How Gripen Scores High on Availability
According to a recent news report in The Hindu, the Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to shore up fighter numbers by investing on the existing ones' availability. At the same time, the Air Force is also relying on the future deliveries of new fighters. “The LCA-MK1A, along with the proposed, to be acquired Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) will help arrest the drawdown,” the IAF says.
While the IAF plans to cut downtime of fighter jets, India should opt for aircraft that offers high availability. Increased mission availability, easy maintenance and decentralised operations allow Saab's Gripen fighters to stay airborne longer.
During the development of Gripen, Saab emphasised on reliable systems that can support the fighter during long missions. "During a high-tempo mission, one needs a system that doesn't give up. Every part should be easily accessible and if need be, easily replaceable. Contemporary fighters with complicated designs may take time to turnaround if a part fails," says Kent-Åke Molin, Sales and Marketing Director at Saab.
Fighters with complicated designs also end up in hangars because their upgrades take a long time. On the contrary, Gripen, with its split avionics that separates the flight critical from the mission critical, allows easy changes to be made. This conscious decoupling means new software can be integrated with Gripen in no time, making it ready for its next mission, sometimes as soon as within a couple of hours.
Corrective and preventive maintenance which help identification of probable parts that require maintenance also play an important role in a quick turnaround. "Gripen is a computer controlled aircraft which means gathering and processing operational data is easy. This ability helps the maintenance team track the performance of subsystems throughout its operation cycle and plan replacements and changes in advance," Kent-Åke says.
Gripen’s design allows easy and quick refuelling, rearming, and changing of parts. Only 5-6 personnel are needed for the task. Between two sorties, ground staff need minimum number of tools to complete their checks. To make their jobs even easier, things like lamps and indicators are kept in the same area as the connection for refuelling.
Besides the ease of upgrade and maintenance, Gripen also features Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) capabilities. The fighter can take off and land on 800x16 m roads. The reduced dependence on runways and complex air bases further boost Gripen’s ability to go airborne minutes after alerted, even if it is located in far flung areas.