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JAS 39 Gripen

Grip - a mythical winged animal which symbolizes the sun, the sky, the golden dawn light and which combines the strength and meaning of the eagle and the lion. As a protector of wealth the Gripen represents vigilance and revenge. In the Orient it is, like the dragon, often a symbol of wisdom and spiritual light.

The JAS 39 Gripen is the result of a joint development by Saab Military Aircraft, Ericsson Microwave Systems, Volvo Aero Corporation and Celsius Aerotech. It is a fourth generation, multi-role combat aircraft. The Gripen fighter combines new knowledge-based, software-controlled avionics systems; modern materials; advanced aerodynamic design; a well-proven engine and fully-integrated system to produce a highly-capable, true multi-role combat aircraft. The Gripen is the first Swedish aircraft that can be used for interception, ground-attack and reconnaissance (hence the Swedish abbreviation JAS -- Fighter (J), Attack (A) and Reconnaissance (S) in Swedish), successively replacing the Draken and the Viggen.

The JAS 39 Gripen is an aircraft which has the capability to switch roles between mid-air between air-to-air combat, ground attack and reconnaissance missions. The aircraft is also a very capable information system. The Gripen system is designed to be able to meet today's as well as future requirements. It is a combination of combat performance and mission capability which makes it possible for the system to reach optimal operational effectiveness. The system builds upon new and advanced technologies, which gives it a very long-term development potential. Those aircraft which are now supplied from Saab are adapted to co-operate internationally, for example, the aircraft can be re-fueled mid-air. JAS 39 Gripen belongs to fourth-generation aircraft systems. From an operational point of view, its air defense role is of the highest importance. As an integrated multi-role aircraft, Gripen can operate just as well against ground and sea targets and undertake advanced reconnaissance missions. The balance in all roles is central to Gripen's operational and tactical capability.

An unstable canard layout was adopted, as it would give the greatest benefits to performance, as it gives a high onset of pitch rate and low drag enabling the aircraft to be faster, have longer range and carry a larger useful payload. For an instability of 5-10% at subsonic speeds, which was desired, Saab decided that a canard layout would entail a lower technical risk as the canard can be weathercocked turning the aircraft into a slightly stable one. This cannot be done with an unstable aft tail configuration. Other advantages with a canard is more lift during take off and landing, 10% better supersonic turning performance and lower supersonic drag.

Flying properties and performance are optimized for fighter missions with high demands on speed, acceleration and turning performance. The combination of delta wing and canards gives the JAS 39 Gripen very good take off and landing performance and superb flying characteristics. The totally integrated avionics makes it a "programmable" aircraft. With the built in flexibility and development potential the whole JAS 39 Gripen system will retain and enhance its effectiveness and potential well into the 21st century. The specification for this aircraft says that must be able to operate from 800 meter (2,400 foot) runways, so actual take off and landing distance is significantly less, and since early on in the program, all flights from Saab's facility in Linkping are flown from within a 9 meter by 800 meter outline painted on the runway.

The Gripen is classified into 4 categories, based on the current standards of the aircraft; A-class in the first generation 1-seat fighter, and B-class is the 2-seat model. Correspondingly, C is the upgraded 1-seater, and D is the upgraded 2-seater. The upgrades to the C and D standards are mostly interior; there were some cockpit modifications and control improvements.

Gripen offers high agility, advanced target acquisition systems - including a powerful multi-role radar, modern weapons, low environmental signatures and a comprehensive electronic warfare (EW) suite. The JAS39 Gripen system is designed to counter all current and future threats. The aircraft has been developed for the Swedish Air Force by the Industry Group JAS (SAAB, Ericsson, Volvo Aero and FFV Aerotech) in close co-operation with the Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV). In partnership with Sweden's Saab, British Aerospace is engaged in a number of marketing campaigns for the highly capable Gripen fourth generation combat aircraft. Engineering activity associated with improving the operability of the aircraft in the export market is underway.

An important factor when offering the Gripen for export is the aircraft missile system. The Gripens used by the Swedish Air Force are armed with AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9 Sidewinder, the Saab Dynamics RBS 15 for ship targets, and the Maverick ground attack missile. Saab Dynamics cooperates with the major European missile manufacturers in the development of new air-to-air missiles for the Eurofighter, the Rafale and the Gripen. The two main projects currently underway are the Meteor and the IRIS-T. The Meteor is a radar-guided, medium range (10-120 km.) air-to-air missile, which will compete with future versions of the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM. The Meteor program features Matra BAe Dynamics, Saab Dynamics, Alenia Difesa, Marconi and German LFK. The IRIS-T is an IR-guided, short-range air-to-air missile, primarily funded by Germany for the Eurofighter. The project group includes Bodenseewerk Geratechnik and Saab Dynamics.

Another major project is the proposed upgrades of smart weapons for the Gripen. Future sales and use of the Gripen by defense forces will be greatly impacted by the addition of enhanced weapons. The Gripen currently uses a number of advanced weapons systems, and has integrated smart weapons such as laser-guided bombs (LGB) into the aircraft's armament. In addition to LGBs, the Gripen employs corresponding targeting equipment such as forward-looking infrared/laser designator pod (FLIR/LDP). Additional systems that are being tested for the Gripen include the Thales "Guardian" helmet-mounted display (HMT), which was evaluated for use in cueing up smart weapons systems. Also under development by Ericsson is an advanced electronically scanned array (AESA), which can perform simultaneous functions such as jamming and target acquisition.

At the 2013 Paris Air Show, SaaB Group suggested that it might be looking to upgrade the existing fly-by-wire technology in the Gripen to effectively turn the aircraft into a pilot-optional design. The immediately suggestion that was that this could turn existing Gripen's into cost effective unmanned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms, but the software and other upgrades could potentially allow the Gripen to be a fully functional multi-role aircraft when operated remotely. The improvements would also potentially allow a single pilot to ferry multiple aircraft between locations, another cost reduction. A pilot-optional Gripen was seen as potentially swaying wary European aviation regulators worried about the increased use of unmanned aircraft over European airspace and the aircraft could also make use of existing support structures for the type.

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