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Saab Global
Gripen during a dispersed road base operation.

Deploy. Survive. Win.

5 min read

The Gripen fighter system exists to guarantee air superiority in time of war. Sweden’s operational requirements for Gripen were driven by a superpower threat of all-out conflict across air, land and sea. This simple statement hides the highest possible objective; national survival. The result was a fighter from Saab that is threat-driven at every point in its design, and utterly unique. 

Gripen’s key combat systems include an advanced mix of sensors, electronic warfare, datalinks and weapons. Supporting these essential capabilities, but often unseen, are other critical elements such as the fighter’s hardware architecture, software design, cockpit interfaces and intelligent onboard systems; all fully-integrated to deliver powerful human machine collaboration (HMC) support for the pilot.


But impressive technology that proves to be unreliable, inflexible, badly designed, poorly constructed or just too expensive to use has increasingly become the defining feature of many other fighters today. Sweden has never had the luxury of spending money now to see if things work out later. Fighter aircraft need to work first time, every time. 

Gripen builds on Saab’s decades-long heritage of designing and delivering fighters that are not only superior to the enemy but that will fly and fight reliably and effectively every time they are needed, in a sustained conflict, in the very worst conditions. 

This philosophy of survivability and effectiveness is embedded in Gripen’s DNA and is what sets it apart from any other rival. Gripen can deliver maximum airpower with minimum resources. It can quickly and easily deploy to almost any operating location you can think of, and is never tied down to long runways or expensive bases. This Swedish design imperative applies equally to any user anywhere in the world. Today more than ever air forces need to be able to deploy, operate and sustain the fight - but few are really ready to do so. 
Gripen air forces are ready.     

Disperse On Alert

In times of tension, when threat levels are rising, a small Gripen unit can deploy away from its regular base to provide an agile quick reaction alert (QRA). This deployed force is automatically less vulnerable to surprise attack and can operate closer to expected areas of enemy activity.


At a dispersed location anywhere in the country, a group of three Gripens can maintain 24-hour availability with two aircraft standing on alert and one on standby. The mission is to be at readiness for a short-notice ‘Alpha scramble’.
In an Alpha scramble the fighters are armed and able to respond to any aggression. A ‘Bravo scramble’ is a training mission designed to practise for an alpha scramble. This training is extremely important for QRA proficiency and, depending on the threat level, they are routinely conducted as part of a QRA deployment. 

Personnel required to support the three Gripens number 18: four pilots, six technicians, six conscripts, two logistics staff. Deployed to a small tarmac airstrip or a road base, with minimal facilities, this group will work 12 hours on, 12 hours off. 

Operating as a QRA force the Gripens can deliver four armed sorties per day or approximately eight hours in the air.  For this, the fighters will require about 12 m3 of fuel per day.

Support vehicles include a refuelling truck, a fire tender plus spare parts and ground equipment deployed in one standard 20-ft container (or equivalent).
The Gripen team bring a deployable communication system with them and, in optimal conditions, a system like Saab’s Deployable Digital Tower (r-TWR Deployable) can be used for additional air traffic control.

Gripen’s ability to deploy over long distances with modest support and then sustain armed alert missions for weeks and months has been routinely demonstrated during numerous NATO Air Policing deployments by the Czech and Hungarian Air Forces. 

Deploy To Fight

In time of war the ‘simple’ peacetime models of operations would be transformed to an entirely new level. In the first stages of a conflict Gripens would likely be required to conduct Defensive Counter Air missions i.e. fighter operations against attacking air forces. For this, a large force would be deployed to their concealed dispersed operating locations; small tarmac airfields or road bases.  Main operating bases and larger secondary airfields would not be available – they having been either attacked, or about to be attacked. 


A typical combat force might comprise 14 Gripen fighters plus two in reserve. With these aircraft each operational day (a 24-hour cycle worked in shifts) could produce about 112 sorties, eight per aircraft and well over 200 flight hours.
The demands on personnel rise accordingly. Full-scale combat operations with these 14+2 aircraft require around 100 people; 32 pilots, 32 technicians, 40 conscripts and four in logistics all working in 12-hour shifts. 

Fuel consumption increases as do the support requirements but together with more weapons handling equipment the essential needs of the unit can still be supplied with two 20-ft containers. 

Ideally a mobile base operations system like Saab’s Deployable Aircraft Maintenance (DAM) facility would be used to fill in for the lack of existing infrastructure at the operating location. The DAM can be rapidly relocated to a new base whenever the fighter force itself has to redeploy. Likewise, the deployable Digital Tower can fill the gaps left by enemy attacks on fixed infrastructure.

*The operational models noted here use verified long-term data from established Gripen C operations