Designed for the future [CS19D1]

29 May 2019

Saab has brought its Gripen E full-scale mock-up to Ottawa for its first outing in North America.

The company is also showing its cockpit simulator, complete with the wide-area display that has been developed for the new generation of Gripen. The Gripen E is being produced for service with the Swedish and Brazilian air forces, which have initial batches on order for, respectively, 60 and 36 aircraft. Brazil's batch will also include the Gripen F two-seat version.

Gripen's major showing at CANSEC is driven by the type's bid for Canada's new fighter competition, for which a final Request for Proposals is expected in the first half of July, having been pushed back from the previous date of 31 May. Saab (Booths 1521, M1/4000) earlier withdrew from the competition, but rejoined the contest when a renewed procurement effort was launched in late 2015 that promised a fully open and transparent selection process.

The company cites a number of benefits of the Gripen E, including the accent placed on prolonged operations in Arctic conditions to satisfy Swedish requirements, and which have direct application to the Canadian operating environment.

Arguably its most important attribute is the innovative concept applied in the design of its systems architecture, in which flight-critical components are segregated from mission systems. This partition permits the insertion of new mission capabilities without the need for expensive and time-consuming requalification of flight-critical aspects. As a direct result, technology and weapons updates can be inserted rapidly as they emerge, and on a rolling basis. Conversely, most other types typically undergo occasional midlife upgrades that add packages of updates simultaneously, with a major recertification effort required to clear the modified aircraft for service. With an expected lifespan of more than 40 years, this ability to continually and rapidly update the Gripen E/F is seen as a major capability to meet evolving threats on a timely basis, catering for future threats that have yet to materialise.

Based on earlier draft RFPs and information provided by the Canadian government, Saab foresees no issues in meeting Canadian requirements. The company is offering the transfer of technological knowledge so that, if selected, Canadian companies could play a major part in the support and ongoing development of a Canadian Gripen fleet.

Development and implementation of any Canada-specific features could be undertaken in-country, maintaining any sovereign IP on elements that could be subject to special restrictions.

Canadian participation could also include some production and assembly processes, but the full Gripen offer and its industrial participation element have yet to be finalised. Saab is, however, "in active dialogue with Canadian industry".

The company currently has two Gripen Es - aircraft 39-8 and 39-9 - in flight test, with 39-10 to fly shortly. An earlier Gripen D two-seater was converted to serve as a demonstrator aircraft for the new-generation Gripen, but is now fitted with many of the Gripen E/F systems and is an important element of the test fleet.

Both of the prototypes have fired the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile.

Production of series aircraft got under way in early 2019. The first Swedish aircraft is due for handover to an air force trials team later this year, with Brazil due to receive its first aircraft in 2021.

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