Gripen E Meets Canadian Requirements
Canada's Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP) seeks to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s existing fleet of CF-188 Hornets with 88 new advanced fighter aircraft. Valued at over $11 to $15 billion, FFCP is the most significant investment in the RCAF in over 30 years. The search as of today has narrowed down to three competitors - F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (Boeing), F-35A Lightning II (Lockheed Martin) and Saab Gripen.
In a report by Jamie Hunter of the Skies Mag, he talks about the Gripen offer with respect to the Canadian requirement and gives reasons as to why the aircraft is perfect for the country. "While Gripen is often cited as an excellent model for cost-effectiveness, the actual capability of the aircraft is sometimes overlooked," Jamie writes. "While Gripen E’s moniker aligns it with the lineage and ethos of its Gripen A-D predecessors as capable but 'affordable' fighters, the E is a very different beast in many ways," he adds.
The aircraft boasts of 10 external hardpoints which can be used for a laser-designated pod, a range of air-to-air, air-to-ground, and anti-ship weapons among others. Gripen can also carry up to seven Meteor BVRAAM (Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile) – “a weapon that has been eyed enviously by the U.S. in comparison to its AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM)," according to Jamie.
Gripen also has an impressive range of advanced active and passive sensors that give the aircraft amazing detection capability and enhanced survivability. The Leonardo Skyward G infrared search and track (IRST) sensor which sits on top of the nose of Gripen is used for passive tracking and targeting.
The report also adds that according to Saab's deputy campaign director of FFCP, Anders Håkansson, Gripen E meets and even exceeds all of the Canadian requirements, including meeting Canada's obligations under the NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) mission of providing air defence for Canada and the U.S. “Part of the reason we developed Gripen E was with range and endurance in mind — plus the more powerful F414 engine and other modifications,” says Håkansson.
Håkansson further explains the importance of the electronic warfare suite that Gripen was built around from the beginning. “The idea was not to build a geometrically stealth aircraft that would be obsolete long before the life expectancy of the fighter, due to continuously and exponentially growing new technologies that target geometrically stealth aircraft,” Håkansson says. “We added an EW system that solves the issue electronically, and that will continue to develop exponentially because no one knows what threats are evolving,” he adds.
Should Canada select Gripen as their next fighter, it will be the first time in generations where a fighter will be built in Canada. Having already set up a network of partners and suppliers in the country, certains parts of the aircraft will be manufactured in Canada, followed by the assembly, maintenance and tests which will all take place within the country.
FFCP has been scheduled to announce the winner by end of this year and the fighters should enter service by 2025.