Norway Signs Development Agreement for JAS-39N Gripen
In January 2007 Norwegian Defence Minister Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen said:
“The negotiations with JAS Gripen and Eurofighter which commenced early January 2007 are well on track… Progress has also been made in the negotiations over development agreements with the two other candidates in the combat aircraft acquisition project, JAS Gripen and Eurofighter.”
Negotiations with respect to the JAS-39 Gripen option appear to have borne fruit – for the future of the Gripen fighter, as well as for Norway’s stated goals.
On April 26, 2007, Norway and Sweden signed a Memorandum of Understanding on co-operation in development work on the future versions of Gripen, worth NOK 150 million (currently about $25 million) over 2 years, with 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 the development of the future JAS-39 Gripen.
The most current model of Gripen is the JAS-39 C/D. Low domestic procurement and export totals have placed the fighter’s future upgrade path in some question despite a Swedish government funding offset connected to the nEUROn UCAV program.
In order to keep the Gripen competitive with other fighters around the world throughout its life cycle, however, upgrade characteristics like an improved engine, thrust-vectoring, conformal fuel tanks to extend range, a new AESA radar, et. al. have been cited as necessary. Saab is reportedly leading a team of Gripen Next-Generation partners that includes the Swedish government, Saab, Ericsson, Volvo and GE, with a demonstrator for the new version due to fly on a demonstrator in 2008, with an AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar scheduled to fly on the demonstrator in 2009.
The JAS-39N proposed for Norway as a replacement for its F-16s represents an improved Gripen variant. Gripen International’s January 2007 presentation to Norway promises:
- A heavier aircraft with more fuel capacity (empty weight +300kg to 8,100 kg, max. takeoff weight rises from 14,000 kg to 16,000 kg, but internal fuel rises 38%).
- Weapons pylons increase from 8 to 10.
- Extended range due to increased external and internal fuel capacity.
- New engine in 22,000+ pound thrust class; presentation touts “supercruise” though this would likely be in near-clean condition only if at all. GE’s F414, produced in partnership with Volvo Aero and in use on the Super Hornet, would offer a 25% power upgrade but requires a number of design modifications.
- AESA Radar, probably based on Saab Ericsson’s “Nora” project.
- New and repositioned landing gear
- Improved computing and avionics, including satellite communication, improved datalinks, and improved electronic warfare via jammer pod integration and other measures.
- Saab (June 26/06) – Thales Norway to co-operate in Gripen development. Under the terms of the contract, Thales Norway will spend the next 2 years developing satellite communications and broadband datalink technologies for the next-generation JAS-39.
- DID (May 21/07) – Norway Renews Eurofighter Development Agreement.
- Norwegian Ministry of Defence (Jan 26/07) – Industripakkane i sÃ¸kelyset. Includes presentations from the contenders. The Ministry now has an English translation of Espen Bareth Eide’s speech to this “Combat Aircraft Seminar.”