Why Gripen Doubles the Airpower with the Same Number of Aircraft
Compared to any other modern fighter aircraft, Gripen offers twice the air power at half the cost, says Operations Adviser of Air Domain at Saab Aeronautics, and a former Gripen pilot Jussi Halmetoja.
According to Halmetoja, Gripen does not just operate from main airbases alone. “We can operate from anywhere, at any time with minimum manpower. No other fighter that I know, has this capability and that’s because they were not designed for decentralised operations in the first place. With Gripen, you have more airborne aircraft owing to factors like low failure rate, rapid fault localisations, and ease and speed in the maintenance,” he says.
Gripen’s low logistical footprint plays an important role in keeping downtime to a minimum and air time to the maximum. From day one, Gripen was designed to operate out of dispersed airbases. At the airfield, you need very few personnel and a limited number of spares to get Gripen flight-ready. No fixed installations or fancy facilities are needed. Regular maintenance between two sorties can be done using simple tools.
“The tools we use for maintenance between sorties are very basic. You need a flashlight to check the oil levels, and a refuelling equipment. You don’t need any equipment to open any hatches, because there are quick hatches,” says Per Sverker, Maintenance Manager, Test Hangar, at Saab’s facilities in Linköping, Sweden.
Smart Maintenance Solutions
Gripen has been designed for easy, fuss-free maintenance. Its wide range of internal sensors which transfer data, also inform beforehand, the time to replace an item. “All the items that need replacement are easily accessible, and the replacement process is quick as well. Less time on the ground gives you more time in the air because of less failures on the aircraft" says Niclas Kolmodin, Head of Business Unit, Gripen Support, Saab.
Gripen's turnaround time is ten minutes for an air-to-air mission, and 20 minutes for an air-to-ground mission. Replacing high-tech radars or even an engine takes about an hour. As a result of all these capabilities, a large number of Gripen fighters can be deployed from all kinds of bases, and high altitudes as well.
“The combination of high availability and low cost of operations will give you more airpower, hence more bang for your buck. Buying a fighter that stays in the hangar makes little economic sense, a bit of a white elephant eventually,” says Mats Palmberg, Head of the Gripen India Program, Saab.