Saab unveils new Gripen fighter jet

The latest iteration of Saab’s Gripen fighter jet was launched this week, claiming increased range and capabilities compared to previous versions.

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Seen by some as a more affordable alternative to aircraft such as Lockheed’s F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Gripen E prototype 39-8 “Smart Fighter” is the sixth combat jet in the Gripen line. According to Saab, the single-seater fighter is a major advance over previous Gripens, incorporating advanced weaponry and radar, as well as electronic warfare capability.

The Gripen E’s sensor suite includes an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, Infra Red Search and Track (IRST), Electronic Warfare (EW) suite, and datalink technology. Saab claims that the multi-frequency datalink system provides advanced situational awareness, with ally Gripen jets automatically sharing information amongst each other.

Defence capabilities include a Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) that can passively or actively warn of incoming fire or enemy radar locks, alongside a Missile Approach Warning (MAW) system that tracks incoming artilleries.

“Nations need modern air defences to uphold national sovereignty,” said Håkan Buskhe, Saab’s president and CEO.

“Meanwhile, the cost in relation to other investments in society needs to be reasonable. Therefore, Saab has developed design and production methods for the Gripen E to both increase capability and to reduce costs.”

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While Saab has not yet revealed the unit cost of the Gripen E, the Swedish defence company has a track record of delivering more affordable aircraft than its competitors. It believes the Gripen series’ reliability and relative low running costs make it an enticing alternative for those looking beyond the options provided by the United Sates and Europe.Earlier versions of the Gripen are currently employed by Sweden, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Thailand.

The F-35 programme in the US has been plagued by setbacks and cost overruns, and the price per unit will start from around $100m, without an engine. Fears over cost have led countries such as Canada to reconsider its position as part of the F-35 buyers’ consortium, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau making an election pledge last year to invest in a ‘lower-priced’ aircraft.

Gripen E Tech specs

Length 15.2m
Width 8.6m
Maximum take off weight 16500kg
Max thrust 98kN
Hardpoints 10
Maximum speed Mach 2 (Supercruise)
Combat turnaround air-to-air 10 minutes