
    Norwegian Ministry of Defence – Industripakkane i sokelyset See esp. the downloadable Gripen International presentation, which is in English and includes many details regarding plans for future Gripen versions.
    Gripen India. Not 100% certain if it’s an official blog. Incredibly well stocked if it isn’t. See also Saab’s official India campaign pages on their main web site; Gripen India predates that.
    Gripen India Calendar. A clever marketing campaign.
    IDSA (Sept 28/12) – Swedish Investments in the Indian Defence Industry: Prospects and challenges
    Gripen India (Dec 29/09) – Sea Gripen for Indian Carriers
    JAS-39 Gripen: Other News
    DID – nEUROn UCAV Project Rolling Down the Runway. Saab is a major player in this stealth attack UAV. Part of the deal included offsetting Swedish government financing in order to keep the JAS-39 Gripen current.
    Defpro (April 14/09) – Interview with Ake Svensson, President and CEO of Saab AB
    Aviation Week (Nov 26/08) – Saab Challenge: Gaining Traction for Gripen NG. Discusses design approach and upgrades.
    Saab (July 3/06) – Saab receives 1 Billion SEK order for Continued Development of the Gripen System
    Flight International (June 27/06) – New Gripen Variants Studied by Saab
    Flight International (June 27/06) – Red Flag Alaska exercise to test Sweden’s Gripens
    DID (June 13/06) – Saab Acquires Ericsson Microwave Systems. Once the acquisition is complete, Saab will own all of JAS.
    DID (May 11/06) – Norway Remains in F-35′s SDD Program But Evaluates Other Aircraft. The Gripen faces off vs. the 5th generation F-35, and the 4th generation Rafale and Eurofighter.
    DID (May 4/06) – 2007 Budget Proposal Cuts Swedish Gripen Force, Looks to Buy Strategic Lift. The target number put forward is 100 Gripens, down from 204.
    DID (March 8/06) – Mirage 2000s Withdrawn As India’s MRCA Fighter Competition Changes. Technically, the Gripen is still a possibility for India. Realistically, it’s a long, long shot.
    DID (June 16/05) – Dassault Discusses Global Fighter Market to 2015. Some interesting insights regarding the overall market and replacement timelines.
    DID (June 13/06) – Gripen Offsets Set – But Drooping Sales Leave Workers Gripin’
    Agence France-Presse (June 8/05): Saab Lays Off 350 Workers
    DID (May 27/05) – Meteor Missile Will Make Changes to Accommodate F-35.
    2013-01-18 23:48:43

    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  7. Picard

    Picard Colonel RESEARCHER

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  8. Picard

    Picard Colonel RESEARCHER

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    Saab Gripen in moonlight:

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  9. Picard

    Picard Colonel RESEARCHER

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    Gripen will see you
    Gripen will put you under the spell
    Gripen will make you remember
    And you will never again sleep well
    (Until you have it in your air force)








    Though I have to admit that most sexy things I find about Gripen (or any fighter aircraft for that matter) are cost, maintenance and wing loading.
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  10. Picard

    Picard Colonel RESEARCHER

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    Gripen C cockpit:


    Gripen NG cockpit:

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    Gripen production line:





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  15. Manmohan Yadav

    Manmohan Yadav Lt. General Staff Member SENIOR MODERATOR

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    I really like the Grippen Fighter
    Too bad there wont be any for IAF

    Since it will be a Nightmare to have too many fighters
    for the spares & logistics department

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