The Jas 39 Gripen E/F fighter, the sixth variant in the Gripen family, is slightly bigger than previous versions, has a more powerful engine and updated radar systems.
In a world which high-end and complex jet fighters like the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and most notably, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is dominating the media when it comes to the global fighter market. Not all countries need and can afford these top fighters. Even some countries want to but can’t buy it because they have poor relations with the West. They can choose from machines manufactured by Russia or China, there is a sizeable market for lower cost alternatives. It is this market that Sweden’s Saab JAS-39 Gripen dominates.
The commander of Sweden’s air force, Mats Helgesson, recently made the bold statement that his country’s Saab Gripen E fighter could beat Russia’s formidable fleet of Sukhoi jets with none of the expensive stealth technology the US relies on.
“Gripen, especially the E-model, is designed to kill Sukhois. There we have a black belt,” Helgesson told at a presentation in Finland, where Sweden is trying to export the jets.
So what makes Jas 39 Gripen E so special? Let’s talk a little bit about Jas 39 for you to remember. The JAS-39 is an excellent low cost fourth-generation fighter. Originally developed in Sweden the 1980s, part of the that nation’s efforts at maintaining a neutral foreign policy stance. The Nordic machine is designed to be relatively cheap, easy to maintain and fight off any potential aggressor.
Those traits have made the Gripen an attractive prospect for many nations including Brazil, South Africa, Czech Republic, Hungary and Thailand. More countries deterred by the outrageous price tags of rival machines, are likely to jump onboard the Gripen bandwagon as more advanced derivatives of the Swedish jet enter production.
The Gripen has undergone many upgrades. JAS 39A and B is the initial version that entered service with the Swedish Air Force in 1996. These models gave way to the much-improved C and D model aircraft. The advanced next generation Gripen is called JAS-39E and F developed from the Gripen NG program. The Swedish Air Force is buying its Gripen Es for $43 million per copy, less than one-third the price of the F-35. Its operating cost per hour is less than a tenth of that of the F-35’s. The export customers are buying Gripen for $85 million per aircraft. The Brazilian Air Force ordered Gripen E/F and the Philippines Air Force is in a process of procuring this fighter. The JAS 39F is a two-seat version of variant E, so in this video we will only mention the E version of Gripen for your convenience.
The E fighter, the sixth variant in the Gripen family, is slightly bigger than previous versions, has a stronger engine and updated radar systems. The new Swedish plane still retains the design lines of its predecessors. The aircraft that emerged was a single-engine, single-seat, canard design. Gripen has a 15.2 meter long body has a wingspan of 8.6 metres. This aircraft has a US-made engine, the GE F414, which is also the engine of the F-18 Super Hornet and India’s HAL Tejaz. The GE 414 turbofan engine rated at 22,000lb. It features a new high-pressure turbine and a new six-stage, high-pressure compressor. The new engine enables the Gripen to reach Mach 2 at high altitude with a turnaround time between missions of just ten minutes. The Gripen’s combat radius is 800 km and ferry range 3,200 km with drop tanks.
Overall, the Gripen has a very beautiful design with a large rear wing configuration. The wings were low-mounted on a slab-sided tubular fuselage frame to which the gently sloped nose cone capped the front end.
The Gripen E has a cockpit that was situated ahead of amidships and behind the nose cone assembly with a two-piece canopy featuring light framing and excellent all-around views. The digital cockpit with three large multi-functional displays including a few 3D screens. The cockpit also features a hands-on-throttle-and-stick which provides superior situational awareness for the pilot.
Just below the cockpit was a pair of rectangular air intakes. The empennage was capped by a sharp, clipped single vertical tail fin seated above and ahead of the engine exhaust port. A pair of canards were affixed to the sides of the intakes for increased stability and agility at various attack angles and short-field take-off and landings. The undercarriage was conventional and fully-retractable, featuring two single-wheeled main legs and a double-wheeled nose leg.
The single seater aircraft features ten pylon stations, which enable it to carry reconnaissance pods, weapons and external fuel tanks. The aircraft’s internal fuel tanks with a combined capacity of 3.4t are approximately 40% larger than those of its former version. The increased volume is made possible by moving the landing gear from the fuselage of the aircraft out to the inner wings.
The Gripen E is designed to carry more weapons further and to track multiple threats using the latest type of radar. The weapons include guided glide bombs, long-range air-to-air missiles and heavy anti-ship armaments. The Gripen also has a 27 mm Mauser BK27 gun, which can be used in air-to-surface attacks against land and sea targets. Like others in the range, the Gripen E has a delta wing and fly-by-wire flight avionics. Unlike some others in the line, it has a greater fuel capacity, 20 per cent more thrust, more pylons, in-flight refuelling capability and increased take-off weight.
Perhaps the most important feature is the new British-built Selex Raven ES-05 active electronically scanned array radar, which replaces the old mechanically-scanned PS-05/A. The Gripen also has comprehensive networking capabilities. The new Gripen’s maximum takeoff weight is increased to more than 36,000lbs up from around 31,000lbs for the C and D variant.
Gripen model E, designed to be the nightmare of Russian aircraft, specifically here the Su-35.
Russia’s Sukhoi fighters have achieved a kind of legendary status for their ability to out-maneuver US fighter jets in dogfights and pull off dangerous and aggressive stunts in the air, but Gripen may have cracked the code.
The Gripen can’t carry the most weapons and has no real stealth. And it isn’t the longest-range, the fastest, or even the cheapest jet. To defeat Russia’s fearsome fighters and surface-to-air missiles, Saab focusing on electronic attack. The whole concept of the Gripen E is to operate in Swedish territory, take advantage of all sorts of uneven terrain under cover of friendly surface-to-air missiles with a superb EW suite which should in theory keep it safe from the majority of Russian missiles and air to air threats. Additionally, the Gripen E can fire almost any missile made in the US or Europe.
Su-35 is almost as large as the F-22, with an empty weight of 18.4 tonnes and a maximum takeoff weight of 34.5 tonnes. Its fuel fraction of 38% gives it a combat range of 1,000 miles equivalent to 1,600km. An inevitable consequence of large 4++ generation aircraft is that higher radar cross section and visible to modern aircraft such as Gripen or the F-35.
The Su-35’s radar could theoretically detect enemy aircraft at a distance of 400km, but it must be the target of a 3-square-meter radar cross-section. Therefore, the detection range of the Su-35 is reduced to only 100km for light fighter aircraft such as JAS-39 which has only radar cross-section of 0.5 square meters. Meanwhile, thanks to the active phase array radar, the radar on the new JAS-39 version can detect light fighter from a distance of more than 200km.
In modern aerial combat, the discovery an opponent first is considered a leading factor to win. Currently the range of air-to-air missiles has reached 200km. For air-to-air missiles out of sight, No Escape Zone parameters should be considered. This is the term for the area in which enemy aircraft cannot use pure mobility to avoid missiles.
The Su-35’s main air-to-air missile is the R-77 with a range of 90 to 170 km, has a NEZ range of 40 km, while JAS-39 uses Meteor missiles with a range of 185 km and Extremely impressive NEZ range up to 100 km. This gives Jas 39 superiority over the Su-35. In the dog fight, the mobility of the Su-35 outperformed its rival but in return it was much larger than the JAS-39, so the risk of getting hit was also higher.
The price of the Su-35 and the latest JAS-39 variant is about $80 million per unit, so it is quite similar in price. But the flight cost of JAS-39 is much cheaper, only $4,700 per hour compared to $35,000 on Su-35 fighter.
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Obviously, the cost of exploiting the two-engine aircraft will be more expensive than the one-engine type. On the other hand, the time limit for maintaining the Su-35 engine is only 500 hours because it uses a 3D jet-adjusted engine, while this figure of JAS-39 is up to 8,000 flight hours.The difference in the export market is that the Su-35 is quite easy to access, if you have money, Russia will sell. For JAS-39, it must be accompanied by some political conditions if you want to buy this fighter. It is known that the US is holding some technologies, especially the engine, so Sweden can only sell to customers once approved by the US.