Today, Saab (Stand N2-230) is unveiling the latest member of its Gripen multirole fighter family. The Gripen Aggressor is a proposal aimed at providing a high-end ‘Red Air’ adversary aircraft.
The decision to choose DSEI as the venue to launch the new offer was not made by accident: one of the key requirements at which the Gripen Aggressor is aimed is the RAF’s ASDOT (Air Support to Defence Operational Training) programme. ASDOT is a 15-year programme to provide ‘Red Air’ adversaries for RAF fighter training, and also ‘Blue Air’ platforms for the training of joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) and fighter controllers. The requirement also includes electronic warfare and simulation elements.
Reinforcing Saab’s proposal is a full-scale replica of the Gripen Aggressor, on display in DSEI’s Air Zone in the North Hall. It is painted black to match the RAF’s prevalent trainer scheme.
Contractorised ‘Red Air’ has been a growth market in recent times, and Saab has been studying the concept of a Gripen Aggressor for around 18 months. Having looked at a range of potential advanced air combat training requirements, Saab concluded that the Gripen is well-suited to meet the needs of the higher end of the market. The Gripen is a proven airframe with low operating costs and the proven reliability that allows the generation of high sortie rates.
Moreover, the Gripen’s flyby- wire flight control system, sensor capabilities and kinematic performance ably represent the latest types of threat aircraft. During its fact-finding mission, the company encountered numerous instances where pilots and instructors spoke of ‘‘negative-value’’ air combat training, in which modern aircraft fought against either the same type of aircraft, or against older and less-capable types. By contrast, dissimilar-type training against modern aircraft realised maximum training value, allowing pilots to ‘‘train as they fight’’.
Gripen Aggressor is based on the Gripen C airframe, with a Gripen D-based two-seater an option. The Aggressor proposal is optimised for its mission and would not have live weapons capability. As well as being pitched for ASDOT, which is supposed to enter the preliminary proposal stage later this year, the Gripen Aggressor is aimed at the US Air Force’s stated advanced adversary requirement that could be contracted in early 2019.
Saab is no stranger to the UK or contracted training services. It has supported the UK Empire Test Pilots’ School training syllabus since 1999 by providing a Gripen two-seater and support activities, including SK 60 radar target aircraft, for several weeks every year.