Saab talks up Gripen fighter, describes offer to Finland - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 17 November 2021

Saab talks up Gripen fighter, describes offer to Finland

Saab has priced the Gripen-E fighter at about Euro 100 million each for the Finnish HX fighter procurement


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 18th Nov 21


Anticipating the issue of a global tender by the Indian Air Force (IAF) for the much-delayed acquisition of 114 multi-role fighter aircraft (MRFA), international vendors have begun positioning themselves to compete.


Last week, Lockheed Martin, which is likely to offer the IAF the F-21 fighter – an improved version of the venerable F-16 – held a vendors conference in Bengaluru for discharging potential offset liabilities.


On Wednesday, Swedish company Saab, which is likely to offer the IAF its new Gripen E fighter, held a press briefing to explain the benefits of its offer in Finland’s on-going acquisition of 62 fighters, which Saab believes it is poised to win.


The Finnish procurement – termed the HX Programme – bears a similarity with India’s MRFA procurement. There are five firms/fighters in contention: Gripen E/F (Sweden), F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (USA), F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (USA), Rafale (France) and Eurofighter Typhoon (Europe). 


The IAF acquisition includes all of them, except that Lockheed Martin is offering the F-21 instead of the F-35, and additionally two Russian aircraft builders are contending.


Magnus Skogberg, the Gripen campaign chief, revealed that Saab had offered Finland 64 Gripen-E/F fighters, as well as two GlobalEye airborne warning and control (AW&C) aircraft for Euro 9 billion – the amount Finland has budget.


With Euro 1.5 billion of this allocated to weapons, and Euro 1 billion on the two GlobalEye platforms, Saab is providing 64 Gripen E fighters for Euro 6.5 billion. At Euro 100 million per aircraft, Saab is sending out the message that, compared to the Rafale, “twice the number of fighters [are getting] airborne at half the cost.”


The weapons package in the HX fighter tender has been flexibly defined by the Finnish Defence Forces and are required to form a part of the bids. Skogberg says that Saab’s weapons package includes: Meteor air-to-air missiles, which are widely regarded as the world’s longest-range air combat missile; IRIS-T short-range, infrared homing, air-to-air missiles and the Spear (Select Precision Effects At Range) capability, which is under development in the UK as an air-to-ground, and possibly anti-ship, missile.


These are as effective and cost about the same as the weapons package that is coming to India with the Rafale fighter.


Saab will also deliver the Gripen-E to Finland with a world class electronic warfare (EW) system that provides 360-degree protection with radar warning receivers (RWRs), missile approach warning system (MAWS), flares and chaff. Internal jammers allow the fighter to carry out suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD). These on-board systems can be complemented with external jammer pods and decoys – such as the electronic attack jammer pod (EAJP).


Saab has also incorporated an attractiveindustrial participation package – a euphemism for offsets – to create Finnish national capabilities to support the Gripen fighter over the decades.


These include 46 projects in Finland that provide maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities for the Gripen E, its engine and 150 aircraft subsystems. In addition, 72 indirect IP projects are proposed for enhancing Finland’s overall scientific capabilities, including artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced materials and additive manufacturing.


Saab’s offer to Finland also undertakes to ensure front-line maintainability, with at least 50 Gripen E fighters ready to fly at any time. The Swedish firm has guaranteed reliability and maintainability, with nine hours being the mean time before failure (MTBF); and three hours being the mean time to repair (MTTR).


Mats Palmberg, who heads the Gripen campaign in India waved away the suggestion that India's large-scale acquisition of the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) had eliminated the space for purchasing more single-engine fighters, such as in the acquisition of 114 multi-role fighter aircraft (MRFA). To the contrary, he said, Saab’s bid would include an entire section that offered to assist in the development of the Tejas Mark 2 and “other futuristic fighters,” which can only mean the fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, that the Defence R&D Organisation is developing.

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