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Gripen-E: Sweden’s Powerful Fighter Is Going Head-To-Head with the F-35

Image: Creative Commons.

With Boeing’s Super Hornet now out of the picture, Canada has officially narrowed its decade-long $19 billion hunt for a new fighter jet to replace its aging CF-18s to two choices—Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter and the Swedish Saab Gripen-E.

However, the news that the Gripen-E made the cut indeed came as a surprise to some experts.

According to the Canadian Press, “many observers had seen the Super Hornet and F-35 as the only real competition because of Canada’s close relationship with the United States, which includes using fighter jets together to defend North American air space on a daily basis.”

It continues: “Those perceptions were only amplified after two other European companies dropped out of the competition before it even started, complaining the government’s requirements had stacked the deck in favor of their U.S. rivals. In particular, both Airbus and Dassault had complained about what they saw as onerous requirements associated with adapting their aircraft—the Eurofighter and Rafale, respectively—to meet Canada’s intelligence-sharing requirements.”

F-35 Still More Advanced

According to defense writer Ashish Dangwal at the EurAsian Times, the Gripen could be seen as the “most cost-effective alternative, and it might result in the greatest local manufacturing for Canada.”

However, he added that “it will certainly raise issues about what Canada wants from its air force as the F-35 is far more advanced aircraft than Gripen.” Moreover, “Sweden is neither a member of NATO nor Norad, the joint Canadian-American defense command in charge of defending the continent against external threats. This led to the question about the Gripen’s interoperability with American aircraft.”

As for the Gripen-E itself, it is considered to be an enhanced version of the Gripen C/D multi-role aircraft and is known to boast plenty of firepower.

“The air-to-air missiles on the Gripen-E include infrared-guided short-range IRIS-T missile, and the Meteor missile, which is a beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM). The aircraft also has the flexibility to be fitted with Sidewinder and A-Darter missiles to replace the IRIS-T, and the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) missile to replace the Meteor. It can further be fitted with long range weapons such as R-Darter and Derby, and short-range weapons such as ASRAAM and Python,” Airforce Technology writes.

Not to be outdone, the Gripen “can also be integrated with a number of air-to-surface weapons including unguided Mk82, Mk83 and Mk84 bombs, laser-guided bombs such as GBU-12, GBU-16 and GBU-10, and advanced bombs such as GBU-49 and GBU-39.”

High-End Radars, Sensors

The Gripen-E, powered by General Electric’s F414G turbofan engine featuring a new high-pressure turbine and a new six-stage, high-pressure compressor, also comes with quality radars and sensors.

“The fighter features Selex’s ES-05 Raven active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system. Fitted on a swashplate at the nose of the aircraft, the radar provides an angular field of view of 100 degrees and look behind capability. The passive Infrared Search and Track (IRST) sensor system fitted to the aircraft is the Skyward G supplied by Selex. … The aircraft is further fitted with a passively listening advanced electronic warfare (EW) system,” the aviation site writes.

JAS 39

Underside of a Gripen in flight, 2012.

JAS 39

A Swedish JAS-39 Gripen returns to the play areas of the Arctic Challenge exercise Sept. 24, 2013, over Norway, after taking on fuel from a U.S. Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker. The JAS-39, in coordination with aircraft from other nations, formed a Blue assault force, which had to bypass or neutralize an opposing Red force attempting to stop them from an overall objective outlined in the day’s scenario. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Mesnard/Released)

“Rafael’s Litening III Laser Designation Pod (LDP) is fitted to the aircraft for attacking ground targets using laser-guided bombs. The LDP also integrates a forward looking infrared (FLIR) sensor and a charge-coupled device (CCD) camera,” it continues.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.



  1. Paul Abraham

    December 5, 2021 at 3:10 pm

    Its interesting that the Gripen photo chosen for the article is of a plane belonging to the Hungarian Puma Squadron not stock photo from Saab.

  2. Dr. Robert. Matthews

    December 6, 2021 at 1:35 am

    It is most prudent to look at the inter-operability of established weapon systems for defense of the North American continent via the F 35 ‘s superior as far capabilities and forward vision aircraft for the 21st century.

    Be assured that the Russians and Chinese have stealth capability and aircraft comparable to the F 35 in someways and they will out perform the Grippen !

    It would be logical to have an aircraft which is consistently in alignment with NATO operations and protocol as well as communications ; as Sweden is not a member of NATO , so that in and of it’s self is somewhat discerning!
    Rhetorically speaking:

    Do you want a fifth and or sixth generation fighter to compete with less capable stealth fighters in a the potential conflict that we have in the world and those other countries which have advanced fifth generation aircraft would be able to defeat the Griffin.?

    In an analogous sense ,you wouldn’t want to take a Swedish aero car built in 1999 to compete with a De Tommaso built in 2021 with different technologies different propulsion systems different style in different aerodynamics and in this case even though Grippen has anti-missile missile advanced systems and radar systems ,at the current rate they would be antiquated with fifth and six generation fighters as we all know the technology changes by the hour.

    Let us never be fooled that the Soviet’s and China would allow A fourth generation aircraft to dominate them !

    Sadly in this scenario the Grippen will be defeated!!

  3. Nate

    December 6, 2021 at 10:44 am

    F-35A doesn’t do the job! It’s that simple!

    Canada’s primary need for a fighter jet is NORAD! NORAD requires 1) fast interceptor and 2) Recon ability (anti-smuggling/crime operations).

    The F-35A doesn’t have drop tanks, has the highest CPFH, the lowest Ready Rate, and bugs that have no fixes in the works (like the gun not being able to hit anything).

    Meanwhile, the Gripen E is faster, the lowest CPFH, the highest Industrial Benefits (since we pretty much keep the F-35 contracts regardless if we buy it or not), rough weather/runway capable, short runway capable (can land and operate from highway), can use Drop Tanks.

    For NORAD duties, the winner should be clear….but don’t underestimate the power of backroom threats/deals (corruption)!

  4. Anthony Peterson

    December 6, 2021 at 8:20 pm

    Canadians want our tech. There is no global strategic interests exclusive to Canada. There only strategic concern is Russia walking over the land bridge. U.S. can monitor that. So, at what cost r we selling f35 to them? Not strategic, it’s technology and access to IP and maintenance toolkit for a f35 fleet. Could we b so dumb?

  5. The Swede

    December 8, 2021 at 8:12 am

    Some misunderstandings above need to be corrected.

    First av all, who would replace the METEOR with an AMRAAM..?

    Then, Sweden is not a NATO member but other Gripen operators like Hungary and Czech Republic are. Swedish Air Force Gripen C/D’s are fully compatible with NATO comms and other systems (L-16 and so on). The Gripen E/F’s is of course even more interoperable; else this aircraft wouldn’t have passed the qualification tests.

    Rhetorically speaking:

    Do you want a so called “stealth fighter” like the F-35 to participate in a potential conflict with electronically smart enemies? “Stealth” is just a matter of frequency. Gripen has it’s own stealth tech, and uses the most important method for any kind of radar: Radar Cross Section minimization.

    In an analogous sense, you wouldn’t want to take a low speed American aero truck built in the 2010’s to compete with a Koenigsegg built in 2022. As we all know the technology changes by the hour, which the Gripen s/w system is designed for in quite a unique manner.

    Let us never forget that the Soviet’s “allowed” Saab Viggen’s to dominate them in the Baltic Sea during the 1980-90’ies, and the Gripen C/D’s in the modern days.

  6. Chris Carlson

    December 27, 2021 at 12:45 pm

    Ashish Dangwal is not a credible commentator and writes for a heavily censored and subjective journal. It does not look as though any research was done to support statements regarding the merits of either finalist.

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