Saab has tied up with Italy’s Selex Galileo for the installation of the Raven AESA radar on the Gripen IN, being pitched for the 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) order for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Saab claims this radar to be unique for its ‘Swashplate’, which allows the face of the radar to be swiveled around allowing for radar coverage up to an angle of a hundred degrees, sideways.
“What we have in the Gripen AESA radar is a ‘Swashplate’. What we are doing is we have an AESA on a movable plate so you can rotate the antenna. That gives added capability to the AESA,” says Edvard de la Motte, Campaign Director for Gripen in India.
This apparently allows the aircraft to have radar coverage from an angle of a hundred degrees from the center of the aircraft. “You can basically start looking a little bit backwards. And that gives you a fantastic edge, specifically when you’re doing air to ground, because you can look sideways or in the BVR (Beyond Visual Range) scenarios, where it’s important to be able to track your target,” explains de la Motte, adding, “The Gripen, with the radar would be able to turn a hundred degrees and still have radar lock on the opponent.” The AESA radar is expected to be flown this year.
Another aspect, Gripen highlights is its low cost in comparison to its competitors in the MMRCA. “We’re about half the cost of our closest single engine competitor and we’re about 25 per cent of the twin-engine aircraft,” he says.
Gripen is also adding new components like new landing gear, increased internal fuel capacity, increased payload, SATCOM, the GE 414 engine, new pylon, larger drop tanks (450 US Gallons), AESA radar, Missile Approach Warner (MAW). “We’re doing this in two phases. We’ve done Phase I, which is the engine, the landing gear and the added number of pylon stations,” says de la Motte. Gripen is now installing the SATCOM and the AESA.
The aircraft is also being pitched in terms of the variety of components that can be made available. “In terms of the weapons what we are proposing is a wide variety, wide menu. So the Indian Air Force can select where they want to buy the weapons, he says de la Motte, underlining Gripen’s tag line, ‘The Independent Choice’. “If you buy a US fighter, you buy US weapons. French fighter, French weapons. If you buy Gripen, select where you want your weapons from. Israel, Sweden, Europe, US…South America. It’s up to the customer,” he explains.
He also refers to the aircraft’s unique ability to land on public roads, saying, “The Gripen aircraft is designed from the beginning to be able to take off and land on ordinary roads in Sweden. What we’re saying here is that even if you don’t want to use your roads system to land the aircraft on, you can use Forward Operating Bases. And it’s also designed to be maintained at these conditions,” also adding, “We’re taking off and landing on less than five hundred meters. You’ll replace an engine in less than one hour. You can do a turnaround with maximum five people in less than ten minutes. We have cost of flight hour less than 3000 dollars per hour. These are Swedish Air Force numbers.”
As far as maintenance is concerned the aircraft has a built-in fault localization system which tells the ground personnel and the pilot about any problems. The Gripen also has supercruise capability with the aircraft having done Mach 1.2 so far.
Gripen rubbishes reports that a large part of the aircraft is US-made and also denies that the GE 414 engine will be subject to us technology transfer or End use Monitoring conditions. “We have about thirty five percent in the C/D. We have a lot less in the Gripen NG. A lot less than thirty five per cent. As we understand it, it’s related to very advanced technology, bought under the FMS (Foreign Military Sales) case, where you buy the stuff directly from the US government. And that goes for US weapons for instance, so if the Indian Air Force buys US weapons, I’m sure they’re going to be subject to End Use Monitoring. But the rest of the equipment, the Direct Commercial Sales, as we understand it, is not subject to End Use Monitoring, “he elaborates, adding, “It’s an American engine. And General Electric have provided a very comprehensive technology transfer package, so I don’t see that being affected.”
The IAF is expected to go to Sweden in late November for conversion training while the aircraft is scheduled to come to India for trials in mid-March next year.