Saab is ready with Gripen E fighter jets, tar­gets In­dian mar­ket

Auto components India - - COVER STORY - Story by: Bhar­gav TS & Sricha­ran R

The Swe­den­based Saab AB is in the fi­nal stages of eval­u­at­ing its next gen­er­a­tion Gripen fighter jet, Gripen E. The com­pany will launch it next year. It is be­ing built to adapt to the chang­ing threats the mod­ern air force face and to meet their op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments. Based on the proven Gripen C/D plat­form, the Gripen E is said to be one of the most ad­vanced multi-role fight­ers in the world. It claims to com­bine ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy and op­er­a­tional ef­fec­tive­ness in an af­ford­able pack­age.

With Gripen E, Saab hopes to win In­dia’s $10-bil­lion global ten­der for fighter jets. “Gripen E is the most ad­vanced fighter air­craft with a clear and well-thought-through ‘Make in In­dia’ pack­age. It will be the lead­ing con­tender for any fighter pro­gramme be­ing planned by the In­dian Gov­ern­ment,” Jan Wider­strom, Chair­man, Saab In­dia, Said.

Chris­ter Ols­son, Di­rec­tor, Sales and Mar­ket­ing – Gripen, Saab told

Au­to­Com­po­nentsIn­dia that the new Gripen E air­craft is unique in ev­ery way pos­si­ble. Its pro­to­type is fly­ing, and in 2019 the first se­ries of this will be de­liv­ered. Gripen E can trans­form In­dia’s de­fence tech­nol­ogy prow­ess and sup­port its plan to be an in­de­pen­dent global player with no need to pur­chase com­bat air­craft from other coun­tries.

Saab, which has tied up with the Adani Group for the lat­est bid, was part of the ear­lier pro­gramme for procur­ing medium multi-role com­bat air­craft. The bid­ding process went on for about 10 years. It was scrapped by Prime Min­is­ter, Naren­dra Modi, who opted for a gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment deal with France to ac­quire 36 Rafale jets in fly-away con­di­tions from Das­sault Avi­a­tion. Saab will now com­pete with Lock­heed Mar­tin’s F-16 and Das­sault’s Rafale for the sin­gleengine fighter jets.

Ols­son said, “The Gripen’s com­peti­tors, (Euro 5, F 18), are big­ger

air­craft. Swe­den has been build­ing smaller planes from the be­gin­ning keep­ing in mind

af­ford­abil­ity, avail­abil­ity, and cost. When we started de­vel­op­ing Gripen we were in a cold war sit­u­a­tion with our neigh­bours. We needed an air­craft that could give us a lot of ef­fect in the air with many mis­siles. As this is small and af­ford­able we can have more air­craft and can also de­fend.”

One of the most im­por­tant fea­tures of Gripen is that it can de­tect land, sea and air tar­gets si­mul­ta­ne­ously. It also holds a very long range, that none of its com­peti­tors can beat. Saab made mod­els called Draken and Viggen be­fore the Gripen. Draken was with sim­ple de­tails and with Viggen it was de­vel­oped more. The Gripen E is the most de­vel­oped of them all. The small air­craft, though does not have a stealth mode like the F35, is very dif­fi­cult to be spot­ted in the radar be­cause of its size. Al­most any weapon can be in­te­grated with Gripen E and it has very high weapon-flex­i­bil­ity. This is partly due to the flex­i­ble avionic ar­chi­tec­ture. Be­cause of its radar

and Me­teor mis­sile, this be­comes a deadly ve­hi­cle.

Speak­ing about the unique­ness of the prod­uct, Ols­son said, “The new plane takes just 10 min­utes from the air to turn around area, to re­fuel, to put on new mis­siles, and to leave. This is ex­cep­tion­ally fast. The en­gine also takes a max­i­mum of 1 hour to change. This can be landed on roads and small strips with a length of 800 m and 17 m width. Usu­ally, we will have an air­craft for ground at­tack, one for in­ter­cep­tion and one for re­con­nais­sance. But, this does ev­ery­thing.”

The new fighter jet also has AESA (Ac­tive Elec­tron­i­cally Scanned Ar­ray) which is not just a sin­gle an­tenna, but a full ar­ray of small an­ten­nas, called elements. This means that the radar can si­mul­ta­ne­ously and in­de­pen­dently track dif­fer­ent tar­gets, and track tar­gets in­de­pen­dently of search vol­umes. Gripen E is also a Net­work-Cen­tric fighter and can com­mu­ni­cate two ways with all armed units. It has a se­cure and multi-fre­quency data link sys­tem that pro­vides to­tal sit­u­a­tion aware­ness. It also holds the RWR (Radar Warn­ing Re­ceiver) and the Mis­sile Ap­proach Warn­ing (MAW) sys­tem that can de­tect and track in­com­ing mis­siles of all types. The highly-ad­vanced EW sys­tem can func­tion as a pas­sive or ac­tive sen­sor, warn­ing for in­com­ing mis­siles or radar look­ing at it. It can also be used for elec­tronic at­tacks and jam­ming other radars. Cou­pled with the coun­ter­mea­sure such as chaff and flares the EW sys­tem can en­hance sur­viv­abil­ity.

“We tried to put a lot of em­pha­sis on cost. It is not just about be­ing af­ford­able to buy, but also to main­tain. That is the rea­son why we chose a sin­gle en­gine. Dou­ble en­gines add up a lot of weight and need more fuel to have the same range. More fuel also adds to weight. The ef­fi­ciency of the sys­tem will be bet­ter if weight is kept down. De­pend­ing on the flight pro­file and com­par­ing the range, the Gripen is as good or bet­ter than most of its com­peti­tors,” he said.

De­vel­oped be­tween Swe­den and Brazil the new air­craft will be first man­u­fac­tured in Swe­den. “Brazil has bought 36 air­craft. They are send­ing en­gi­neers to Swe­den, to learn how to de­sign and build. The first air­craft will be made in Swe­den, by Swedish and Brazil­ian en­gi­neers. The Brazil­ians will go back once a fa­cil­ity is built in Brazil, and man­u­fac­ture there,” he said.

On mak­ing in In­dia, Ols­son said, “It is very im­por­tant for us to Make in In­dia and trans­form tech­nol­ogy. Saab has a unique way of work­ing. It all de­pends on the In­dian gov­ern­ment. We are very flex­i­ble to do cus­tomised ways of do­ing busi­ness.”

Founded in 1937, Saab Group was orig­i­nally man­u­fac­tur­ing only air­craft. It later di­ver­si­fied to au­to­mo­biles. The com­pany’s In­dian arm, Saab In­dia Tech­nolo­gies Pri­vate Lim­ited, has been sup­ply­ing to In­dia world lead­ing prod­ucts, ser­vices and so­lu­tions rang­ing from mil­i­tary de­fence to civil se­cu­rity. It also has a re­search and de­vel­op­ment fa­cil­ity in Hyderabad that con­trib­utes to its global prod­ucts.

“Adani is our part­ner now and we will have other part­ners in the fu­ture. It will be for the gov­ern­ment to tell us how it should be. It will be great to have a proper part­ner­ship be­tween Swe­den and In­dia,” Ols­son said.

Chris­ter Ols­son, Di­rec­tor, Sales and Mar­ket­ing – Gripen, Saab

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