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Saab Global

Gripen Power for a dogfight

3 min read

With the advent of BVR missiles, dogfights are possibly a thing of the past. Or is it?


From adversaries who test each other out over contested borders to drones and swarms, increasingly fighters might have to go back to banking upon dogfighting skills to take down threats that are too close for comfort or issue warning shots as a means of shooing away opponents. With drones now being equipped to act as sensors or jammers or shooters, the asymmetry of unleashing a missile to take down drones is likely to be both ineffectual and costly.

So how does Gripen fare during a dogfight? Clearly, the biggest factor in a dogfight is the skill of the fighter pilot. But what if the pilot has the edge in terms of situational awareness, handling and responsiveness that cuts down the workload during a dogfight to focus the pilot down just to his opponent?

In an episode of the Fighter Pilot Podcast, former lieutenant in the Swedish Air Force, Mikael “Duke” Grev, talked about his first impression of Gripen being how easy it was to maneuver it, something every Gripen pilot has pointed out so far. For example, keeping one eye on the Angle-of-Attack meter and the other one on the G-meter while simultaneously keeping a watch on the opponent's aircraft during a dogfight meant an overstretched pilot. This was not the case with Gripen as its carefree maneuverability does not require the pilot to split his attention while flying.

When asked what his favorite thing about Gripen was, he says it’s the large display real-estate. Gripen C/D's large Head-Up-Display, otherwise known as HUD and the three large Head-Down Displays or HDDs, give the pilot the most interactive user interface. "The HUD is great for dog-fighting and HDDs are for Beyond Visual Range air-to-air combat and basically all other mission types that are the chess-playing of today’s air operations," he said. (Read his full interview here. The interview starts 19 minutes into the program.)

But it’s not all software. There is an array of close combat weapons – most notably the reliable BK27- the Mauser 27mm revolver cannon from Rheinmetall Oberndorf. Both the Swedish and the Brazilian Gripen E are equipped with the BK27 automatic cannon with a newly developed link less ammunition feeding system. The gas-operated automatic cannon combines low weight with a high rate of fire (1700 rpm). The BK27 is a 27 mm revolver gun and was first developed in the late 1960s.