Tag Archives: Gripen

Sweden puts new life in Cold War fighter jet strategy

The Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet) is putting new life into a war-time strategy developed during the Cold War: fighter jet operations from road strips. There is a difference: the armed forces have got to do the same job with less personnel.

Welcome to Vidsel Airbase in the Swedish far north. This is the Edwards, or Boscombe Down, of Sweden – a place for testing air weapons and the heart of many (inter)national military combat exercises when it comes to air operations.

Riksväg runway

Vidsel does have a main runway, but serviced by a network of taxiways are three additional short and less-wide runways ideal for testing road strip operations without having to close down any real riksväg (regional main roads).

Gripen taxiing to the short runway at Vidsel (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
Gripen taxiing to the short runway at Vidsel (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

And that is exactly what Swedish Air Force SAAB JAS 39C Gripen no. 229 was doing the last couple of days. At the Gripen’s F21 Wing at Luleå-Kallax Airbase 60 miles (97 km) east they call it “a new concept”, but it is actually just perfecting an old plan to the current state of the military. Meaning, things have to be done with less people and less equipment since Sweden abolished obligatory military service to all young men on 1 July 2010 and has suffered from severe budget restrains.

We're wondering what the pilot was doing in the trees (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
We’re wondering what the pilot was doing in the trees (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

The redefined concept will see the Gripen serviced, (re)armed and (re)fueled by 6 personnel on a forward operating location, using only two modified vans with equipment per jet plus a fuel truck travelling between several aircraft and a fuel depot.

Gripen combat fleet survivability

Initially four conscripts would be enough to maintain the first Gripen A version, where many systems are easily exchangeable modules. But some sort of grouping with more personnel and vehicles was still the starting point. The new concept makes it possible to have a unit of one fighter jet, a pilot and six aircraft technicians can operate entirely on its own. Aircraft dispersed over a larger area increases the survivability of the combat fleet in times of war, since they will be complicated to hit by the enemy.

Europe’s largest test range

Sweden’s military future when it comes to the air weapon is very much probed near Vidsel, where the test range close by is Europe’s largest overland. During the past half a century everything from parachutes to ATC systems and space vehicles have been tried there. NATO jets are regularly using the 6,210 square miles (10,000 km2) of restricted airspace and 2,500 square miles (3,300 km2) of restricted ground space as well.

The redefined Gripen Forward Operating concept put to the test (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
The redefined Gripen Forward Operating concept put to the test (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
With precision ground crew puts a AIM-120 AMRAAM missile onto the Gripen (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
With precision ground crew puts a AIM-120 AMRAAM missile onto the Gripen (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

With recent tests of the Gripen at a Forward Operating Location at Vidsel being very positive F21 Wing is now eager to have additional try-outs on all its three main bases in the north of Sweden: Luleå-Kallax (homebase), Vidsel and Jokkmokk. The latter, on the edge of the Polar Circle, has not only one main runway but three shorter and smaller runways on base plus three road strips just outside the base perimeter. The latter three are only to be used in wartime though, and will not be put to the test at the moment.

Leaving a cloud of snow behind (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
Leaving a cloud of snow behind (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

The new concept will likely be “exported” to the other two Gripen units of the Swedish Air Force as well: F17 Wing at Ronneby near Sweden’s main naval base in Karlskrona in the southeast of the country and F7 at Såtenäs in the heart of Central Sweden.

Gripen E roll-out

Combined the three combat wings of the Swedish Air Force fly 76 operational single-seat C and 12 two-seat D versions. Like Brazil, Stockholm has ordered the new, larger and more capable Gripen E, of which at least 60 are to stream to the Swedish Air Force the coming years. The first prototype Gripen E is to be rolled out by SAAB in Linköping on 18 May this year.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): Take-off! From Vidsel’s short runway (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

SAAB Gripen program update

During the annual Saab Gripen seminar, which was held on Thursday 17 March, Ulf Nilsson, head of Saab business area Aeronautics, and Richard Smith, head of Gripen marketing and sale, gave an update on the status on various developments on the Gripen.

Gripen E/F

At this moment, manufacturing of the first Gripen E prototype is still on schedule and within budget, as the aircraft is in final assembly now. Roll out is planned to take place at 18 May this year. This protoype will be used as test aircraft, so test equipment will be installed in it.

Competitions and tenders

At this moment, SAAB is involved in different competitions and tenders to market the Gripen system. Smith stated the Gripen has been offered to Croatia and Bulgaria as replacement of eageing eastern type of fighter aircraft. Negotiations started with Slovakia for delivery of 8 Gripens to replace the MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft, which are reaching the end of their service life. Finland is looking for new aircraft as replacement for the F-18 Hornet, in which SAAB participates in a tender for 40 Gripen E/F aircraft. Belgium still has to decide what will be the successor of the F-16’s, and the Gripen will take part in the tender for 30-36 frames. In the Asian Pacific market, SAAB started the negotiating process with Malaysia, and they’re even confident the Gripen has in chance in Indonesia. Further more, SAAB stll has a focuss on India, as the Swedish and Indian Prime ministers met in India recently. In the Americas-region Colombia got marketing info about the Gripen system.

Brazil

Currently, there are 50 Brazilian engineers in Linköping, Sweden, who are being trained to learn the maintenance and development tools of the Gripen and the program. In April the next group will arrive in Sweden, and finally it is expected some 350 Brazilians have found there way to Linköping. SAAB and Embraer are building a new test and engineering center at Embraer’s industrial plant in Gavião Peixoto, Brazil. This will support the operations of the Brazilian Air Force Gripen aircraft.

SAAB expects to sell 400 aircraft in the next 20 years, with a backlog of 96 aircraft at the moment (60 Gripen E’s for Sweden and 36 for Brazil). At this moment the Gripen is already in service with the Swedish military, as well as in Thailand, South Africa, Czech Republic and Hungary.

Two Gripens over an Icelandic postcard. (Image © 21st TAFB)
Two Gripens over an Icelandic postcard. (Image © 21st TAFB)

Proven concept

The Gripen also proved its value in recent conflicts, for example by doing Air Policing missions, such as the Hungarians  did over the Baltics, and the Czechs operated several times from Iceland.

So we certainly will hear more about SAAB and the Gripen in the year’s to come.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk
Featured image: Artist impression released by the Swedish Department of Foreign Affairs of the Saab JAS 39 Gripen E/F in Brazilian Air Force colours (Image © Utrikes Departementet)

 

Switzerland restarts quest for new fighter jet

Swizterland is restarting its quest for a new fighter jet for its air force after a botched attempt two years ago to purchase 22 Saab Gripens. New aircraft are still needed to replace ageing F-5 Tigers, defense minister Guy Parmelin told Swiss government on Wednesday 24 February.

This year the Swiss start setting up requirements for the new fighter plus a set of plans for the selection process and eventual purchase. The selection is set to last until 2020, with a formal decision and order no later than 2022. Deliveries should start by 2025, according to Parmelin.

The F-18 Hornet is Switzerland’s most capable fighter aircraft. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The F-18 Hornet is Switzerland’s most capable fighter aircraft. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

‘No’ to Gripen E

Prior to 2011, the Saab Gripen E, Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon were evaluated in Switzerland. Although not showing itself as the best option in all aspects plus allegations of bribery, the Gripen came out on top. The Swiss government decided to buy 22 Gripens, but opponents managed to get enough support for a referendum in which voters eventually said ‘no’ to Gripens.

The F-5 Tiger needs replacement, especially since cracks grounded parts of the fleet recently. As of now, 30 out of 54 Tigers are operational. The type was set for retirement this year but may very well fly on for some time.

In 2025, the 31 current F-18 Hornets reach the end of their service life. Extending their service for five years will cost tax payers half a billion Swiss francs (410 million EUR).

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: The new jet should replace the ageing F-5 Tiger. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

 

Spain and Belgium take over Baltic Air Policing

Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons and Belgian Lockheed Martin F-16s this week take over NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission from Hungarian Saab Gripens and German Typhoons respectively. Spain is acting as ‘lead’ nation.

Four Spanish Typhoons left their homebase of Albacate on Monday 4 January and headed for Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania. From there, Hungarian Gripens over the last three months performed 25 live intercepts of mainly Russian aircraft near the Baltics. The Hungarians clocked up 430 flying hours in total. Airheadsfly.com reported about Baltic Air Policing in Šiauliai last November, spectacular pics included.

Four Belgian F-16s- two from both Kleine Brogel airbase and Florennes airbase – are due at Ämari airbase in Estonia, previously a temporary home to German Typhoons.

The changeover ceremony for the total Baltic Air Policing mission is scheduled for Thursday 7 January. The changeover marks the 40th rotation for the mission, which in 2014 was doubled in size over increased Russian air activity.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Spanish Eurofighter C.16 in its usual habitat (Image © Ejército del Aire)

Belgium aims for ’34 new fighter jets’

Belgium aims to have 34 new fighter jets in 2030, according to a long term defense strategy made public on Tuesday 22 December.  The statement doesn’t mention the type, however the Lockheed Martin F-35 should be considered the most likely candidate. A decision is still some time away.

Belgium now operates sixty F-16s, all of which are due for replacement. Contenders are the Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35. A request for information was issued to all manufacturers in 2014.

Numbers

The number of 34 new jets is lower than anticipated, although Airheadsfly.com already predicted the number would be lower than the larger numbers that were rumoured earlier . These numbers went up to 55 aircraft.

A head on view of the F-35A. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
A head on view of the F-35A. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

Joint defense

The choice for the F-35A Lightning II seems only a matter of time in light of the Dutch order for 37 Lightnings and the joint Benelux air defense cooperation that was agreed this year and comes into effect in 2016.

The latest Belgian defense strategy also mentions an inquiry into the deployment of a tanker aircraft, again with no type mentioned. The Belgian could very well join the European tanker effort that is aimed at buying at least four Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft.

The strategy remarkably doesn’t mention the seven Airbus A400Ms on order, the first of which is due in 2018. Doubts were raised in Belgium about the necessity of this airlifters.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Belgian Air Component F-16BM. (Image © Elmer van Hest)