Saab JAS 39 Gripen

The 21st-century Swedish fighter embodies an impressive fusion of agility, versatility, and cutting-edge technology. The Saab JAS 39 Gripen stands out as a state-of-the-art multirole combat aircraft crafted and produced by the Swedish aerospace firm Saab Group. Boasting a streamlined aerodynamic design and lightweight build, the Gripen is a 4+ generation fighter jet renowned for its prowess in air-to-air combat, air-to-ground operations, and reconnaissance missions.

As of 2023, nearly 300 Gripens have been manufactured. This Swedish-made jet fighter is the multi-role successor to several different versions of the Saab 37 Viggen. Changes in world affairs and policies have allowed the Gripen to evolve into a much more “international” fighter with considerable export success and potential.

Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / A low-altitude Gripen skillfully maneuvers near the terrain, effectively evading radar detection.
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / A low-altitude Gripen skillfully manoeuvres near the terrain, effectively evading radar detection.

Its advanced avionics and sensor systems, including radar and targeting pods, provide pilots with superior situational awareness and precision strike capabilities. Additionally, it boasts a robust electronic warfare suite, enhancing its survivability in hostile environments. One of the Gripen’s standout features is its ease of maintenance and cost-effectiveness, making it an attractive option for smaller air forces. Its adaptability for various mission profiles and its interoperability with modern weapon systems make the Saab JAS 39 Gripen a formidable and reliable asset for air forces worldwide, contributing to its reputation as a versatile and highly capable fighter aircraft.

As per Major General Jan Anderson, Chief of Staff of the Swedish Air Force, “The traditional Swedish emphasis was on air defence and the anti-ship mission, but now we need more than that – and Gripen does it.”

Photo Credit: SAAB /  Saab JAS 39 Gripen
Photo Credit: SAAB /  Saab JAS 39 Gripen

The Swedish aerospace and defence business Saab AB produces the Saab JAS 39 Gripen, a light single-engine multirole fighter aircraft. With a relaxed stability design and fly-by-wire flight controls, the Gripen sports a delta wing and canard configuration. All modern aircraft are NATO interoperable. More than 281 Gripens of all versions, A through F, have been delivered as of 2023. Which include Brazil, The Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa, Thailand, the UK & Sweden.

A highly lethal and advanced configuration of air-to-air missiles, comprising IRIS-T on the wingtips, along with two Meteor and two AMRAAM Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles. In a real combat scenario, Gripen pilots will undoubtedly make sure that some splashes are counted!
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / A highly lethal and advanced configuration of air-to-air missiles, comprising IRIS-T on the wingtips, along with two Meteor and two AMRAAM Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles. In a real combat scenario, Gripen pilots will undoubtedly make sure that some splashes are counted!

The Concept and Development of Saab Gripen

The need to replace the existing Viggen resulted in Saab designing a completely new multi-role combat aircraft which would have enhanced capability but would be less costly to acquire and operate. The JAS 39 Gripen continues with Saab’s delta wing layout and has forward canard control surfaces, but it is less than half of the weight of the Viggen and Draken and is built with a significant proportion of composites. With an internal 27-mm cannon and six hard points, it can carry a similar offensive load to that of the Viggen and is fitted with the latest technology cockpit systems including a HUD and a three-screen glass cockpit.

During an air show featuring Gripen, enhanced with special effects...
During an air show featuring Gripen, enhanced with special effects

The Gripen is powered by a licence-built General Electric F404J turbofan and was first flown on 9 December 1988 variants include the JAS 39A multi-role single-seater and the stretched JAS 39B tandem two-seat combat-capable trainer. Advances in electronics, particularly computer processing power, allow new capabilities to be fitted into a smaller airframe than the Viggen’s. An important driver of the design was that it could be maintained in combat by one specialist and five conscripts with basic training and limited equipment. In wartime scenarios, the aircraft could operate from regular fixed bases to pre-prepared stretches of highway as well.

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In 1996, the Saab Gripen entered service with the Swedish Air Force. Subsequently, upgraded models, featuring more sophisticated avionics and modifications for extended mission durations, began to enter service in 2003.

Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography

JAS 39 Competing in the Open Market

Saab established joint ventures and collaborations with foreign aerospace firms in order to promote the aircraft abroad. Early Gripen models saw some success on the export market, with sales to countries in Central Europe, South Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Present Day Saab Gripen is thinking very far ahead keeping in mind the technology, Such a thought will prove to be very effective in future battles. To give the Gripen fighter air superiority, the idea of human-machine collaboration describes a potent new style of thinking.

Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography

Modern air combat is a battle of information, success or failure is dictated by your ability to generate, interpret and exploit essential data – and to do it better and faster than your opponents.

All combat aircraft generate this data as they operate in flight and combat scenarios. As one of the most modern aircraft available, boasting the most advanced system design, Gripen generates mission data at an unprecedented level. Each Gripen is equipped with a comprehensive range of both active and passive sensors distributed across its airframe. Additionally, every Gripen is seamlessly integrated into a complex datalink network that facilitates the transmission and reception of further information from allied forces across air, land, and sea.

Photo Credit: SAAB / Armed with IRIS-T and Meteor Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs) and RBS-15 Gungnir
Photo Credit: SAAB / Armed with IRIS-T and Meteor Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs) and RBS-15 Gungnir ASM

When combined, all of this data provides extensive situational awareness over a wide area. For Gripen pilots, the challenge lies in effectively utilizing this mission-critical information to achieve optimal results

The solution lies in Saab’s concept of Human-Machine Collaboration, as exemplified in the Gripen. In this framework, every pilot and aircraft are seamlessly integrated into the core of the combat network. Within the cockpit, each Gripen pilot gains the ability to perceive, interpret, and comprehend the intricacies of the surrounding battlespace. Furthermore, Gripen pilots can anticipate the actions of both friendly assets and hostile forces, aided by the collaborative mission system integrated into the Gripen.

A special image showcasing the Gripen's Heads-Up Display (HUD)
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / A special image showcasing the Gripen’s Heads-Up Display (HUD)

In the past, mission data often suffered from incompleteness or contradictions, but now it is meticulously fused and verified. This capability is truly life-saving. Previously, each pilot had to depend on isolated inputs from their own aircraft. However, they are now seamlessly integrated into a secure, wide-area network that receives continuous updates over extensive distances and across all domains. Consequently, Gripen pilots are empowered to make precise and timely decisions, outperforming their adversaries in both speed and accuracy. With Human-Machine Collaboration at the core of the Gripen system, the Gripen Air Force attains a groundbreaking level of combat effectiveness.

A Gripen pilot is never alone in the sky. Thanks to the concept of Human-Machine Collaboration, a robust information-support and decision-making system is readily available to the pilot, providing a crucial combat edge. This unique design is exclusive to Gripen, with its game-changing technology integrated into its core. Gripen stands alone in harnessing this continuously adaptable capability, enabling it to maintain a decisive edge against tomorrow’s threats.

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A close-up view of the Gripen's cockpit configuration
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / A close-up view of the Gripen’s cockpit configuration

The Next Generation Gripen E: A Game Changer

A significant redesign of the Gripen series, formerly known as Gripen NG (Next Generation) or Super JAS, now designated as JAS 39E/F Gripen, commenced deliveries to the Swedish Air Force and Brazilian Air Force in 2019. The transition from JAS C to JAS E introduced several enhancements, including a larger fuselage, a more powerful engine, increased weapons payload capacity, as well as a new cockpit, avionics architecture, electronic warfare system, and other improvements

Crafted for the purpose of overcoming any adversary, Gripen E is tailored for forward-thinking air forces. It integrates state-of-the-art technologies, the most recent systems, sensors, weapons, and pods to secure a distinct combat advantage, thereby ensuring air superiority even in highly contested environments. Through silent networking and comprehensive sensor fusion within a tactical air unit, the enemy’s capabilities can be disrupted and obscured. While one aircraft remains active, the others shift to passive mode, enabling the team to seize the initial missile launch opportunity and achieve the first kill. Gripen E effectively redefines the dynamics of aerial combat.

 Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / The Gripen is on the verge of breaking the first sound barrier
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / The Gripen is on the verge of breaking the first sound barrier

Gripen-E is equipped with the potent GE F414G engine, offering a considerable range and the capacity to carry an impressive payload with its 10 hard points. It incorporates new AESA radar, InfraRed Search And Track Systems (IRST), as well as highly advanced electronic warfare and communication systems. The E-series redefines 21st-century air power by expanding operational capabilities.

The advanced avionics system in Gripen E enables rapid software updates within hours. Gripen E prioritizes avoiding detection by maintaining silence or suppressing enemy capabilities. Its advanced electronic warfare system, akin to an electronic shield, facilitates the disruption of the enemy’s capacity to operate effectively. This capability can be employed to aid in the elimination of enemy assets or simply to diminish the enemy’s operational capacity.

Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023
Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023

Gripen E is engineered to function within the enemy’s A2AD (Anti-Access Area Denial) “dome” within a heavily contested environment, encompassing the area and airspace protected by enemy ground-based air defence systems. To facilitate this, it is equipped with a highly advanced EW (Electronic Warfare) suite. Even stealthy aircraft would encounter substantial challenges when operating within a similar A2AD environment that Gripen is specifically designed to operate within.

Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023 / The Gripen showcases its extensive weapons configuration, with the Meteor, ASRAAM, Sidewinder, RBS-15, and GBU-53/B StormBreaker lined up from left to right
Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023 / The Gripen showcases its extensive weapons configuration, with the Meteor, ASRAAM, Sidewinder, RBS-15, and GBU-53/B StormBreaker lined up from left to right.

Gripen’s EW suite is equally adept at supporting air-to-air engagements, serving both self-defence purposes and extending its capabilities for electronic attacks and radar jamming to support other Gripens engaged in actual combat.

In addition, Gripen is outfitted with the MBDA Meteor missile for Beyond Visual Range (BVR) combat, and the Meteor’s range significantly surpasses that of any existing US BVR missile, as it has not yet been integrated into US fighters. This gives Gripen a BVR combat advantage. In the event of an incoming hostile missile launch, Gripen E’s EW suite, along with its countermeasures, will assist in evasion and increase the likelihood of surviving the threat.

A low-altitude Gripen, armed with two IRIS-T AAMs on its wingtips, skillfully maneuvers near the terrain, effectively evading radar detection
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / A low-altitude Gripen, armed with two IRIS-T AAMs on its wingtips, skillfully manoeuvres near the terrain, effectively evading radar detection

Saab JAS 39E  Gripen Specifications

  • Pilot: 1 ( in trainer version 2 )
  • Length:  49 ft 86 in ( 15.2 meters )
  • Wingspan:  28 ft 21 in ( 8. 6 meters )
  • Height:  14 ft 9 in ( 4.5 meters )
  • Empty Weight:  8,000 kg (17,637 lb)
  • Max Takeoff Weight:  16,500 kg ( 36, 376 lb )
  • Payload:  7,200 kg (15,900 lb)
  • Hardpoints: 10
  • Powerplant:  One GE F414G afterburning Turbofan engine with 98 kN ( 22,000 lb ) thrust, max
  • Max Speed:  Mach 2 ( 2,100 km/h ) and Mach 1.2 ( 1,470 km/h ) at Sea level
  • Combat range:  1,500 km
  • Ferry range:  4,000 km
  • Service ceiling:  52,000 ft ( 16,000 m )
  • g limits:  +9/−3
  • Armament:  One 27 mm Mauser BK-27 revolver cannon with 120 rounds, and different combinations of guided Missiles on its total 10 hard points. Like IRIS-T, Side Winder, A-Darter, Meteor, Taurau KEPD 350, RBS 15 gungnir.
  • Bombs like GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb, Mark_82 unguided bomb, GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb.
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In a friendly dogfight exercise between a Gripen and a MiG-29...
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / In a friendly dogfight exercise between a Gripen and a MiG-29

In conclusion, the Saab JAS 39 Gripen stands as a testament to the innovation and excellence of Swedish aerospace engineering. Its blend of agility, adaptability, advanced technology, and cost-effectiveness has made it a standout choice for air forces globally. The Gripen’s sleek design, cutting-edge avionics, and impressive performance capabilities make it a formidable force in both air-to-air combat and air-to-ground missions. Its user-friendly maintenance and lower operating costs further solidify its position as an attractive option for a wide range of military budgets.

With its ability to seamlessly integrate into modern warfare scenarios and its commitment to enhancing pilot situational awareness, the Gripen continues to be a reliable and versatile asset on the international stage. As the world of aviation advances, the Saab JAS 39 Gripen remains a symbol of Swedish engineering prowess and a key player in ensuring the security and defence of nations across the globe.

Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / The 90s Swedish Supremacy, featuring Saab Draken, Viggen, and Gripen fighters!
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / The 90s Swedish Supremacy, featuring Saab Draken, Viggen, and Gripen fighters!

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