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Saab Global

Decisive combat effectiveness – unique lethality of Gripen E

7 min read + Video

Best choice weapons for the war fighter - ensuring air dominance

As a first, the objective of your fighter system - and the men and women who operate it – is to maintain the control and integrity of your sovereign territory. To do this, the fighter needs to successfully enter and to remain alive in a highly contested, presumably hostile high threat environment, complete the tasked mission, and safely return to base.

To do this, Gripen E ensures survivability by the use of powerful Electronic Warfare (EW) provided by state-of-the-art internal and external systems. Hostile sensors are jammed on wide frequency bands by autonomous and collaborative multi-aspect counter measures, using both active and passive techniques. Complemented by the Electronic Attack Jammer Pod (EAJP) and the Air-Launched Decoy Missile system, Gripen E provides highly efficient electronic suppression - to avoid, deny, deceive and defend against any enemy threat. In the fighter domain this is defined as the Live Chain.

Secondly, the objective of a fighter is to deliver timely and accurate operational effect, through EW suppression of hostile systems and/or by delivery of kinetic weapons effect against chosen targets. To perform this mission, a high Situational Awareness (SA) must first be achieved by a fighter platform, to locate existing hostile threats and acquire precise target co-ordinates to suitably counter them - to find, fix, track, target and engage the enemy, and assess the effect post-engagement.  In the fighter world this is defined as the Kill Chain. In this story we will focus on Gripen E’s weapon capability…

Gripen E jet fighter armed with  missiles for air-to air and air-to-surface targets.
Gripen E jet fighter armed with missiles for air-to air and air-to-surface targets.
Live firiing with a Meteor, an active radar guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile.
Live firiing with a Meteor, an active radar guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile.

Designed for the war fighter

First things first…when it comes to air launched weapons, the following aspect are normally considered.

  • Kinematic range; The distance from a target at which a weapon can be launched to effectively reach desired coordinates. This range should be great enough not to overly expose the launching fighter platform to hostile threats such as enemy fighters or ground-based air defence units. Further, a fighter’s weapons load-out should be designed with munitions using suitable overlap in effective firing ranges, to be able to counter threats at any moment and to maintain flexibility to engage.

  • Ordnance type; This refers to the size and purpose of the explosive effect of a munition, generally the type of targets it is designed to be used against, be it fast flying aerial targets or fixed reinforced ground structures. It refers also to any individual munitions ability to cue and home against targets in the terminal engagement phase, i.e by own sensors or guidance to independently find, fix, track and engage an exact desired point of impact.

  • Number of munitions; Refers to the number and variation of different munitions that can be carried by a fighter aircraft. This is much determined by the nature of the tactical mission, the type and number of targets, the threat and of course also the fighter platform’s design. It goes without saying that a higher number of weapons always will increase lethality and mission flexibility, posing a bigger threat and an important deterrence when facing the enemy.

  • Probability of Intercept; What are the factors that enable a munition to effectively find its way from a weapon launcher, through air, often heavily defended areas-of-intercept, onto the right target coordinate without risking any collateral effects to unwanted infrastructure. How can the weapon be effectively guided and supported throughout the engagement? How can hostile counter measures be suppressed to enable our munitions to reach target areas and how many weapons will be required to reach desired effect?

In Gripen E, all the above requirements, and many more, have been carefully considered. It is fully designed to survive and operate in the Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2/AD) environment. New unique network-enabled sensor and weapons capabilities are designed with all the latest threats in mind, allowing flexible, dynamic targeting to be conducted in whole new ways, autonomously by single Gripen Es, by collaboration between several fighters in a Tactical Air Unit (TAU) and/or by provision of third party targeting data by other collaborating fighters in the air, Command & Control (C2) units or a JTAC (Joint Tactical Air Controller). Build-up of the tactical picture, guidance for target engagement, weapons cueing, launch and missile support are mechanised in new revolutionary ways enabling the Gripen E pilot to always maximise probability of weapon intercept with own survivability maintained. Powered by the new Human Machine Collaboration (HMC), the pilot will always know what to expect next, and what the best possible action in the next phase of the mission will be. To always be in full control of every aspect of the fight.

Missiles from left to right: IRIS-T.,Meteor and RBS 15.
Meteor (BVRAAM) has a larger No-Escape-Zone than any other comparative BVR missile available.

Choose your weapon

With Gripen E, Air Forces will have a choice of the most modern, smart weapons, from the very best supplies worldwide. This enables a flexible and independent access, without having to be restricted by individual manufacturing nations’ or design authorities’ policies or regulations. Your nation’s individual operational requirements and concepts can be fulfilled - to solve your mission, without compromise.

One example is the Meteor BVRAAM air-to-air missile, in service on the Gripen as the very first platform, since early 2016, following a very successful integration programme. Due to its RAMJET-design, Meteor provides an unbeaten kinematic performance offering a whole new level of lethality – next level operational capability to the war fighters. A unique network-design enables efficient and flexible targeting and weapon support as well as valuable combat SA. For an air-to-air mission, Gripen E can carry up to seven Meteor missiles, reinforcing its status as the ‘Game Changer in the Baltics’ for decades to come.

Another example is SPEAR, the next generation surface attack weapon, which offers precision strike capability at long stand-off ranges. Equipped with a smart multi sensor seeker, SPEAR can operate in all combat conditions against complex moving and manoeuvring ground targets. Network-enabled functionality will ensure targeting flexibility and full combat SA during any engagement. Gripen E and SPEAR will maximise the potential of future combat air capability in the most contested battle environments. Alternatively, the highly optimised air-to-surface RBS-15ER missile with extended range is available for use on Gripen E to deliver precision strike capability, either in an anti-ship or in a land attack capability.

In air-to-ground operations, focus often also lies on the stand-off strike segment, a capability of high strategic value. For this mission, Gripen E can be fitted with the Taurus strike missile which provides unbeaten long-range strike capability against multiple target types and complexes. Taurus missile maintains survivability by cruising at the nap of earth providing cover from detection by means of physical terrain, which also means very efficient use of the missile’s range. Owing to its very powerful, smart, scalable warhead most often only one missile hit will be required to achieve desired effect. Gripen E and Taurus provides very important strategic deterrent against any threat.

Gripen E is designed to counter an advanced adversary. An enemy who will have the luxury of choosing their method, location and time for their act of aggression, who likely will have the ability to attack in very large numbers. The ability to counter this threat can only be achieved by use of superior state-of-the-art sensors and weapons, superior tactics, techniques and procedures and highest fleet availability over time.

This will ensure that the warfighters are ready, when and where they are needed. To survive, to deliver operational effect. To win!

Click here to learn more about Gripen E