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How Gripen Sensors Enable Beyond Visual Range Combat

3 min read

Gripen's high-end sensors give the pilot a number of tactical advantages during a mission. Read on to know how they provide greater situational awareness.

To track and handle multiple threats effectively, the Indian Air Force (IAF) needs a fighter system, which enables them to see and act first. New technologies promise to revolutionize Beyond Visual Range (BVR) combat and tactics and India must take advantage of the same.

Gripen E is designed to work within the enemy’s A2AD (Anti-Access Area Denial) “dome” in a highly contested environment, i.e. the area and airspace covered by enemy ground based air defence systems.

To be able to do this, Gripen E from Saab totes some very high-end sensors. It is the first fighter aircraft to feature an AESA radar mounted on a rotating repositioner or swashplate. This enables the electronically scanned antenna, which is normally fixed in a forward position on fighter aircraft, to be slewed to the left and to the right in order to increase its field-of-view. The swashplate makes it possible to have a 140-degree search volume within a 200-degree look-angle around the nose of the aircraft.

Ola Rignell, Chairman and Managing Director, Saab India, explains: “As well as scanning directly ahead, the swashplate allows the aircraft to scan further to the left and right, in fact, you can actually “look” aft left or aft right with the radar. This is a huge benefit during BVR [Beyond Visual Range] engagements or in a GBAD [Ground-Based Air Defense] environment when you don’t want to point the aircraft directly into a specific area.”

One of Gripen E’s capabilities include the new IRST or Infra Red Search and Track. The IRST is an electro-optical system mounted on top of the nose, just in front of the canopy, and looks forward in a wide sector registering heat emissions from other aircraft, helicopters and even from objects on the ground and sea surface.

Mats Palmberg, Head of Gripen India campaign, says "IRST is a passive sensor, which means it never emits any energy. It only listens for energy coming from other sources. Opponents will have no indication whatsoever that Gripen E is using its IRST to monitor their activities. This will give the Indian Air Force a huge tactical advantage."

Monitoring all of these advanced systems, the pilot sits in front of a single Wide Area Display (WAD) in the Gripen E. The WAD adds huge possibilities for the pilot regarding situational awareness and the ability to act on this.

Saab has spent a tremendous amount of time fusing the Gripen E’s range of sensors and presenting swathes of data to the pilot in an uncomplicated and intuitive manner. “When it comes to sensor fusion, this is all about maintaining the absolute maximum situational awareness. You can have the greatest kinetic performance in the world, but without situational awareness, you’re a sitting duck," adds Palmberg.

“We have chosen to have a map across the entire area of the display, and have your position shown wherever you want it to be, but to start with it is centered. The modern battlefield is geographically huge and the pilot needs situational awareness over a vast area. On the map, we have overlaid mission routes, other platform detail, and all relevant objects in the air and on the ground,” he says.

Gripen E's cutting-edge technology thus allows the pilot to observe, orient, decide and act.