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Saab JAS 39 Gripen

Posted on February 17 2022

Saab JAS 39 Gripen user+1@localho… Tue, 02/22/2022 - 21:17

The JAS 39 Gripen is a Swedish delta-wing canard multirole fighter produced by Saab. It is powered by a single Volvo RM12 turbofan engine supplying 18,100 lbf. (80.5 kN) of afterburning thrust. The RM12 is a license-produced variant of the General Electric F404-GE-400. The newer JAS 39NG series aircraft carry the higher-power GE F414G, which provides upwards of 22,000 lbf. (97.9 kN) of afterburning thrust.

 

Program History

Requirements Stage

The JAS 39 Gripen was envisaged as a fourth-generation replacement for the SAAB 37 Viggen, the preceding Swedish single-engine fighter. The Viggen program began in 1952 and yielded a flying prototype in 1967. As the world’s first production delta-canard fighter, the Viggen was historically and technically significant, but by the early 1980s a replacement program was required.

Sweden’s defense procurement agency, the FMV, issued the Gripen requirement in 1980 and funded a two-year concept development and study phase. The program was then known as “JAS,” for Jakt, Attack, & Spaning (Fighter, Attack & Reconnaissance). Like the Viggen before it, the JAS program emphasized maintainability, short runway operations and high sortie rates in line with Sweden’s broader defense concept. The JAS would enter service around 1990.

The ambitious timetable was owed to time lost in the 1970s, when the government vacillated over the need to replace the Viggen with an equally or more capable aircraft and whether it was necessary or wise to develop that aircraft in Sweden. To avoid a gap in fighter production at Saab the Gripen would have to enter service in the early 1990s, and fully missionized prototypes would have to be available by the late 80s. This all but guaranteed that the program would jump straight into full system development without a technical risk reduction phase, and that it would endure significant programmatic concurrency.

SAAB-Scania formed an industrial partnership with Volvo Flygmotor, Ericsson and FFV Aerotech to respond to the requirement. The consortium (Industrigruppen JAS) designated its proposal SAAB 2110, and it was accepted by the FMV in June 1981. A contract was definitized in June 1982 for five prototypes and 30 production aircraft with an option for a further 110. As the 39th aircraft to be acquired by the Swedish military, JAS was officially designated JAS 39.

In September 1982 the JAS received the Gripen moniker after a public competition. Gripen is Swedish for Griffin. Around this time a modified Viggen dubbed the ESS JAS first flew with developmental avionics intended for the JAS program.

Parliamentary authorization came from Sweden’s Riksdag by a narrow margin of 176 for to 167 against. The huge expense of the program made it controversial from the outset, and the entire Social Democratic party voted against it. Final approval was not granted until April 1983, with the Riksdag requiring a fixed-price contract.

Development and Flight Testing

Production of the prototypes ran from 1984 to 1988. Saab rolled out the first Gripen prototype to media on Apr. 26, 1987 as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations. The Gripen’s first flight occurred on Dec. 8 of that year. This period was marked by controversy over the program, which had suffered significant schedule slippage and cost overruns. A 2007 EU Institute for Security Studies report would later estimate the program’s R&D costs at €1.84 billion.

Most of these cost overruns were related to flight control system software development and the wing configuration. The wing design had been frozen early in the design process, and hard tooling was developed to construct prototypes, which magnified cost growth when the prototypes experienced unexpected weight growth. The weight growth and associated center of gravity problems required aerodynamic revisions and new tooling. Moreover, it required constant changes to the FCS software, which had been under development since 1983. Saab provided new aerodynamic data to Lear Siegler six times. Each time the new data required software changes roughly half as complex as those required to write the FCS software in the first place.

By the time the first prototype flew the program was 18-30 months behind schedule, and Industriegruppen JAS had submitted a cost estimate for the second production batch significantly higher than the not-to-exceed price specified in the contract. A government estimate from January 1989 showed cost growth of roughly 15%, and put unit costs for the 140 production aircraft at $54 million ($116.2 million in 2020). Industry officials also admitted that the initial batch of 30 aircraft would require significant modifications after flight testing concluded.

On Feb. 2, 1989, the first test article crashed while attempting a landing following its sixth flight. The pilot did not eject but survived with minor injuries despite the total loss of the aircraft. An investigation later determined the crash resulted from a flight control system fault that generated increasingly severe pitch oscillation when the FCS received stick input in excess of predicted values. The problem “subjected [the pilot’s control commands] to such a delay that he was out of phase with the aircraft’s motion,” according to a separate report from Industrigruppen JAS. Previous flights had also demonstrated problems with lateral oscillation.

Unsurprisingly, the crash delayed the Gripen program by about a year, with deliveries to Sweden’s air force then expected to occur in 1993. Flight testing resumed 15 months after the crash. The first production aircraft was handed over to the FMV on June 8, 1993. Only two months later, on Aug. 8, this aircraft crashed at an airshow over Stockholm. The pilot ejected and escaped without injury, but another commission was assembled to evaluate the cause.

In 1995, Saab signed an agreement with British Aerospace to market the JAS 39 to export customers under a joint venture called Saab-BAe Gripen. Under the agreement the enhanced NATO-compatible C/D series aircraft were later developed. The joint venture failed in 2004 when BAE Systems, the successor to BAe, sold most of its shares. The remainder were all sold in 2011.

The next year the JAS 39 was officially introduced to Sweden’s air force with the establishment of the Gripen Training Center at the Skaraborg Wing.

Features

Overall Design

The JAS 39A is a canard-delta lightweight fighter. Its wing and close-coupled control canards are swept 45-deg and the canards are mounted at a dihedral angle. The wings feature both leading edge flaps and trailing edge elevons.

As part of Sweden’s BAS 90 defense planning concept, the Gripen was expected to operate in wartime from dispersed locations organized around stretches of highway. Like the Viggen before it, the Gripen was therefore designed with short-field performance in mind. It can take off and land on runways less than 2,000 ft (610 m) long. Though it does not have a thrust reverser (as the Viggen did), the Gripen can deflect its canards nearly to the vertical to provide drag for short landings. It also features airbrakes on the outside of the intakes, which extend up to 80-deg. during landing.

On the ground the Gripen can be serviced by a ground crew of six people, five of them with minimal training, and Saab claims it can be rearmed and refueled in ten minutes. The aircraft is designed to be as maintainable as possible.

Roughly a third of the Gripen airframe is manufactured out of composites to reduce weight. This includes the wing skin, fin, canards and inlets. BAE Systems worked on fuselage and the wing for the first three prototypes to compensate for Saab’s lack of experience with composites. After these, production was transferred to Saab. The rest of the aircraft is constructed predominately of aluminum. The fuselage itself is aluminum but features composite doors and hatches.

The Gripen’s inlet design is understood to incorporate radar-cross section management features, probably including radar absorbing material. It is unknown whether the design effectively obscures the engine’s fan from radar waves or whether it relies solely on radar absorbing material. The fixed-geometry rectangular intakes are bifurcated and split from the airframe.

Compared to a contemporary western equivalent, the F-16C Block 50, the Gripen has an inferior thrust/weight ratio and a lesser payload capacit. It can handle comparable load factors while maneuvering and has similar maximum speed both at altitude and at sea level. Because of its lower internal fuel capacity, its combat range suffers without the aid of external fuel tanks. Both aircraft have similar high alpha performance, with AoA limits of 26-deg. and 26.5-deg. respectively with light external stores. When all pylons are occupied with heavier munitions and drop tanks the Gripen is limited to 20-deg.

 

Saab JAS 39A

Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50

RCS Estimate

~1m^2

1-3m^2

Empty Weight

14,600 lb.

20,300 lb.

MTOW

28,000 lb.

48,000 lb.

Length

46.3 ft.

49.4 ft.

Wingspan

27.6 ft.

31 ft.

Wing Area

323 ft. sq.

300 ft. sq.

Wing Loading (full fuel load)

60.7 lb./ft. sq.

91.5 lb./ft. sq.

Internal Fuel

5,000 lb.

7,160 lb.

Payload

15,873 lbs. on 10 pylons

17,000 lbs. on 11 pylons

Thrust Class

18,000 lbf.

29,000 lbf.

Thrust/Weight Ratio (no external stores)

0.92

1.02

Maximum Load Factors

+9/-2 G

+9.5/-3.2 G

Maximum Angle of Attack

26-deg.

26.5-deg.

Maximum Speed

Mach 2 at 40,000 ft.

756 kt at sea level

Mach 2 at 40,000 ft.

788 kt at sea level

Key Avionics Systems

  • Saab PS-05/A mechanically scanned radar
  • Northrop Grumman APG-68 mechanically scanned radar
  • Northrop Grumman AN/ALQ-131 or Raytheon AN/ALQ-184 ECM pod

A table comparing the JAS 39A to a contemporary western fighter in the same role, the F-16C Block 50.

For pilot survivability, the Gripen carries a Martin-Baker Mk10 zero-zero ejection seat. The Mk10 is a through the canopy seat – when activated detonation cord affixed to the canopy glass provides the opening for the seat to go through. The canopy itself hinges open to the port side of the aircraft.

Maneuverability and Flight Controls

The Gripen is a statically unstable fighter. It was designed to sustain loads of +9G while maneuvering. It features a triplex digital fly-by-wire flight controls with a triplex analog backup system, which automatically activates if two of the three digital channels fail. There is no mechanical backup. The system was developed by U.S. firm Lear Siegler Inc.

Engine

The Gripen’s Volvo Aero RM12 engine was designed to provide superior single-engine performance over the F404, which was originally designed for the twin-engine McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 carrier-borne fighter. The fan was strengthened to meet these to meet heightened bird-strike survivability requirements. The fan diameter was also increased, and new materials were used in the core stages to increase thrust from the 16,000 lbf. (71.2 kN) of the F404-400 to 18,100 lbf. (80.5 kN). A Hamilton Sunstrand (now Honeywell) generator provides 40 kVA of electrical power

The engine also originally included a digital engine controller (DEC). DEC-related modifications include a more durable fuel pump and a redundant ignition system. On later versions of the engine a full authority DEC (FADEC) was incorporated, allowing the engine parameters to be controlled even more efficiently. The FADEC itself is single channel and is supported by a hydromechanical backup in the event that it fails. It contains two 32-bit processors. GKN Aerospace has held the type certificate for the RM12 since it acquired Volvo Aero in 2012.

The RM12 is started with a Microturbo (now Safran) TGA 15 gas turbine auxiliary power unit (APU). The APU itself is started on battery power and is coupled with a DA 15 air turbine starter to start the engine, provide cooling air and provide electric power in emergencies.

Avionics

The original Gripen cockpit features three Ericsson multifunctional displays (MFDs) and a Hughes wide-angle (28-deg. by 22-deg.) heads-up-display (HUD). The MFDs were monochrome cathode ray tube displays in the first two production batches.

The Gripen’s original Ericsson SDS 80 mission computer featured 30 D80 microprocessors. These were later upgraded to the D80E. Navigation is supported by a Honeywell ring-laser gyroscope-based inertial navigation system (INS). The Gripen’s systems are linked over a triple-redundant MIL-STD-1553B databus. For radio communications, the Gripen carries the Bofors Aerotronics AMR 345 VHF/UHF radio transceiver set.

The JAS 39 carries a PS-05/A pulse-Doppler X-band fire control radar. The PS-05/A is mechanically scanned and uses a slotted-wave guide planar-array antenna. In addition to its air-to-air mode, the radar features a ground mapping synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mode, ground proximity warning, radar warning and low probability of intercept functionality. It can track up to ten targets simultaneously while in track-while-scan (TWS) mode. TWS applies to both air, ground and sea surface modes.

The Gripen A also carried Saab’s Tactical Information Datalink System (TIDLS), a high-bandwidth datalink supporting data transfer at up to 500 km (270 nmi). TIDLS is jam-resistant, and primarily used to share targeting data among Gripens. Critically, it was also intended to interface with the Saab 340B Erieye airborne early warning aircraft.

Defensive Countermeasures

For threat warning, the Gripen A carries a CelsiusTech (now Saab) AR830 radar-warning receiver (RWR). The RWR has antenna installations on the front and back of the wingtip missile launch rails.

The Gripen carries Saab’s programmable BOL-700 electromechanical countermeasures dispensing system, with dispensers includes on the wingtip launch rails. 160 flares or chaff bundles can be carried by BOL. The Gripen also has Saab’s BOP/C and BOP/B pyrotechnical dispensers fitted to the fuselage and wing pylons, respectively. Notably, the BOP/B can trail a BO2D towed RF decoy. BO2D can be deployed supersonically and has several operating modes to counter different threats.

Armament

The Gripen has five external stores stations, one on the centerline and two under each wing. It also has wingtip missile launch rails which typically carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder within visual range infrared-guided air-to-air missile (AAM). The centerline station is typically used for podded electronic warfare systems or a targeting pod.

A Mauser BK 27 27mm autocannon is ventrally mounted and offset to the left of the centerline. The BK 27 is a gas-powered revolver cannon firing 27x145mm ammunition. It is capable of firing at either 1,700 rpm or 1,000 rpm, depending on the mode selected by the pilot, and the Gripen carries 120 rounds of ammunition at maximum load.

External stores certified for use aboard the Gripen include:

  • The Raytheon AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), the primary U.S. beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile (AAM). AMRAAM is an active radar homing missile, and is known as the Rb 99 in Swedish service.
  • The Raytheon AIM-9L Sidewinder within visual range (WVR) AAM. The AIM-9L is an infrared-guided missile with all-aspect capability used by many NATO air arms and by the U.S. prior to the introduction of the more capable AIM-9X.
  • The MBDA MICA within visual range AAM. MICA uses a thrust vector control system to achieve superior agility and has variants with both RF and imaging infrared (IIR) seekers. It also has datalink capability (over Link 16) and can be fired against targets before a lock is achieved. It has all-aspect capability and supports high-off-boresight engagements when paired with a helmet mounted display. Sweden uses the IRIS-T IIR version, known as the Rb 98.
  • The British Aerospace Sky Flash BVR AAM was license produced in Sweden as the Rb 71 for the Gripen prior to introduction of the AMRAAM. It is a semi-active radar homing missile and in Sweden originally served on the JA 37 Viggen.
  • The RBS-15F high subsonic anti-ship missile is a Saab system that entered service in 1985. It uses an active RF seeker in its terminal phase and INS in midcourse. Successive versions (the Mk. II and Mk. III) improved the RBS-15’s guidance capability and signature management. The Mk. III in particular represents a huge jump in capability, with a new TR60-5 turbojet engine, a range in excess of 108 nmi (200 km), GPS, a land attack capability and a new warhead. The air-launched version of the Mk. III is known more properly as the RBS-15F ER. There is also a Mk. IV variant with a range in excess of 162 nmi (300 km) developed since March 2017, but it is unknown if it has been certified on Gripen.
  • The AGM-65A/B is an electro-optically guided antitank guided missile. In Swedish service the AGM-65 is known as the Rb 75. The operator locks the missile by selecting a point of contrast between the target and its background – if the contrast is sufficient the missile will track it after it is fired.
  • The Bombkapsel 90 (BK 90) is a submunitions dispenser designed for low altitude release at ranges of up to 3.8 nmi (7 km). It is known by the manufacturer, EADS/Bofors (now Airbus and Saab, respectively), as the DWS-24/39. The munition later evolved into the KEPD 350 cruise missile. The dispenser contains 24 120 mm launch tubes, each of which can carry either three MJ1 blast-fragmentation submunitions or one larger MJ2 anti-armor submunition. The MJ1 weighs 8.2 lb. (3.7 kg) and the explosively-formed penetrator (EFP)-forming MJ2 weighs 37.3 lb. (16.9 kg). After dispensation the submunitions are retarded by parachute. The BK 90 itself guides to a waypoint supplied by the launching aircraft via an INS and a radar altimeter. As one of the original signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) in December 2008, Sweden no longer deploys the BK 90 and the weapon is not in production.

Variants

JAS 39 A/B

The JAS 39A was the initial serial production variant of the Gripen. The JAS 39B is its two-seater equivalent. To handle the second seat, the JAS 39B is 67 cm (26.4 in) longer than the A-model. The back seat lacks a HUD, though HUD symbology can be projected onto the backseater’s MFDs. The extension also avoided any reduction of the aircraft’s fuel capacity, though it did require the deletion of the cannon.

JAS 39 A/B Batch 2

The first batch of 30 production Gripen airframes was followed by 110 aircraft presented in the initial contract as an option. These featured a number of changes resulting from Sweden’s experience with the batch 1 aircraft. The Microturbo APU was replaced with a T-62T-46LC-1 from Sundstrand (now part of Collins Aerospace, a Raytheon Technologies subisidiary), the flight control computer with a Lockheed Martin system and the HUD with a Kaiser (now also a part of Collins) HUD. The display computer was also replaced.

JAS 39 C/D

As the Batch 2 production run drew to a close, it became clear that the Gripen would need enhanced capabilities to succeed in the export market. The lack of a refueling probe and lack of design emphasis on fuel capacity limited its range, and its datalink was proprietary. The aircraft broadly was not intended to be compatible with NATO fighters or AEW aircraft.

 These considerations led to the JAS 39C, which reached IOC in 2005. The new variant included a retractable in-flight refueling probe and on-board oxygen generation system, allowing it to carry out longer-range missions. The airframe and engine were modified to handle warmer climates. The engine was also upgraded with a FADEC.

Compatibility with air-to-ground weapons and reconnaissance pods was greatly expanded. While Link 16 was not initially included it was eventually fielded with the MS19 upgrade. Self-defense was improved with the Ericsson EWS-39 electronic warfare (EW) system. In addition, the cockpit was upgraded with the new Module Airborne Computer System (MACS) computer system, three large color displays and a helmet-mounted display (HMD) system (Thales Guardian for Swedish aircraft, BAE Systems Cobra for foreign customers).

JAS 39 E/F Gripen Next Generation (NG)

In 2007, Saab launched its Gripen Demonstrator program. Under the program the company acquired a two-seater Gripen airframe intended to evaluate and de-risk capabilities for use on a future Gripen production model. These included the GE F414G higher-thrust engine, an ES-05 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, new weapons and stores and enhanced avionics. At the time of the announcement, Saab anticipated a market for over 200 aircraft. A maiden flight for the Gripen Demo aircraft occurred on May 27, 2008.

 

Saab JAS 39E

Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70

RCS Estimate

~1m^2

1-3m^2

Empty Weight

16,755 lbs.

20,300 lbs.

MTOW

36,376 lbs.

48,000 lbs.

Length

49.2 ft.

49.3 ft.

Wingspan

28.2 ft.

31 ft.

Wing Area

343 ft. sq.

300 ft. sq.

Wing Loading (full fuel load)

70.7 lb./ft. sq.

101.7 lb./ft.sq w/CFT

Internal Fuel

7,495 lbs.

7,160 lbs.; + 3,040 lbs. w/CFT

Payload

15,873 lbs. on 10 pylons

17,000 lbs. on 11 pylons

Thrust Class

22,000 lbf.

29,000 lbf.

Thrust/Weight Ratio (no external stores)

0.91

0.95 w/CFT

Maximum Load Factors

+9/-3 G

+9/-3G

Maximum Angle of Attack

26-deg.

26.5-deg.

Flyaway Cost ($M 2021)

85

70

Key Avionics Systems

  • Saab ES-05 Raven AESA
  • Leonardo Skyward IRST
  • Saab MFS-EW
  • Northrop Grumman APG-83 SABR AESA
  • Lockheed Martin IRST (podded)
  • L3Harris SkyShield

A table comparing the latest variant of the Lockheed Martin F-16 to the JAS 39E.

Sweden expressed interest in the new variant as early as 2010, but did not commit to a purchase until January 2013. Sweden’s armed forces proposed the acquisition of 60 Gripen Es. These were originally intended to be conversions from JAS 39Cs, but ultimately the government opted to authorize a new-build acquisition. The contract was signed by May 2016.

The NG’s F414G engine increases thrust by over 20% compared to the RM12 and enables supersonic flight without the use of afterburners. It differs from the F414-GE-400 used aboard the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with a modified alternator to provide additional electric power, and with modifications to the FADEC software to support single-engine operation. In clean configuration, the Gripen NG is capable of supercruise.

The landing gear was redesigned to retract into the wing, rather than the fuselage, both of which were enlarged to carry another 2,400 lb. (1,090 kg) of fuel and accommodate two more hardpoints on the fuselage. To compensate for the accompanying change in center of gravity, the fuselage is lengthened aft of the wing by 37 cm (14.6 in). The vertical stabilizer is enlarged to compensate for the increase in fuselage size, the change to wing placement and the higher thrust of the F414G.

The JAS 39E/F features the ES-05 Raven swashplate-mounted AESA radar. The swashplate increases the radar's 140° field of view by 30° on either side, enabling a total field of regard of 200°. Target interrogation is improved by a new identification friend-or-foe (IFF) system with three electronically steered antennas. A Selex (now Leonardo) Skyward G internal IRST facilitates detection of lower radar cross section (RCS) targets and permits aircraft working together to conduct passive ranging and tracking of airborne threats with high accuracy. The JAS 39E/F's cockpit is also enhanced with new computers and an AEL Sistemas 19x8 in. (48x20 cm) wide area display. AEL also provided the Targo helmet mounted display (HMD) for the Gripen NG, and the aircraft’s HUD.

Gripen NG was also designed with roundly modern electronic warfare and self protection capabilities. Its EW suite, dubbed MFS-EW, includes advanced electronic support measures (ESM) equipment designed to allow the Gripen to passively acquire targets and maintain situational awareness. It primarily relies on interferometric direction finding, and has all-aspect capability. All of the EW equipment is controlled by an electronic warfare control unit (EWCU). MFS-EW also includes Elbit Systems’ PAWS-2 infrared missile approach warning system (MAWS). PAWS-2 is composed of six sensor apertures and a central processor.

MFS-EW’s jamming system is built around gallium nitride (GaN) AESA transmitters located in the wingtip stations and atop the fin. The wingtip emitters operate in the mid-band while the fin emitters operate in the low-band. Together they have 360-deg. coverage. The system includes digital radio frequency memory so that it can capture and retransmit received radio signals.

In view of the wingtip EW equipment, Gripen NG shifts the BOL-739 countermeasures dispensers to the four wing pylons. It also includes three upward-firing BOP-G dispensers in the right wing root and a fourth firing downward from the rear fuselage. The countermeasures dispensers are integrated directly into the airframe and shielded by a panel when not in use to minimize their RCS impact.

Jamming systems on multiple aircraft can operate together, allowing one aircraft to jam a target while another tracks it. The jamming beam also can be programmed to automatically "hop" unpredictably among aircraft in a formation. Finally, the aircraft also will carry a Selex-ES Bright Cloud expendable active decoy.

Proposed Derivatives

In 2013, Saab proposed a navalized variant of the Gripen NG to serve aboard India’s carriers. This “Sea Gripen” proposal was delivered in response to a request for information from the Indian Navy. At the end of 2021, the resulting tender for 57 fighters is still open, and the Navy is seeking a twin-engine fighter. It is unlikely that the Gripen has a realistic chance in the competition, for which the F/A-18E/F and Dassault Rafale are more suitable. India is also evaluating a clean-sheet design in place of a foreign fighter.

Around the same time, Saab also floated the concept of an optionally or remotely piloted Gripen. Without demonstrated customer interest the proposal withered on the vine and has not been mentioned since.

Upgrades

Saab has introduced numerous incremental upgrade packages to the Gripen as “Mission System” packages. This is similar to “Block” designations on other aircraft, and versions are denoted with the letters MS and two numbers.

MS19 and MS20

Major upgrades for the JAS 39C/D began in 2010 with MS19. The upgrade includes Link 16 (for Swedish Gripens), Have Quick II radios, night vision goggles, software improvements to the PS-05 radar and self-protection enhancements. MS19 also adds stores compatibility with the Northrop Grumman Litening III targeting pod, Diehl IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile and precision guided munitions.

The latest C/D upgrade is the MS20 configuration which was introduced in 2016. MS20 adds the PS-05/A Mk 4 radar, improved Link 16 connectivity and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protection. New stores and weapon options include the MBDA Meteor air-to-air missile (AAM), Boeing GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB I) and Saab Spaningskapsel 39 II (SPK II) reconnaissance pod.

The PS-05/A Mk 4 radar is the core of the MS20 upgrade. The Mk 4 adds a new radar processing unit and exciter receiver unit but retains its mechanically scanned antenna. Saab claims the Mk 4 improves the PS-05’s high-altitude air-to-air detection performance by more than 150% when compared to the earlier Mk 3 introduced in 2005. Air-to-surface acquisition performance has increased by more than 100%. According to the FMV, the earlier Mk 3 can detect fighter-sized targets at a range of 120 km (75 miles) and can perform SAR and Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) functions at 70 km (44 miles). The Mk 4 introduces two new synthetic aperture radar (SAR) modes – with three meter and below one-meter resolution sizes, as well as a new maritime sea search mode. Increased processing power, waveform generation and reception as well as new software also improve the JAS 39’s electronic countermeasure performance.

The first MS20 configured JAS 39C was delivered to the Swedish Air Force in 2016. In May 2018, Saab received a 255 million SEK (28.5 million in 2019 dollars) contract to upgrade JAS 39C/D aircraft to the MS20 configuration; all instances of foreign currency are inflated first in SEK before conversion to 2019 dollars.

On Jan. 12, 2022 it was reported that Hungary’s air force had signed a contract to upgrade its Gripen C/Ds to the MS20 Block 2 standard. Block 2 differs from the existing MS20 configuration with upgrades to the PS-05/A Mk 4, upgrades to the aircraft’s Link 16 capability and installation of Mode 5 IFF. Block 2 aircraft also receive the capability to use the Meteor BVRAAM and GBU-49.

MS21 and MS22

These designations refer to the first two configurations of the Gripen NG. In MS21, only the passive features of the EW system will be available. With the MS22 release Gripen NG will be capable of using its jamming functionality.

IRIS-T

Various Gripen customers have chosen to procure the MBDA IRIS-T short-range AAM instead of the Sidewinder, including Sweden. Sweden’s air force committed to an IRIS-T program ahead of the first Gripen deliveries, and ahead of IRIS-T fielding as well. Because the IRIS-T was designed to be backwards compatible with aircraft capable of handling the Sidewinder, no integration work beyond flight testing and certification was required. The missile was first test fired from a Gripen in June 2007.

IRIS-T has high-off-boresight engagement capability and is supported on the Gripen by a helmet-mounted cueing system. The HMCS was ordered by Sweden in October 2007. Export Gripen customers using IRIS-T include Brazil, Hungary, South Africa and Thailand.

Meteor

MBDA’s Meteor ducted rocket ramjet-powered BVRAAM has been integrated on Sweden’s Gripen fleet since 2016. The Gripen was the first aircraft to achieve operational capability with the Meteor. In Swedish air force service the missile is known as the Rb101. The Gripen E/F is capable of both rail and eject launch of the Meteor and can carry seven simultaneously. Meteor had previously been test fired from the Gripen in March 2014. The C/D series can also employ Meteor when in the MS20 configuration.

The missile itself possesses a two-way datalink to support midcourse guidance updates from the launch aircraft and to enable retargeting. Meteor is guided by an active radar seeker in its terminal phase and an INS in midcourse. It has a radar proximity fuze and an annular blast-fragmentation warhead, though it also contains an impact fuze.As part of its Gripen NG procurement, Brazil ordered 100 Meteors in 2019. The second batch of of the missiles was delivered in December 2021.

Lightweight Air Launched Decoy Missile (LADM)

LADM is a stand-in jammer developed by Saab for deployment on the Gripen NG. It was developed in cooperation with Finnish industry.

Electronic Attack Jammer Pod (EAJP)

EAJP is an external electronic attack pod launched by Saab in 2017. Flight testing began in November 2019. Like LADM, it is intended for the Gripen NG. EAJP is part of the Arexis family of electronic warfare systems, and incorporates a gallium nitride (GaN) AESA, ultra-wideband digital receivers and digital radio frequency memory. It is expected to draw less than 5 KW of electrical power from the host aircraft, and uses an air colling system provided by Liebherr. Though intended for the Gripen NG, the pod has been tested on a JAS 39D.

Production and Delivery History

Saab has built a total of 230 JAS 39 A/B/C/D airframes, not including five prototypes. Saab remanufactured 45 JAS 39A/Bs to the C/D standard for the Swedish and Hungarian Air Forces for a total production run of 275 aircraft. The last remanufactured JAS 39C produced was delivered to the Swedish Air Force in March 2015. The last entirely new-build JAS 39C was delivered in September 2013 for the Royal Thai Air Force. The Swedish Air Force has committed to 60 JAS 39Es and the Brazilian Air Force is ordering 28 JAS 39Es and 8 JAS 39Fs. Gripen NG production is expected to continue into at least the late 2020s.

Saab’s 2014 offer of 22 Gripen Es for 17.7 billion Swedish Kronor ($2.73 billion USD in 2021) suggests a rough unit cost of $124.1 million per aircraft. This should not be construed as comparable to a flyaway cost figure, though the topline 17.7 billion figure does not include weapons or the logistics support provided as part of the package. It also bears mention that this offer ultimately failed and was made before Gripen NG development was complete. It is likely that the true flyaway cost of the aircraft is significantly below $124.1 million.

In December 2021, Thailand’s Air Chief Marshal Napadej Dhupatemiya quoted the flyaway cost of a new-build Gripen E at $85 million, placing it $3 million above the cost of F-35As available to the country.

Outstanding Gripen E/F Bids

Saab is marketing the Gripen NG to a variety of foreign customers, including Canada, Colombia, Finland and India.

Botswana has since 2016 sought a replacement for its aging fleet of Northrop F-5E/F Freedom Fighters. At least eight aircraft are required, and the country has considered both the Gripen and the KAI FA-50. Because of Botswana’s limited fiscal resources and relatively benign security environment, the government is likely to have a preference for a low-cost solution such as the FA-50. As of January 2022 Botswana has yet to make a type selection.

Canada is seeking 88 fighters to replace its Boeing CF-18 Hornets under its Future Fighter Capability Project. Bids have been received for the JAS 39E/F, the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the Lockheed Martin F-35A. In November 2021 Canada ruled out the Super Hornet.

Colombia has an outstanding RFP for 12-18 new fighters to replace its IAI Kfirs. Saab has responded to the bid, as has Eurofighter. Dassault and the U.S. government have both also offered secondhand aircraft, the Rafale and F-16 respectively. Progress on the requirement in the near future is unlikely – Colombia’s government has been unable to fund the project since mid-2019.

India’s Air Force has an outstanding requirement for 114 twin-engine fighters. While definitively outside the weight and power class specified, Saab intends to bid anyway, citing the lower cost of the capability. Other competitors include the Rafale, the Boeing F-15EX, the F/A-18E/F and the Lockheed Martin’s F-21 (an F-16V with additional capabilities). India could also consider the Mikoyan MiG-35 and Sukhoi Su-35. Saab claims it can provide Gripen for half the price of the Rafale.

Unsuccessful Bids

Croatia received a bid from Saab under its July 2019 to replace its MiG-21 fleet. In May 2020, it selected a French govt. bid to supply 12 used Rafale F3-Rs for €999 million (US$1.1 billion). Saab had offered 12 Gripen C/Ds, which would likely have been drawn from the 14 “white-tail” Gripens bought by the Swedish government in 2019. Pursuant to a previous 2017 tender, Croatia had in 2018 selected an Israeli offering of used F-16C/Ds before the U.S. government refused to permit reexport early the next year. [For more on the white-tail aircraft refer to the “Sweden” entry of this section]

Finland had sought 64 new fighters under its H-X program until Dec. 10, 2021, when it selected the F-35A over the JAS 39E. Saab’s bid had included GlobalEye  AEW&C aircraft as part of its €6.5 billion ($7.36 billion) bid. €1 billion ($1.13 billion) of that package would cover the AEW&C aircraft and the remainder the fighter, and Saab separately offered a €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) weapons package for the planes. The bid included both the EAJP and the LADM.

Slovakia has long sought a replacement for its Russian MiG-29 fighters. In January 2014, reports emerged that the Slovak defense ministry was in talks with Saab to procure an unspecified number of Gripens. Planning around that time aimed at fielding 8 Gripens to form a joint squadron with the Czech Gripen fleet, but funds were ultimately not available. A lease was also contemplated but did not materialize. In February 2018, Slovakia announced that it was considering a purchase of either the F-16 or Gripen C/D, with an analysis of alternatives due at the end of June. At this time Slovakia was targeting 2.0% spending of GDP on defense by 2024, up from 1.1% in 2017 and 1.6% budgeted for 2020, leaving significant room for the fighter procurement. As expected, in mid-2018 Slovakia released a source selection – the F-16V beat out Saab’s offer of 14 Gripen C/Ds. Slovakia found the Gripen C/D to have inferior fuel capacity, inferior combat radius, inferior endurance, inferior climb ability, inferior acceleration and inferior payload capability compared to the F-16V. Slovakia also cited the C/D’s lack of an AESA and dated EW/self-protection capability compared to the F-16V.

Switzerland has for years been seeking a replacement for its fleet of F/A-18 legacy Hornets. Its first competition concluded with the selection of 22 Gripen NGs over the Rafale and Eurofighter in 2010, but the deal was struck down in a 2014 popular referendum. Under Swiss law, federal laws can be subjected to a referendum if 50,000 voters sign a petition authorizing one or if eight of Switzerland’s cantons request one within 100 days of the passage of a law. After the failure of the first procurement, Switzerland in early 2016 began preparing a new project it termed “Air2030,” 2030 being the year it expected the F/A-18 fleet to exit service. An RFQ was put out on July 6th, 2018 and it received its first responses in January 2019.

Meanwhile, the Swiss parliament authorized a referendum on the effort, which it estimated at 6.3 billion Swiss Francs. Air2030 also included a competition for a ground-based air-defense system (GBADS). Saab, Boeing, Dassault, Eurofighter and Lockheed Martin all submitted bids. On Sep. 27, 2020 the Swiss electorate approved the effort by an extremely narrow margin of around 9,000 votes. The F-35A was selected to fulfill the requirement on June 30, 2021, in view of its superior air-to-air capability compared to its competitors and in view of Swiss estimations that the F-35 would cost less to buy and fly in the long term. For the GBADS portion of the program, Switzerland selected the Raytheon MIM-104 Patriot. Swiss selection of the F-35A was not viewed as likely and in many quarters is regarded as unwise or unnecessary given new fighters are likely to be relegated to air policing duties for their entire service lives, as Switzerland has no clear state threats to its security and is expected to continue its stridently noninterventionist foreign policy indefinitely.

Sweden

The Swedish Air Force has received 235 JAS 39 A/B/C/D Gripens – 106 As, 14 Bs, 88 Cs (18 of which were remanufactured As) and 27 Ds (13 of which were remanufactured Bs). These aircraft were delivered between 1993 and 2015 and were purchased in three lots and one remanufacture contract: The Lot 1 contract covering 30 JAS 39As (one was converted to a JAS 39B prototype) was signed in 1982; deliveries began in 1993 and concluded in 2002. The Lot 2 contract covering 110 aircraft – 96 JAS 39As and 14 JAS 39Bs – was signed in 1992 – though the final 20 aircraft were delivered at the JAS 39C standard. The Lot 3 contract for 64 aircraft – 50 JAS 39Cs and 14 JAS 39Ds – was signed in 1996, with deliveries occurring from 2003 to 2007. In addition, in 2007 an upgrade contract was signed covering 31 A/Bs to be rebuilt to the C/D standard between 2009 and 2015. The Swedish Air Force originally sought to equip 16 squadrons with 280 aircraft to replace the Saab 35 Draken and Saab 37 Viggen. In 1996, this figure was revised down to 204 aircraft totaling 175 single-seaters and 29 twin-seaters. In 2005, the Swedish Air Force transferred 10 JAS 39Cs and two JAS 39Ds to the Czech Republic. In 2006, Sweden announced its intent to move to a reduced force structure of 100 JAS 39C/Ds. The last of Sweden’s JAS 39A/B aircraft were retired in December 2012. Four JAS 39Cs have been lost in accidents and one additional JAS 39D was transferred to Hungary as an attrition replacement. As of December 2021, the Swedish Air Force operated 72 JAS 39Cs and 22 JAS 39Ds. Saab operates one JAS 39C as a test bed platform.

Sweden plans to replace its 100 JAS 39C/Ds with 60 JAS 39Es. In 2013, the Swedish Defence Materiel Organization (FMV) signed a 16.4 billion SEK ($1.9 billion in 2019 dollars) contract for the development and conversion of 60 JAS 39Cs to the E standard. In February 2017, the FMV announced that JAS 39E rebuilds will use JAS 39A components instead of JAS 39Cs to maximize the number of operational aircraft. Parts will be pulled from the 30 JAS 39As held in strategic reserve. The remaining JAS 39Es will be new-build aircraft. As of June 2017, the government was considering increasing the JAS 39E buy to 70 aircraft. C/D model Gripens will continue to operate until at least 2027 and Sweden expects the JAS 39E will remain in service until at least 2040. Meanwhile, three JAS 39E prototypes are now in operation with Saab, and in November 2021 deliveries commenced to the Air Force.

Sweden also apparently signed a contract with Saab in 2019 to procure 10 JAS 39Cs and 4 JAS 39Ds to forestall closure of the C/D production line. These aircraft were not intended to serve in the Swedish Air Force; it was hoped that Saab could eventually secure an export customer for these “white-tail” airplanes. Based on Swedish media reporting, the airframes are not fully fitted out and likely lack propulsion and major avionics subsystems, which could still be procured and installed after the C/D line closes. Saab has since failed to secure export deals for these airplanes in Slovakia, which selected the F-16V in 2019; Romania, which is seeking 32 ex-Norwegian F-16A/Bs; and Croatia, which in 2021 announced it would acquire 12 used French Rafales.

South Africa

South Africa was the Gripen's first export customer, ordering 28 aircraft (19 Cs and nine Ds) on Dec. 12, 1999, for 17 billion SEK ($2.31 billion in 2019 dollars); the order later was reduced by two Cs. First flight of Johannesburg's Gripens occurred in November 2005. Deliveries occurred between 2008 and 2012. Ongoing economic difficulties have limited the availability and flight hours of South Africa’s Gripen fleet.

South African industry also participates significantly in the Gripen program. In the late 1990s, Saab contracted with Denel Aerospace in Johannesburg to design and develop the Gripen’s NATO pylon. Since 2003, Denel has manufactured the main landing gear unit and rear fuselage sections for all Gripen aircraft. In June 2006, Saab purchased a 20% stake in Denel.

In recent years South Africa has struggled to keep its Gripen fleet operational due to the evisceration of the country’s defense budget to fund competing priorities. In December 2021 the problem became so severe that the entire fleet was grounded due to lack of funds and failure to renew sustainment contracts on time. Half of the South African Gripen fleet has reportedly been cannibalized for spare parts.

Hungary

In December 2001, Hungary signed a deal with Saab to lease 12 JAS 39As and two JAS 39Bs over the period from 2005 to 2015. On Feb. 3, 2003, an amendment was signed that changed the lease period to 2006 to 2016 and changed the aircraft to C/D variants. The amended contract was worth 2 billion SEK ($260.3 million in 2019 dollars). Hungary renewed its lease with the FMV in 2012 until 2026. In 2017, Hungary added an additional 400 flight hours per year, to 2,000 per year for the remainder of the lease. Hungary’s Gripens have recieved the MS20 upgrade package.

Saab remanufactured early JAS 39A aircraft from Lot 1 production to the C standard. Hungary’s aircraft are sometimes designated as the JAS 39C/D EBS HU (Export Baseline Standard Hungary) as NATO requirements necessitated changes from the standard C/D model. EBS HU modifications include Link 16, Mark XII IFF and NATO-compliant hardpoints. In 2015, the Hungarian Air Force lost a JAS 39D during the exercise Lion Effort 2015. Sweden provided an attrition replacement aircraft from its own fleet.

Czech Republic

On June 14, 2004, the Czech Republic signed a lease for 12 JAS 39Cs and two JAS 39Ds over the period from 2005 to 2015; these aircraft were all delivered in 2005. In 2014, the lease was extended through 2027 with an option for another two years.

Thailand

The Royal Thai Air Force has ordered a total of 12 Gripens in two batches, each of four Cs and two Ds, to replace a portion of its F-5 fleet. Thailand purchased its Gripens with a pair of Saab 340B Erieye Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft. The first six Gripens and a single Erieye were purchased in 2008 and were delivered in 2011 at a cost of 3.8 billion SEK ($467 million in 2019 dollars). The second batch of six Gripens as well as an additional Erieye were purchased in 2010 for 2.2 billion SEK ($270 million in 2019 dollars) and were delivered in 2013. Thailand received the last new-build JAS 39C airframe. Thailand lost a JAS 39C in a crash in January 2017. An attrition replacement is expected by the end of 2023.

Thailand’s Gripens are equipped with the indigenous datalink, Link T, which networks the Air Force’s Erieyes and Gripens. Thailand has expressed interest in upgrading its remaining 11 Gripens to the MS20 configuration as well as purchasing at least six additional airframes. In the RTAF’s 2020 white paper, the service indicated its intent to replace its unmodernized Lockheed Martin F-16A/Bs with new fighters in four batches of six aircraft from 2023 to 2033. As of December 2021 the country was considering procuring eight F-35As in two batches of four aircraft each. It is unclear whether the U.S. would prove willing to authorize the exportation of the F-35 to an air arm that has engaged in joint air-to-air combat exercises with China’s PLAAF as recently as 2019. In early January 2022, the Thai government set aside $420 million to acquire four jets. It also intends to procure an attrition replacement in 2023 for a JAS 39C lost in a 2017 accident.

Brazil

On Dec. 18, 2013, Brazil selected the JAS 39E/F to fill its FX-2 requirement. On Oct. 24, 2014, Saab and the Brazilian Air Force’s Aeronautics Command (COMAER) signed a 39.3 billion SEK ($4.5 billion in 2019 dollars) contract covering 36 Gripen NGs, comprising 28 JAS 39Es and eight JAS 39Fs. Gripen deliveries to the Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira, FAB) began in 2021 and will continue until at least 2024. Early deliveries will involve single-seat aircraft with the two-seat aircraft arriving later. In July 2020, Saab announced that Saab Aeronáutica Montagens (SAM) had begun fabrication of Gripen components in Brazil. Components will be shipped to final assembly lines operated by Embraer in Gavião Peixoto, Brazil as well as Saab's plant in Linköping, Sweden. 

Once in service, the 36 aircraft will be used by the FAB for air defense, airspace policing, attack and reconnaissance missions. The Gripen first will replace the Dassault Mirage 2000C, which Brazil bought as an interim fighter back in 2005 and retired in December 2013. The first unit to receive the new model will be the 1st Air Defense Group, based in Annapolis, a unit that has been without aircraft since the Mirage retirement. The FAB plans to keep its Gripens in service until 2050.

FAB officials have stated they plan to buy "at least" 108 Gripens and possibly as many at 136 to replace the countries' F-5EM/FMs and A-1Ms. However, ongoing economic difficulties are likely to delay follow-on orders. In February 2019, Saab CEO Hakan Buskhe stated that the company was discussing a new batch of Gripens with Brazil; at the end of 2021 these talks were still ongoing. Brazilian modifications have incurred additional costs to the program.

FAB Gripens will be equipped with a panoramic, big-screen cockpit display to be developed and manufactured by Elbit’s Brazilian affiliate, AEL Sistemas. The air arm also intended to integrate the South African Denel A-Darter infrared, short-range, air-to-air missile and the MAR-1, an indigenously developed anti-radiation missile produced by Odebrecht Defense & Technology. In view of the effective collapse of Denel, which has failed to pay salaries to its employees for much of 2020 and 2021, and the success of IRIS-T on the Gripen, Brazil in December 2020 opted to acquire the IRIS-T.

As the only customer so far to order the two-seat NG variant, Brazil will be partially responsible for the development of that version. Both Embrare and Akaer cooperate with Saab on the project. Around 15 of the Gripens will be wholly assembled in Brazil, including all of the two-seaters; the remainder will be built in Sweden by both Swedish and Brazilian engineers. The deal also includes an industrial cooperation agreement that will, according to Saab, “deliver substantial technology transfer from Saab to Brazilian industry.” This technology transfer will take place over 10 years and brings the total value of the program to $13 billion, according to the Brazilian MoD.

United Kingdom

The UK’s Empire Test Pilots’ School has operated a lone JAS 39D to train its test pilots since 1999. It is leased from Saab, and the lease is renewed every three years.

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