Gripen – The Future Ready Fighter Aircraft
A modern fighter aircraft usually flies an average of 200 hours every year, for around 30 to 40 years. That kind of usage means the fighter should not just deliver high performance, but also be up for the task of handling newer, more complicated challenges of operating in the future battlespace. To remain at the forefront of capabilities for decades, the fighter should therefore adapt to new technologies. In case of most fighters, this is usually taken care of by mid-life upgrades.
However, mid-life upgrades are not just expensive, they also lead to delays in updates that should have ideally happened long before a fighter reaches middle age. With Gripen, Saab has solved this problem by designing it for frequent upgrades.
While designing Gripen, adaptability was one of the most important factors taken into account. Gripen’s open architecture means an operator can enhance the fighter’s capabilities without touching its hardware. That ensures fast and cost-effective upgrades that are easy to manage.
Gripen’s split avionics separates the flight-critical and the mission-critical parts of the fighter which results in easy integration of new features without the need to re-certify the flight-critical software. Hardware is generally limited to the airframe and structure. This means all the other parts e.g., sensors, computers, displays etc. can be updated to meet the latest threats. Also, the airframe usually consists of about 25 percent of the total cost of the fighter. The choice to make changes to just the airframe or the mission critical parts is therefore, an economical one as well.
Gripen E features a new and powerful engine, improved range, and an enhanced EW suite that includes AESA-radar, InfraRed Search and Track System (IRST). Gripen E’s Wide Area Display (WAD) gives the most optimised battlespace overview. Saab has also test flown Gripen with 100 percent biofuel - and no change in traction or fuel consumption was observed – proving the fighter was ready for a sustainable future.
Because of the built-in flexibility, adding a new feature to a Gripen fighter is akin to adding a new app or updating the same on your smartphone. You can do it at any point in time based on your need.
Gripen’s adaptability can be further highlighted with the example of the development process of its latest variant. Gripen E’s first flight happened in 2017 and in the last three years, all of its computers have been updated. Though the basics of the platform remain the same, a number of new functions have been added.
The combination of the latest technologies that have been used in Gripen E, coupled with a design that allows easy addition of functionalities and features make Gripen a fighter for tomorrow.