Saab Gripen E: Dark horse

If you have been following the convoluted process of replacing Canada’s aging fleet of CF-188 fighter jets, the continued presence of the Saab Gripen E might seem puzzling in a competition that has seen both Dassault Aviation and Airbus Defence and Space withdraw their entrants.

Two of Saab's three flying Gripen E test aircraft, 39-9 and 39-10. The test program of four aircraft has accumulated over 150 hours. Saab Photo
Two of Saab’s three flying Gripen E test aircraft, 39-9 and 39-10. The test program of four aircraft has accumulated over 150 hours. Saab Photo
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The Gripen has been mocked as too small by some critics and less capable than the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II or Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the remaining competitors, by others. It’s also, perhaps ironically given the many concerns raised about the F-35, the only fighter still in development and not yet operational.

But to dismiss the single-engine Gripen E as merely a longshot might be a mistake. Because in a project that will be evaluated on capability, cost and economic return to Canada, Saab firmly believes it has a compelling offer to make.

Some of the reasons for that belief became evident when Skies recently toured Saab’s production facilities in Linköping, Sweden, and visited air wings and operational bases where the Gripen C is deployed by the Swedish Air Force and NATO customers to monitor and interdict Russian aircraft skirting, and at times breaching, domestic airspace.

The Gripen was purpose-built for Swedish national defence, but its missions of quick reaction alert (QRA) defensive counter-air along Sweden’s borders and offensive roles during, for example, NATO’s Operation Unified Protector over Libya in 2011, would look familiar to any Canadian CF-188 Hornet pilot. So, too, would the modest defence budget with which it was procured.

And in a Canadian defence procurement system where access to intellectual property (IP) is deemed essential to long-term in-service support and technology upgrades, Saab has demonstrated an approach to foreign sales that can include the wholesale transfer of IP to sustain the aircraft and a commitment to share and invest the knowledge behind that IP with indigenous industry.

To appreciate the strengths of the Gripen, it helps to understand the origins of Saab. An abbreviation for Swedish Aircraft Company, the business is the direct result of an agreement with the Swedish government over 80 years ago to start an aircraft manufacturing company with the sole purpose of being able “to protect Sweden’s borders and people,” explained Jerker Ahlqvist, deputy head of Business Area Aeronautics.

Vastly outnumbered by Russian fighter jets and strategic bombers that reside in Kaliningrad, a short distance from its southern border, Sweden has relied on tactical superiority to achieve combat effectiveness, deploying some of the first datalinks and electronic warfare systems in its fighters, starting with the Saab 35 Draken and more recently the 37 Viggen. That combination of aircraft combat performance, pilot tactics, cost and availability were all baked into the JAS 39 Gripen, said Ahlqvist.

“It is not something you can start to think of once you have designed your fighter.
It needs to be part of the design criteria from the beginning,” he said.

And that philosophy has carried over into the Gripen E, what Ahlqvist called “an even smarter” system of integrated systems. The fighter has two customers at present–Sweden will begin with 60 and Brazil is acquiring 36, eight in the twin-seat F variant–but the aircraft is a contender in at least three fighter replacement competitions globally.

However, unlike the F-16s, F-18s, F-35s and other jets it is up against, the Gripen E is not yet in service.  The test program of four aircraft has accumulated over 150 hours, a majority of those in 2019, achieved 9Gs, broken the Gripen speed record in level flight, validated new flight control software, sensors and electronic warfare systems, conducted a test flight with a new electronic attack jammer pod, flown with the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, and fired the short-range IRIS-T air-to-air missile. Brazil accepted its first flight test aircraft in September and expects to take delivery of its first operational aircraft in 2021.

Gripen E test aircraft 39-8 carries the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile. Saab Photo
Gripen E test aircraft 39-8 carries the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile. Saab Photo

Investing in superior technology

The enhanced capability of the Gripen E furthers a combat DNA intended to meet an operating environment the Swedish Air Force regards as cluttered, contested, connected, constrained and congested with advanced fighters and air defence systems.

“The Russian QRA behaviour has been changing in the last three to four years. There is more aggressive flying,” explained Col Anders Persson, commander Air Staff.

Russian Sukhoi Su-35, 34 and 27 fighters have frequently flown to within 10 metres of Swedish aircraft in the past 24 months and, in what he said was “a signal to us” earlier this year, a Russian signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft escorted by two fighters flew inside Swedish airspace for a minute. “That had never happened before in Swedish airspace. A fighter, yes, a SIGINT, yes, but never a SIGINT escorted.”

A Swedish defence white paper in May concluded Russian capability and activity, in particular electronic warfare (EW), will continue to increase, necessitating investment in superior technology and tactics. “You are superior in technology if you use the technology in the right way,” Persson emphasized.

As with its predecessors, the Gripen E aims to detect and disrupt threats earlier in the kill chain through an improved avionics system that fuses data from an Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) radar system on a swashplate, a passive infrared search and track (IRST) sensor, a tailored datalink and an enhanced EW system, explained Jonas Hjelm, senior vice-president and head of Business Area Aeronautics.

As part of the test program, Saab is trialing what it calls Multi-Functional System EW, part of its Arexis family of airborne EW systems, that incorporates ultra-wideband digital receivers, gallium nitride (GaN) AESA transmitters, digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) devices, precision direction finding and localization, and stealth-enabled countermeasure systems. The onboard signals and data processing are further enhanced by artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms.

The result is far better situational awareness in the cockpit. Ahlqvist described an OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loop informed by an electronic support measures system in which the pilot is “quicker to see, quicker to understand, quicker to decide, quicker to act and quicker to adapt. With all the sensors on board, with the data analysis on board … the aircraft will suggest what he should do, so he will be quicker to act.”

Through datalinks, which Saab been developing and employing for over 30 years, “a couple of Gripens can do magic just because of the way the datalink is used,” he said.

The Gripen E was designed to counter the threats of Russian aircraft and anti-aircraft systems near Sweden's borders, said Saab's chief test pilot Mikael Olsson. Saab Photo
The Gripen E was designed to counter the threats of Russian aircraft and anti-aircraft systems near Sweden’s borders, said Saab’s chief test pilot Mikael Olsson. Saab Photo

While the debate about stealth may feature prominently in the Canadian competition, Saab sees no long-term value in building for short-term stealth. “If you build an airframe with a stealthy design, there are other things you can’t do with that aircraft,” observed Ahlqvist. “We have created another way by, for instance, putting in a very capable electronic warfare system that can make the aircraft invisible.”

“Stealth is much more than the radar cross section,” added Patrick Palmer, executive vice-president and head of Marketing and Sales for Saab Canada. “That is a perishable commodity as technology evolves. Ten years from now, the technology in terms of radar capability will be far more advanced than it is today. What this allows us to do is provide that upgradability, to be forever responding to whatever those new threats are.”

Instead, the goal for the Gripen is to be a “true multi-function aircraft in all aspects,” said Persson. As adversaries advance anti-access/area denial weapon systems and their own stealth capabilities, EW and datalinks for passive sensing and silent networking are an operational necessity to share target information between aircraft. “As soon as we take off, the jamming [from Russia] starts,” he said.

Those onboard systems are “a huge difference maker” for the multi-function Gripen E, said Mikael Olsson, Saab’s chief test pilot. “It is purposely designed for what you see around Sweden (such as the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system in Kaliningrad). That is what it is designed to counter.”

Saab is “building the aircraft around the pilot,” observed BGen Csaba Ugrik, commander of Hungary’s recent Baltic NATO air policing mission in Lithuania, of the systems and human-machine interface in the cockpit. Based at Šiauliai Air Base, Hungary served as lead nation for a three-month rotation from May through August, operating five JAS 39 Gripen C and D aircraft, augmented by Spanish F-18s and United Kingdom Eurofighter Typhoons at Ämari Air Base in Estonia.

Over that time, the Hungarians conducted more than 400 sorties, over 40 of which were actual (Alpha) scrambles in response to Russian Tupolov, Antonov and Sukhoi transports, bombers and fighters, including the Tupolev Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, transiting to Kaliningrad or flying over the Baltic Sea. “If they don’t want to see us too close to the aircraft, they are doing manoeuvres,” he noted.

Consequently, the Gripen Link 16 datalink was critical to ensuring situational awareness. “If you are running the APU here and you turn on the Link 16, you will have the information already on the ground, and you can move the maps and see what is going on 300 kilometres away… and you can prepare for the fight,” he said. “That is a good advantage of the aircraft.”

Capt David Szentiendrei, a graduate of the NATO Flying Training in Canada program in 2012, said the Gripen worked well with non-NATO fighters and excelled at maintaining and sharing situational information fused from its sensor suite.

Both Airbus and Dassault withdrew from the Canadian fighter competition citing, in part, their concerns about the NORAD security requirements and the need for Two Eyes (United States and Canada) interoperability. Though Sweden is not a member of NATO, Saab has designed the Gripen to meet Sweden’s requirement to be fully interoperable with NATO, and in particular with the U.S., working on same or similar datalinks. “We have our own mission planning but the data format transfers into the NATO system,” said Persson.

A Gripen E fires off the short range IRIS-T air-to-air guided missile. Saab Photo
A Gripen E fires off the short range IRIS-T air-to-air guided missile. Saab Photo

With the technology behind onboard sensor systems poised to change almost as rapidly as the applications in a smartphone, Saab has attempted to “future proof” the Gripen by designing the avionics “in such a way where the software is more or less hardware independent,” said Ahlqvist. “The threat environment changes quickly and you will need to make changes in a much faster way then you have done in the past. Gripen E allows for that.”

By separating the hardware layer from the software layer, and the flight critical applications from the mission critical or tactical, “we are ready for novel algorithms like artificial intelligence in the future,” explained Johan Segertoft of Saab, noting that even in the development phase of the E model, multiple software changes were required because computing power improved during that span.

“This is a major problem in a fighter jet,” he observed, adding that the exponential increases in computing power make it difficult to predict how technology will be affected. “Computer power translates to tactical power…[T]he key is how you harness the evolution of computing power.”

The separation of church and state also means that every change no longer requires re-testing and certification. “The vision was, program in the morning, fly in the afternoon,” he added. “You can code once and deploy everywhere. We can now do a change in a matter of days.”

Brazil accepted the first of its flight text aircraft in September 2019 and expects to take delivery of its first operational aircraft in 2021. Saab Photo
Brazil accepted the first of its flight test aircraft in September 2019 and expects to take delivery of its first operational aircraft in 2021. Saab Photo

Knowledge transfer

From the outset, Saab built the Gripen E with international customers in mind. And it has demonstrated a willingness to transfer technology in a manner that might seem unusual to some. Besides Sweden, four countries currently operate the Gripen C — South Africa, Czech Republic, Hungary and Thailand (the U.K. Empire Test Pilots’ School also uses the platform). But as the first foreign customer for the Gripen E, Brazil provides an interesting case study on how that technology and knowledge transfer could work.

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“One of the aspects that makes us unique is our willingness and ability to share technology,” said Mikael Franzén, vice-president and head of the Gripen Brazil business unit. “We understand the importance of national industry and national independence.”

Saab has recognized IP without knowledge has limited value. Under a “train the trainer” model over a 10-year period, 350 professionals from local partner companies and the Brazilian Air Force will receive theoretical and on-the-job training in Sweden for anywhere from six months to two years. Already, over 190 Brazilians have completed their technology transfer program and are now working on teams in the Gripen Design and Development Network.

The offer to Canada would be similar, said Palmer. “This illustrates what the realm of the possible is. In the case of Brazil, they had a very specific focus in terms of what they wanted to accomplish from a [technology transfer] perspective … [We] will be completely responsive to the RFP. We have been working with suppliers and partners in Canada for the last 24 months or so, and we will have a very attractive proposition.”

The Gripen E tests its ability to jettison a drop tank. Saab Photo
The Gripen E tests its ability to jettison a drop tank. Saab Photo

He acknowledged that one of the strengths of the current CF-188 sustainment program was early engagement with Canadian industry and access to IP. “Our vision is to have companies and capability early in the process so that you don’t have this huge wall at the end where you are not able to get over it.”

Whether that willingness to transfer critical IP negates any of the concerns raised by the NORAD security requirements remains to be seen. But Palmer said Two Eyes interoperability is not a technical issue, but rather a process and procedure challenge. “We see it more as where is that data going, what is it touching, who has access to it, and how is that controlled.”

No discussion of fighter jets would be complete without an attempt to pin down costs. Comparing price tags is problematic because different companies and countries often use different metrics to define unit flyaway costs, cost per flight hour and long-term sustainment. Saab officials were coy about an exact number, but the sale of 36 Gripen E/F aircraft to Brazil, including related systems, support and equipment, was valued at around US$4.5 billion.

“I think it is a fact that we are the most cost-efficient solution,” said Eddy De La Motte, vice-president and head of the Gripen E/F business unit. “That goes both for acquisition and flight hour costs.”

Rather than invest specifically in stealth, Saab has developed sensors and electronic warfare capabilities to make the Gripen E difficult to detect. Saab Photo
Rather than invest specifically in stealth, Saab has developed sensors and electronic warfare capabilities to make the Gripen E difficult to detect. Saab Photo

If there is a feature Saab hopes might intrigue Canadians, it’s the Gripen’s ability to operate in Arctic conditions. Sweden’s most northern air base is above the Arctic Circle, so the Gripen “was designed from the beginning to cope with very cold conditions and to be operated with no hangars in open airfields, short takeoff and landing on ordinary roads, even in winter time,” said Ahlqvist.

It’s an operating concept that has been in place since the country first introduced fighter jets. In fact, the Gripen can operate from an 800-metre road that is just 17 metres wide, and can be refuelled, rearmed and checked in under 10 minutes by a team of five conscript soldiers and a technician. More impressive, with just a few more personnel, a small team can replace an engine in one hour in the same frigid conditions.

And it is something that the Swedish air force regularly trains. “Every time we have an exercise, we [operate] on dispersed basing,” assured Persson.

Chris Thatcher is an aerospace, defence and technology writer, editor of RCAF Today, and a regular contributor to Skies.

22 thoughts on “Saab Gripen E: Dark horse

  1. In typical DND fashion we delay and defer F18 replacement . Our CF 18’s designed in the 70’s delivered in the 80’s are now worn out . Will it tale as long as the Sea King helicopter replacement to get a new aircraft into service ? The plan was at one time to buy 60 or so F35’s . This was all we could afford . Well we got 130 F18’s to look after our needs 40 yrs ago . The country is just as large now . When 20% of the F35’s are in the hangar getting fixed at any one time if we go war suddenly we will be a day late and a dollar short. The Gripen is a solution which we can afford , We can get enough aircraft to defend the airspace of a very large country. After Boeing put Canadair out of business are we wanting to reward then for their actions by buying Super Hornets ? Time to decide !

  2. I believe that the Gripen would be an excellent choice for Canada. It is less expensive to purchase, far less expensive to operate, has excellent range and maneuverability, and is already being used (in it’s earlier iterations) in very similar environments, both weather and threat. Also, the comments made in the article about stealth airframes being short term solutions makes a great deal of sense. Technological change could make stealth aircraft like the F22 or F35 far less survivable in 10 years, where software can continually be upgraded to outmatch opponents.

  3. I strongly believe that this might be a great solution to Canada’s jet fighter problem. The Sweden environment / winters are just as extreme and the Gripen operates amazingly. Also there are much cheaper and the article is so correct and proof the direction we should go. Buy more at a better price and give our pilots more flight time of experience.

  4. swedes not so clever Sundin should be talking to Canada talk some sense into the suits buy these and have change leftover for subs f35 too many eggs in one basket I think maybe split the order we have to operate seamlessly with our allies but they cannot give us oversight, we would not be able to service f22 anyhow way too much plane for us canucks lets get bunch of each we always get our money out of our kithope this makes sense these could be the volvo of the skies

  5. I wish Denmark would also back down on our request to go for the Lockeed F-35, and instead go for the Gripen.

    Unfortunately our politicians have their head so high up in the USA defense industry asses that they aren’t able to see past their eye lids!

    We even had great success with the SAAB Draken, which in the early days of the F-16 were able to shoot them down (in practice, so not for real), showing that even older designs from SAAB were pretty good!
    The SAAB Draken is (was) inherently a (very) stable design, and doesn’t turn as easily as the swifter (inherently unstable) design of the F-16, but it was still able to compete with the F-16!

    So SAAB aircraft with Volvo engines has my utmost respect for fighter jets!

  6. Being a skeptic, if the Gripen gets close to be considered in Canada, our friends to the south will intervene is some material way to block that. Yes, we are an independent nation but it would take a determined and resilient PM to go the Gripen route. It would not be easy IMO but it might be the right choice.

    1. if the US which a doubt would block say the engine then there is always British Engines or maybe Canadian

  7. If we in Sweden are able to field around 160 Gripen’s with our military budget Canada can atleast have 200. The Gripen is awsome for our conditions and the ability to re-arm and refuel in 10 min with 1 technician and 4 conscripts it’s something to take into consideration. A fight is not over after 1 mission. Engine swaps take 1 hour, it’s cheap to fly, top modern tech, very upgrade friendly. I think this is perfect for Canada, but i think i already know who will win this 🙂

  8. Very interesting and informative article, cudos to the writer. Gripen is not the fastest, not the sexiest, not the “stealthiest” but has a sensible price-tag with “lots of bang for the bucks”, like a sensible IKEA furniture. Where it really stands out from the crowd though is its advanced EWS, sensors and datalinks and how all the information is presented to the pilot ( and others). SAAB has been on the cutting edge in that department from early on and still is. No disadvantage either that it is build for service in tough arctic conditions, (so no risk of it ending up as a “hangar queen”). It’s biggest disadvantage is that it is Swedish and relies on vital parts from US like engine and electronics. US has stopped Swedish export of fighters before and can/will do it again if necesarry.

  9. Canadian Air Force – Sensible SAAB Solution-Canadian Made
    Fighter Replacement
    Gripen acquisition costs substantially less than “Canadianized” F35
    The Gripen can and should be “Canadian Made”
    Canadianized F-35 includes costly modification for a Drag Chute, the F-35 Has no Tail Hook for Arrestor Equipped Runways
    At the present time Canada does not have Air to Air refueling capability for the F-35; expensive modifications to the F-35 will be required for present Probe-and-Drouge method used by the Canadian Armed Forces.
    Operating cost of the Gripen is substantially less (estimated 75% Lower) this equates to more flying hours, more flying hours means happier pilots; happier pilots stay in the service longer, Canada will continue to have unsurpassed professional pilots.
    Gripen allows for more aircraft, higher sortie rates and greater availability rates. The Gripen can be refueled and re-armed in 10 minutes.
    The F 35 relinquishes it “Stealth” characteristics in the ground attack role of when carrying external weapons and fuel tanks. Technology will defeat the F 35 “clean” configuration in the next decade before the F 35 is fully operation in Canada.
    Gripen is not dependent on U.S. regulations or restrictions it is time to end the reliance on American systems, doctrine and economic strangle hold as the demonstrated with Bombardier C Series Aircraft
    The Gripen can operate from all Canadian Forces bases; the F 35 will require expensive infrastructure modifications and maintenance facilities.
    The Gripen is certified for Meteor BVRM far superior than the AIM-120 presently used on CF-18
    Gripen allows Canada open access to software architecture & development upgrades can be Canadian developed and designed as required.
    The Gripen is already serving in NATO Air Forces
    Fielding a fighter made on Canadian soil, by Canadians would be a great source of national pride
    Canada is a Tier 3 Partner in the F-35 program and will be able to compete for contracts regardless if they purchase the F-35, under the present agreement there are NO guarantees of work for Canadians

    Snowbird Replacement / Gripen Demonstration Team
    De-contented, Demilitarized no offensive or defensive systems, radar and communication systems replace with commercial off the shelf systems The cannon area converts to luggage area, re-engine with less expensive GE 404 surplus CF 18 engines. This lowers costs as were essentially buying basic airframes.
    Military wiring harnesses to be retained for quick conversion if required (First aircraft off the production line)
    10 E Models (Snowbirds)
    4 F Models (2 Snowbirds, 2 Gripen Demonstration Team)
    Alternative would be to lease 14 de contended Gripen C/D from Sweden
    Regular Air Force
    72 Gripen E
    24 Gripen F Optimized for Fast Forward Air Control, Electronic Warfare, and Conversion Training
    6 Regular Forces Squadrons 12 E & 4 F models (each Squadron)
    With Gripen’s affordability Canada could equip an additional Reserve Squadron
    CP-140 Replacement- Sooner rather than Later with cost savings realized with the acquisition of the Gripen
    10 Bombardier 6500 / Saab Swordfish MPA manufactured By Bombardier in Canada
    4 Bombardier 6500 / Saab GlobalEye AEW&C (withdraw from NATO AWAC Program) manufactured By Bombardier in Canada, Battle Field Management Platform, Air Space Command and Control, Artic Surveillance

    1. Yes the only way a Pilot gets to fly a F-35 is in a simulator
      as its to expensive and Grounded for no parts

  10. This jet seems like its the perfect fit for our peace loving country. I hate spending money on military toys, but if we need jets, lets make our money count. I hate lockheed, Boeing etc…. This is the ideal product. For that very reason, I’m sure our government will buy the stupid bloated f35 junk.

    1. Hating a foreign aerospace company is juvenile. Even Boeing, which foolishly tried to kill the C-series, has pumped untold billions into the Canadian economy over the decades. It currently employs 1,700 folks in Winnipeg. Lockheed-Martin is a big player, too – recently given a starring role in the navy’s new ship programs. Highly doubtful that Saab could replicate these age-old value propositions.

      As for being peace-loving, we’ve been in very scrap post-WW2, except Nam and Iraq (2003). We’re a nation of hockey players – just like the Swedes. We don’t rush to drop the gloves, but when we do we get right in there.

  11. Even as we speak here in this forum, apparently there are members in high places with in the RCAF who for some reason wants Canada to buy the F-35. Personally I believe that the possibility of rewards ( jobs ) in those US companies coming from the possible purchase of the F-35. The F-35 is completely unsuitable for Canada.Nearly one day to remove and replace the engine. Give me a break. Parts unavailability is a major problem. That F-35 gun apparently has problems shooting straight. Remember that the parts for the F-35 are supplied by industry people who probably had the best ( lowest? ) price.. At present, the Jas39-E is faster than the earlier marks. The Gripen has an instant turn rate that is almost equal to the F-22. The Jas39-E will have that same turn rate and possibilty better.
    Regarding the Super Hornet ( block 3) it has updated electronics etc, but, the airframe is an old design. It is very draggy in the air. Also, like the F-35, it cannot supercruise. This is of major importance to Canada because as you all know, Canada has the 2nd largest territory in the world second only to Russia. In many of the articles that I have read and seen,the electronic warfare capability of the earlier Gripens has been compared to the Growler version of the Hornet and Super Hornet.. With the new “stuff” in the E version, it will be far better. In a Red Flag event in the USA, many pilots found it rather surprising to find out that a Gripen was nearby and they did not know it was there. In a dog fight, it is almost as good as the F-22, Typhoon and the Rafale. That is saying a lot! The one engine issue is a non issue. There is talk that the Gripen E is a light weight In comparing the war load of both the CF-18 and the Gripen, there is only about 1500 lbs difference between the two with the CF18 have the greater load. The Meteor missile that the current Gripens are qualified use are much better than the AArams that the US has.currently have. End Of!

    1. AMRAAM’s successor – the AIM-260 – will soon come to market. The jury’s out on whether it will outclass Meteor, but one advantage it will have is that the USAF/USN will be ordering thousands of rounds, providing Raytheon with the incentive to invest regularly into improving the design.

  12. Let’s not forget the fate of the F-117. It too was a stealth aircraft with performance limitations. After the Russians had solved the 117, they promptly informed the Serbs who managed to shoot one (or two) down. The F-117 was withdrawn and retired immediately. The same could very well happen to the F-35. It is slower and less maneuverable than the Gripen and without effective stealth would be a flying coffin. Airframe stealth will be history in the near future. Quickly adapting EW will be the future.

  13. Open sources tell us that most, if not all, major aircraft manufacturers have stated that their 4th-gen designs are good until 2040. They are planning for new designs to hit the street (sky?) around that time. If we choose an advanced Gen4 design (taking delivery between 2025 and 2035?) the RCAF could face obsolescence rather quickly. Thus we need to choose an option that gives us the most longevity for our dollar. Does the notional CF-39 Gripen fit the bill? Saab’s approach is intriguing – emphasizing regular software upgrades instead of a costly (and untimely) ‘mid-life’ upgrade. But judging by the traffic in the aerospace press, I think a major factor in the longevity curve will be the ability of a manned fighter to team with unmanned systems. This will likely require the insertion of AI technology. If Saab has an answer to this, then let it be part of their sales pitch, even if said info is currently classified. In the meantime, it is likely to be handy to have the option of a rear cockpit so the second crew member can handle the manned/unmanned teaming.

    Operational matters aside, I am uncertain of the value of being able to assemble these planes in Canada, as has been offered. Sure, the politicos might salivate at the prospect of an IMP Aerospace assembly line employing hundreds. But such goodies don’t come free of charge. If the project budget is fixed, the cost of building that line, recruiting and training a workforce, operating it, and the closing the line and issuing severance to said workforce, will carry a steep price – money that could otherwise be spent on airframes, spare parts, ordnance, etc. Recall how long it has taken for Vancouver Shipyards re-constitute itself – to the detriment of the NSP and the RCN.

  14. Unfortunately our Canadian military is really not capable of thinking beyond US doctrine. The Gripen is a much better match for Canadian needs then the F-35. I say buy the Gripen or forget the whole thing and join a 6G fighter program with France and Germany,.

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