The Incredibly Efficient Package of Gripen E
Military Aviation Journalist and renowned flying photographer Jamie Hunter, whose work has been published in world's leading aviation journals, is back with another interesting article on Gripen E, this time on The Drive. Starting from the origin to the swashplate radar on Gripen, Jamie Hunter enumerates all the reasons he thinks make Gripen E a great modern day fighter.
Background and developments so far
Saab test pilot Robin Nordlander says that during the development of Gripen E, Saab has aimed to retain the heritage of its predecessors such as the Viggen, Gripen A/B, and the C/D variants. A recent decision was made to have SwAF's C/D fighters remain in operation past 2030 for a better transition to Gripen E starting 2023. Other countries currently operating Gripen C/D are the Czech Republic, Hungary, Thailand, and South Africa, and they have all extended the service of the fighters through the MS20 upgrade. Coming back to Gripen E, the joint test program for the verification and validation (between Saab, the SwAF, and FMV) of the fighter has been in place since December 2020. In the meantime, the two-seater variant of the new Gripen (F) is in development for and with Brazil and is progressing well.
Future-proof avionics architecture
The avionics architecture of Gripen has an unmatched ability. It allows the operator to introduce new technologies into the fighter without disrupting the rest of the system. An example of this is the computers that can be replaced or upgraded to attain new processing power constantly. "It’s the kind of agile avionics performance that is being mandated for U.S. manufacturers as the military seeks to field smaller fleets of 'Digital' fighter aircraft far more swiftly and apply new capabilities to new and existing types extremely fast, with software updates even potentially occurring while the aircraft is in flight," Hunter writes.
The all-seeing sensors
Gripen also boasts a range of state-of-the-art sensors that help enhance the fighter's survivability. It is the first fighter to feature an AESA radar mounted on a swashplate that rotates to give the pilot a 140-degree search volume. Having the ability to scan from left to right is beneficial during Beyond Visual Range engagements or in a Ground-Based Air Defense environment when the pilot wants to avoid pointing the aircraft in a specific direction. “You want to minimize the potential for an opponent to launch [a missile] towards you — and with the swashplate arrangement you can actually fly slightly away from an area of interest, while still looking with the radar into that area," explains Nordlander.
The Infrared Search and Track (IRST) is also an integral part of the sensor suite that has been designed to make Gripen immune to stealth platforms and can detect and know the difference between the targets and background noise, between a drone to something as small as a bird.
EW system to counteract stealth
Stealth platforms are becoming more visible to radars with the rapid growth of technology. Instead of focusing on stealth, Saab uses advanced and easily upgradable electronic warfare system. Gripen E’s sensor suite is designed to counter the stealth design technology of the opponent. “Today, our work with algorithms means we are able to detect contacts that are around 10 times smaller compared with just a few years ago. So, yes, we are working to counteract stealth, and that’s not just with an infrared sensor, because stealthy platforms employ IR reduction techniques — it’s about combining our sensors to achieve this,” Norlander says.
WAD and sensor fusion
The WAD (Wide Area Display) and sensor fusion capability of Gripen deserve special attention as they front the human-machine collaboration of the fighter. Every sensor incorporated in the aircraft works in a connected manner to give the pilot a 360-degree view of the fighter's battle space. The WAD adds to the situational awareness ability by providing the pilot with all the data and information collected from the sensors.
"While the Gripen E-Series was born in an age where stealth fighters are proliferating around the globe, it offers a well-rounded array of higher-end capabilities in a relatively small, mature, and simpler package. As such, this wolf in sheep’s clothing has a lot to howl about," concludes Jamie.
Read the full story on The Drive.