The new-generation demo model features new IT.Swedish manufacturer Saab has unveiled a prototype Gripen fighter plane
that will pioneer a “new generation of technologies and capabilities”.
The Swedish technology group says some of these – such as its latest iteration of advanced communications and defensive systems, as well as a recently developed Saab/Thales active electronically-scanned array radar – could be retrofitted onto existing versions of the Gripen, such as those now entering service with the SA Air Force.
Saab CEO Åke Svensson says the Gripen Demonstrator programme is “the pathfinder to ensure that Gripen remains at the leading-edge of fighter aircraft performance and capability well beyond 2040”.
“This is a landmark event for Saab and its international industrial partners [that include several SA companies] and a significant moment in the future of fighter aircraft technology and performance.”
Gripen International MD Johan Lehander says the demonstrator programme will showcase new technology for existing and potential Gripen customers. “We have concentrated on the key strategic performance and capability areas. That includes the aircraft sensors, communications fit, weapons load, self-protection systems, range and engine performance.
“But we also need to build and deliver a system that remains affordable. In the coming years, Gripen will find itself in a league of its own when it comes to costs, particularly long-term lifecycle costs,” he said at a launch event at Linköping, in Sweden, yesterday.
“We are already delivering systems and capabilities that our competitors still can only offer as promises. In the years to come, Gripen will get even more advanced, even more sophisticated while staying every bit as affordable as it is now. We understand cost control.”
The online wikipedia puts the cost of the aircraft at $76 million (about R608 million) each. Treasury last year costed SA`s 26 Gripen at R20 billion.
Several local companies are providing parts and components to the Gripen programme, including BEE aviation company Aerosud and state arms-maker Denel.
The Gripen has been described as more computer than aircraft. Saab flight test operations manager and test pilot Magnus Olsson says the fighter is fitted with 40 Pentium-type processors to control its cockpit avionics, engine, weapons and flight surfaces through a systems architecture called “fly-by-wire”.