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Gripen E: The Best Fighter Jet on the Planet Not Named F-35?

Gripen E
Saab Gripen E. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

What makes the Gripen E one powerful fighter jet: On Monday, there were likely many smiles at Lockheed Martin as it looks like Canada will adopt the F-35 Lightning II. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had previously sought to nix any deal, but on Monday, Ottawa announced that the fifth-generation stealth fighter is the best solution for Canada’s needs and to replace the aging CF-18 fleet.

Lockheed Martin’s win – which comes just a week after the United States Department of Defense (DoD) announced that it was scaling back on its F-35 order for the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) – is Saab’s loss. The Swedish aerospace giant had touted the Gripen E as a viable and cost-effective aircraft to replace the CF-18. Finland had also announced earlier this year that it was also opting for the F-35 over the Gripen E.

Saab had touted the Gripen E as being best suited for Canada’s climate conditions and strategic requirements, and also noted that it had the longest range and best fuel efficiency of the aircraft being considered by Trudeau’s government.

Development of the Gripen E

Development of the JAS 39 Gripen (Griffin) began in the 1970s when the government in Stockholm began to explore the development of an aircraft that could be capable of fighter, attack and recon missions after evaluating a number of existing foreign aircraft including the American F-16 and F-18 fighters. The Swedish Parliament decided in June 1982 to move forward with the Swedish project, and the JAS 39 Gripen was initially designed to replace the variants of the Saab 35 Viggen and Saab 37 Draken combat aircraft.

Despite the fact that the aircraft was never produced in massive numbers, and Saab only found a few foreign customers – including South Africa, Brazil and the Czech Republic – in 2010, the Swedish defense contractor was awarded a four-year contract to improve the Gripen’s radar and other equipment, integrate new weapons, but also to lower its operating costs.

In June of that year, Saab announced that Stockholm planned to order the Gripen NG, designated JAS 39E/F, which was to enter service in 2017 or earlier dependent on export orders. Assembly began on the first pre-production Gripen E in the summer of 2013, while part of the plan was to convert and retrofit 60 of the JAS 39Cs to the JAS 39E standard by 2023. However, the plan was revised – with newly-guilt airframe for the Gripen E utilizing some reused parts from the JAS 39Cs. The first production Gripen E was rolled out in May 2018.

Extreme Aircraft

Like the Swedish people, the Gripen E can be described as “rugged” and “hearty.” It was developed to be able to operate in extreme climates and from dispersed and unprepared road bases or airstrips. Saab claims that it takes less than 20 minutes with only a limited number of ground crew and equipment to refuel and rearm Gripen for an air-to-air mission, which ensures rapid re-engagement.

Back in the sky, the Gripen E is powered by a GE F414G engine, which provides for a maximum takeoff weight of 16,500 kg, while the aircraft can reach a speed of Mach 2 with supercruise ability, and has a range of 1,500 km. It can carry an impressive payload with its ten hard-points. The aircraft can conduct air-to-air, air-to-surface and reconnaissance missions. Air supremacy is achieved with the carriage of up to seven Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missiles and two Within Visual Range IRIS-T missiles

The Gripen E is also equipped with AESA-radar, InfraRed Search and Track System (IRST), highly advanced electronic warfare and communication systems. In addition, Saab has incorporated a number of cutting-edge technologies, the latest systems, sensors, weapons and pods to ensure combat advantage, delivering air superiority in highly contested environments. It utilizes a silent networking platform and total sensor fusion across a tactical air unit to blind and confuse the enemy.

According to Saab, this allows one aircraft to go active, while the others go passive. Gripen E’s integrated cutting-edge electronic warfare system combines a variety of offensive and defensive measures to disrupt enemy efforts while protecting itself to ensure high survivability. The fighter can also conduct real-time signal analysis and countermeasures management, as well as extensive electronic intelligence (ELINT) signal collection.

The aircraft further offers an embedded AI capability, while the “future-oriented cockpit design” features a Wide Area Display (WAD) to facilitate the pilot’s decision-making process while providing crucial assistance in the midst of a complex mission. The WAD presents the information in a user-friendly way, which supports a pilot’s ability to select, launch and guide weapons in perfect coordination with other members of a tactical air unit.

The Gripen E may not be a stealth aircraft but could be the most capable fourth-generation fighter in service today.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.



  1. Alex

    March 29, 2022 at 2:41 pm

    A single-engine aircraft, according to the idea, cannot be the best, except perhaps in its class. However, the Russian SU-75 has more future.

  2. Niklas

    March 29, 2022 at 6:00 pm

    Just wanted to point out that the J35 is called Draken and the J37 is Viggen.

  3. Jose Ole

    March 29, 2022 at 7:21 pm

    Where does anyone get the slow, mediocre maneuverable, & costly F35 is the best fighter in the world??


  4. Stephan Luc Larose

    March 29, 2022 at 7:54 pm

    F35 is completely inadequate for Canada. A single engine jet with a tiny range will simply be incapable of patrolling such an enormous landmass. Canada needs twin engine jets with 2-3000km range. Waste of taxpayer money.

  5. John Cocktosten

    March 29, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    I’m wondering aloud why veteran pilots, remaining in active service, who commanded or piloted the world’s best air superiority or supremacy aircraft (F-15 or F-22), have such positive reaction to transition to F-35. Gripen E, Rafael, Typhoon are all awesome. But 2 decades old when they hit the street. And Russia lovers. F-35 SMOKES anything in post-sov or Russia. Up close or bvr birches. Hate the player? Hate the game! Now we know the very player and his game in Mr putinova

  6. Dave T.

    March 30, 2022 at 4:22 am

    unlike his father Pierre,Justin is a sychophant to the U.S.A. Govt.

  7. Øystein Jakobsen

    March 30, 2022 at 8:49 am

    This article should have stacked Gripen up against the F35 basics. Cost per plane. Cost per flight-hour (fuel and maintenance). What the F35 as a 5th gen plane can do that the Gripen cannot.

    Also, where are we with air-to-air drones and would we need fighters still? As for anti-tank, drones can now do it better, cheaper, safer for rhe pilots and in greater numbers than a plane. Soon that goes for air superiority also

  8. Scott Thompson

    March 30, 2022 at 9:51 am

    Canada is buying the F35 because they are our neighbors and I can guarantee there is a side deal here with U.S.A. for something else between Biden and Trudeau..

  9. Jim

    March 30, 2022 at 11:47 am

    Best? Uh, the F22?

  10. Xanthopteryx

    March 30, 2022 at 2:41 pm

    Gripen has a combat range of around 1500 km. That is radius! So out and home. Patroling it goes up around 4000 km. So you just drop down and fill up and then carry on. Turnaround for only that is like 10 minutes and can be done on a road base.

    Gripen is cheaper, more versatile, extremely Quick turnaround (rearm and refuel in less than 20 minutes, by conscrips, on a road base). Engine swap in less than an hour, by conscrips, on a road base!
    Its super asvanced and can be reprogramed to the next combat day to fit the actual scenario and changing reality. Can land almost everywhere and start the same.

    This deal is not the best plane for canada. Its politic. Something else and fishy is going on…

  11. Knowitall

    March 30, 2022 at 5:08 pm

    It is not powered by a GE is powered by a sweedish built RM12 that was developed from and by the GE 404.

  12. Bruce

    March 30, 2022 at 7:04 pm

    People make the machines, let them rise and be quelled…

  13. Kakumei

    March 30, 2022 at 8:15 pm

    Canada is part of the NORAD so the US gov. have a big grip on what Canada can choose.
    When Dassault asked the size, weight and connectors type of the NORAD “black” boxes communication hardware, they got a GFY from the USA. How can you compete when you can’t and don’t know how and where you are going to put the in the plane? and with the risk of veto from one country who can say ,we don’t want your equipment installed in this aircraft.
    That’s why Dassault left, they didn’t want to spend money and time for an already decided deal. BAE did the same later with the Typhoon.
    Only the Swedish stayed with big illusion of winning the deal.

  14. KasugaKyosuke

    March 31, 2022 at 11:22 am

    John Cocktosten : Are you just another troll or just failure-35 fanboy ?

    As far as I know, the F350 never fought with a modern and advanced fighter, so telling the f35 is smoking anything on earth, is kinda way too much pretentious in my point of view. In fact it’s pretty the opposite according to experts and facts.

    failure-35 won its name, because of the huge amounts of grave and major problems it’s facing every month every week, every day almost … So telling it’s smoking everything is only a very bad joke.

    Even f22 lacks of critical and very important technologies such as IRST and other passive sensors. Only relying on radar, is one huge mistake USA did before, and is trying to correct recently since few years.

    Rafale and gripen are the 2 best and most complete fighters available right now. Rafale always been ahead, and will take it back soon with its coming F4 version.

    • JM

      July 10, 2022 at 10:05 am

      If you claim that one accusation is pretentious because it is not based on real world combat against its peers then that just makes your claims pretentious too!

  15. Alexander E

    April 3, 2022 at 3:08 pm

    Beside the countries mentioned in the article also Hungary, and Thailand operates the JAS 39 Gripen

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