Saab’s Gripen NG Demonstrator has started flight testing again, making first flight on October 27 following a modification which includes the installation of an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.
Other modifications include a new satellite communication system, an electro-optical missile warning system as well as activation of the increased internal fuel.
“A lot of new features have been implemented since we flew for the first time last year, but it takes an expert to see any external changes to the aircraft. Most clearly visible are the sensors for the missile warning system and antenna for the satellite communication system,” says Mattias Bergstrom, project manager for the Gripen NG Demonstrator.
AESA radar is among the enhanced Gripen’s most potent capabilities.
In simple terms, it refers to a radar that is built up of many small antenna elements into a large antenna. Each individual element can be controlled, facilitating many functions.
Previously, the Gripen radar was a mechanically controlled antenna that illuminates one area at a time. An AESA radar can quickly scan larger areas, monitor more targets simultaneously and allow the pilot to operate with more flexibility.
“The new satellite communication system that we have introduced means you can communicate voice and text via satellite technology,” adds Bergstrom.
The sensors for the electro-optical radar warning system, Missile Approach Warning (MAW), can be seen on the aircraft at the wing root and by the air brake. The system will mainly detect Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS).
The flights will now continue and the flight envelope will be opened once again, while all the new tactical systems will be tested.
Pic: Gripen NG- 360 aircraft