The Sea Gripen Programme Saab AB has since the beginning of the Gripen programme analysed and discussed a carrier based version from time to time. The first studies go back to the mid-90s. The studies have been initiated due to interest shown by difference countries which see the land based Gripen as their future land based fighter alternative and who also have, or are aiming to, develop carriers within their fleets. One of the main reasons is Gripen’s one of a kind capability to operate from rugged short road strips, which leads to the obvious corollary of “How much re-construction is needed to re-design the Gripen into a carrier based version?”
The basic Swedish Air Force requirements in the original design for securing the capability of short strips operations is very like “carrier based ops”. Qualities like; low landing speed, high pitch and roll authority, high precision glide slope control, high precision landing capability, high sink rate clearance, strengthened airframe etc. are built-in from the beginning.
Add Gripen´s character for active service in field with easy maintenance (engine changes < 1 hour in field, no need for external power etc) makes the “jump” much shorter with Gripen compared to other land-based fighters’ opportunity to transform into a “deck-based” fighter.
The decision to launch the programme within Saab AB was taken in the context of Gripen market opportunities in two nations which are both at the beginning of developing a carrier based capability for their Armed Forces, namely Brazil and India. The Sea Gripen Programme is aimed for naval-/carrier based operations.
A few highlights: The Sea Gripen is a development programme with its origin from the Gripen NG programme. Sea Gripen is aimed for both CATOBAR and STOBAR operations. The main technical re-designs are:
- New undercarriage and nose gear to cope with higher sink rate forces and catapult launches.
- Strengthened air frame in some areas.
- Redesigned arrestor hook
- “Marinazing” of the aircraft (increased requirements on salt water protections, operations in hot and humidity conditions etc.)
All together the re-design will add weight on the airframe which will give an empty weight between 7500-8000 kg. (~400 kg extra weight compare to Gripen NG) Due to its balanced size there are no needs for structural changes like folding wings Sea Gripen will be a very appealing alternative for nations with smaller size carriers. Its well balanced weight/size compare to heavy twin-engine alternatives will allow nations to move from “air defence”- carriers to a concept with strategic capabilities, without a replacement of their carriers. All sensors, avionics and weapons within the Gripen NG programme will be offered in the Sea Gripen.