Nr 4-5  2012


 

On Further Development of the SAAB Gripen Aircraft

After a substantial period of uncertainty, the Swedish Government seems set on significant investments in upgrading the SAAB Gripen fighter aircraft, funding development and acquisition of what in many respects is a completely new platform. Even with a cost-share agree-ment with the potential Gripen customer Switzerland, there remains a huge uncer-tainty concerning where the money will come from. It is also not clear to what extent there will be cut-backs in force structure and equipment of the other services (Army and Navy) in order to fund a new aircraft program. An analysis by the Supreme Commander on the implications for the other services was immediately locked up in a safe at the Department of Defense, accessible to hardly anyone.

To remain competitive welt into the 2040s, the Gripen will have to be signifi-cantly upgraded. The alternative of going for a completely different platform is well beyond the financial means of the Swedish Government. Potential adversaries in war, who are also competitors on the global market, will increasingly consist of platforms, such as the American JSF, the Russian PAK-FA or the Chinese J-20, with inherent design features (stealth, internal weapons storage, ...) absent in the present Gripen, and which are probably difficult to add on in a modification program.

The strength of the Gripen pro-gram is the affordability of the platform, particularly in the present times of financial austerity. It was particularly interesting to note the Swiss motivation for going with the Gripen, which clearly said that the Gripen's performance in several areas was inferior to that of the competitors, but that it was good enough for Swiss purposes, and far cheaper. Such reasoning bodes weil for the export possibilities of the Gripen, particularly with nations less advanced, and less demanding than Switzerland. ::