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.
“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.