Saab’s Gripen Demonstration Aircraft passed a new milestone its development programme this week when it achieved “supercruise
” – the ability to fly supersonic without the use of afterburner, an ability that saves fuel savings and increases range.
The Gripen Demo aircraft is a flying test platform for the next generation of Gripen and for the further development of the present Gripen C/D aircraft, of which South Africa has purchased 26.
Together with a ground-based test rig, the Gripen Demonstrator will develop and prove the essential systems and capabilities for the future, including its more powerful General Electric F414G engine, an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and advanced communications and electronic warfare systems.
The Gripen Demo clocked up 40 sorties late last year as part of the development programme that focused on opening up the flight envelope regarding speed, altitude, angle-of-attack and loads. This year testing has continued “at the same high tempo” according to a Saab release.
The release adds that this week`s supercruise flight is part of the ongoing high speed supersonic testing that will include supersonic flights, with different load alternatives. Saab test pilot Magnus Ljungdahl flew the Gripen Demonstrator aircraft in supercruise: “The flight was conducted over the Baltic Sea, my altitude was 28 000 feet and the speed achieved was above Mach 1.2. Without using afterburner I maintained the same speed until I ran out of test area and had to head back to the Saab Test Flight Centre in Linkoping,” he says.
“To show potential customers that Gripen can supercruise is an important milestone”, says Gripen International Marketing Director Bob Kemp, “and to perform this activity only nine months after the Gripen Demonstrator was shown in public for the first time, is something that few, if any aircraft can beat.”
The wikipedia notes that a number of civil and military aircraft, starting with the English Electric Lightning, have achieved supercruise, but few have done so while carrying a militarily significant load.
The term was used in a military context by noted military and air power strategist John Boyd
while promoting the F-16 Falcon
. “The United States Air Force showed no interest in the proposal at that time, but years later revived the term and redefined it to apply to the new F-22 Raptor,” the online encyclopaedia
says. (Boyd`s writings and especially his “ooda” loop forms a core component of US Marine Corps Command and Control Doctrine