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 c. Gripen International
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.
Thai Defence Minister Boonrawd Somthas recently suspended a controversial arms deal announced in mid-August 2007 between Thailand and Ukraine, bringing the purchase of 96 BTR-3E1 wheeled armored personnel carriers (APCs) for Bt4 billion (about $117.6 million) to a halt. The BTR-3E1 amphibious armored personnel carriers had beaten APC contenders from China, Russia, and Canada to win the Thai order, and a recent request from Iraq would make 9 customer countries if the Thai order goes through. BTR-3s are built by an international consortium led by the United Arab Emirates’ ADCOM MANUFACTURING Company Ltd. WLL, in partnership with Ukrainian firms Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau, and the State Scientific Technical Centre of Artillery & Rifle Arms. Jane’s describes the BTR-3 as:
“a more recent design [than the BTR-80] with a raised roof for greater internal volume… powered by a locally developed UTD-20 diesel coupled to a manual transmission. Armament consists of the Shturm combat module armed with a locally produced 30mm ZTM-1 cannon, 40mm automatic grenade launcher, 7.62mm machine gun and twin launcher for Barrier ATGW with a maximum range of 5,500m. The vehicle is fully amphibious, being propelled in the water at a speed of 8-10km/h.”
Stryker APC in Mosul traffic jam
The BTR-3E1 deal has caused a rift in the Defence Ministry, pitting the (now transferred to an inactive post) Admiral Banawit Kengrien against army chief (and now Deputy Prime Minister) Sonthi Boonyaratglin. Questions have also been raised about the Ukrainian firm’s inclusion in the competition, pointing out that they didn’t submit their bid by the deadline. The Office of the Auditor-General chimed in with its own report, questioning including whether the Ukrainian APC has a proper after-sale maintenance agreement, and whether it was in line with national procurement policy. The current army chief, Gen. Anupong Paochinda, has said the army would accept any decision made by Defence Minister Somtas. The ministry has set up a committee to re-examine the deal.
This could be good news for General Dynamics Canada, whose amphibious LAV-II and non-amphibious LAV-III/Stryker vehicles are often mentioned as the Thai competition’s “higher quality, higher price” alternative. ‘Military experts’ complaining that a BTR-3 won’t stop an RPG-7 rocket should be aware that the LAV-III/Stryker won’t do so, either, however, unless it’s protected by cage armor. Which could also be fitted to the BTRs, in order to give them similar odds. Action Ukraine Monitoring Service report | Thailand’s “The Nation” report.
Sometimes, a contractor’s technical problem is really an opportunity. When the multinational Joint Strike Fighter’s F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) variant for the US Marines, Royal Navy, et. al. found itself 3,000 pounds overweight, the program faced a 1 year pause while a crash program of empowered teams and suppliers worked to solve the problem. The result was an F-35B design that ended up ahead of the other variants, even though it was considered to be the most complex. That’s reflected in the pattern of test aircraft being produced – and now, it’s reflected in a large subcontract as well.
Alcoa’s proprietary and advanced aluminum alloys, technical and engineering expertise, and collaborative design capabilities that support large and complex forgings proved very valuable to the F-35B’s Slimfast diet. Now Lockheed Martin has handed Alcoa’s Power and Propulsion business a 10-year, $360 million contract by Lockheed Martin to supply advanced patented 7085 alloy aluminum die forgings for the F-35 program.
Alcoa Forged and Cast Products in Cleveland, OH will design and manufacture all the large aluminum structural die forgings for more than 1,200 aircraft. Parts include 15 large bulkheads that weigh 1,800-6,000 pounds, range from 10-23 feet in length, and act as the primary structural support for the wing and engine. They will also work on 6 wing box parts which serve as an important component of the skeletal structure to the wing. Meanwhile, other Alcoa aerospace units will provide items like highly-engineered joining devices from Alcoa Fastening Systems, specialty alloy plate from Alcoa North American Mill Products, and high-pressure turbine blades for F-35 JSF engines and structural aluminum castings from Alcoa Power and Propulsion.
As part of the JSF contract, Alcoa plans to invest $24 million in Cleveland Works primarily for new machinery, equipment and infrastructure improvements. Alcoa Forged and Cast Products is being supported by the State of Ohio with a $400,000 Rapid Outreach Grant, and up to $450,000 for employee training.