Saab delivers virtual Gripen E program update

The Saab Gripen E test program has surpassed 300 flight hours and the company is preparing to deliver production aircraft to the Swedish Air Force in 2020.

Saab Photo
The Gripen E is among three fighter jets contending to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force fleet of CF-188 Hornets. Saab Photo
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“We are proceeding according to plan and are delivering according to our customers’ expectations,” Eddy de la Motte, the head of Saab’s Gripen E/F business unit, told webinar viewers during a briefing on Mar. 26.

The annual update on the Gripen program was moved to an online forum in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Although Sweden has for now adopted a notably different approach to addressing the spread of COVID-19 than its neighbours – most businesses remain open – defence and aerospace journalists and other interested attendees were confined to virtual participation.

“Saab is not one of those companies that is feeling immediate consequences because of the situation given a large order backlog and the business model that we use,” said Ellen Molin, head of Business Area Support Services. “We are doing everything we can to work on development and production.”

The Gripen E is among three fighter jets contending to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force fleet of CF-188 Hornets. The others are the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II and the Block III Boeing FA-18E/F Super Hornet. The Gripen E is the only one not yet in service.

The briefing was an opportunity for Saab to highlight the progress of the flight test program and forthcoming deliveries to the first customers, Sweden and Brazil. The test program now includes six aircraft and will be expanding to two sites this year involving test pilots from Saab, the Swedish defence materiel administration, and the Swedish Air Force.

The accelerated test and verification program will be “more efficient,” said de la Motte. “We are now shifting focus to more testing on the tactical systems and the sensors.”

Saab had high expectations for the Gripen E’s enhanced fused sensor suite and decision-support capabilities before flight testing began, he said. But the Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) radar, passive infrared search and track (IRST) sensor, tailored datalink and multi-function electronic warfare (EW) system “are preforming better than expected.”

Saab Photo
The first production aircraft rolled off the line in Linköping, Sweden earlier this year, and the second and third will be delivered to Sweden later in 2020. Saab Photo

Testing has also included an electronic jammer pod to complement the internal active EW system, flights with the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, and firing of the short-range IRIS-T air-to-air missile.

The first production Gripen E aircraft rolled off the line in Linköping, Sweden in August 2019 at a ceremony with the Brazilian government and Air Force. A second production aircraft followed in December for the Swedish Air Force. Two more aircraft for Sweden will be delivered later in 2020 to their joint verification and validation program.

The first Brazilian jet is scheduled to arrive in country by the end of 2020. Brazil has ordered 36, 28 in the single-seat E variant and eight in the two-seat F model.

In advance of the Brazilian flight test program and the launch of a Gripen flight test centre in Brazil, Saab has transferred aircraft intellectual property and knowledge to hundreds of Brazilian technicians, test engineers and pilots at its production facility in Linköping. Furthermore, the Gripen Design and Development Centre in Brazil has cut the first metal on the F-model two seat variant, to be delivered in 2023.

Saab is also hoping to expand its customer base as the Gripen E enters service. In February, the company demonstrated two of its test aircraft at Pirkkala Air Base in southern Finland as part of the HX Challenge, the first stage of a capability assessment of five aircraft vying to replace the Finnish Air Force fleet of F/A-18 C and D Hornets. The Gripen is up against the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Lockheed Martin F-35A and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The two aircraft were demonstrated alongside a Saab GlobalEye airborne early warning and control platform, a multi-role air, maritime and ground surveillance system based on the Bombardier Global 6000/6500 jet. As part of a package with Finland, Saab is proposing to transfer intellectual property to operate maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities, spares production, final assembly and a development and sustainment centre.

“We fully understand the needs of national security and the ability to control critical technology,” said de la Motte.

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Saab Photo
Brazil has ordered 36 Gripen aircraft, 28 in the single-seat E variant and eight in the two-seat F model. Saab Photo

A similar offer is likely to be part of Saab’s pitch to Canada when the request for proposals closes on June 30. In March, the company announced a “Gripen for Canada Team” that includes IMP Aerospace & Defence, CAE, Peraton Canada and GE Aviation. De la Motte said the proposal for 88 Gripen E jets would include “high skilled jobs” as well as aircraft and systems built by Canadians.

Both de la Motte and Molin emphasized the “smart and cost-efficient support concept inherent in the aircraft design” that now includes the ability to 3D print spare parts for battle damage repair in a forward hangar to allow grounded aircraft to return to a main operating base.

That efficiency was underscored by Col Torgny Fälthammar, head of the Gripen program for the Air Staff of the Swedish Air Force (SAF). A former Saab 37 Viggen and Gripen C fighter pilot, he noted the SAF “operates in a domain where the time to react is sometimes very short – the aircraft and systems we face have a very high velocity.”

Since Sweden can’t field superior numbers, “we have to strive for the best balance between technology, competence and tactics, and having the relevant numbers… [and] we believe we have found that in the Gripen system.”

The Gripen E will introduce “high tech, state-of-the-art systems,” he added. But “being a small country, we always have to think about money and affordability.”

7 thoughts on “Saab delivers virtual Gripen E program update

  1. Does anyone really think Russia or China is going to attack Canada? Why would they? How would they? Does anyone know how impossible it would be to airlift tens of thousands of paratroopers across our Arctic and then drop them successfully to take over….what?!?!…Edmonton, Winnipeg and Quebec City!?!? Even if that were done, supplying them would be a nightmare so costly that it would make any economic reason for attacking us ridiculous. No, they are not stupid. They have already learned that it is easier and cheaper to simply buy what they need. So that is what is happening. There is no “Military Threat” to North America!

    This is just boys having great fun playing with very expensive toys! Sabre rattling has been a tactic used by all militaries to frighten the public and justify the military’s existence. The producers of weapons and weapon systems love it hence we have the military/industrial complex that President Eisenhower talked so prophetically about.

    To defend our “sovereignty” we need to counter the “Economic Threat” to our Arctic, protect our coastal fisheries, deal with internal unrest, root out terrorist cells, and, most importantly, keep our country financially viable.

    We need to spend our defence dollars prudently. Our parliamentarians need to come up with a useful, affordable, realistic role for the CAF that does not get us involved in telling other nations how or by whom they should be governed.

    1. The old CF-18 are costly to maintain and must be replaced. The SAAB is cheaper than others, it’s a good choice for our needs. Canada needs fighters-jet anyway. Nobody wants to take Winnipeg or Québec City, but we must defend our sovereingty. A military threat to the US, can come from our arctic. We must be able to respond. The navigability of Arctic routes are increasing. We must keep an eye there.

  2. This really should be Canadas next fighter. We can buy 2x the number and it wiill be much, much better then the F-35 which is just a bomb truck.

  3. With the present issues regarding COVID-19, everyone is somewhat focused on this and that is OK as it should be. My biggest problem is regarding any purchase other than an American jet. will be the American response to our ( I hope ) selection of Gripen. While the American people are great, the American government is NOT! I can see them doing their usual things like making it difficult for Sweden and Canada regarding the special 414 engine to be used on the Gripen. Blackmailing! Absolutely! It would be a very good idea to make the Gripen adaptable in such a way to be able to use other engines ( ej200 ?). The same thing for any other stuff where the Yanks could screw Canada.
    The F(?)-35 is completely unsuitable for Canadian needs. The purchase price is too high, the hourly costs would almost bankrupt Canada’s military budget. Its availability for service is only 30% if you can get the parts. And parts issues are a serious problem. Despite the Americans saying that it works ok in our north is garbage. It takes a crew almost a full day to change the engine in a full maintenance building so it becomes a hanger queen in the meantime.
    Lockheed is trying through its lies to convince us ( Canada) of its qualities. There are none. All runways would have to be made much longer. That is not cheap to do. No industrial offsets. Basically it is world wide pyramid scheme.
    Regarding the Super Hornet which in the version ( block 3) is the last .Like the F-35, it cannot supercruise at all. It is a naval aircraft with the added weight. The original land version ( F-18L ) to be made by Northrop was 4000lbs lighter, no folding wings, lighter hook, and would be made to withstand 9G forces. Basically it was a far superior aircraft all around being less expensive to buy and maintain, would have had a far greater acceleration rate and climb rate. Everything was better with the F-18L. Well, Northrop got shafted by Mcdonnell and that is why we ended up with our current F-18s. McDonnell was purchased by Boeing at a later date. We know Boeing right?! “C” series ? 737 Max and God only knows what else.we don’t know.
    Well, that is my little diatribe at this point in time. I hope we get the Gripen. It is better at everything.

    1. Who cares if the Americans squawk? A good civil of the Gripen is American – made which makes the Gripen good for American business (Like GE). Also, the USA already approved Canada does the sale of those “Super” Hornets. Each of those has two GE F414 engines so by default, we’re already approved to buy them. If not, Saab has a contingency plan to deal with American shenanigans like this. The Gripen can use the EuroJet engine from the EF-2000 as a drop-in substitute.

  4. F-35 could not land at Gatineau (6,000 ft.) air show and had to fly out of MDC (Macdonald-Cartier 10,000ft.). It also requires a drogue chute to stop. Gripen does not need a drogue and operates from short stretches of roadway.

  5. The F35 is a useless flying platform that will not provide an acceptable cruising distance, can not super cruise, has unacceptable maintenance costs and can not do much of anything other than fly a straight flight pattern. That would include unable to perform any avoidance moves and is not capable of using short runways. Worst of all the F35 stealth will be irrelevant in another 10 years. If Canada did purchase the F35 it would be sooner than latter all Canada would have is a fleet of flying iron in the sky.

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