Gripen E: The fighter of tomorrow is available today
What would the fighter of tomorrow look like? Simply put, it would be a platform that can keep integrating all the possible new areas of technology development – faster processing speeds, artificial intelligence, new weapon systems etc. The question is whether such a fighter platform is ready for the taking given India’s quest for new fighters which necessarily have to keep absorbing rapid changes in EW, weapon systems, Human Machine Interface and the next generation of network-centric warfare.
The answer lies in the new Gripen E with its world-class EW system, advanced Human-Machine Collaboration, powerful GE F414 engine, longer range, and an impressive payload. Designed to dominate the modern battleground, Gripen features the latest sensors, silent networking and total sensor fusion across a tactical air unit to blind and confuse the enemy.
But the key to Gripen's air dominance today and tomorrow is the very approach to designing the aircraft in a way that makes it very flexible. The fighter system operates as a platform that can be integrated with technologies that are not only currently fully developed, but also those that are not even in the conceptual realm.
Knowing that the key to the longevity of Gripen would be its platform--the initial technology on which the plane is based--the designers made it open architecture. Gripen E's platform has a modular design that can be easily adapted to utilize future solutions that don’t necessarily have to be built in-house. This allows the rapid integration of new technology and functions as they are developed, in order to take on and defeat new combat challenges without excessive cost or downtime.
That means, for instance, if an Indian start-up develops a wingman technology whereby unmanned drones scout out targets, jam enemy signals or launch their own air or ground operations, the technology can be integrated with Gripen platform seamlessly. The systems integration hub is where Saab excels compared to others. This is where all technical disciplines merge into an optimised solution.
In short, technology is advancing rapidly and thereby also the threats, so to ensure that a modern combat aircraft doesn’t become obsolete ten years after its launch, it must be adaptable. Upgrades are essential, but it’s also essential that they are easy to manage, quick to implement, and affordable to carry out.
“Both software and the hardware of Gripen can be independently or together updated with slight tweaks in the current platform. In any case, Gripen will not spend a lot of time in the hangar for time-consuming and unnecessary requalification,” Kent-Åke Molin, Sales and Marketing Director at Saab, says.
The important part is that the platform is now a reality with the first serial production of Gripen E aircraft entering the delivery phase last year. That means that the Indian Air Force, if it acquires Gripen, would have a platform that would have the tactical agility and ability to adapt future technologies built in from the start, and new functionality areas for Gripen would be possible to incorporate with ease.