|JAS 39 Gripen|
|First flight||9 December 1988|
|Introduction||9 June 1996|
|Primary users||Swedish Air Force
Czech Air Force
Hungarian Air Force
South African Air Force
|Number built||213 as of December 2008|
|Unit cost||US$40-61 million (export price VAT excluded)|
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen (English: Griffin) is a lightweight multirole fighter aircraft manufactured by the Swedish aerospace company Saab. Gripen International acts as a prime contracting organisation and is responsible for marketing, selling and supporting the Gripen fighter around the world.
The aircraft is in service with the Swedish Air Force, the Czech Air Force, the Hungarian Air Force and the South African Air Force, and has been ordered by the Royal Thai Air Force. A total of 236 Gripens have been ordered as of 2008.
By the late 1970s a replacement for Sweden's ageing Saab 35 Draken and Saab 37 Viggen was needed. A new fighter was being considered by 1979, with design studies beginning the following year. The development of the Gripen began in 1982 with approval from Swedish Parliament.
The Gripen was designed for performance, flexibility, effectiveness and survivability in air combat. The designation JAS stands for Jakt (Air-to-Air), Attack (Air-to-Surface), and Spaning (Reconnaissance), indicating that the Gripen is a multirole or swingrole fighter aircraft that can fulfill each mission type. The JAS 39 received the name Gripen through a public competition in 1982. The griffin is the heraldry on Saab's logo and suited the multirole characteristics of the aircraft. Furthermore, the griffin is the symbolic animal on the coat of arms of Östergötland, the province in which Saab AB is headquartered (Linköping).
Sweden chose to develop the Gripen rather than purchase a variant of the F-16, F/A-18A/B, or the "F-5S" version of the Northrop F-20 Tigershark. The first Gripen was rolled out on 26 April 1987, marking Saab's 50th anniversary. The first prototype first flew on 9 December 1988.
The final aircraft of the latest 64 jet Batch 3 contract was delivered to FMV on 26 November 2008. This was accomplished at a 10% less than the agreed-upon price for the whole batch, putting the JAS 39C fly-away price at under US$30 million.
In 1995, Saab Military Aircraft and British Aerospace or BAe (now BAE Systems) formed the joint venture company Saab-BAe Gripen AB, with the goal of adapting, manufacturing, marketing and supporting Gripen internationally. The deal was to take advantage of BAe's global marketing experience. BAe also saw the Gripen as a complementary product to its existing aircraft, fitting between its Hawk light attack/trainer and the larger Tornado and Typhoon fighters. This cooperation was extended in 2001 with the formation of Gripen International for the same purpose. In December 2004, Saab and BAE Systems agreed that from January 2005 Saab would take full responsibility for marketing of the Gripen in light of Saab's increased export marketing capabilities.
On 26 April 2007, Norway signed an agreement on a joint development programme of the aircraft regarding co-operation in advanced development work on future versions of the aircraft. The value of the deal, which will allow Norwegian companies to take part, is about NOK 150 million over two years.
In June 2007, Thales Norway A/S and Saab signed a contract concerning the development of communications systems for the Gripen fighter. This order for the Norwegian company is the first to be awarded under the provisions of the Letter of Agreement signed by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence and Gripen International in April 2007.
As part of Gripen International's marketing efforts in Denmark, a deal was signed in December 2007 with Danish technology supplier Terma A/S which allows them to participate in an industrial co-operation programme over the next 10–15 years. The total value of the programme is estimated at over DKK 10 billion, and is partly dependent on Denmark choosing the Gripen.
A two-seat "New Technology Demonstrator" has been built, and was presented on 23 April 2008. It has increased fuel capacity, a more powerful powerplant, increased payload capacity, upgraded avionics and other improvements. The new aircraft is also referred to as the "Gripen Demo".
The new Gripen NG (Next Generation) will have many new parts and will be powered by the General Electric F414G, a development of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet's engine. The engine will produce 20% more thrust at 98 kN (22,000 lbf), enabling a supercruise speed of Mach 1.1 with air-to-air missiles.
Compared to the Gripen D, the Gripen NG's max takeoff weight has increased from 14,000 to 16,000 kg (30,900–35,300 lb) with an increase in empty weight of 200 kg (440 lb). Due to relocated main landing gear, the internal fuel capacity has increased by 40%, which will increase ferry range to 4,070 km (2,200 nmi). The new undercarriage configuration also allows for the addition of two heavy stores pylons to the fuselage. Its PS-05/A radar adds a new AESA antenna for flight testing beginning in mid-2009.
Gripen Demo's maiden flight was conducted on 27 May 2008. The test flight lasted about 30 minutes and reached a maximum altitude of about 6,400 meters (21,000 ft). On 21 January 2009, the Gripen Demo flew at Mach 1.2 without reheat to test its supercruise capability.
Saab performed study work on a aircraft carrier based version in the 1990s. In 2009, Saab launched the Sea Gripen project in response to India's request for information for a aircraft carrier aircraft. Brazil also has a potential carrier aircraft need. Sweden awarded Saab a four-year contract in 2010 to improve the Gripen's radar and other equipment, and lower its operating costs.
In designing the aircraft, several layouts were studied. Saab ultimately selected a canard design with relaxed stability. The canard configuration gives a high onset of pitch rate and low drag, enabling the aircraft to be faster, have longer range and carry a larger payload.
The combination of delta wing and canards gives the Gripen significantly better takeoff and landing performance and flying characteristics. The totally integrated avionics make it a "programmable" aircraft. It also has a built-in electronic warfare unit, making it possible to load more ordnance onto the aircraft without losing self defence capabilities. The 300-link is used to share data between fighters.
The Gripen affords more flexibility than earlier generations of combat aircraft used by Sweden, and its operating costs are about two thirds of those for JA 37 Viggen.
In the Swedish Air Force's list of requirements was the ability to operate from 800 m runways. Early on in the programme, all flights from Saab's facility in Linköping were flown from within a 9 m × 800 m outline painted on the runway. Stopping distance was reduced by extending the relatively large air brakes; using the control surfaces to push the aircraft down, enabling the wheel brakes to apply more force and tilting the canards downwards, making them into large air brakes and further pushing the aircraft down.
The Gripen uses the modern PS-05/A pulse-doppler X-band radar, developed by Ericsson and GEC-Marconi, and based on the latter's advanced Blue Vixen radar for the Sea Harrier (which inspired the Eurofighter's CAPTOR radar as well).
The radar is capable of detecting, locating, identifying and automatically tracking multiple targets in the upper and lower spheres, on the ground and sea or in the air, in all weather conditions. It can guide four air to air missiles (e.g. AIM-120 AMRAAM, MBDA MICA) simultaneously at four different targets.
On 27 March 2009, Saab and Selex Galileo signed an agreement for joint development of the Raven AESA radar based on Selex Galileo's AESA Vixen and PS-05/A. This radar will be able to scan 200 degrees, from slightly behind to the left to slightly behind to the right.
On 9 September 2009, Gripen International offered the source code of their AESA radar as part of their bid for India's fighter competition.
The cockpit has three full colour head down displays and digital emergency instrument presentation unique to the aircraft. The cockpit layout provides a human-machine interface that eases pilot workload substantially and increases situational awareness, but still provides substantial future growth potential. The pilot flies the aircraft by means of a centre stick and left hand throttles.
The cockpit provides a display area some 30 percent larger than that available in most other fighters, with the multi-function displays taking up around 75 percent of available space.
It is dominated by three large (15.7 x 21 cm) active-matrix, liquid crystal, multi-function displays and a wide angle (20 x 28 degree) head-up display (HUD). The displays are equipped with light sensors for computer assisted brightness and contrast control.
One interesting feature is the Gripen's ability to take off and land on public roads, which was part of Sweden's war defence strategy. The aircraft is designed to be able to operate even if the air force does not have air superiority.
During the Cold War, the Swedish Armed Forces were preparing to defend against a possible invasion from the Soviet Union. Even though the defensive strategy in principle called for an absolute defence of Swedish territory, military planners calculated that Swedish defence forces could eventually be overrun. For that reason, Sweden had military stores dispersed all over the country, in order to maintain the capacity of inflicting damage on the enemy even if military installations were lost.
Accordingly, among the requirements from the Swedish Air Force was that the Gripen fighter should be able to land on public roads near military stores for quick maintenance, and take off again. As a result, the Gripen fighter can be refueled and re-armed in ten minutes by a five man mobile ground crew operating out of a truck, and then resume flying sorties.
In the post-Cold War era, these dispersed operation capabilities have proved to be of great value for a different purpose. The Gripen fighter system is expeditionary in nature, and therefore well suited for peace-keeping missions worldwide, which has become the new main task of the Swedish Armed Forces.
The Czech Air Force and the Hungarian Air Force also operate the Gripen, and currently lease 14 Swedish Air Force aircraft each, with the option of eventually acquiring them. In both cases two of the aircraft are two-seaters. The Czech and the Hungarian Air Force are the first Gripen operators within NATO.
The British based Empire Test Pilots' School (ETPS) is operating Gripen as its advanced fast jet platform for test pilots worldwide.
In October 2008, it was reported that the Brazilian Air Force had selected three finalists in their F-X2 program. They are Dassault Rafale, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Gripen NG. The number of aircraft involved is 36 and possibly up to 120 later. The decision was expected on 2 October 2009. On 2 February 2009, Saab submitted a tender for 36 Gripen NGs to the Brazilian Air Force Command. On 5 January 2010, it was reported in the media that the final evaluation report by the Brazilian Air Force placed the Gripen ahead of the other two contenders. The decisive factor was apparently the overall cost of the new fighters, both in terms of unit cost, and operating and maintenance costs.
The Croatian Air Force has announced plans to replace their MiG-21 bis aircraft, possibly with either the JAS 39 Gripen or the F-16 Falcon. The final projection calls for 12-18 aircraft. On 27 March 2008, the Swedish Defence Material Administration and Saab responded to Croatia's request for information regarding the procurement of twelve aircraft. Due to economic and political reasons, the Croatian Air Force is not expected to make a decision before 2010.
Denmark has signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Defence Ministers of Sweden and Denmark to evaluate the Gripen, pending Denmark's future replacement of their fleet of 48 F-16s. Denmark has also requested for the new variants of Gripens to be developed. It will include the package of new avionics, a larger and more powerful engine, larger payload and, most importantly, longer range. This request was the basis for the Gripen NG, which satisfies all Denmark's requirements, such as the more powerful F414G engine.
The Gripen is a contender in the Indian MRCA competition for 126 multi-role combat aircraft. Gripen International handed over its proposal on 28 April 2008. The company is offering the Gripen IN, a version of the Gripen NG for India's tender, and has opened an office in New Delhi in order to support its efforts in the Indian market. On 4 February 2009, it was announced that Saab had partnered with the Indian Tata Group to develop a new Gripen variant to fit India's needs.
On 7 July 2008 Dagens Industri reported that the Netherlands announced they will evaluate JAS 39 Gripen Next Generation together with four other competitors and announce the result in the end of 2008. Saab responded on 25 August 2008 to a 'Replacement Questionnaire' issued by the Dutch Ministry of Defence, offering 85 aircraft to the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The Netherlands evaluated the Gripen NG against the F-35. On 18 December 2008 media reported that the Netherlands evaluated the F-35 ahead of the Gripen, citing better performance and lower price. On 13 January 2009, NRC Handelsblad claimed that, according to Swedish sources, Saab has made an offer to the Dutch to deliver 85 Gripens for 4.8 billion euro, about 1 billion euro cheaper than budgeted for the F-35. This price includes training of pilots and maintenance for the next 30 years.
On 17 January 2008 the Swiss Defence Material Administration invited Gripen International to submit initial bids for supplying the Gripen as a replacement for their old F-5s. Saab responded with a proposal on 2 July 2008. The exact number of aircraft has not been disclosed.
Serbian officials are currently debating on which fighter aircraft will replace the aging MiG-21 fighters in 2010. 24 aircraft are sought and the JAS 39 Gripen is one option.
In 1989 the Finnish Air Force began to look for a new fighter to replace its fleet of MiG-21s and Saab 35 Drakens. During 1991 and 1992 Dassault Mirage 2000, the Gripen, F-16, MiG-29 and F/A-18 Hornet were evaluated. On 6 May 1992 the Hornet was announced as the winner of the fighter competition and a total of 64 aircraft were ordered.
On 18 January 2008. the Norwegian Ministry of Defence issued a Request for Binding Information (RBI) to the Swedish Defence Material Administration, who responded on 28 April 2008 with a proposal offering 48 aircraft. However, on 20 November 2008, the Norwegian government released a statement that they have selected the F-35 for the Royal Norwegian Air Force. Norway stated the F-35 is the only fighter candidate to meet all of its operational requirements. Saab has criticized the selection, stating that there were flaws in Norway's cost calculations for the Gripen NG. On 10 February 2009, Swedish defence minister Sten Tolgfors declared that Norway had mis-calculated the deal. The offer was for 48 aircraft over 20 years, while Norway had calculated on operating 57 aircraft over 30 years, thus doubling the cost. The Swedish Ministry of Defence has several other objections to Norway's calculations. Among other things, Norway has projected the operational costs for the American F-16 on the Gripen, and has not considered Swedish experiences of Gripen's operational costs. Norway also calculated with more aircraft losses in accidents than what Sweden considers reasonable based on their operational experience of the type. According to Tolgfors, Norway's mistakes will make it harder to sell Gripen to other countries. Tolgfors did however say that Gripen did not meet the requirements set by the Norwegian government, though media reports claimed that those requirements were tilted in favour of the F-35.
Five Gripens have crashed causing only minor injuries; one prototype, one production aircraft and three in service with the Swedish Air Force.