Tag Archives: SAAB

‘Swedish Air Force most capable combat force northern Europe’

Since 11 July the Swedish Air Force has reaffirmed its dominant position as the most capable combat force of Northern Europe. Reaching Initial Operational Capability with the indigenous SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen MS20 armed with Meteor outclasses – according to experts and Airheadsfly.com – currently all other nations in the greater Baltic Sea area – apart from Russia.

At the moment the Gripen is the only combat aircraft in the world flying the new MBDA Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM). Moreover the MS20 firmware update of the JAS 39´s enhances the technological status of the Gripen even further.

Armed with 88 operational Gripen C/Ds – with many being fully updated and Meteor-ready relatively soon – the Flygvapnet keeps the F-16 equipped air arms of Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland; the F/A-18 equipped Finnish Air Force; and the Eurofighter EF2000 / Tornado equipped Luftwaffe and Royal Air Force in its rear-view mirror.

A Czech Gripen during Lion Effort 2015 (Image © Martin Král)
A Czech Gripen during Lion Effort 2015 (Image © Martin Král)

Czech Air Force

NATO allies flying the Gripen jet take the new capabilities too, with the Czech Air Force jumping to get its 14 Gripen jets to MS20 standard as well. Apart from better missions systems the MS20 gives Gripen operators more options when it comes to air-to-air, air-to-surface and ISTAR (information, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance).

Meteor BVRAAM

The MBDA Meteor is the most significant new weapon system in the MS20 configuration. The ramjet-powered BVRAAM is probably the most advanced air-to-air weapon currently deployed it the West. It has a range of 63 miles (100 km), with MBDA boasting a “no escape zone” of about 40 miles (60 km) – three times more than any similar missile of today.

A SAAB Gripen armed with the RBS15 long range Air-launched Anti Ship Missile. (Image © SAAB Group)
A SAAB Gripen armed with the RBS15 long range Air-launched Anti Ship Missile. (Image © SAAB Group)

Speaking at the Farnborough International Airshow 2016 on Monday Major General Mats Helgesson, Chief-of-Staff of the Swedish Air Force, could not hide his pride.

“After extensive testing by Swedish Defence Materiel Organisation and the Gripen Operational Test and Evaluation unit, all of the new MS20 functions including the Meteor missile are now fully integrated with Gripen. The Swedish Air Force is now in its Initial Operational Capability phase with the Meteor. The Meteor missile is currently the most lethal radar-guided missile in operational service, and the Swedish Air Force is the only operational user so far.”

Rafales

Probably the Dassault Rafales of the French Air Force will be next flying the Meteor operational. After that the Eurofighter Typhoons of the Royal Air Force and the air arms of Germany, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Italy will follow. The RAF and Aeronautica Militare Italiana plan to field the Meteor as well on their future Lockheed Martin F-35s; while Rafales of the Egyptian and Qatar Emiri Air Force will likely use it as well.

Air-to-ground Gripen

Back to Sweden, where the MS20 update of the Gripen also enables the jets to fly newer air-to-ground weapons, like the Boeing GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb for a precision strike. Equipped with four launchers of four SDBs each, a single Gripen carry 16 of these into combat while retaining its counter-air weapons. The new Gripen E, which was rolled out earlier this Spring at SAAB in Linköping, will even have a bigger carry-load.

ISTAR and nuclear Gripen

New ISTAR capabilities on the Gripen C/D MS20 include a modified recon pod providing infra-red sensors and real-time display of images in the cockpit, plus increased data recording.

The Link 16 datalink has been improved so that fighters and other units can more quickly exchange information with each other – making the force flying the Gripen in theory more effective against its opponent – which will come of very handy in the Close Air Support role.

The Gripen MS20 is also fully operational now when having to fly in zones where chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons (CBRN) have been used.

Spearhead

The new SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen MS20 armed with its new weapons will for some time to come make the Swedish Air Force the spearhead of technological advantage in the greater Baltic Sea area – handy for a country which is the centre of it from a geographical and even military/political perspective – having a full flirt with NATO and questionable meetings with the Russian Air Force.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com senior contributor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top):One of the two US Air Force B-52s in formation with Swedish Air Force SAAB JAS 39 Gripen jets passing by the USS San Antonio off the coast of Southern Sweden on 13 June 2015 (Image © US Navy)

Unveiled: next generation Saab Gripen

Saab unveiled its long expected Gripen NG (Next Generation) on Wednesday 18 May during a rollout ceremony at its development and production facility in Linköping in central Sweden. As reported already, the new Gripen NG – also known as Gripen E/F – is basically a bigger version of the current Gripen C/D. And, Saab adds, better foremost.

The new Gripen was rolled out after one hour of speeches from officials of both Saab and the Swedish and Brazilian air forces. So far, Sweden and Brazil are the only customers for the latest Gripen. Sweden has ordered 60 aircraft (with a desire for 70) while Brazil is expecting 36 jets, most of those to be produced locally in Brazil.

Production

Saab thinks it is able to produce 30 fighters a year at its plant in Linköping, Sweden. The first E is planned to be delivered to the Swedish Air Force in 2019, with the first operational division of two dozen aircraft in 2023 and final deliveries in 2026. Brazil might expand its 36 Gripen-E to more, including export versions to other Latin American countries.

The Flygvapnet officially currently has 97 JAS 39 Gripen C/Ds, of which about 86 are operational. Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Thailand together have combined another 66 Gripens on strength.

More, larger, newer

The new generation Gripen is powered by a General Electric F414-400 engine that supplies 22,000 lbs. of thrust (+40% compared to power plant Gripen C/D), and is designed to serve 30 to 40 years while delivering low maintenance costs. The jet offers more fuel (+40%), range and payload (+20%) than earlier Gripens. Despite it all, it is only 3 percent bigger than the Gripen C/D. According to Saab, the newer radar and sensors of the Gripen are able to detect new generation stealth aircraft like the Lockheed Martin F-35 and the Sukhoi PAK-T50.

(Image © Saab)
(Image © Saab)

According to Saab, the Gripen E/F is designed to combat the most advanced threats anywhere, offering adaptability and the capability to operate in complex scenarios. The Gripen project offers industrial offsets as well as knowledge transfer between countries in order to strengthen industries.

‘Smart fighter’

The Swedes always have had any eye for designing smart and flexible fighter jets. Like previous generations of aircraft the Gripen is suited for operations from rural road and offers great Independence from complex and costly logistical systems. It’s therefore no surprise that Saab now markets its new Gripen as the ‘smart fighter’.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest and senior contributor Marcel Burger
Images: Saab AB

US will not offer F-15 and F-16 to Finland

Contrary to reports from Helsinki in April, the US Departement of Defense will not offer the Boeing F-15 Eagle and Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon to Finland as possible replacements for the country’s fleet of ‘legacy’ F-18 Hornets. Washington told Helsinki it will not respond to Finland’s Request for Information (RfI) for those jets, Finnish MoD confirmed on Monday 2 May. Washington however will send information on the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

Both the F-15 and F-16 were named on a list of candidates released by Helsinki in April. Both were designed in the 70s and are nearing the end of production in the US. Their inclusion in Finland’s list – and the inclusion of the F-15 in particular – came as a surprise to many, although officials earlier said that Finland was open to all offers that met the conditions of the HX-fighter project. That is the name assigned to the F-18 Hornet replacement program.

Candidates

The candidates now left in that program, are the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-35 and Saab’s next generation JAS-39 Gripen. The latter will see its rollout of the factory in Sweden on 18 May.

All manufacturers will have to send Helsinki all required information by the end of this year. Comparison of the performances of all jets is scheduled for 2018 and a final decision is expected not before 2021.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Finnish Air Force F-18 Hornet. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Finland includes F-15 in ‘complex’ Hornet replacement

The Finnish ministry of Defense formally started the process for replacing its F-18 Hornets this week by sending out a Request for Information (RfI) to various aircaft manufacturers. Helsinki asks those manufacturers to respond by the end of this year, but expects a final decision no sooner than 2021.

The nordic country wants more info on the Boeing F-15 Eagle and F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16 and F-35, plus Saab the nex generation Gripen. The odd one in that list the F-15, a type that wasn’t widely named in the Finnish quest for a F-18 Hornet replacement before.

However, Helsinki in December did say that manufacturers were free to offer any aircraft that would fit the country’s requirements. It puts new light on the deployment of US F-15s to Finland in May.

Comparison

The RfI should have been handed out several months ago, but ‘logistic’ problems caused delays. Helsinki states the acquisition is ‘very large and complex’ ad therefore will take time. Comparison of the performances of all jets is scheduled for 2018.

The current F-18 Hornets should start leaving Finnish Air Force service in 2025, with the last one gone by 2030.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Finnish Air Force F-18 Hornet, seen during exercise Frisian Flag 2016. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

 

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)