Gripen E : Beyond Hype , “Reality is much stormier, much murkier, much scarier”


SOURCE: Vinayak Shetti / Editor of  Indiandefencenews.in

On May this year Saab rolled out first pre-production Gripen E aircraft at its facility in Linkoping Sweden which was attended by many high profile Swedish VVIPs along with Air force Chief of Brazilian Air Force . In attendance was the presence of a high number of Aviation/Defence Journalist from around the world who were flown in specially to cover the event, which also saw sizable Indian media contingent specially flown in by SAAB.

Development of Gripen E is no doubt a major enhancement in capabilities and a thorough overhaul of every element of the basic Gripen design but Hype which SAAB has unleashed in India by unprecedented Sponsored media coverage of it latest Gripen E offering to India as part of the ‘Make in India’ initiative is much stormier, much murkier, much scarier which needs to be exposed to carry out fine assessment of latest SAAB’s offer to India .

Saab Gripen NG Forever in making !

Gripen E begin has a low-cost internal SAAB program nearly decade ago when SAAB rolled out modified Gripen D dubbed has Gripen NG ( Next Generation ) which incorporated many of the proposed Gripen E changes from a new engine, redesigned landing gear and new cockpit layout, which first flew in 2008 and logged some 300 flights .

MMRCA Failure

SAAB offered India initially it’s older sibling Gripen C/D but withdraw its offer after competition saw new entries and offered Technology Demonstrator aircraft dubbed Gripen NG .

Gripen NG was demonstrated in India during MMRCA trials performed well and proved in its highly claimed Net-Centric warfare capabilities and successfully demonstrated advanced data communications,dual data links , satellite communication and video links but failed to impress with other parameters and exposed its operational deficiency in technical evaluation round which was noted and not even contested by SAAB.

Backdoor Entry attempts

After Rejection of Gripen from MMRCA Tender , SAAB tried to make a backdoor entry where it again offered its Gripen fighter jets to India independently and parallel to MMRCA deal to replace India’s ageing Mig21 fleet but acceptance of that proposal could have obviously meant killing our indigenous LCA-Tejas program hence rejected again.

SAAB offered to establish a Joint venture company with DRDO, where Swedish company could have been holding the majority of share in the new company to help India develop LCA-Tejas Mark-2 in lieu of orders for its Gripen Fighter jets , which too was rejected .

Reading Fine Timeline of Gripen E Development

First, Gripen E Prototype rolled out in May this year will see its first flight only by the end of this year. while Swedish government has agreed to finance development of 3 Gripen E Prototypes, Second Prototype will be rolled out by next year with many key system pieces of equipment and third and final Prototype with all planned bells and whistles will take to air only in 2019 .

According to SAAB’s own assessment, Gripen E will require nearly 1200 sorties to conclude its development and Initial operational clearance (IOC) for Gripen E will come only in 2021 that’s when program will actually gain speed when the final and third Prototype Gripen E takes to air in 2019 with all planned upgraded equipment and Final operational clearance will be achieved only in 2023 which is nearly 7 years after its first rollout of Gripen E Prototype.

3-5 years Timeline for Indian orders

Jan Widerström who is SAAB India head and chairman confirmed in an Interview that from the date of the contract, SAAB will be able to deliver the first aircraft from the Indian soil only in 3 to 5 years , even if we assume that we have a contract by year end and the first aircraft is delivered by early 2020 which is 3 years from now then India will be clearly getting Pre-IOC certified aircraft since IOC is only planned for Gripen E only in 2021 and Swedish and Brazilian air force will be taking deliveries of IOC-certified Gripen E only by end of 2021 , so India will have to wait for nearly 5 years to get its hands only on IOC-certified aircraft .

Conclusion

DRDO plans to roll out IOC-certified LCA-Tejas Mark-2 by 2021-22 and plans to achieve it FOC in next three to four years if you compare IOC and FOC of both aircraft, India will better off in concentrating in the development of its own indigenous LCA-Tejas .

if Indian Air force which repeatedly refused to accept and allow mass production of IOC-II certified LCA-Tejas MK-1 aircraft in past will have a difficult time explaining why it will be open to acquiring Gripen-E with limited capabilities when it has curtailed orders for Tejas MK-1 which will achieve its FOC by March 2017 and upgraded Tejas MK-1A could have already entered production by the time Swedes could have rolled out first Gripen-E for India.

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