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Saab Global

Gripen E Tailored for Atmanirbhar India

5 min read

Who is Gripen E developed for? According to Stefan Engstrom, Director, Sales and Marketing, Gripen, Business Area Aeronautics, the fighter system is tailored for an independent, non-aligned, self-reliant nation like India. There are many factors that make the Gripen system a perfect candidate for a self-sustained and a self-reliant airpower. But first, what constitutes airpower? According to Engstrom, these are some of the salient characteristics of a self-sustained airpower:

Gripen fighter for India
  • State-of-the-art multirole platform with superior combat capability
  • Easy to upgrade in order to stay relevant now and in the future
  • Weapon system flexibility
  • Rapid deployment and high availability
  • Cost-effective – for purchase and maintenance
  • Indigenous and sovereign control over the fighter platform

The Gripen system meets these requirements for self-reliance not only because of its advanced performance and technology, but also because the platform has been designed from day one keeping in mind such characteristics. This, in turn, maximises airpower for the Gripen user. Here are some of the most important reasons why:

Tackling obsolescence: The biggest advantage that Gripen E has over competitors is its ability to adapt to new technologies. Gripen E’s open architecture means an operator can enhance the fighter’s capabilities without touching its hardware. That ensures fast and cost-effective upgrades instead of more expensive and time-consuming mid-life upgrades.

This also means that every lesson Gripen E learns on the basis of information and data gathered during a mission or an exercise can be upgraded in the system at the earliest. The issue of obsolescence can in fact turn out to be an advantage since Gripen E can assimilate new technology faster and be ahead of its adversaries.

Creating combat synergies: As Engstrom puts it, an aircraft’s combat capability is about getting into its enemy’s OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, and act). The OODA loop is still as relevant as it used to be years ago, albeit in a slightly different manner. In future air battles, it is the aircraft that performs together in a network along with other aircraft and processes information in the shortest possible time, that will be the fastest in the OODA loop.

Gripen E is packed with cutting-edge technology that allows the pilot to observe, orient, decide and act. With the AESA radar, IRST and a state-of-the-art Electronic Warfare System, Gripen E has eyes and ears very close to the ground. It works together with other platforms in the air, land and on water to gather and relay information; it works in a network which leads to combat synergies. Together they can see the unseen and act accordingly. This even makes physical stealth irrelevant.

Smart Human Machine Interface (HMI): All the information in the world will not be of any use if the pilot is not able to make sense of it in time. With Gripen E’s smart HMI, the pilot has superior situational awareness and a lighter workload. The most important aspect of the HMI is the decision support it provides the pilot, which facilitates and speeds up his decision-making process in a complex mission. Hence the pilot can spend time taking tactical decisions instead of trying to interpret the system. In a conflict where every second counts, the Gripen pilot will be the first to act.

Weapon flexibility: No other platform offers such a wide weapon solution as Gripen E does. Gripen E will never be limited to a single nation inventory, as far as the choice of weapons is concerned. One of the weapons that gives Gripen an edge in air-warfare is the MBDA’s state-of-the-art air-to-air missile, Meteor. The Gripen platform has been utilized for about 80 percent of the Meteor firing tests during its development phase and Gripen was the world’s first combat aircraft to be operational with the BVRAAM missile. The combination of Gripen E and the Meteor can be a lethal game changer for the Indian Air Force.

Indigenous and sovereign control: The most significant aspect of making an airpower self-reliant is independent and sovereign control over its air platforms. As a Gripen user, the operator will have the full freedom to develop the platform according to their own needs and threat libraries. There will be no aspect of the aircraft or its development that the user will not have access to or for which they will have to depend on any other country or company. This according to Stefan Engstrom, will be the discriminator in future operations and something that only Gripen can provide.

Rapid deployment and high availability: Gripen E is designed to be in the air rather than in hangars. It has a very quick turnaround time, requiring just 10 minutes for a full air-to-air turnaround and only five or six maintenance crew to get it back up in the air again. Even an engine change – in itself a rare requirement – takes less than an hour. These are unique capabilities only offered by Gripen.

One of Gripen platform’s biggest assets, and an inherent design criterion, is its STOL capability which means that it can be take off and land on 800x16 m roads, coming to a full stop without arrest cables or drag chutes. This ability to operate from dispersed airbases essentially maximises the air time availability and ensures that the aircraft can be as close to the enemy as possible.

Saab has explored the idea of a twin-engine Gripen, but realised that fleet availability went down dramatically. The only way to compensate for that would be to have more aircraft, leading to more maintenance and operational cost. Gripen’s ability to be airborne longer means that pilots can train more and train hard, and therefore fight easy, says Engstrom.