As reported this week, the F-35A Lightning II has taken the final hurdle in the Netherlands. That leaves a few companies with empty hands, although it has to be said that Saab, Dassault and Eurofighter GmbH did just about everything they could. It’s however no major surprise that the F-35A will after all replace the Dutch F-16 in a few years time. Saab, Dassault, and Eurofighter GmbH were essentially the losers from the word ‘go’, as the Dutch MoD basically had only thing in mind. Here goes a tribute to losers!
In 2001, Rafale, Gripen and Eurofighter went head to head at the Leeuwarden airshow in the Netherlands. The JSF – as the F-35 was known as back then – was nowhere to been seen, since the prototype X-35 only flew first in October 2000.
In the years that followed, all three competitors started appearing in European skies more and more, while the F-35 only really started testing in late 2006.
As production mounted, Saab, Dassault and Eurofighter started looking for export customers for their hardware in the hope that sells would really take off. All types saw action in the 2011 Libya war. Meanwhile, testing of the F-35 continues in the US. Some time between August 2016 and December 2016, the first USAF F-35 squadron will reach Initial Operational Capability.
Show off In recent years, Gripens, Rafales and Eurofighters were steady performers at airshows worldwide. It is unclear when the first F-35 will be seen outside the United States.
The final loser There is however one more loser in the well over a decade long debate about a Dutch F-16 replacement. It’s the F-35A Lightning II that in some years time will touch down on Dutch soil, but will have to do its very best to win the hearts and trust of Dutch taxpayers. Plus, we at AIRheads↑FLY simply think its not the sexiest thing in the sky. Go Rafale!
The South African Air Force will keep its SAAB JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet in the air despite hundreds of millions of dollars of budget shortages, sources within the South African military confirmed on September 6, 2013.
Both the Gripen, the Hawk training jet and several support aircraft are threatened with long-time storage already for months now in order to save money. But according to a new plan all 26 JAS 39C/D will stay active in turns by simply rotate them through maintenance and flying status. On the long run this would be more cost efficient and keep the country’s only proper airborne air defence assets available, say SAAF senior officials. This will mean 2 Squadron at Makhado Air Base, which flies the Gripen, will stay at strength. But it will also mean up to half of the Gripen fleet can be in ‘maintenance’ at certain times.
The faith of the 24 Hawk Mk 120 lead-in advanced trainer or other aircraft is still highly uncertain. The single Boeing 737 BBJ presidential aircraft is likely to be kept airworthy, as well as some of the army support helicopters like the Rooivalk attack chopper. The latter is destined to be deployed for UN or South African National Defence Force missions on the African continent.
The final three JAS 39 Gripens for the Royal Thai Air Force were to arrive today at their new home of Surat Thani airbase in southern Thailand. A lightning strike to one of the aircraft prevented this however.
The three Gripens are now in India and will continue on to Thailand on Wednesday. The delivery completes the Thai order for twelve JAS 39C/D aircraft with Saab. The Gripens are flown in Thailand by 701st squadron ‘Sharks’, part of the 7th wing at Surat Thani.
The Royal Thai Air Force ordered its Gripens in 2007 as replacements for older F-5 aircraft. The Thai decision was sparked by neighbouring countries – like India, Malaysia, China and Indonesia – acquiring Russian Su-30 Flanker aircraft in all shapes and sizes.
The first Saabs were flown to Thailand in February 2011, while a further three followed last April. The Royal Thai Air Force also flies the Saab 340, one of which is fitted with the Erieye radar, an Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) developed by Saab Electronic Defence Systems.
The aircraft that was hit by lightning, sustained only minor damage. Nobody was injured.
Update Wednesday September 4: according to several sources, at least two Gripens arrived today in Surat Thani, Thailand.
Saab Defence started the construction of the first Gripen-E multi-role fighter at its plant at Linköping-Saab airfield, Sweden, reports the company.
First to be constructed is the front fuselage of the first pre-production test aircraft 39-8. Following a short period of design using the latest tools and methods, through so called Model Based Design, the construction of the Gripen E begins with the manufacturing and assembly of all parts of the fuselage. That is thee largest and most time consuming part of the airframe. These parts will then be joined together and assembled into a complete airframe. This is followed by an intensive construction period to install cables, mount systems, the outer shell and other equipment.
Based on the design of previous versions of the Gripen fighter aircraft, the Gripen-E offers a next generation sensor suite, new communication links, a new avionics architecture, more thrust, increased flight time, more weapon stations and load capability, a fully digital cockpit and a brand new electronic warfare system.
The test aircraft 39-8 will be the first complete pre-production version of the Gripen-E and will be used to demonstrate new features and capabilites. The technological leaps in the Gripen-E have been proven in the Gripen demonstrator programme with the Gripen E/F demo aircraft that has flown over 250 hours in countries such as Sweden, the UK, India and Switzerland since 2008.
On February 15, Saab signed an agreement with the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) regarding development and modification of 60 Gripen-E for Sweden during the period 2013-2026 as well as a possible order for new production of Gripen E for Switzerland. More than 1,000 people at Saab are now working solely with the development and production of the Gripen-E.