Gripen: Software Design Built for Future
As modern warfare become increasingly reliant on computers, software upgrades are also becoming more critical to keep fighters relevant for a long period of time. Speaking to Air & Space magazine, Johan Segertoft, Head of Program Management BU Gripen E/F at Saab, talks about upgrades, data layers, coding, multicore processors and more.
Over the past few years, technological advancements in avionics have rendered stealth obsolete and unnecessary. An aircraft's effectiveness can no longer be judged by its speed or agility but by how well it is able to use its computer power to out-manoeuvre adversaries. And Gripen, having been designed with this in mind, to an extent in which the entire aircraft revolves around its electronic warfare suite, stands apart from its competitors.
Where other contemporaries excel in dogfights because of greater thrust-to-weight ratio, Gripen excels and outperforms the rest in beyond-visual-range engagements. This does not come as a surprise as Gripen features some of the most advanced sensors and the best of radar guided weapons and missiles.
“Gripen E has some of the coolest sensors available, but to use them in the best way you need computer power to fuse all that information and provide it to the pilot in such a way that he can complete his task,” says Segertoft.
In an analogy that makes it easy even for a layman to understand, Segertoft compares Gripen E to an iPhone. Gripen's upgradability was something that was taken into account at the conception stage. It required its avionics architecture to be open where the tactical management part becomes upgradable (like an iPhone). This means that Gripen's radars, sensors, weapons etc. can be upgraded frequently throughout their lifecycle without affecting other parts of the aircraft.
According to Segertoft, developing a fighter for an infinite number of configurations requires building from the ground up. “I heard colleagues in the industry trying something similar, and they gave up because they deemed it impossible,” Segertoft tells Air & Space. "It was naive and brave to try and build it," he adds. It was Swedish philosophy at its best - trying something new and simplifying it till it is the best and the only version out there.
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