The Gripen multirole fighter aircraft, developed by Saab, was first flown in December 1988 and entered operational service with the Swedish Air Force in 1997. It is planned that the Gripen will replace all current variants of the Viggen and Draken combat aircraft.
Gripen has been developed by an industrial consortium consisting of Saab, Saab Microwave Systems (formerly Ericsson), Volvo Aero Corporation, Saab Avitronics and FFV Aerotech. A joint venture company, Gripen International, has been set up by Saab and BAE Systems to market the Gripen for export markets. BAE Systems is building the main landing gear unit and wing attachment unit.
The Gripen demo aircraft achieved a supersonic speed level of above Mach 1.2 in January 2009 without using an afterburner, thus proving its higher range and fuel-savings advantages.
JAS 39A is the single-seater version of the Gripen. A two-seater JAS 39B operational trainer variant of Gripen is available. The JAS 39B is equipped with the same avionics and weapons suite as the JAS 39A, with the exception of the gun.
JAS 39C is the single seat batch 3 and export standard version, which was first delivered to the Swedish Air Force in September 2002.
JAS 39C has colour cockpit displays, an on-board oxygen generation system (OBOGS) and in-flight refuelling capabilty.
JAS 39D is upgraded similarly to the JAS 39C but is a two seater variant.
Gripen NG next-generation upgrade programme
A new version of the Gripen aircraft, the Gripen next generation (NG), has also been developed by Saab. The Gripen NG comes with several attractive features including its full interoperability with Nato, high operational tempo, a fully digital cockpit with advanced features, network connectivity with multifrequency datalink and a modern avionic mission system.
In October 2007, the Swedish government placed a contract with Saab for a Gripen demonstrator programme to develop an upgraded version of the JAS 39C. Saab has selected the GE Aviation / Volvo Aero F414G engine to power the demonstrator. The F414G has 96kN (22,000lb) thrust and will be fitted with full authority digital electronic control (FADEC). Saab Microwave Systems and Thales are developing an active electronically scanned radar (AESA) for the programme. The demonstrator, also known as Gripen NG, will be a flying testbed for further development of the Gripen and made its first flight in May 2008.
Saab and Selex Galileo reached an initial agreement for the AESA in March 2009. With high operational tempo, agility, improved sensor fusion and fully digital cockpit, the new generation aircraft will be a fully Nato interoperable multirole fighter designed for the future net-centric warfare (NCW) environment, Saab claims.
In September 2007, the Swedish Government approved the upgrade of 31 JAS 39A aircraft to the JAS 39C/D configuration. The upgraded aircraft successfully completed its first flight in February 2009.
The Gripen next generation fighter aircraft made its first international debut in July 2010 at Farnborough International Air Show held in UK. Gripen NG has significantly increased combat range and endurance, increased payload and super-cruise capability.
Saab has offered Gripen IN, an Indian version of the Gripen NG, to the Indian Air Force. The offer was made in April 2008 in response to the proposal made by the Indian Ministry of Defence for 126 medium multirole combat aircraft. The company has also submitted a proposal to the Brazilian Air Force for 36 Gripen NG aircraft. Saab plans to manufacture these aircraft in Brazil, if it wins the contract.
Gripen IN Indian Air Force Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA)
The JAS 39 Gripen was submitted by Saab for the Indian Air Force Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), competing against the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Rafale, Europfighter Typhoon, F-16 and MiG-35 for India’s largest ever defence deal at $16.36bn.
After showcasing the aircraft at the Aero India show Saab launched its collaborative aeronautical partnership project ‘Aeronautical Design and Development Centre’ with the India-based TATA Consultancy Services (TCS). The design centre’s first contract is to take part in the future design and development of the Gripen.
The competition was awarded to the Rafale in 2012.
Gripen international orders
In November 1998, the South African Air Force ordered 28 Gripen multi-role aircraft (19 single-seat and nine dual-seat). Denel Aviation of South Africa will produce part of the centre fuselage. The first flight was in November 2005 and deliveries began in April 2008 and will conclude in 2012. Four aircraft were officially handed over to the SAAF in September 2008. The fifth aircraft was delivered in November 2008.
In November 2001, Hungary signed a memorandum of understanding for the lease of 14 aircraft – 12 JAS 39A single-seat and two JAS 39B. In February 2003, Sweden and Hungary signed an amendment to the lease contract and both the single-seated and the twin-seated aircraft were upgraded to C and D standard. The amendment also stated that Hungary will purchase the aircraft after the lease period. The first five were delivered in March 2006 and deliveries concluded in December 2007.
In June 2004, the Czech Republic signed a leasing agreement with the Swedish Government for 14 new Gripen (12 single-seat JAS 39C and two two-seat JAS 39D) for a period of ten years. The aircraft were delivered between April and August 2005.
In October 2007, Thailand selected the Gripen, with a requirement for 12 aircraft to replace F-5B/E fighters. An agreement to buy the first six Gripen (four 39C and two 39D aircraft was signed in February 2008. The Thai Government approved the remaining six Gripens in February 2009. The aircraft are to be delivered in 2011.
In August 2010, Thai Government released THB170bn ($5.4bn) from the 2011 fiscal year defence budget to purchase a second Gripen batch for the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF).
Saab will provide product maintenance, technical support to Gripen as part of the Skr230m ($29m) contract awarded by Sweden in June 2010. As part of the contract, it will also offer basic operations which include test flying, rigs and simulators. Work will be carried out from the second half of 2010.
Saab will develop an advanced avionics systems for the Swedish Armed Forces’ Gripen fighter aircraft as part of the two year Skr450m ($56m) contract awarded in May 2010. The avionics system will include computer systems and displays. The first aircraft upgraded with new avionics system will enter into service in 2020.
Bulgarian Air Force is being offered to buy Gripen fighter jets at the price of second-hand US F-16 planes in April 2010. Bulgaria unveiled a decision to buy new multipurpose fighter jets rather than second-hand ones. The government, however, has not made final decision on the acquisition.
Saab group was awarded a four year contract worth Skr2bn ($280m) by Swedish Air Force in March 2010 for upgrading the countermeasures and communication systems of the Gripen. The upgrade will also encompass incorporation of advanced weapons and new improved radar systems with increased range to its entire fleet.
Swedish Defence Material Administration awarded SEK 600m worth contract to Saab on 30 March 2010 for providing continuous maintenance services to Gripen. The maintenance will be carried out during 2010 and 2011.
The cockpit is equipped with a Saab Avitronics EP-17 electronic display suite, with three multifunction displays and a wide-angle, 22×28 degree diffraction head-up display. The central head-down display provides tactical data superimposed on a computer-generated map. The displays on the left and right provide the flight data and the target data from the sensor suites.
BAE Systems and Saab Aerospace, with Denel Cumulus of South Africa, have developed an integrated helmet-mounted display (IHMD) system for the Gripen, known as Cobra. The IHMD is a development of the Striker helmet developed for the Eurofighter Typhoon. Cobra is fitted on the Gripen for South Africa. The Swedish Air Force also placed an order for the system in October 2007.
The time-critical systems controls (for example, weapons and communications) are grouped on the throttle and control stick for hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) operation.
The flight control system is a triplex digital fly-by-wire system from BAE Astronics and Lockheed Martin.
Fighter aircraft weapons
The Gripen has seven external hardpoints for carrying payloads: one at each wingtip, two under each wing and one on the fuselage centreline.
The air-to-air missiles include MBDA (formerly Matra BAe Dynamics) MICA, Raytheon AIM-120B AMRAAM and Lockheed Martin / Raytheon Sidewinder AIM-9L (Swedish Air Force Designation RB74).
Sidewinder, mounted on the wingtips, is an all-aspect attack, short-range missile for enhanced dogfight capability. Air-to-surface missiles include the radar-guided Saab RBS15F anti-ship missile and Raytheon Maverick missile. In July 2008, the Hungarian Air Force’s Gripen fighters successfully test fired Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
Later versions of the aircraft for Sweden will be armed with the short-range Diehl BGT Defence IRIS-T air-to-air missile and the MBDA Meteor beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile. Deliveries of IRIS-T began in December 2005.
The Swedish Defence Material Administration awarded an Skr312m ($42m) contract to Saab in September 2010 for incorporating the active radar guided beyond visual range (BVR) missile, meteor as well as radar and displays on Gripen Fighters. Saab will execute test flight and test firing as part of the contract. The aircraft will also be equipped with support and maintenance systems such as simulators and planning computers.
The Saab Bofors / MBDA Taurus KEPD 350 long-range stand-off missile, with a range of 350km, has been successfully flight tested on the Gripen.
In May 2008, South Africa placed an order for the IRIS-T air-to-air missile to equip its Gripen fleet until the indigenous Denel A Darter missile enters service.
The internally mounted 27mm Mauser high-energy gun can operate in an automatic radar-guided aiming mode. The stand-off dispenser is the DWF39 from EADS (formerly DaimlerChrysler Aerospace) and Bofors. The Bofors ARAK 70 rocket pod is cleared for carriage on the Gripen.
Saab Avitronics is responsible for the EWS 39 electronic warfare suite, which has been ordered by the Swedish Air Force. EWS 39 is an integrated EW system that provides radar warning, electronic support measures and chaff and flare decoy dispensers.
The Ericsson PS-05 long-range multi-purpose pulse Doppler radar has air-to air operating modes covering long-range search, multi-target track-while-scan, multiple priority target tracking, air combat quick search modes, raid assessment and beyond visual range (BVR) missile mid-course updates.
The air-to-surface modes include long-range search/target identification, multiple priority target tracking, high-resolution, real beam mapping, air-to-surface ranging and Doppler beam sharpening (DBS).
The aircraft is equipped with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor and will have the Saab IR-Otis infrared search and track system (IRST).
Nine Swedish Air Force Gripens have been fitted with the Saab Avitronics modular reconnaissance pod, which includes a recon / optical CA270 infrared sensor. The system entered service in 2006.
Swedish Defence Material Administration awarded a four year SEK 400m contract to Saab in April 2010 for developing modular reconnaissance pod system (MRPS) which will be fitted in the Gripen fighter aircraft.
Saab awarded a Skr55m ($7.4m) sub-contract to Terma in August 2010 for upgrading and manufacturing new modular reconnaissance pod system (MRPS) for the Swedish Air Force’s Gripen fighter aircraft. Software and equipment required for the reconnaissance pod system upgrade programme will be supplied by Terma as part of the contract.
The aircraft has VHF / UHF transmitters and receivers from Saab Avitronics, and a Thales TSC 2000 identification friend or foe (IFF) system. An air-to-air data link allows real-time exchange of tactical data within and between cooperating air units.
In the attack and reconnaissance role, the data link allows radar-derived surface data to be transferred from one Gripen to a group of radar-silent attacking aircraft.
The RM12 engine, supplied by Volvo Aero, is a development of the GE F404 engine from General Electric. A digital engine control system automatically monitors the engine parameters and switches on the back-up systems if required. A condition monitoring system registers the flight data.
The air-to-air refuelling probe is retracted into the aircraft to retain the aerodynamic profile. The longer flight times achieved by using air-to-air refuelling results in the pilot needing a larger oxygen supply, so an on-board oxygen generating system (OBOGS) has been installed.
The Gripen can fly at a maximum speed of 2,470km/h. The combat radius and ferry range of the aircraft are 800km and 3,200km respectively. Its service ceiling is 15,240m. The aircraft weighs around 5,700kg and its maximum take-off weight is 14,000kg.