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