The JAS-39 Gripen: Sweden’s 4+ Generation Wild Card
Agreements with Brazil; Industrial espionage; SkyGuard IRST begins testing.
April 4/14: Sensors. Saab announces the first flight with the new SkyGuard long range Infra Red Search and Track sensor, which can pick up other aircraft using heat instead of radar.
Now all they need is an infrared guided beyond visual range air-to-air missile, in order to take full advantage. the aerodynamic design of Denel/Mectron’s A-Darter SRAAM places it in a grey zone, but competing fighters have true BVRAAM options like the Russian R-27T/ AA-10 and French MICA. Sources: Saab, “Saab successfully completes flight test with IRST for Gripen E”.
April 2/14: Espionage. Saab Switzerland spokesman Mike Helmy confirms that “Secret services have attempted to intercept our communications,” driven by unnamed states on behalf of their industries.
They’re a very logical target. A new customer for an advanced weapon, busy sharing a lot of industrial data as they look to line up manufacturing partners, gives new meaning to the phrase “I’d tap that.” Sources: Swiss RTS, “Le groupe suedois Saab, constructeur du Gripen, se dit victime d’espionnage”.
March 3/14: Brazil. Brazil and Saab sign advance agreements on defense cooperation, which lay the foundation for the future Gripen contract. This includes a defense cooperation framework agreement, whose scope is already wider than just fighters, and a corollary agreement that commits to appropriate levels of secrecy and security procedures within that cooperation framework. The new agreements build on documents signed in 1997 and 2000, and both will be forwarded to Brazil’s National Congress for approval.
The industrial goal is to be able to produce 80% of the plane in Brazil, which has future implications given that final Brazilian orders over time are estimated at 60 – 104 fighters. Equally significant, the accompanying security agreements include access to the Gripen’s source code. That will allow Brazil to add its own weapons to the new fighters, increasing the global attractiveness of both Saab’s Gripens and of Brazil’s weapons. A current wave of Latin American upgrades could create timing issues for wider regional sales, but export partnership arrangements are under discussion. They currently revolve around Latin America, and developing nations with close Brazilian ties (“das nacoes em desenvolvimento com as quais o Brasil possui estreita relacao bilateral”). Sources: Brazil FAB, “Brasil assina acordos de cooperacao e da prosseguimento a compra dos cacas suecos” | See also Defense News, “Fleet Modernization Drives Requirements Across South America”.
As a neutral country with a long history of providing for its own defense against all comers, Sweden also has a long tradition of building excellent high-performance fighters with a distinctive look. From the long-serving Saab-35 Draken (“Dragon,” 1955-2005) to the Mach 2, canard-winged Saab-37 Viggen (“Thunderbolt,” 1971-2005), Swedish fighters have stressed short-field launch from dispersed/improvised air fields, world-class performance, and leading-edge design. This record of consistent project success is nothing short of amazing, especially for a country whose population over this period has ranged from 7-9 million people.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article for background, news, and contract awards related to the JAS-39 Gripen (“Griffon”), a canard-winged successor to the Viggen and one of the world’s first 4+ generation fighters. Gripen remains the only lightweight 4+ generation fighter type in service, its performance and operational economics are both world-class, and it has become one of the most recognized fighter aircraft on the planet. Unfortunately for its builders, that recognition has come from its appearance in Saab and Volvo TV commercials, rather than from hoped-for levels of military export success. With its 4+ generation competitors clustered in the $60-120+ million range vs. the Gripen’s claimed $40-60 million, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Sweden’s lightweight fighter? In 2013 a win in Brazil started to answer that question.
JAS-39: The Gripen Program
Saab’s JAS-39A-D Gripens
Partnerships & Production
JAS-39 Gripen: The Way Forward
The Next Gripens: Industrial
JAS-39 Gripen: Major Events
2006 and earlier
JAS-39 Gripen: Contracts & Awards
2012 – 2013
2010 – 2011
2008 – 2009
2007 and Earlier
Additional Readings & Sources
JAS-39 Gripen: The Platform
Export Competitions: Highlights
News & Views
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