Saab Receives FMV Funding for JAS-39 Gripen Upgrades
Saab received a SEK 1 billion ($130 million equivalent) order from the Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV), covering continued development of the JAS-39 Gripen fighter. The order reportedly covers various software upgrades, as well as other development activities supporting the long term development of the Gripen system. Work will be performed at Saab Aerosystems and Saab Aerotech in Linkoping, Sweden as well as at Saab Avitronics in Jarfalla and Kista, Sweden. See release.
The JAS-39 Gripen is a 4th generation lightweight fighter in service since 1993, and adopted by Sweden, The Czech Republic, Hungary and South Africa. Though they are highly capable aircraft, upgrades of some sort have been under discussion for some time.
The JAS-39DKs & JAS-39Ns on offer to Denmark and Norway would both be enhanced beyond the present C/D versions for greater range and payload. In addition, the recent agreement to develop the nEUROn unmanned UCAV fighter involved an agreement whereby the Swedish FMV procurement agency would offset Saab’s nEUROn-related costs with a contribution to future development of the Saab JAS-39 Gripen manned lightweight fighter.
This would appear to be that contribution, and Flight International reports that Saab-led Gripen International is studying future development options.
Possibilities reportedly include:
- Installation of a more powerful engine than the current GE F404 derivative from Volvo. GE’s F414, in use on the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, would offer a 25% power upgrade if used as the new base engine, but this would also require a number of design modifications to the aircraft.
- Increasing the Gripen’s overall size and maximum take-off weight to increase range and payload. Some of the design modifications required for an F414 engine variant would require this anyway.
- A thrust vectoring nozzle and conformal fuel tanks would allow the aircraft to take maximum advantage of the new power plant.
- Integration of an AESA radar instead of Ericsson’s PS05 (which was reportedly derived from the Sea Harrier’s Blue Vixen) is also an important future selling point, with progressive updates possible from 2012-2018 that draw on Ericsson’s “NORA” (Not Only RAdar) project.
The least probable option, but perhaps the most interesting, involves the possible creation of a carrier-capable Gripen that would take advantage of the Gripen’s natural short take-off and landing capabilities. Its most likely sales target would be India, with a possible role as a backup choice to Britain’s F-35B Lightning II STOVLs on its new CVF carriers.