Sweden to Modernize its JAS-39 Gripen Fleet
It has been a good couple of days for Saab. Fresh off a come-from-behind win in Thailand, the firm has signed a 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, whose development program includes the development of a new Gripen test flying platform and a new Gripen avionics set. FMV Gripen Demo funds in this contract can be added to an earlier SEK 1 billion (currently $150 million) award, as an offset to Saab’s participation in the European nEUROn unmanned fighter program.
Gripen Demo will be a heavier aircraft (empty weight adds 300 kg to 7,100 kg, max. takeoff weight rises from 14,000 kg to 16,000 kg) with increased external and internal fuel capacity (internal fuel rises 38%, and…) and an increase from 8 to 10 weapon/fuel pylons. To offset this extra weight, Gripen Demo will use a higher-thrust GE/Volvo F414 engine variant, replacing the GE/Volvo F404 variant in current aircraft and giving the aircraft a 25%-35% power boost. Other improvements include an next-generation AESA radar (probably drawing on Ericsson’s “Nora” project), along with improved computing and avionics overall, including satellite communication, Link 16 capability added to the Gripen’s existing datalink, and improved electronic warfare via jammer pod integration and other measures. Gripen Demo’s corporate participants include Saab, General Electric together with Volvo (F414 engine), Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, APPH, Martin-Baker and Terma.
Gripen Demo is designed to pave the way for future variants (JAS-39 E/F, DK, N et. al.). A next-generation Gripen is critical to the long-term viability and competitiveness of Sweden’s fighter fleet, and also to a number of contracts Saab is fighting for abroad. Norway signed a $25 million Letter of Agreement regarding Gripen Demo in April 2007, for instance, as part of the 3-way competition (F-35, JAS-39, Eurofighter) to replace its F-16s.