Sunday, October 11, 2009

GRIPEN DREAM Part 2: Inside The Gripen IN

The Gripen Demonstration ("Demo") aircraft is carefully ensconsed within the deepest hangars of the Saab integration and test facility in Linköping, Sweden, far from the prying eyes of cameras. I'm politely told that I cannot shoot inside the hangars. After mouse-holing through three hangar areas, we finally emerge into the one that houses the splendid Demo aircraft. The Demo is a substantially altered avatar of the Gripen, undertaken as a risk-mitigation exercise by Saab for the Swedish Air Force, for the rapid evolution to the Gripen NG, and more importantly for the MMRCA competition, the Gripen IN.

The airplane sits there with many if its fuselage panels open, its avionics bay exposed, lots of diagnostic and test cables running in all directions. Systems checks ahead of a ground run later that afternoon to give its brand new SATCOM system a torture test. It's disassembled nose cone sits lashed to a trolley in front of it, and there up front, protected by a black dust proof casing, is the radar, the active electronically scanned array (AESA) RAVEN, a unique derivative of the Vixen 1000ES developed by Selex Galileo (formerly GEC Marconi), Saab Aerosystems and Saab Microwave (formerly Ericsson Microwave). The radar has just finished some ground routines, and test engineers are delighted with its performance. In one month, the radar will be tested in the sky. At the moment, it's the only radar in the MMRCA sweepstakes that the makers have already declared they will release the source codes of.

Mattias Bergström, who heads the Gripen Demo team and is a Project Manager at Saab Aerosystems, gave me a detailed, first-time, walk about around the magnificent Gripen demo airplane. The pictures released by Saab that you've probably seen don't really give it all away. If you really want to see how different this airplane is, you've got to see it up close. If India chooses the Gripen, it will be this platform, not the one I got to fly.

There's been some good news for the Demo team. With the landing gear moved out from the central fuselage out sideways to the wing roots (to free up copious amounts of fuselage space for fuel), wing farings were needed on the leading edge roots to smoothen out the new gear bay. Engineers were almost certain that this would produce some highly avoidable drag. On the contrary, the Demo pilots have reported that the farings have actually contributed to overall aerodynamic performance.

I got a close look at the new landing gear assembly, a mechanical marvel modified and developed by APPH of UK. Not only will the new placement of the landing gear very nearly double the Gripen's fuel capacity, but it does two more critical things. One, it frees up the central fuselage for a pylon. And two, the new configuration makes the Gripen even more conducive to landing on unprepared surfaces and short fields. It's not like the Gripen needed any help performing with brilliance on limited runways, but here you have it -- they've re-emphasised that by giving it even more power to deal with an airstrip that just may not be there. With a completely new braking system added, the Gripen Demo is by no means an under-the-bonnet upgrade. It is, in most senses, a new platform (nips and tucks to its airframe constitute a good deal of fabrication work) and a substantially superior airplane to the ones being flown today.

The GE-F414 engine that powers that Demo airplane is 7 centimetres longer than the GE F404 derivative (see photo) that powers the Gripen C/D, so there have been some modifications to the aft fuselage as well. The air intakes have also been widened. With added thrust, there's increased MTOW as well. All in all, this is a very souped up Gripen that translates into the Gripen NG/IN.

The Gripen NG/IN will have a fully new advanced avionics architecture, a legacy break away from the system currently in use, and with a supremely enhanced flight data transmitter (FDT). Unlike the earlier Gripen, which enjoys only a limited EW/EW support role, the Gripen NG/IN is being developed to include EW as part of its swingrole profile spectrum, complete with jammer pod integration. With an all new Missile Approach Warner (MAW) and a Laser Warning System (LWS), the new airplane is fully new beneath the bonnet.

Lt Col Peter Nilsson, Vice President, Operational Capabilities, and an important man overseeing the capability bridge between the old and new Gripens at Saab is very excited about the prospect of an Indian Gripen. He says that the approach to the Gripen NG/IN has been so modular, and its architecture so open, that Saab is hoping to make the final aircraft configuration on offer a much more Indian jet that than the government is probably hoping for at this stage. Avionics, electronic systems and software, are major areas for options in the Gripen NG/IN. In fact, the people at Saab are hoping to shortly finalise a list of possible equipment that could be studied for integration.

18 comments :

Anonymous said...

good work. so this means it really is a different aircraft. good.

Anonymous said...

great report. lucky you you got to see it. is there any change in planform of the airframe as well??

Anonymous said...

Amongst the shortlisted aircraft, Gripen NG belong to the single engine category. In assessing the defense posture impact of single engine versus twin engine, it should be noted that twin engine aircraft historically provide greater safety, launch/mission reliability and survivability in both peace and during operations. In combat or peace time, twin engine aircraft are more likely to bring the pilot home from the many conditions in which the IAF must operate. Dont you think a single engine aircraft such as Gripen NG will incur more operational and peace time losses and contribute to defense of the nation less effectively...

Anonymous said...

demo is a superb aircraft i think.

Anonymous said...

The color scheme and finish of the gripen is absolutely fantastic and very high quality.I hope all these improvements can be done on tejas mk2 and it will make a fantastic aircraft

Anonymous said...

Twin engines more safe? Yes that was the case in the 1970s. Gripen has 120 000 hrs in the air and no aircraft has been lost due to engine failure. I wonder why the USAF prefered F-35 as a single engine aircraft if this is a safety problem. The fact is that the engines are very safe today and engine failures are rare.

Anonymous said...

twin engine aircraft historically

This isn't about history. Engines (particularly modern GE) are astonishingly reliable, and as a matter of fact a second engine statistically increases the probability of encountering problems.

The only reason to use a second engine anymore is if the thrust requirements can not being met with a single engine while maintaining a particular drag. Supersonic aircrafts cannot use large bypass engines like GE-90, you see.

Anonymous said...

Well written article. Very interesting insight into Gripen program. A remarkable aircraft from a small country...

Anonymous said...

Gripen has a chance only if IAF settles for a single engined or the cheapest MRCA provided it meets the expectations of the end-user.

Anonymous said...

This comes from a country with population of 9 million which is just half of Delhi city. That talks about their education system. All engineers graduate with MTech in Sweden. The program itself incorporates masters into bachelor's degree. Integrated MTech and no BTech.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my fear is that the Gripen if selected, will do to the LCA programme what the Jaguar did to the HF-24 Marut programme in the 80s.

The Marut had performed admirably in '71 in the DPSA (Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft) role, yet the IAF wanted another aircraft for the same role which ultimately rendered the Marut redundant. This should not be allowed to happen again.

the terminator said...

If GOI, MOD and the IAF are keen on buying a new state of the art aircraft that is single engined and costs far less than its competitors, then the Gripen NG/IN would fit the bill. It is also the only aircraft that comes with complete TOT and the source codes ror the radar.

Unfortunately there are other criteria that the MMRCA purchase has to meet. The most important being political. What leverage will India get if it buys Gripen NG instead of F16, SH18, Rafaele, Mig 35 or the Typhoon?

Then again, won't the GE414 powering the Gripen be prone to US sanctions?

Not that buying any of the American aircrafts won't come under sanctions if our policies do not meet US demands.

Buying Russian aircrafts would only make us more and more under their arm-twisting, greed and price escalations. Poor quality, non-availablity of spares and delivery schedules are benchmarks of Russian industries. We have also got into the FGFA 5th generation fighter aircraft JV. How it turns out is yet to be seen. Hope it does not become another Gorshkov saga.

Why should we put all our eggs in the Russian basket? Is is wise?

The Rafale or the Typhoon may be more expensive but at least we do not have to worry that our aircrafts won't be grounded because or US sanctions. We should not expose ourselves to the vagaries of US foreign policies.

India should do what is RIGHT AND BENEFICIAL to its defence and its soverignity. Political expediency should be the last factor in the reckoning.

Anonymous said...

to terminator:
political means what? Gripen NG stands for full TOT(independence), and are the cheapest to buy and fly, and great capability due the latest avioncs of them offered soo.. thats what we get. Also weaponintegration is not a problem with the sourcecode in hand.

SmestarZ said...

i have some different specs abt the MRCA but dont know where to post my comments

parvas24 said...

IAF wanted to procure the single engine delta winged Mirage 2000-5 fighter from France... this bird had admirers in the IAF for its role in the Kargil conflict but the production line of that bird is dead.. so the French put forward the twin engine RAFALE instead for the MRCA competition...but this bird is pricey $$$$ ... and the criteria for winning the bid is the lowest price of the bird that passed all the IAF trials...
Gripen NG is a single engine DELTA WINGED fighter from Sweden... has latest avionics ... priced reasonably low for a Western fighter .... has features that in someway or the other resembles
the Mirage 2000-5 .... about which I have mentioned above.
Current Grapevine in MoD isthat three birds MiG- 35 , Eurofighter Typhoon , Gripen NG are leading the bids...

Anonymous said...

Shiv!

SAAB FS2020 (Flygsystem 2020) New Swedish stealth 5th generation aircraft concept.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-_BvFadE7w

With Tot to India in the M-MCRA deal, India can be a major part of this development.

Anonymous said...

Shiv!

SAAB FS2020 (Flygsystem 2020) New Swedish stealth 5th generation aircraft concept.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-_BvFadE7w

With Tot to India in the M-MCRA deal, India can be a major part of this development.

Anonymous said...

Single engine works mutch better with greater payload and distance!
That's wy the f-35 has one engine!