Thursday, 25 April 2013

Gripen criticism.

Reader "molnibalage83" posted this in the comment section of "Lies, damn lies, and military procurement costs":

Instead typing I just share something.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (download link)

It was made a reply another "funny" article which was posted on web. A strongly cutted version was released on Ottawa Citizen. 
Since I don't expect anyone to click on a direct download link, for fear of viruses, etc, I have instead decided to post it here, in its entirety and unedited by me.

Here it is, in its entirety.  I will give my response in the comment section.
1.Foreword
This critic was summoned by an article which was published on online board of Ottawa Citizen. The article portrays loosely most of the mentioned fighter aircraft concerning their capabilities and potential. The author collected many links, but because of misinterpretation, lack of criticism and understanding and knowing the basics of military aviation and physics, the conclusions of the article are false. Even a fixed point of view, a conception is missing. If something is mentioned, which good for Gripen NG, all other consequences of the aspect were not considered. If something is just guessing or optimistic assumption for Gripen NG, this aspect is not applied in similar way for other competitors. This is such an error which should not be allowed.
For easier understanding I quote certain parts of the original article. I do not use similar links as the author did for “verification” because marketing stuff and similar types of sources have to be judged with critical eyes or simply disregarded. The critic pinpoints only the most critical errors of the article, but such a deep and detailed analysis which I wished to make was not possible. It would be too long, and most of reader never read it because of the too hard physics and technical content, the critics had to be cut making understandable for average readers. (Even using this aspect the critic is much longer as the criticized article.)
2.Critics – Part I
Candidates: The Various Alternatives
While the Rafale performs very well, it is hindered by its incompatibility with most NATO standard weapons, which Canada stockpiles. This means that Canada would be dependent on French munitions and our existing weapons could not be used.
This is only partially true. Later the article many times refers the MBDA Meteor as a possible BVR missile for Gripen NG. Rafale also will be the one of the platforms of Meteor missile, the incompatibly concerning mostly air to ground weapons. In fact Rafale is able to use some US laser guided bombs from Paveway family, even the most advanced combined laser/GPS guided variants.
The article stands that Gripen NG will able to use any weapons which is shown on marketing brochures, which is not true. Most of displayed weapons on currently used Gripen fighters never were tested and integrated, neither on Gripen Demo which is very far from the Gripen NG. If the author accepts the assumption that Gripen NG will be able to use so many types of weapons as promoted on brochures – for an unknown and never mentioned cost – it should be allowed this premise for all other mentioned aircraft. Weapon integration is not impossible “just” an additional cost factor, not only for other competitors, but Gripen NG either.
Though still a very capable fighter, the Super Hornet is also not the best of these alternatives due to an antiquated air frame and a relatively low top speed of mach 1.8. The two most promising alternatives are the Next Generation Gripen and the Eurofighter.
Mentioning a theoretical top speed clearly shows that the author does not have even the basic knowledge about aerodynamics and real combat capabilities of any 4th generation or supersonic fighter. The maximal speed of Hornet (~M1.8) is theoretical for any fighter in real tactical situations. Fighters can reach this speed only with minimal or no weapons (except the F-22) on very high altitude (10 km+), and the price is very high if any aircraft try reaching this speed, their combat range is minimal. There are only two major exceptions from this “rule” the MiG-25 Foxbat and MiG-31 Foxhound. Both fighters are very special, they were designed as a “homeland interceptor” for ПВО (противовоздушная оборона, in English form PVO) and not tactical fighter against enemy fighters.
(Some countries tried use MiG-25 against fighters, but these attempts were mostly unsuccessful. During Operation Desert Storm likely a MiG-25 downed in the first night an F/A-18 Hornet, but the high top speed of MiG-25 was not acted. The Foxbat and its prey flew at medium altitude where neither top speed nor acceleration of the MiG-25 exceptional or superior, any other Iraqi fighter could achieve that victory in the same case with IR guided missile. The very crowded airspace and strict rules of engagement made possible for Iraqi Foxbat to penetrate into a big package and downed a fighter likely with an infra red guided R-40 missile; therefore the Hornet’s pilot was not aware of the attack, because no one of sensors indicated the missile launch.)
Back for top speed through an exact example, why is pointless mentioning a completely theoretical top speed. The example is the record breaking variant of F-15A, the Streak Eagle.(1) It was a lightened F-15A, some non essential systems and painting were removed, its empty weight was smaller about 2’800 lbs comparing with a combat capable Eagle. Even this special Eagle variant with about 50% internal fuel (~6’000 lbs) required two and a half minutes to climb the altitude (30’000+ feet) and accelerate where M2.0 speed is possible. The Streak Eagle consumed almost the total fuel quantity during the record breaking, less than 1’500 lbs remained for safe return. During the record breaking flight after reached M2.2 the Streak Eagle performed a zoom climb.(2) At very high altitude the engine flameout was unavoidable, so roughly after 3 minutes of full afterburner usage the F-15 used most of fuel – F-15A’s total internal fuel qty. was about 11’850 lbs – the farthest point during the record flight from airbase was only 55 km. (Volume of tanks are fixed, the density depends on type of fuel.) The acceleration was huge because Streak Eagle weight was smaller as an armed F-15, and of course carried no external stores. The example shows how small is the combat radius of fighters if they have to climb and try reaching their top speed. Of course it is possible to climb slower to 10km altitude then accelerate, but the range difference won’t be huge comparing with subsonic cruise range.
(As I know 20km+ climbing record still stand, officially never were beaten by any other fighter. Unofficially some lower altitude of climb records of Streak Eagle was beaten by a test GE F110 engine powered F-15E, which was not lightened.)
What about restriction of external stores and weapons? A fully armed F-15A top speed is about M1.7 with
4 x AIM-7 Sparrow and 4 x AIM-9 Sidewinder with standard day conditions.(3)
After taking off, climbing then performing an intercept with full afterburner Eagle’s combat radius is about only about 100 nautical miles (~180 km) and during the trip to home the fighter is literally defenseless, because of low fuel level. Regardless Eagles nowadays carry AIM-120 instead AIM-7 these values are not so different. Of course if Eagle climb with drop tanks then drop them radius is bigger, but supersonic combat radius is always much smaller than subsonic cruise range
If we count with aerial refuel at medium altitude then performing an interception at high altitude for a CAP (combat air patrol) station the Eagle still cannot fly far from tanker. After a very short time – about 6-8 minutes – should turn back having enough fuel for safe trip to tanker to home and be able to react appearing threats.
So far the maximal speed was counted only in air to air configuration, with air to ground ordnance and drop tanks the top speed is about M1.2-1.4 for any 4th generation fighter, but only if they are flying at least
20-30 thousand feet. The chart in the link represents the flight envelope of an F-16C with F110-GE-129 engine, with drag index 150. (4) The 150 drag index value means roughly the following weapon configuration:
  • 2 x AIM-120 on 1/9 stations (wingtip)
  • 2 x AIM-9 on 2/9 stations (outer wing hardpoint)
  • 2 x GBU-24 or similar size bombs on 3/7 stations (middle wing hardpoint)
  • 2 x 370 gal. drop tank on 4/6 stations (inner wing hardpoint)
  • 1 x laser targeting pod on 5R station (right side of intake, under fuselage)
If the F-16C in the example accelerates form M0.9 to M1.25 consumes lots of fuel and takes quite a long time. On 30k feet F-16C with – with empty drop tanks means about 32’000 lbs gross weight – the required time is about 70 seconds and consumes 700 lbs fuel, which is about 10% of total internal quantity.
Summarizing, mentioning any speed which is higher ~M1.4 is pointless except if the fighter have internal weapon bays, such as the F-22. The Raptor is able fly faster than M1.5 and sustains for a short time this speed without afterburner. M1.5 can be reached lower than maximal military throttle settings on high (8-10+ km) altitude with full air to air ordnance (6 x AIM-120 + 2 x AIM-9). With full military throttle stick setting in AA configuration the maximal speed is M1.78, still without using afterburner. 4th generation fighters are able to perform only M1.2-M1.4 – Eurofighter is the best with M1.4 – but with full military throttle stick setting and above 10km+ and without any external stores.
It is very likely that F-22 is able to reach M1.5 without full military power even if carry bombs in internal bay.(Currently only small fraction of the F-22 fleet has strike capability, later Blocks will get strike capability by GPS guided bombs. Of course pilots have to be trained for strike role to use the capability of the “hardware”.(5) The total weight difference between AA and AG configuration is small; therefore the required angle of attack (and drag) for sustained flight is very similar.
In short, currently the F-22 is the only operational fighter in the world which has real supercruise* capability, but even Raptor’s supercruise capability is restricted. To maintain useful combat radius supercruise can last about 5-6 minutes which is enough for provide big advantage in BVR combat. F-22 is able to climb faster and accelerate better than any fighter therefore the launch distance of its missiles can be boosted. (The launch platform acts as a “1st stage” of an air to air missile.) The weapon bay has major role in supporting the supercruise capability, this is one of the good side effect of stealth capability, which will be discussed later.
*Supercruise term used first by the Lockheed Martin because of a simple reason, the LM’s product was the first – YF-23 also was able to supercruise but lost the ATF competition – which was able to do in combat scenario, not only in very theoretical cases. The supercruise term in LM’s interpretation means M1.5+ speed without afterburner.
Any marketing document which states that X or Y 4th generation fighter is able to supercruise should be ignored, they concerning on non combat configurations. These statements do not meet the term of supercruise which is used for F-22. Summarizing, supercruise concerning on F-22 means M1.5+ speed with full armament in internal bays, for 4th generation fighters supercruise mean only that are able to break M1.0 with maximal military thrust setting and with minimal or no weapons at all. European fighter manufacturers simply twisted the meaning of supercruise term and never added to description the very strong restrictions.
Even the very old F-111F Aardvark was able to reach at low (!) altitude ~M1.1 with 1/3 fuel – this means ~10’0000 lbs because of huge internal fuel quantity. – but nobody never promoted F-111F as a “supercruise capable strike fighter”, because with ordnance in real combat situation was not able to perform. The clean aerodynamic and variable sweep wings could provide this capability for F-111. The unofficial top speed of
F-111F was about M2.5 in clean configuration regardless never was designed to reach this and its low thrust/weight ratio does not suggest this. These issues indicate how important the clean configuration both for theoretical and practical top speed, without internal bays talking about supercruise capability is a joke.

Calling “antiquated” the airframe of Super Hornet (aerodynamic conception) is one of the biggest mistakes of the article. Super Hornet has the biggest sustainable angle of attack (AoA) from 4th generation fighters which do not have thrust vectoring capable engine. The maximal sustainable AoA about 45-50 degrees, it represents how “antiquatedthe concept. The linked videos also are demonstrating the very big instantaneous turn rate of Super Hornet in positive and negative G turns either which is based on airframe and not on thrust.
The Super Hornet airframe is the latest developed from 4th generation fighters even it is based on older Hornet’s. It is very obvious that creating stealth capable – which means not invisibility for radars, it will be explained more detailed later – fighter was not possible, but reducing the radar cross section got higher priority as even before for any 4th generation fighter. Super Hornet radar cross section is not comparable with “stealthy” airframes – such as F-117, F-22 or F-35, which represent a different category – but as leaked information suggest, it has the smallest RCS from 4th generation fighters. If the author calls “antiquated” the Super Hornet, should be doing the same with Gripen NG. Its airframe is not as strongly redesigned as the Super Hornet, just a bit bigger to get additional pylons under the fuselage. These new hardpoints allow similar quantity ordnance as F-16C is able to carry. It is makes similar Gripen NG to an F-16C instead the JAS-39C, which is similar in size to F-20 Tigershark. The size increase impact on flight performance will be explained later. It is also a good question why is superior the aerodynamic conception of Gripen or Gripen NG comparing with Super Hornet...? I cannot find any reason.
It is the third generation of the Gripen fighter. Based on the Gripen C/D airframe, the NG Gripen will have new and improved sensor technology, fuel capacity, engine, and potentially thrust vectoring.
I’m glad that engine was mentioned, only problem the false information and lack of interpretation. The planned engine of the Gripen NG is F414G which is a modified F414. (F414 engines are used on Super Hornets). Even of its bigger thrust comparing with RM12 – is a modified and upgraded version of F404 which was built in F/A-18C/Ds – the performance of Gripen NG will be the more or less the same or worse comparing with JAS-39C/D if carries the theoretical full ordnance. Why? Because of the bigger weight of the airframe, the bigger quantity of internal fuel, and additional drag of more external stores consumes the bigger thrust, especially at higher altitudes. The drag of Gripen NG is much higher if the Meteor missiles are carried; it has much bigger drag than as conventional air to air missile because it has not conventional propulsion; besides the much bigger drag the Meteor also has big impact of radar cross section. The Meteor has such a big effect on combat radius, instead just calculating the different operational range of Eurofighter with new missiles, test flights have started measuring its reduced range.
Another option applying the latest and stronger variant of Super Hornet’s engine, the F414EPE, but this has strong impact on total cost because of another redesign; the engine has not been matured. Why? It has not been integrated into any aircraft, General Electric developed without signed contract. Without F414EPE it is a false hope to expecting a really stronger Gripen and even with F414EPE the flight performance will close to Super Hornet, but as I can estimate still below the F-16C if they carry the same qty. and category of ordnance.
I have no idea where came the idea of the thrust vector control (TVC) capable engine. All variants of F414 were developed by the requirements of US Navy which never requested the TVC capability. If the Volvo considers developing a TVC capable engine from any of the two possible candidates, it means a very long development and lots of money. In short, the TCV capable Gripen is only dream, it has no real base. If anybody considers this option won’t be cheap and easy. If author allowed himself such and optimism on “hidden developing potential” why did he treat other fighters differently...?
One more note, since the Cold War I can recall only one big re-engine program in bigger scale. Because
F-16s empty weight and drag in air to ground configuration were bigger and bigger with new variants (higher Block number). The F100-PW-220 engines of Block 42 were replaced with -229 variant, but removed engines could be used for F-15C fighter. This was likely one of the main reason why was financially possible the later changes. If Gripen NG won’t be manufactured with stronger and/or TVC capable engine it can be stated that never will get later. If the thrust issue won’t be solved from 1st manufactured Gripen NG, it never will be solved, which has serious impact on flight performance.

Factor 1: Cost
This part is based mostly nothing, because Gripen NG is currently a non existing aircraft, many of its main equipments/items are not production – just think about the engine – or their development has not been finished. Gripen GN is not a product; it is only a conception currently, which has to be developed. All development consist risks, which are meaning uncertain costs therefore even a fix price for Gripen NG cannot be stated.
The author simply believed the marketing speech about 4’700 USD/flight hour cost without any interpretation and critics. First of all, just check only one factor, the price of fuel. In the last two years was about 3 USD/US gal., which means about 0.8 USD/l. The average density of different types of jet petrol is 800 kg/m3, which means about 1USD/kg price.
The internal fuel capacity of Gripen NG is about 3’300 kg, and of course it can carry drop tanks. The fuel consumption is very mission dependent; during a dogfight and BVR training within 30-40 minutes most of fuel can be consumed. Let’s assume that 3’300 kg fuel/flight hour is the average consumption during service. It can be longer or shorter depending or type of flight (long range strike training, dogfight training, etc.) Only the kerosene cost translating into specific flight hour cost is about 3’300 USD. This value represents a cost if the Gripen does not require ground crew, pilot, spare parts, ground check and tons of other caring. It should be obvious the 4’700 USD/flight hour is not true, or is defined by such a method which is not comparable unless knowing what is included. No one of other flight hour cost data calculation method was defined in the article, therefore they are almost useless. As a base let’s see how can be calculated the flight hour cost.
We can get the smallest value if we count resources only, which are spent on unit level, on the airbase. The wage of maintenance crew, cost of jet petrol, the typical and most common spare parts, bigger repairs which can be done without major overhaul (depot level maintenance in US term.) If this method is applied the specific cost is more or less constant. When comes this time? If the operator already has the necessary experience, the checks and maintenance tasks are routine activities. Upgrades, more extensive but less regular checks, later structural reinforcements, repair cost of serious mishaps and similar issues are not included if we follow this method. In this case the specific flight hour cost is very misleading, because there are “hidden”, not listed costs. It is clearly visible that the quoted 4’700 USD/flight hour cost of Gripen is something similar; many expenditure items are not counted therefore should be ignored.
If anyone wishes to get a correct specific flight hour cost value, it has to be accepted that the value is dynamic thing during the life time of an airplane.(6) In the chart of source is shown that flight our cost is not a constant value. Scheduled checks, upgrades and many other things have impact on cost. In fact the only value (cost) which should be considered what is spent to build up and maintain a capability. All expenditures should be included what was spent from procurement to end of service time. Of course this means the final value of specific cost can be calculated after the last aircraft have been retired, but during the service moving average can be applied to get something for comparison. If the procurement cost is excluded – assuming that a fighter have to be bought in the same quantity regardless of their price – the cost of operation still can be calculated following by the “all included” method. Of course in this case the specific cost will be much higher for any aircraft comparing with “clean” cost, because serious upgrades, deeper checks, life extension can mean millions or ten million USD expenditure concerning on a single airframe during its service.
It is time to check the available data – as a base – about existing Gripen variants. Hungary is leasing 12
JAS-39C and 2 JAS-39D. The Hungarian Gripens are not 100% identical with Sweden Gripen fighters – fuselage are new, but wings are not, they were previously used on older A/B airframes – and got a Link 16 compatible data link and other changes because of NATO operation requirements.
The leasing is not a widely used form of procurement in military aviation but it has a good side effect. Because of the support the cost of lease includes almost all cost of operation; it represents the “all included” aspect. Hungary pays only the wage of crew and the jet fuel; most of other costs are included in the leasing contract. Hungary signed in 2003 for 10 years with 16’800 flight hours, was an extension for another 10 years in 2012 for more 16’800 hours. The price of first ten years was 240 billion HUF in 2003, the cost of second 10 years is 490 billion (because of inflation and HUF exchange rate is weaker comparing any major foreign currency). Counting with on 2012 HUF value parity the specific flight hour costs are the followings (220 HUF = 1 USD):
  • 1st ten year cost is about 20 million HUF / flight hour, which means about 90’000 USD / flight hour.
  • 2nd ten year cost is about 15 million HUF / flight hour, which means about 70’000 USD / flight hour.
The result is quite shocking, because the wages and price of fuel are not included, which means more
3-4k USD/flight hour increase. Of course because of a new aircraft were some additional cost, the support infrastructure, etc. also included but even these items are not calculated the price tag is very high. (Hungary bought weapons and targeting pods in another deal, their price are not included in lease contract.) The mentioned costs are representing the real cost of building up and maintaining of a capability. The costs are above not included the price of aircraft, because after 20 years or service Hungary still won’t own the aircraft, but they can be bought for an unspecified (or classified) price.
In we assume the linked flight hour cost values about USAF’s fighters do not include the cost of upgrades, later structural reinforcements, we should estimate them. If we assume about 40 million USD/airframe for upgrade and more 20 million USD for depot level maintenance and life extension, the F-16C is still much cheaper. These values are quite over estimated. The most expensive fighter upgrade & life extension that I ever heard was offered to India concerning their Mirage-2000 fighters.(7) The specific cost of the package is about 40 million USD / airframe.
The life time of an F-16C and F-15C is about 8’000 hours, the F-15E’s planned life span is 16’000 hours. If we add this 40-60 million USD the spec. flight our cost increase in only ~5-7,5k USD/flight hour. If the specific cost is counted for only 20 years of usage – which means in USAF about 250-300 hour/year for each airframe – the cost is still much lower as for Gripen. Of course we can add the price of an F-16C on current value, which is also ~40 million USD, but after estimation of “all included” costs, building up and maintaining an F-16C fleet still seems much cheaper, about 35’000 USD/flight hour and the fighter is owned by the operator which is a huge difference comparing with Hungarian Gripen leasing. The lease cost in USD increased for Hungary because of value exchange rates but even counting this factor (max 25% increase) the Gripen is still more expensive.
Capabilities of an F-16C are not conditional and “should be developed” category, they are available, they are products. If you wish SEAD capability you can buy now AGM-88 and AN/ASQ-213A, if you wish HOBS (high off-boresight) IR missile with helmet display you can buy the JHMCS and AIM-9X, if you want precision strike capability, you can buy different kind of laser targeting pods and bombs. Not “when” and “if”, now. There is no uncertainty, risks are minimal.
Structural analysis indicates the life span of the airframe of F-15s can be increased dramatically and likely won’t increase the specific flight hour cost. It is expenditure but at the end of service the total life span in hours will bigger.(8) Same case its engine; the planned cycle of F100 is can be extended dramatically which is now 9000-18’000 cycle – depending on variant of F100 – the goal is 40’000 cycle.(9)
(Cycle is a typical heat stress equivalent value which can be counted depending on engine operation. Constant engine speed (RPM) mean less stress comparing a situation where thrust is changed rapidly, for example in air combat maneuvering.)
Why I mention this? Because it is doable with F-16C/Ds and F-15C/Ds. USAF plans to keep considerable quantity of F-16C/D (10) and F-15C/D (Golden Eagle program) for decades, likely it is possible doing the same with CF-188. Why is this important? I will back to this topic at the end of the critics.(11)
Summarizing, declaring Gripen NG as the less expensive solution seems to me quite a brave statement, without any real base. Yes, even the current Gripen variants and Gripen NG can be a very potent fighter, because they have undeveloped potentials, but their cost factor is not the best and carriers big uncertainty because possible developments. The technical content of Gripen NG has not been finalized therefore the price is uncertain; data about operation and maintenance cost are not available because it is a non-existent aircraft.
Because of small fleet size, any version of the Gripen never can be as matured and well explored as Super Hornet or F-16. So far 500+ were built from Super Hornet and thousands from different version of Falcon. What about Gripen? Less than 250 have been built from all variants, the retirement of A/B variants have been started in Sweden.
The Gripen NG has big potential for later developing but this is true for other 4th and 4++ generation fighters. All new developments which can be applied on Gripen NG, is not impossible on other fighters. Moreover, many of these developments on other aircraft are already available. USAF A-10 attackers have IR/UV missile approach warning systems (MAWS), on Navy’s Super Hornets and USAF’s F-22 have AESA radar, towed radar decoy are used since 1999, first in Allied Force on F-16Cs, BOL rails are used on USAF’s F-15s, etc.
What about Sweden equipments? Their AESA radar has been developed since late ‘90s and still is not ready for integration, it is still in prototype phase. A fully capable Gripen NG in 2017 seems to me only a dream.
Factor 2: Performance
With regard to specifications, the Gripen and Eurofighter are about equal, save for the fact that the Saab has obtained AESA radar, an asset the Eurofighter currently lacks and the Gripen is a single engine fighter whereas the Eurofighter is a twin engine fighter.
No, Gripen currently does not have AESA, it may have later. The only European jet which is in service and has electronically scanned array is the Rafale, but it has not AESA type only PESA type radar, which means totally different capability regardless of their similar names. In short, the AESA uses hundreds or thousands of small modules generating a beam, PESA use only one big emitter. The modules of AESA radar can be defined as blocks, and all blocks can be used in different modes. For example, a part of modules are used is air to air searching mode, while the rest can be used create SAR (synthetic aperture radar) map.(12) Of course the resolution of SAR map depends on the quantity of used cells, as well as the sensitivity of radar in air to air search mode.(13) In short, the AESA is much flexible and knows much more as PESA type radars. Of course their cost is another dimension and the required knowledge for manufacturing. USA currently is the leading in AESA technology, on Super Hornets, F-15Cs, F-22s and F-35s different types of radars have been applied, and these are not prototypes. First AESA radars were installed on USAF and Navy jets more than a decade ago. The contrast is quite big.
They both have similar power-to-weight ratios and wing loading capacities and, although the Eurofighter enjoys a very slight advantage, they are so close in performance that any advantage enjoyed by the Eurofighter is negligible, particularly when compared to the vast difference in price.
These statistical values are very misleading, should be not used, it will be explained why. Because of external stores top speed of 4th generation fighters more or less the same in the same configuration, but their acceleration and maneuverability are different in subsonic and transonic range. The most important thing, their maneuverability is strongly dependent on fuel level, quantity and types of carried external stores. This is why so misleading the thrust/weight ratio and wing loading values which are given mostly in air to air configuration. Let’s discuss just a bit deeper this issue.
If we count with the same amount of weapon for a Gripen and for example on an F/A-18E Super Hornet or Strike Eagle, the relative cross section – means bigger drag – and weight increase is bigger for a smaller fighter. If bigger and heavier fighter has the same trust/weight ratio (t/w ratio) and wing load in air to air or “clean” configuration – without any external stores – as a smaller aircraft, the bigger preserves more from its maneuverability, t/w ratio and wing load are better. Four air to air missiles and two bigger bombs (2000 lbs size) are not a big issue for an F-15E, but they are for Gripen. T/w ratio gives zero information about drag which is a very important factor. It does not important how good the t/w ratio if external stores create huge drag. The wing loading does not reveal the lift-AoA characteristic, the maximum available lift force and AoA limitations.
Because of the limitation a short article cannot be fully explained as I wish, but another factor is lack of exact data about all mentioned aircraft. If anyone wishes to get really comparable data lots of performance envelope charts are required.(14)These are a speed-Turn rate chart with displayed iso-lines concerning on turn radius and specific excess power (Ps). The charts show the performance values with a certain weapon configuration, on a certain altitude. The specific excess power shows the available climbing (ft/second) or acceleration capability. If an aircraft have bigger Ps value with the same speed and altitude as another in aircraft in the same situation, generally it means it have better maneuverability. Of course the highest instantaneous and sustainable turn rates also counts.
What is important? The maneuverability of the fighters in the typical speed and altitude range of air combats. Where should be examined these capabilities? About 90+ percent of air combats since 1967 (3rd Arab-Israeli War) were below 25’000 feet and airspeed literally never was higher than M1.3. During dogfights subsonic-transonic speed was typical. Supersonic speed was mostly performed in beyond visual range (BVR) combats in approaching phase, increasing the initial speed (range) of missiles.
What does it mean maneuverability? It means the ability changing airspeed, direction and altitude in any combination. The maneuverability cannot be explained using such simple and misleading statistical values as trust/weight ratio and wing loading. These will be explained later.
What is the problem with the flight performance of Gripen NG? First of all Gripen NG does not exist, therefore we should check the performance of JAS-39C. It has the weakest performance from 4th generation fighter, its engine is simply too weak, especially if carries full air to ground (AG) ordnance with drop tanks. I had to chance speak a Hungarian fighter pilot, I quote him:
It is very painful a dogfight against even F-16C Block30/32, the Falcon simply is more powerful than a Gripen. JAS-39C Gripen has many advantages comparing with our previous jet (MiG-29 9.12) in many areas (avionics, sensor & BVR capabilities, data link, reliability, etc.), but definitely not its flight performance which should be underlined...”
Air show demonstration demo flights are performed at very low altitude, mostly below 1 km except some maneuvers; therefore they show only a fraction of the “big picture”. The trust depending on altitude and airspeed, these define the thrust characteristic, which has serious effect of flight performance. Therefore using ground testing (15) thrust data of and calculating t/w ratio with this value is pointless. The effect of airspeed and altitude, and the impact of engine intake of airframe on thrust are also not measured.
Regardless of these conditions it clearly visible that Gripen is not the most powerful fighter, in fact, it is the weakest from 4th generation fighters. It cannot perform such a long climb – especially the climb initiated at lower speed – and high sustainable turn rate as other fighters. It is highly unlikely that on higher altitude the situation changes in favor to Gripen. The Gripen is not so bad, but definitely the weakest among the 4th generation fighters, its flight performance similar to Chinese JF-17 or F-20 Tigershark. (The F-20 was never ordered by any country.)
Generally at low-med altitude Rafale, F-15C, Eurofighter Typhoon, different MiG-29 and Su-27/30 fighters represents the top category in maneuverability following by very closely them the F-16C, F-15E and
Mirage-2000. Their performances are very close to each other if the carry the same amount and type of weapons, and have the same qty. of fuel.
(Because of conformal fuel tanks and bigger empty weight Strike Eagle is slightly weaker even with
F100-PW-229 engines than F-15C with F100-PW-220. There are Strike Eagle variants which equipped with GE F110 engines – some F-15K and Saudi Eagles – but not so many F-15 airframes got the GE manufactured engines.)
Close to these jets are the F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18E Super Hornet, and then come last JAS-39C. Super Hornet is a bit exceptional, regardless of its thrust which on paper is not extraordinary, but its aerodynamics concept is so good, their demonstration flights are more powerful as the available predestinates.(16)(17)
Both fighters have very similar, armament, top speed, capacity, fuel capacity, range, sensor technology, sensor fusion, helmet-mounted display, situational awareness, speed, and maneuverability.
These are also not true. Because of size of Typhoon armament is better scalable, its fuel qty. if much bigger, most of Gripen fighter does not have helmet mounted display and all sensors which required for better situational awareness (SA) can be integrated any fighters, if the customer requests. Comparing the maneuverability of the Gripen with Typhoon even in air to air (AA) or clean configuration is very interesting. If the author just saw only one demonstration flight should be note the strong difference. Gripen is definitely weaker and decreases more its performance with heavier payload.
By comparison, the F-35A is a poor performer. It is not designed to include supercruise capability and can only maintain supercruise for a mere 241km. Both the Gripen and Eurofighter have full supercruise capability at mach 1.2. The F-35A is also slow by fighter jet standards. With a top speed of 1,930 kmph (Mach 1.6), it lags far behind the Gripen, Eurofighter, which can both reach speeds above mach 2. The F-35A is even slower than the Super Hornet and F-16 Fighting Falcon it is meant to replace.
Comparing with F-35 a non-existent fighter is pointless; the top speed has been discussed. May the F-35 was not designed to supercruise but is able to do. Yes, the theoretical top speed is lower as for other fighters, because the airframe is optimized for high subsonic/low supersonic region. It have been mentioned that what is important the maneuverability in the most typical case of tactical situations. This is the zone where the F-35 is similar to F-16C; JSF very likely has better acceleration and specific excess power than Gripen NG. Yes, F-35’s maneuverability is not exceptional – in a positive manner – but stealth capability and sensors of F-35 – for example the distributed-aperture sensor (18)(19) – makes pointless to establish a better performance, it will provide only limited advantage.
Both the Gripen and Eurofighter have full supercruise capability at mach 1.2
After what I have explained so far it should be obvious, that is not true. With AG stores and drop tanks no one of 4th generation fighter can break M1.0 even they fly very high. At low even with full afterburner the top speed is M1.0 or very close to this value.
The F-35A is also slow by fighter jet standards.
It has been explained what is the useful speed region and why is pointless and false this statement. F-35 is optimized to high subsonic range. In fact F-35 with same armament – 2 x AIM-120 and 2 x 2000 lbs bomb – is faster than any 4th generation fighter because of the weapon bays. Also should be noted that acceleration is also very important. Even the +50 year old MiG-21F-13 was able to reach M2.0 at very high, but its acceleration was smaller comparing with currently used 4th generation jets.
The F-35A is even slower than the Super Hornet and F-16 Fighting Falcon it is meant to replace.
Yes, if 4th generation fighters do not carry any weapons and only the theoretical top speed is on the table, but in combat configuration this is not true.
Maneuverability is also an issue with the F-35A. Its small wing design does not allow for quick maneuvers using tight turn radius. The Gripen and Eurofighter excel in the area of maneuverability, providing an additional advantage in a combat situation.
First of all, the about 1/3 of total lift force on advanced fighters are generated by fuselage and not the wings in high AoA cases. Almost the whole airframe acts as a big wing, but of course wings have better “efficiency” (lift/drag coefficient ratio). This is one of the reasons why so misleading the wing loading value, because it does not cover the fuselage area and tells 0 information about how efficient is the fuselage...
Another big mistake mention in the same sentence quick turn and tight turn. If the author checked only one performance chart what I mentioned should discover on transonic speed the limiting factor for turn rate typically is the maximal allowable G on low-med altitude. The smallest turn radius is available generally at much lower speed with smaller turn rate; the limiting factor is maximal AoA, the available lift force. (Of course the trust and lift-drag relation defines the energy loss during the turns.)
F-35 sooner or later will be perform an unrestricted demo flight on air show as did F-22 in Farnborough in summer of 2008, 2,5 years after the first wing reached initial operation capability (IOC) status. (PAK-FA is the same case, it still have not performed an unrestricted demo.) As long as this demo have not been done the “poor performer” and similar unverified statements should not be made, especially from a person how who does not have any knowledge about aerodynamics. We have seen how “accurate” the author’s knowledge about importance top speed of fighters was. Yes, there have been revealed some issues about performance issues, but even in more detailed documents the circumstances – altitude, speed, gross weight, loadout – and possible solutions for fix were not discussed.(20)
He should be more careful before said so big “facts” about aerodynamics and flight performance of F-35, and especially if about comparison with a nonexistent Gripen variant. He simply does not know the basics requirements of dogfights, therefore he is not able quantifying the available factors.
Another disadvantage that reduces the F-35A’s capabilities is its limited internal weapons capacity. With four internal hardpoints, the F-35A cannot deliver nearly as much in payload, particularly when compared to the Russian Su-35, which has twelve hardpoints, the Eurofighter, which has thirteen hardpoints, and the NG Gripen, which will have twelve hardpoints. The F-35A can carry additional fuel and weapons externally using its six external hardpoints, but this negates the F-35A’s already questionable stealth advantage, which is examined later, and would not be advisable in a combat situation.
Here comes another typical mistake. Because no one of 4th generation fighter has internal bays, why should count F-35 weapon delivery capacity only with weapon bays...? This is one of the most annoying error, because an advantage of F-35 is treated as a disadvantage. Why? Because all other fighter which do not have internal bay carry the same amount of weapon as F-35 suffer more form increased drag. The weapons under fuselage and wings not only create drag, but have negative impact on the lift/drag ratio of the complete airframe, because changes the airflow structure, altering the original aerodynamic form.
Altering the cross section characteristic by external stores has also effect on wave drag; because what is called “area rule”.(21) In strike configuration if 4th generation fighter carriers the same amount weapons as F-35 they suffer from very rapid cross section area increase, their cross section characteristics are less close to ideal.
Of course if F-35 uses wing pylons lose stealth capability, but rest of conventional fighters which have only external stores still have bigger radar cross section (RCS), because their base RCS is bigger, and not only some, but all weapons are carried external hardpoints. If external carrying capability of JSF used, it is able to carry same or more weapons as any competitor but much smaller drag increase and less altered airflow structure. Why is this advantage simply “forgotten” and neglected? If the external weapons have been used even the pylons can be jettisoned to reduce the radar cross section. The huge quantity of external hardpoints supports the flexible weapon configurations, if stealth capability if no necessary. Yes, the internal capacity of F-35 is no so big, but it better to be low observable by radars – which provide very big tactical advantage – rather suffers from huge drag and reduced range because of huge quantity of external stores. The initial phase in conflict where enemy air defense and fighters have their full strength stealth capability is very useful.
Yes, during the latest conflict in Libya Rafale and other strike fighters carried lots of bombs and drop tanks, but the enemy air defense activity was minimal, and meant only very old Soviet air defense systems, there were no. air to air at all. Against an enemy which have latest air defense systems and advanced fighters nobody would send a fully packed fighter with maximal ordnance, because it has very serious impact on flight performance and range.
The number of hardpoints provides the flexible configurations for 4th generation fighters as well as for F-35 the extra wing hardpoints, but the performance impact strongly limits the number of really useful configurations of 4th generation fighters. What is the typical configuration? Below you can see the available hardpoints and typical weapons for some advanced fighter aircraft.
  • F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18E Super Hornet (22)
  • Su-30MK (23)
  • Su-35S (24)(25)
  • Rafale (26)
  • Eurofighter (27)
  • F-15E (28)
What we can see? Theoretically Eurofighter and bigger aircraft can carry typically 4 x 2000 lbs bombs or different types of bigger air to ground missiles, besides some BVR and short range AA missiles, and mostly at least one drop tank.(29) Only problem that such a configuration has no sense because of the mentioned issues. Too small range and strongly reduced maneuverability. On the picture below is a typical example about illogical load on a Eurofighter.
Similar not useful weapon load easily can be imagined for other fighters. For example F-15E Strike Eagle has seven hardpoints – 1 x centerline pylon, 4 x fuselage pylons, 2 x wing pylons – where can be put 2000 lbs size bombs moreover, on CL and wing hardpoints the maximal bomb weight is 5000 lbs. Theoretically
7 x 2000 lbs size bomb – which can be precision guided or “dumb” bomb either – or 3 x 5000 lbs, which means 3 x GBU-28 can be loaded. Only problem, these weapon loads have no sense. Similar case on Su-35 the 32 x 250 kg or the maximal quantity of big precision guided air to surface (AS) such as 6 x Kh-29. F-15E is also able to carry huge quantity of dumb bombs; of course this is pointless capability.(30) On the link the Strike Eagle Demonstrator is presented, it was a modified F-15B for proving the concept.

What is the configuration typical and useful? If we check the link about Rafale we get the right answer.(31) I have to say it is rare such a source which illustrates useful, and not the theoretical loads. What is typical on strike missions?
  • 2 x short range IR missiles
  • 2-4 x BVR air to air missiles (rarely 6)
  • 2 x drop tanks
  • 1 x laser targeting pod or other pod
  • 2x2000 lbs or 2x1000 or 4x1000 lbs or 4-8 x 500 lbs or one bigger stand-off weapons – for example Taurus of AGM-158 – under each wing or fuselage hardpoints. (Sooner or later next generation of small GPS guided bombs will be widely used)
Very big bombs or air to surface missiles mostly carried under centerline, for ex. GBU-28 on F-15E. Of course much more combinations are available besides the typical ones, but not all are as balanced as typical ones.
In air to air configuration Su-30MK, Su-35 and Super Hornet can carry 8 x BVR and 2 x short range IR guided missiles, but these configurations are also not useful. In most of situations simply there are not so many potential targets – regardless of simultaneous engagement capability, which also have limitations – except massive cruise missile attack. For combat air patrols (BARCAP) loiter time is important which mean at least pair of drop tanks on Super Hornet, Rafale and Eurofighter and F-16C. (F-15s are able to carry all drop tanks with full AA ordnance.) Even AA missiles have less drag as big bombs, but dual pylons of AMRAAM and drag of 10 air to air missiles comparable to a “light” strike configuration, therefore in dogfight are not useful. Dogfight can be happened anytime therefore it is not a good idea to fly with full armament with smaller aircraft or which have smaller thrust.
(Fighter variants of F-15s have such a big thrust that full AA armament is not a big issue, especially since use smaller AIM-120 instead AIM-7. Four missiles are carried on fuselage hardpoints the drag increase less as if they are carried on wing racks as on Hornets and other fighters.)
Generally the advantage of bigger aircraft that their performance is less degraded if carries the same amount of weapons as smaller fighters. All bigger 4th generation fighters have at least the same (Super Hornet) or (much) better performance (Rafale, F-15E, EF Typhoon) than Gripen, therefore in AA and especially in AG configurations they are more powerful.
If we check the F-35 we can see it has the same amount of wing pylon as Gripen NG.(32)(33) If necessary on inner wing hardpoints even the heaviest bomb can be carried which is designed for tactical fighters. Yes, JSF loses the stealth capability but rest of 4th generation fighters do not have at all this capability, therefore this is not disadvantage. What is the big difference? With much smaller armament but F-35 can be stealth, but no one of 4th generation fighter are able to reach this. This is what I call real flexibility, firepower, RCS and range are well scalable as the environment demands. If necessary because of any reason on wing pylons likely dual AIM-120 launchers can be applied. I do not know what is the exact plan, but if we accept marketing stuff of Gripen NG this means only a very light assumption for JSF. F-35 has integrated laser target designator and IR camera system, does not rely on pods, in stealth configuration also available this capability.
The Gripen, Gripen NG and F-16 typically can carry less as the listed items, because simply does not have enough pylons. Generally bigger fighters even are able to carry more does not carry the maximal weapon quantity to achieve a reasonable balance between firepower, of range and maneuverability. Calling “questionable” the stealth capability is quite funny, I will explain this later.
Here is some marketing material about Gripen NG, on the picture we can see what have been mentioned.(34) On the picture above the quantity of carried weapons are very impressive, only problem that is theoretical. A part of rack and launchers do not exist, they are nice 3D models on CGI images but they haven’t been developed. The usefulness of this configuration is limited, because of huge drag. With this configuration even an F414EPE powered Gripen NG will have quite weak performance and combat radius also in not the best. What can be a balanced load? Two drop tanks instead SDB bombs and AG ordnance on inner wing hardpoints or vice versa, plus AMRAAM instead of Meteor missiles or only 1-1 Meteor on each wing, because of bigger drag of Meteors.
On the following linked image problem is the same, we can see weapons and racks which have not been developed or still not in production.(35) Where were mentioned the risks, cost and deadlines in the article...? Number of hardpoints is not everything especially if some cannot be used simultaneously, I think here about fuselage hardpoints.
Factor 3: Compatibility and Weapons Capacity
The F-35A cannot yet carry the upcoming MBDA Meteor air-to-air missile; the most advanced NATO compatible air-to-air missile in the world, which is a major disadvantage in air-to-air combat, particularly in terms of engaging a target that is beyond visual range.
Integration is not impossible, at least on external hardpoints can be usable if won’t be developed such a variant which be loaded into weapon bays. Because hundreds of F-35 will be exported, it would be a very illogical decision from MBDA if not to develop such a Meteor variant, because dozens of potential customer will be on the market. So far only conception art have been released but if we accept the CGI images about Gripen NG this is not so “what if “ category for F-35.(36)
Plans to modify the MBDA Meteor to fit into the F-35A’s internal weapons bays have been proposed, but these plans are uncertain and adds to the already monstrous price tag.
Quite a strange aspect, monstrous price tag can be given only for F-35, but for an undeveloped Gripen variant with non integrated weapons the author did not apply the same point of view...
The Gripen and Eurofighter are both already compatible with the MBDA Meteor, along with virtually every other NATO compatible weapon available, giving them a significant combat advantage over the F-35A.
As long as Meteor does not exist, what advantage are we speaking...? They have the same BVR missile (AMRAAM), but F-35 will get also a new AMRAAM variant, the D version sooner or later as well as other fighters. F-35 has stealth capability which is a major advantage in BVR combat.
Even if an F-35A compatible version of the Meteor is developed in the future, that would not increase the capability of F-35A to such an extent as to justify the exorbitant price and poor performance in other areas.
This is the point where I thought that author lost his common sense. All other fighters without weapon bay suffer from the bigger drag of Meteor and RCS increase, but F-35 is not if we assume a bay compatible variant. Because of bigger drag of Meteor 4th gen. fighters in AA configuration likely will carry maximum
4 x Meteor and 2 x AMRAAM or short range IR missiles to maintain a reasonable range. The range, RCS and performance impact up to 4 Meteor missiles is zero for F-35, but not for other fighter.
The F-35A also cannot carry the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile as it does not fit in the internal weapons bay.
In the age of long range GPS or combined LJDAM guided gliding bombs the AGM-65 is an outdated and very expensive weapon because of its rocket engine. No one of AGM-65 has GPS guidance therefore it is not an all weather category weapon. In short, F-35 does not require AGM-65, will have better weapons for example AGM-154 and GBU-39 SDB. Because of the rocket engine and complicated elector optical / laser tracker system a price of AGM-65 is about 100’000+ USD, comparing with the price of a JDAM kit is about 20’000 USD.
This means that on retirement of the CF-18s, all ammunition that is not compatible with the F-35A’s internal weapons bay becomes practically useless.
RCAF has GPS guided bombs and GBU-12 – these already have been used in Afghanistan and over Libya – and AMRAAMs also can be used. (Likely Sidewinder either.) Maybe software update is required because of the requirements of internal bay launch, but the hardware is usable. Did the author think that all European and other operator will scrap the huge stockpile of precision guided bombs and air to air missiles because of F-35...?
The F-35A also presents a problem in terms of integration into Canada’s existing air-infrastructure due to its method of midair refuelling: the “flying boom” method. The flying boom method is only used by the U.S. Air Force. Virtually every other air force in the world, including Canada, uses the “probe-and-drogue” method. Canada’s CF-18s and CC-150 Polaris aerial tankers use this method
What a nice generalization. What does it mean every other air force...? Thousands of F-16s are in service in the world in more than 20 countries, only a fraction of Falcons were modified for basket refueling method. Almost a thousand F-15 are in service not only in USAF (Japan, Saudi-Arabia, Israel, South Korea, and Singapore), all with boom refueling method.
Other issue that RCAF currently has only two bigger tankers, it is not possible build real combat support capability based on just pair of tankers. RCAF has five smaller, which are modified C-130s, but comparing with internal fuel qty. of F-35 they are too small for combat operation, but they can be used for training. 100% availability is only a dream because of maintenance issues, therefore sometimes only one is available. How many fighters can be supported in any operation by a single tanker? Only some, therefore if RCAF needs tankers for supporting any operations other NATO members have to support jets of RCAF. If RCAF really wish to have an own tanker fleet for establishing a real capability at least 6-8 tankers required for a fighter fleet which consist 70-80 aircraft. New tankers can be ordered to be able to use both refueling methods.(37)(38) It can be done with pods, but can be used adapter on end of the boom. Neither of the linked solution is expensive of technically impossible...
If RCAF won’t have resource buy new tankers – or simply does not want – modifying the fuel system of
F-35A is not a serious issue because for F-35B and F-35C, the method have been developed and applied. Yes, their airframes are not the same, F-35A is different, but this is not the world hardest technical issue... Hungarian Gripen fighters later were modified for aerial refueling, even the small airframe the refueling probe is not fixed, can be retracted into airframe.
Another option is buying F-35C. May not only Canada will be the only country who will order the naval variant regardless does not have carrier, Turkey also consider this option. (Not because of refueling issues.) Question is the effect any of this decisions the on fixed price contract.
Using an allied or private midair refuelling tanker adds to the already exorbitant costs and means Canada cannot operate its fighter jet fleet independently.
Only with two tankers we cannot speak about independent capability. RCAF has about 70 Hornet fighters, comparing the total number of fighters two tankers are enough for training but not for larger combat operation supporting dozens of fighters. During Operation Odyssey Dawn RCAF sent both tanker into Europe with about half dozen of Hornets.
Modifying the F-35A to use a probe-and-drogue system is possible, but it adds to the ever-increasing costs.
No, they do not have to be modified if RCAF buy new tankers; but even if they have to bee, not a serious issue, especially if we count the total life cycle cost of F-35s. (Total life cycle cost of F-35 will be commented in the end of critics again.)


Factor 4: Sensors and Situational Awareness
Part of the reason the F-35A was developed was to provide excellent situational awareness to the pilot. This is achieved through a wide range of sensors, data link capability, sensor fusion, Link 16 data link, and a helmet mounted display. The Gripen C/D already offers all these features and the NG Gripen will expand and improve on them.
No, currently operational C/D Gripens do not have MAWS; only on Demo have been built the system, Similar equipment as DAS on F-35 are not available any fighter in the world. Only on South-African Gripen is available the helmet display.
For example, the NG Gripen will include the ES-05 Raven AESA radar, an upgrade over the C/D Gripen’s
PS-05/A radar.
The development of AESA radar has not been finished moreover, USA have decades ahead any other AESA developer.
The F-35A’s sensor features, while impressive on paper, have yet to be fully developed and are still being tested.
One from the linked test video about DAS is almost 3 years old. So much about the “not fully developed” statement... The first batch of F-35 has been manufactured, the test program progressing ahead day by day. I ask again, where is at least one prototype Gripen NG? No, Gripen Demo is not a Gripen NG; it is very far from the Gripen NG.
The Eurofighter and Gripen sensor suites have been more thoroughly tested, so their capabilities are firmly known. The F-35A’s sensor technology is not so significant that it justifies the overall poorer performance in other areas and the vastly increased cost. It comes back to the cost-to-performance ratio. The F-35A simply costs too much and delivers too little.
Gripen NG airframe does not exist and as I have mentioned most of the main equipments are not done therefore is quite an interesting statement the “thoroughly tested” part. Maybe independently some, but not in the final airframe, the product cannot be tested, because it does not exist.
This is the point where I had to think why released in latest years so many articles from authors who do not have any necessary knowledge and skills for writing an objective stuff. Most of them do not know enough about physics and military aviation. Why think so many journalists if they can (?) write about business life, politics, and public events or law they have the skills for military aviation relying on a bunch of links and marketing stuff without critics is very unwise. Just after I have read the first paragraph of article I know what will come...
My teacher in the university said, he don’t want live a world where a baker do the job of a brain surgeon and the surgeon do the job of a baker. Maybe the quote helps to understand what I felt when I read the article...

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLka4GoUbLo.
2. http://aviationintel.com/2011/11/30/americas-f-15s-will-be-around-for-decades/.
3. Ethell, Jeff – F-15 Eagle, page 30.
4. http://publicintelligence.net/hellenic-air-force-f-16cd-flight-manuals/ F-16C/D SUPPLEMENTAL FLIGHT MANUAL T.O. GR1F-16CJ-1-1, page 404.
5. http://wiki.scramble.nl/index.php/Lockheed_Martin_F-22_Raptor#Blocks .
6. http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2011/08/exclusive-us-air-force-combat.html .
7. http://www.indianexpress.com/news/indiainksmiragedeal-francesaysnotopak/600042/ .
8. http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/us-air-force-looks-to-dramatically-extend-f-15-service-life-365200/ .
9. Aviation Week, October 22. 2012, page 27.
10. http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2012/08/usaf-spells-out-f-16-upgrade-p.html.
11. http://aviationintel.com/2011/11/30/americas-f-15s-will-be-around-for-decades/.
12. http://www.radartutorial.eu/20.airborne/ab07.en.html.
13. http://en.valka.cz/attachments/5029/1246965185_AN_APG-81_mapa.jpg.
14. http://web.deu.edu.tr/atiksu/ana45/avi01.jpg.
15. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/011113-N-9746C-001_Engine_Test_at_Sea.jpg .
16. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeDWlJauHwQ.
17. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2CEeY_Cdg0.
18. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZrvAFRhQZc .
19. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHZO0T5mDYU.
20. http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/reduced-f-35-performance-specifications-may-have-significant-operational-impact-381683/ .
21. http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/aerodynamics/q0240.shtml .
22. http://www.ausairpower.net/USN/000-Super-Bug-loadout.jpg .
23. http://www.ausairpower.net/XIMG/Su-30MK2_sheme_b_eng.gif.
24. http://www.uacrussia.ru/common/img/uploaded/military_planes/Su-35/Su-35_weapons.jpg.
25. http://www.ausairpower.net/XIMG/Su-35-KNAAPO-Brochure-Loadouts-2008.png.
26. http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/235/rafaleweaponoptions6ou.jpg.
27. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-1kHp1I65pws/UQCXkmZjvTI/AAAAAAAAAr4/_0EIwOg1XEE/s1600/TYPHOON+LOADOUT+CHART+copy.jpg.
28. http://www.f-15e.info/joomla/en/weapons/loadout-configurations.
29. http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/row/eurofighter-airinter.jpg.
30. http://static.thisdayinaviation.com/wp-content/uploads/tdia//2012/08/McDonnell-Douglas-F-15E-Strike-Eagle-prototype-modified-F-15B-4-MC-71-0291.jpg.
31. http://rafalenews.blogspot.hu/p/rafale-weapon-load-out.html.
32. http://i619.photobucket.com/albums/tt271/SpudmanWP/F-35_Weapon_Stations.jpg .
33. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-TD9jP4lzq4g/UNS38ZpOfRI/AAAAAAAAARs/yfjeQmG5kSw/s1600/F35ctolstores.jpg .
34. http://img.docstoccdn.com/thumb/orig/50528037.png.
35. http://www.aereo.jor.br/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/gripen-ng.jpg.
36. http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/picture-mbda-reveals-clipped-fin-meteor-for-f-35-347416/ .
37. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Boeing_KC-135E_boom_drogue_adapter.JPEG.
38. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9a/Boeing_KC-135R_Multipoint_Refueling.JPEG.
39. https://sites.google.com/site/samsimulator1972/home.
40. http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2008/February%202008/0208reformers.aspx.
41. http://aviationintel.com/2011/11/30/americas-f-15s-will-be-around-for-decades/.

1.Foreword
This critic was summoned by an article which was published on online board of Ottawa Citizen. The article portrays loosely most of the mentioned fighter aircraft concerning their capabilities and potential. The author collected many links, but because of misinterpretation, lack of criticism and understanding and knowing the basics of military aviation and physics, the conclusions of the article are false. Even a fixed point of view, a conception is missing. If something is mentioned, which good for Gripen NG, all other consequences of the aspect were not considered. If something is just guessing or optimistic assumption for Gripen NG, this aspect is not applied in similar way for other competitors. This is such an error which should not be allowed.
For easier understanding I quote certain parts of the original article. I do not use similar links as the author did for “verification” because marketing stuff and similar types of sources have to be judged with critical eyes or simply disregarded. The critic pinpoints only the most critical errors of the article, but such a deep and detailed analysis which I wished to make was not possible. It would be too long, and most of reader never read it because of the too hard physics and technical content, the critics had to be cut making understandable for average readers. (Even using this aspect the critic is much longer as the criticized article.)
2.Critics – Part I
Candidates: The Various Alternatives
While the Rafale performs very well, it is hindered by its incompatibility with most NATO standard weapons, which Canada stockpiles. This means that Canada would be dependent on French munitions and our existing weapons could not be used.
This is only partially true. Later the article many times refers the MBDA Meteor as a possible BVR missile for Gripen NG. Rafale also will be the one of the platforms of Meteor missile, the incompatibly concerning mostly air to ground weapons. In fact Rafale is able to use some US laser guided bombs from Paveway family, even the most advanced combined laser/GPS guided variants.
The article stands that Gripen NG will able to use any weapons which is shown on marketing brochures, which is not true. Most of displayed weapons on currently used Gripen fighters never were tested and integrated, neither on Gripen Demo which is very far from the Gripen NG. If the author accepts the assumption that Gripen NG will be able to use so many types of weapons as promoted on brochures – for an unknown and never mentioned cost – it should be allowed this premise for all other mentioned aircraft. Weapon integration is not impossible “just” an additional cost factor, not only for other competitors, but Gripen NG either.
Though still a very capable fighter, the Super Hornet is also not the best of these alternatives due to an antiquated air frame and a relatively low top speed of mach 1.8. The two most promising alternatives are the Next Generation Gripen and the Eurofighter.
Mentioning a theoretical top speed clearly shows that the author does not have even the basic knowledge about aerodynamics and real combat capabilities of any 4th generation or supersonic fighter. The maximal speed of Hornet (~M1.8) is theoretical for any fighter in real tactical situations. Fighters can reach this speed only with minimal or no weapons (except the F-22) on very high altitude (10 km+), and the price is very high if any aircraft try reaching this speed, their combat range is minimal. There are only two major exceptions from this “rule” the MiG-25 Foxbat and MiG-31 Foxhound. Both fighters are very special, they were designed as a “homeland interceptor” for ПВО (противовоздушная оборона, in English form PVO) and not tactical fighter against enemy fighters.
(Some countries tried use MiG-25 against fighters, but these attempts were mostly unsuccessful. During Operation Desert Storm likely a MiG-25 downed in the first night an F/A-18 Hornet, but the high top speed of MiG-25 was not acted. The Foxbat and its prey flew at medium altitude where neither top speed nor acceleration of the MiG-25 exceptional or superior, any other Iraqi fighter could achieve that victory in the same case with IR guided missile. The very crowded airspace and strict rules of engagement made possible for Iraqi Foxbat to penetrate into a big package and downed a fighter likely with an infra red guided R-40 missile; therefore the Hornet’s pilot was not aware of the attack, because no one of sensors indicated the missile launch.)
Back for top speed through an exact example, why is pointless mentioning a completely theoretical top speed. The example is the record breaking variant of F-15A, the Streak Eagle.(1) It was a lightened F-15A, some non essential systems and painting were removed, its empty weight was smaller about 2’800 lbs comparing with a combat capable Eagle. Even this special Eagle variant with about 50% internal fuel (~6’000 lbs) required two and a half minutes to climb the altitude (30’000+ feet) and accelerate where M2.0 speed is possible. The Streak Eagle consumed almost the total fuel quantity during the record breaking, less than 1’500 lbs remained for safe return. During the record breaking flight after reached M2.2 the Streak Eagle performed a zoom climb.(2) At very high altitude the engine flameout was unavoidable, so roughly after 3 minutes of full afterburner usage the F-15 used most of fuel – F-15A’s total internal fuel qty. was about 11’850 lbs – the farthest point during the record flight from airbase was only 55 km. (Volume of tanks are fixed, the density depends on type of fuel.) The acceleration was huge because Streak Eagle weight was smaller as an armed F-15, and of course carried no external stores. The example shows how small is the combat radius of fighters if they have to climb and try reaching their top speed. Of course it is possible to climb slower to 10km altitude then accelerate, but the range difference won’t be huge comparing with subsonic cruise range.
(As I know 20km+ climbing record still stand, officially never were beaten by any other fighter. Unofficially some lower altitude of climb records of Streak Eagle was beaten by a test GE F110 engine powered F-15E, which was not lightened.)
What about restriction of external stores and weapons? A fully armed F-15A top speed is about M1.7 with
4 x AIM-7 Sparrow and 4 x AIM-9 Sidewinder with standard day conditions.(3)
After taking off, climbing then performing an intercept with full afterburner Eagle’s combat radius is about only about 100 nautical miles (~180 km) and during the trip to home the fighter is literally defenseless, because of low fuel level. Regardless Eagles nowadays carry AIM-120 instead AIM-7 these values are not so different. Of course if Eagle climb with drop tanks then drop them radius is bigger, but supersonic combat radius is always much smaller than subsonic cruise range
If we count with aerial refuel at medium altitude then performing an interception at high altitude for a CAP (combat air patrol) station the Eagle still cannot fly far from tanker. After a very short time – about 6-8 minutes – should turn back having enough fuel for safe trip to tanker to home and be able to react appearing threats.
So far the maximal speed was counted only in air to air configuration, with air to ground ordnance and drop tanks the top speed is about M1.2-1.4 for any 4th generation fighter, but only if they are flying at least
20-30 thousand feet. The chart in the link represents the flight envelope of an F-16C with F110-GE-129 engine, with drag index 150. (4) The 150 drag index value means roughly the following weapon configuration:
  • 2 x AIM-120 on 1/9 stations (wingtip)
  • 2 x AIM-9 on 2/9 stations (outer wing hardpoint)
  • 2 x GBU-24 or similar size bombs on 3/7 stations (middle wing hardpoint)
  • 2 x 370 gal. drop tank on 4/6 stations (inner wing hardpoint)
  • 1 x laser targeting pod on 5R station (right side of intake, under fuselage)
If the F-16C in the example accelerates form M0.9 to M1.25 consumes lots of fuel and takes quite a long time. On 30k feet F-16C with – with empty drop tanks means about 32’000 lbs gross weight – the required time is about 70 seconds and consumes 700 lbs fuel, which is about 10% of total internal quantity.
Summarizing, mentioning any speed which is higher ~M1.4 is pointless except if the fighter have internal weapon bays, such as the F-22. The Raptor is able fly faster than M1.5 and sustains for a short time this speed without afterburner. M1.5 can be reached lower than maximal military throttle settings on high (8-10+ km) altitude with full air to air ordnance (6 x AIM-120 + 2 x AIM-9). With full military throttle stick setting in AA configuration the maximal speed is M1.78, still without using afterburner. 4th generation fighters are able to perform only M1.2-M1.4 – Eurofighter is the best with M1.4 – but with full military throttle stick setting and above 10km+ and without any external stores.
It is very likely that F-22 is able to reach M1.5 without full military power even if carry bombs in internal bay.(Currently only small fraction of the F-22 fleet has strike capability, later Blocks will get strike capability by GPS guided bombs. Of course pilots have to be trained for strike role to use the capability of the “hardware”.(5) The total weight difference between AA and AG configuration is small; therefore the required angle of attack (and drag) for sustained flight is very similar.
In short, currently the F-22 is the only operational fighter in the world which has real supercruise* capability, but even Raptor’s supercruise capability is restricted. To maintain useful combat radius supercruise can last about 5-6 minutes which is enough for provide big advantage in BVR combat. F-22 is able to climb faster and accelerate better than any fighter therefore the launch distance of its missiles can be boosted. (The launch platform acts as a “1st stage” of an air to air missile.) The weapon bay has major role in supporting the supercruise capability, this is one of the good side effect of stealth capability, which will be discussed later.
*Supercruise term used first by the Lockheed Martin because of a simple reason, the LM’s product was the first – YF-23 also was able to supercruise but lost the ATF competition – which was able to do in combat scenario, not only in very theoretical cases. The supercruise term in LM’s interpretation means M1.5+ speed without afterburner.
Any marketing document which states that X or Y 4th generation fighter is able to supercruise should be ignored, they concerning on non combat configurations. These statements do not meet the term of supercruise which is used for F-22. Summarizing, supercruise concerning on F-22 means M1.5+ speed with full armament in internal bays, for 4th generation fighters supercruise mean only that are able to break M1.0 with maximal military thrust setting and with minimal or no weapons at all. European fighter manufacturers simply twisted the meaning of supercruise term and never added to description the very strong restrictions.
Even the very old F-111F Aardvark was able to reach at low (!) altitude ~M1.1 with 1/3 fuel – this means ~10’0000 lbs because of huge internal fuel quantity. – but nobody never promoted F-111F as a “supercruise capable strike fighter”, because with ordnance in real combat situation was not able to perform. The clean aerodynamic and variable sweep wings could provide this capability for F-111. The unofficial top speed of
F-111F was about M2.5 in clean configuration regardless never was designed to reach this and its low thrust/weight ratio does not suggest this. These issues indicate how important the clean configuration both for theoretical and practical top speed, without internal bays talking about supercruise capability is a joke.

Calling “antiquated” the airframe of Super Hornet (aerodynamic conception) is one of the biggest mistakes of the article. Super Hornet has the biggest sustainable angle of attack (AoA) from 4th generation fighters which do not have thrust vectoring capable engine. The maximal sustainable AoA about 45-50 degrees, it represents how “antiquatedthe concept. The linked videos also are demonstrating the very big instantaneous turn rate of Super Hornet in positive and negative G turns either which is based on airframe and not on thrust.
The Super Hornet airframe is the latest developed from 4th generation fighters even it is based on older Hornet’s. It is very obvious that creating stealth capable – which means not invisibility for radars, it will be explained more detailed later – fighter was not possible, but reducing the radar cross section got higher priority as even before for any 4th generation fighter. Super Hornet radar cross section is not comparable with “stealthy” airframes – such as F-117, F-22 or F-35, which represent a different category – but as leaked information suggest, it has the smallest RCS from 4th generation fighters. If the author calls “antiquated” the Super Hornet, should be doing the same with Gripen NG. Its airframe is not as strongly redesigned as the Super Hornet, just a bit bigger to get additional pylons under the fuselage. These new hardpoints allow similar quantity ordnance as F-16C is able to carry. It is makes similar Gripen NG to an F-16C instead the JAS-39C, which is similar in size to F-20 Tigershark. The size increase impact on flight performance will be explained later. It is also a good question why is superior the aerodynamic conception of Gripen or Gripen NG comparing with Super Hornet...? I cannot find any reason.
It is the third generation of the Gripen fighter. Based on the Gripen C/D airframe, the NG Gripen will have new and improved sensor technology, fuel capacity, engine, and potentially thrust vectoring.
I’m glad that engine was mentioned, only problem the false information and lack of interpretation. The planned engine of the Gripen NG is F414G which is a modified F414. (F414 engines are used on Super Hornets). Even of its bigger thrust comparing with RM12 – is a modified and upgraded version of F404 which was built in F/A-18C/Ds – the performance of Gripen NG will be the more or less the same or worse comparing with JAS-39C/D if carries the theoretical full ordnance. Why? Because of the bigger weight of the airframe, the bigger quantity of internal fuel, and additional drag of more external stores consumes the bigger thrust, especially at higher altitudes. The drag of Gripen NG is much higher if the Meteor missiles are carried; it has much bigger drag than as conventional air to air missile because it has not conventional propulsion; besides the much bigger drag the Meteor also has big impact of radar cross section. The Meteor has such a big effect on combat radius, instead just calculating the different operational range of Eurofighter with new missiles, test flights have started measuring its reduced range.
Another option applying the latest and stronger variant of Super Hornet’s engine, the F414EPE, but this has strong impact on total cost because of another redesign; the engine has not been matured. Why? It has not been integrated into any aircraft, General Electric developed without signed contract. Without F414EPE it is a false hope to expecting a really stronger Gripen and even with F414EPE the flight performance will close to Super Hornet, but as I can estimate still below the F-16C if they carry the same qty. and category of ordnance.
I have no idea where came the idea of the thrust vector control (TVC) capable engine. All variants of F414 were developed by the requirements of US Navy which never requested the TVC capability. If the Volvo considers developing a TVC capable engine from any of the two possible candidates, it means a very long development and lots of money. In short, the TCV capable Gripen is only dream, it has no real base. If anybody considers this option won’t be cheap and easy. If author allowed himself such and optimism on “hidden developing potential” why did he treat other fighters differently...?
One more note, since the Cold War I can recall only one big re-engine program in bigger scale. Because
F-16s empty weight and drag in air to ground configuration were bigger and bigger with new variants (higher Block number). The F100-PW-220 engines of Block 42 were replaced with -229 variant, but removed engines could be used for F-15C fighter. This was likely one of the main reason why was financially possible the later changes. If Gripen NG won’t be manufactured with stronger and/or TVC capable engine it can be stated that never will get later. If the thrust issue won’t be solved from 1st manufactured Gripen NG, it never will be solved, which has serious impact on flight performance.

Factor 1: Cost
This part is based mostly nothing, because Gripen NG is currently a non existing aircraft, many of its main equipments/items are not production – just think about the engine – or their development has not been finished. Gripen GN is not a product; it is only a conception currently, which has to be developed. All development consist risks, which are meaning uncertain costs therefore even a fix price for Gripen NG cannot be stated.
The author simply believed the marketing speech about 4’700 USD/flight hour cost without any interpretation and critics. First of all, just check only one factor, the price of fuel. In the last two years was about 3 USD/US gal., which means about 0.8 USD/l. The average density of different types of jet petrol is 800 kg/m3, which means about 1USD/kg price.
The internal fuel capacity of Gripen NG is about 3’300 kg, and of course it can carry drop tanks. The fuel consumption is very mission dependent; during a dogfight and BVR training within 30-40 minutes most of fuel can be consumed. Let’s assume that 3’300 kg fuel/flight hour is the average consumption during service. It can be longer or shorter depending or type of flight (long range strike training, dogfight training, etc.) Only the kerosene cost translating into specific flight hour cost is about 3’300 USD. This value represents a cost if the Gripen does not require ground crew, pilot, spare parts, ground check and tons of other caring. It should be obvious the 4’700 USD/flight hour is not true, or is defined by such a method which is not comparable unless knowing what is included. No one of other flight hour cost data calculation method was defined in the article, therefore they are almost useless. As a base let’s see how can be calculated the flight hour cost.
We can get the smallest value if we count resources only, which are spent on unit level, on the airbase. The wage of maintenance crew, cost of jet petrol, the typical and most common spare parts, bigger repairs which can be done without major overhaul (depot level maintenance in US term.) If this method is applied the specific cost is more or less constant. When comes this time? If the operator already has the necessary experience, the checks and maintenance tasks are routine activities. Upgrades, more extensive but less regular checks, later structural reinforcements, repair cost of serious mishaps and similar issues are not included if we follow this method. In this case the specific flight hour cost is very misleading, because there are “hidden”, not listed costs. It is clearly visible that the quoted 4’700 USD/flight hour cost of Gripen is something similar; many expenditure items are not counted therefore should be ignored.
If anyone wishes to get a correct specific flight hour cost value, it has to be accepted that the value is dynamic thing during the life time of an airplane.(6) In the chart of source is shown that flight our cost is not a constant value. Scheduled checks, upgrades and many other things have impact on cost. In fact the only value (cost) which should be considered what is spent to build up and maintain a capability. All expenditures should be included what was spent from procurement to end of service time. Of course this means the final value of specific cost can be calculated after the last aircraft have been retired, but during the service moving average can be applied to get something for comparison. If the procurement cost is excluded – assuming that a fighter have to be bought in the same quantity regardless of their price – the cost of operation still can be calculated following by the “all included” method. Of course in this case the specific cost will be much higher for any aircraft comparing with “clean” cost, because serious upgrades, deeper checks, life extension can mean millions or ten million USD expenditure concerning on a single airframe during its service.
It is time to check the available data – as a base – about existing Gripen variants. Hungary is leasing 12
JAS-39C and 2 JAS-39D. The Hungarian Gripens are not 100% identical with Sweden Gripen fighters – fuselage are new, but wings are not, they were previously used on older A/B airframes – and got a Link 16 compatible data link and other changes because of NATO operation requirements.
The leasing is not a widely used form of procurement in military aviation but it has a good side effect. Because of the support the cost of lease includes almost all cost of operation; it represents the “all included” aspect. Hungary pays only the wage of crew and the jet fuel; most of other costs are included in the leasing contract. Hungary signed in 2003 for 10 years with 16’800 flight hours, was an extension for another 10 years in 2012 for more 16’800 hours. The price of first ten years was 240 billion HUF in 2003, the cost of second 10 years is 490 billion (because of inflation and HUF exchange rate is weaker comparing any major foreign currency). Counting with on 2012 HUF value parity the specific flight hour costs are the followings (220 HUF = 1 USD):
  • 1st ten year cost is about 20 million HUF / flight hour, which means about 90’000 USD / flight hour.
  • 2nd ten year cost is about 15 million HUF / flight hour, which means about 70’000 USD / flight hour.
The result is quite shocking, because the wages and price of fuel are not included, which means more
3-4k USD/flight hour increase. Of course because of a new aircraft were some additional cost, the support infrastructure, etc. also included but even these items are not calculated the price tag is very high. (Hungary bought weapons and targeting pods in another deal, their price are not included in lease contract.) The mentioned costs are representing the real cost of building up and maintaining of a capability. The costs are above not included the price of aircraft, because after 20 years or service Hungary still won’t own the aircraft, but they can be bought for an unspecified (or classified) price.
In we assume the linked flight hour cost values about USAF’s fighters do not include the cost of upgrades, later structural reinforcements, we should estimate them. If we assume about 40 million USD/airframe for upgrade and more 20 million USD for depot level maintenance and life extension, the F-16C is still much cheaper. These values are quite over estimated. The most expensive fighter upgrade & life extension that I ever heard was offered to India concerning their Mirage-2000 fighters.(7) The specific cost of the package is about 40 million USD / airframe.
The life time of an F-16C and F-15C is about 8’000 hours, the F-15E’s planned life span is 16’000 hours. If we add this 40-60 million USD the spec. flight our cost increase in only ~5-7,5k USD/flight hour. If the specific cost is counted for only 20 years of usage – which means in USAF about 250-300 hour/year for each airframe – the cost is still much lower as for Gripen. Of course we can add the price of an F-16C on current value, which is also ~40 million USD, but after estimation of “all included” costs, building up and maintaining an F-16C fleet still seems much cheaper, about 35’000 USD/flight hour and the fighter is owned by the operator which is a huge difference comparing with Hungarian Gripen leasing. The lease cost in USD increased for Hungary because of value exchange rates but even counting this factor (max 25% increase) the Gripen is still more expensive.
Capabilities of an F-16C are not conditional and “should be developed” category, they are available, they are products. If you wish SEAD capability you can buy now AGM-88 and AN/ASQ-213A, if you wish HOBS (high off-boresight) IR missile with helmet display you can buy the JHMCS and AIM-9X, if you want precision strike capability, you can buy different kind of laser targeting pods and bombs. Not “when” and “if”, now. There is no uncertainty, risks are minimal.
Structural analysis indicates the life span of the airframe of F-15s can be increased dramatically and likely won’t increase the specific flight hour cost. It is expenditure but at the end of service the total life span in hours will bigger.(8) Same case its engine; the planned cycle of F100 is can be extended dramatically which is now 9000-18’000 cycle – depending on variant of F100 – the goal is 40’000 cycle.(9)
(Cycle is a typical heat stress equivalent value which can be counted depending on engine operation. Constant engine speed (RPM) mean less stress comparing a situation where thrust is changed rapidly, for example in air combat maneuvering.)
Why I mention this? Because it is doable with F-16C/Ds and F-15C/Ds. USAF plans to keep considerable quantity of F-16C/D (10) and F-15C/D (Golden Eagle program) for decades, likely it is possible doing the same with CF-188. Why is this important? I will back to this topic at the end of the critics.(11)
Summarizing, declaring Gripen NG as the less expensive solution seems to me quite a brave statement, without any real base. Yes, even the current Gripen variants and Gripen NG can be a very potent fighter, because they have undeveloped potentials, but their cost factor is not the best and carriers big uncertainty because possible developments. The technical content of Gripen NG has not been finalized therefore the price is uncertain; data about operation and maintenance cost are not available because it is a non-existent aircraft.
Because of small fleet size, any version of the Gripen never can be as matured and well explored as Super Hornet or F-16. So far 500+ were built from Super Hornet and thousands from different version of Falcon. What about Gripen? Less than 250 have been built from all variants, the retirement of A/B variants have been started in Sweden.
The Gripen NG has big potential for later developing but this is true for other 4th and 4++ generation fighters. All new developments which can be applied on Gripen NG, is not impossible on other fighters. Moreover, many of these developments on other aircraft are already available. USAF A-10 attackers have IR/UV missile approach warning systems (MAWS), on Navy’s Super Hornets and USAF’s F-22 have AESA radar, towed radar decoy are used since 1999, first in Allied Force on F-16Cs, BOL rails are used on USAF’s F-15s, etc.
What about Sweden equipments? Their AESA radar has been developed since late ‘90s and still is not ready for integration, it is still in prototype phase. A fully capable Gripen NG in 2017 seems to me only a dream.
Factor 2: Performance
With regard to specifications, the Gripen and Eurofighter are about equal, save for the fact that the Saab has obtained AESA radar, an asset the Eurofighter currently lacks and the Gripen is a single engine fighter whereas the Eurofighter is a twin engine fighter.
No, Gripen currently does not have AESA, it may have later. The only European jet which is in service and has electronically scanned array is the Rafale, but it has not AESA type only PESA type radar, which means totally different capability regardless of their similar names. In short, the AESA uses hundreds or thousands of small modules generating a beam, PESA use only one big emitter. The modules of AESA radar can be defined as blocks, and all blocks can be used in different modes. For example, a part of modules are used is air to air searching mode, while the rest can be used create SAR (synthetic aperture radar) map.(12) Of course the resolution of SAR map depends on the quantity of used cells, as well as the sensitivity of radar in air to air search mode.(13) In short, the AESA is much flexible and knows much more as PESA type radars. Of course their cost is another dimension and the required knowledge for manufacturing. USA currently is the leading in AESA technology, on Super Hornets, F-15Cs, F-22s and F-35s different types of radars have been applied, and these are not prototypes. First AESA radars were installed on USAF and Navy jets more than a decade ago. The contrast is quite big.
They both have similar power-to-weight ratios and wing loading capacities and, although the Eurofighter enjoys a very slight advantage, they are so close in performance that any advantage enjoyed by the Eurofighter is negligible, particularly when compared to the vast difference in price.
These statistical values are very misleading, should be not used, it will be explained why. Because of external stores top speed of 4th generation fighters more or less the same in the same configuration, but their acceleration and maneuverability are different in subsonic and transonic range. The most important thing, their maneuverability is strongly dependent on fuel level, quantity and types of carried external stores. This is why so misleading the thrust/weight ratio and wing loading values which are given mostly in air to air configuration. Let’s discuss just a bit deeper this issue.
If we count with the same amount of weapon for a Gripen and for example on an F/A-18E Super Hornet or Strike Eagle, the relative cross section – means bigger drag – and weight increase is bigger for a smaller fighter. If bigger and heavier fighter has the same trust/weight ratio (t/w ratio) and wing load in air to air or “clean” configuration – without any external stores – as a smaller aircraft, the bigger preserves more from its maneuverability, t/w ratio and wing load are better. Four air to air missiles and two bigger bombs (2000 lbs size) are not a big issue for an F-15E, but they are for Gripen. T/w ratio gives zero information about drag which is a very important factor. It does not important how good the t/w ratio if external stores create huge drag. The wing loading does not reveal the lift-AoA characteristic, the maximum available lift force and AoA limitations.
Because of the limitation a short article cannot be fully explained as I wish, but another factor is lack of exact data about all mentioned aircraft. If anyone wishes to get really comparable data lots of performance envelope charts are required.(14)These are a speed-Turn rate chart with displayed iso-lines concerning on turn radius and specific excess power (Ps). The charts show the performance values with a certain weapon configuration, on a certain altitude. The specific excess power shows the available climbing (ft/second) or acceleration capability. If an aircraft have bigger Ps value with the same speed and altitude as another in aircraft in the same situation, generally it means it have better maneuverability. Of course the highest instantaneous and sustainable turn rates also counts.
What is important? The maneuverability of the fighters in the typical speed and altitude range of air combats. Where should be examined these capabilities? About 90+ percent of air combats since 1967 (3rd Arab-Israeli War) were below 25’000 feet and airspeed literally never was higher than M1.3. During dogfights subsonic-transonic speed was typical. Supersonic speed was mostly performed in beyond visual range (BVR) combats in approaching phase, increasing the initial speed (range) of missiles.
What does it mean maneuverability? It means the ability changing airspeed, direction and altitude in any combination. The maneuverability cannot be explained using such simple and misleading statistical values as trust/weight ratio and wing loading. These will be explained later.
What is the problem with the flight performance of Gripen NG? First of all Gripen NG does not exist, therefore we should check the performance of JAS-39C. It has the weakest performance from 4th generation fighter, its engine is simply too weak, especially if carries full air to ground (AG) ordnance with drop tanks. I had to chance speak a Hungarian fighter pilot, I quote him:
It is very painful a dogfight against even F-16C Block30/32, the Falcon simply is more powerful than a Gripen. JAS-39C Gripen has many advantages comparing with our previous jet (MiG-29 9.12) in many areas (avionics, sensor & BVR capabilities, data link, reliability, etc.), but definitely not its flight performance which should be underlined...”
Air show demonstration demo flights are performed at very low altitude, mostly below 1 km except some maneuvers; therefore they show only a fraction of the “big picture”. The trust depending on altitude and airspeed, these define the thrust characteristic, which has serious effect of flight performance. Therefore using ground testing (15) thrust data of and calculating t/w ratio with this value is pointless. The effect of airspeed and altitude, and the impact of engine intake of airframe on thrust are also not measured.
Regardless of these conditions it clearly visible that Gripen is not the most powerful fighter, in fact, it is the weakest from 4th generation fighters. It cannot perform such a long climb – especially the climb initiated at lower speed – and high sustainable turn rate as other fighters. It is highly unlikely that on higher altitude the situation changes in favor to Gripen. The Gripen is not so bad, but definitely the weakest among the 4th generation fighters, its flight performance similar to Chinese JF-17 or F-20 Tigershark. (The F-20 was never ordered by any country.)
Generally at low-med altitude Rafale, F-15C, Eurofighter Typhoon, different MiG-29 and Su-27/30 fighters represents the top category in maneuverability following by very closely them the F-16C, F-15E and
Mirage-2000. Their performances are very close to each other if the carry the same amount and type of weapons, and have the same qty. of fuel.
(Because of conformal fuel tanks and bigger empty weight Strike Eagle is slightly weaker even with
F100-PW-229 engines than F-15C with F100-PW-220. There are Strike Eagle variants which equipped with GE F110 engines – some F-15K and Saudi Eagles – but not so many F-15 airframes got the GE manufactured engines.)
Close to these jets are the F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18E Super Hornet, and then come last JAS-39C. Super Hornet is a bit exceptional, regardless of its thrust which on paper is not extraordinary, but its aerodynamics concept is so good, their demonstration flights are more powerful as the available predestinates.(16)(17)
Both fighters have very similar, armament, top speed, capacity, fuel capacity, range, sensor technology, sensor fusion, helmet-mounted display, situational awareness, speed, and maneuverability.
These are also not true. Because of size of Typhoon armament is better scalable, its fuel qty. if much bigger, most of Gripen fighter does not have helmet mounted display and all sensors which required for better situational awareness (SA) can be integrated any fighters, if the customer requests. Comparing the maneuverability of the Gripen with Typhoon even in air to air (AA) or clean configuration is very interesting. If the author just saw only one demonstration flight should be note the strong difference. Gripen is definitely weaker and decreases more its performance with heavier payload.
By comparison, the F-35A is a poor performer. It is not designed to include supercruise capability and can only maintain supercruise for a mere 241km. Both the Gripen and Eurofighter have full supercruise capability at mach 1.2. The F-35A is also slow by fighter jet standards. With a top speed of 1,930 kmph (Mach 1.6), it lags far behind the Gripen, Eurofighter, which can both reach speeds above mach 2. The F-35A is even slower than the Super Hornet and F-16 Fighting Falcon it is meant to replace.
Comparing with F-35 a non-existent fighter is pointless; the top speed has been discussed. May the F-35 was not designed to supercruise but is able to do. Yes, the theoretical top speed is lower as for other fighters, because the airframe is optimized for high subsonic/low supersonic region. It have been mentioned that what is important the maneuverability in the most typical case of tactical situations. This is the zone where the F-35 is similar to F-16C; JSF very likely has better acceleration and specific excess power than Gripen NG. Yes, F-35’s maneuverability is not exceptional – in a positive manner – but stealth capability and sensors of F-35 – for example the distributed-aperture sensor (18)(19) – makes pointless to establish a better performance, it will provide only limited advantage.
Both the Gripen and Eurofighter have full supercruise capability at mach 1.2
After what I have explained so far it should be obvious, that is not true. With AG stores and drop tanks no one of 4th generation fighter can break M1.0 even they fly very high. At low even with full afterburner the top speed is M1.0 or very close to this value.
The F-35A is also slow by fighter jet standards.
It has been explained what is the useful speed region and why is pointless and false this statement. F-35 is optimized to high subsonic range. In fact F-35 with same armament – 2 x AIM-120 and 2 x 2000 lbs bomb – is faster than any 4th generation fighter because of the weapon bays. Also should be noted that acceleration is also very important. Even the +50 year old MiG-21F-13 was able to reach M2.0 at very high, but its acceleration was smaller comparing with currently used 4th generation jets.
The F-35A is even slower than the Super Hornet and F-16 Fighting Falcon it is meant to replace.
Yes, if 4th generation fighters do not carry any weapons and only the theoretical top speed is on the table, but in combat configuration this is not true.
Maneuverability is also an issue with the F-35A. Its small wing design does not allow for quick maneuvers using tight turn radius. The Gripen and Eurofighter excel in the area of maneuverability, providing an additional advantage in a combat situation.
First of all, the about 1/3 of total lift force on advanced fighters are generated by fuselage and not the wings in high AoA cases. Almost the whole airframe acts as a big wing, but of course wings have better “efficiency” (lift/drag coefficient ratio). This is one of the reasons why so misleading the wing loading value, because it does not cover the fuselage area and tells 0 information about how efficient is the fuselage...
Another big mistake mention in the same sentence quick turn and tight turn. If the author checked only one performance chart what I mentioned should discover on transonic speed the limiting factor for turn rate typically is the maximal allowable G on low-med altitude. The smallest turn radius is available generally at much lower speed with smaller turn rate; the limiting factor is maximal AoA, the available lift force. (Of course the trust and lift-drag relation defines the energy loss during the turns.)
F-35 sooner or later will be perform an unrestricted demo flight on air show as did F-22 in Farnborough in summer of 2008, 2,5 years after the first wing reached initial operation capability (IOC) status. (PAK-FA is the same case, it still have not performed an unrestricted demo.) As long as this demo have not been done the “poor performer” and similar unverified statements should not be made, especially from a person how who does not have any knowledge about aerodynamics. We have seen how “accurate” the author’s knowledge about importance top speed of fighters was. Yes, there have been revealed some issues about performance issues, but even in more detailed documents the circumstances – altitude, speed, gross weight, loadout – and possible solutions for fix were not discussed.(20)
He should be more careful before said so big “facts” about aerodynamics and flight performance of F-35, and especially if about comparison with a nonexistent Gripen variant. He simply does not know the basics requirements of dogfights, therefore he is not able quantifying the available factors.
Another disadvantage that reduces the F-35A’s capabilities is its limited internal weapons capacity. With four internal hardpoints, the F-35A cannot deliver nearly as much in payload, particularly when compared to the Russian Su-35, which has twelve hardpoints, the Eurofighter, which has thirteen hardpoints, and the NG Gripen, which will have twelve hardpoints. The F-35A can carry additional fuel and weapons externally using its six external hardpoints, but this negates the F-35A’s already questionable stealth advantage, which is examined later, and would not be advisable in a combat situation.
Here comes another typical mistake. Because no one of 4th generation fighter has internal bays, why should count F-35 weapon delivery capacity only with weapon bays...? This is one of the most annoying error, because an advantage of F-35 is treated as a disadvantage. Why? Because all other fighter which do not have internal bay carry the same amount of weapon as F-35 suffer more form increased drag. The weapons under fuselage and wings not only create drag, but have negative impact on the lift/drag ratio of the complete airframe, because changes the airflow structure, altering the original aerodynamic form.
Altering the cross section characteristic by external stores has also effect on wave drag; because what is called “area rule”.(21) In strike configuration if 4th generation fighter carriers the same amount weapons as F-35 they suffer from very rapid cross section area increase, their cross section characteristics are less close to ideal.
Of course if F-35 uses wing pylons lose stealth capability, but rest of conventional fighters which have only external stores still have bigger radar cross section (RCS), because their base RCS is bigger, and not only some, but all weapons are carried external hardpoints. If external carrying capability of JSF used, it is able to carry same or more weapons as any competitor but much smaller drag increase and less altered airflow structure. Why is this advantage simply “forgotten” and neglected? If the external weapons have been used even the pylons can be jettisoned to reduce the radar cross section. The huge quantity of external hardpoints supports the flexible weapon configurations, if stealth capability if no necessary. Yes, the internal capacity of F-35 is no so big, but it better to be low observable by radars – which provide very big tactical advantage – rather suffers from huge drag and reduced range because of huge quantity of external stores. The initial phase in conflict where enemy air defense and fighters have their full strength stealth capability is very useful.
Yes, during the latest conflict in Libya Rafale and other strike fighters carried lots of bombs and drop tanks, but the enemy air defense activity was minimal, and meant only very old Soviet air defense systems, there were no. air to air at all. Against an enemy which have latest air defense systems and advanced fighters nobody would send a fully packed fighter with maximal ordnance, because it has very serious impact on flight performance and range.
The number of hardpoints provides the flexible configurations for 4th generation fighters as well as for F-35 the extra wing hardpoints, but the performance impact strongly limits the number of really useful configurations of 4th generation fighters. What is the typical configuration? Below you can see the available hardpoints and typical weapons for some advanced fighter aircraft.
  • F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18E Super Hornet (22)
  • Su-30MK (23)
  • Su-35S (24)(25)
  • Rafale (26)
  • Eurofighter (27)
  • F-15E (28)
What we can see? Theoretically Eurofighter and bigger aircraft can carry typically 4 x 2000 lbs bombs or different types of bigger air to ground missiles, besides some BVR and short range AA missiles, and mostly at least one drop tank.(29) Only problem that such a configuration has no sense because of the mentioned issues. Too small range and strongly reduced maneuverability. On the picture below is a typical example about illogical load on a Eurofighter.
Similar not useful weapon load easily can be imagined for other fighters. For example F-15E Strike Eagle has seven hardpoints – 1 x centerline pylon, 4 x fuselage pylons, 2 x wing pylons – where can be put 2000 lbs size bombs moreover, on CL and wing hardpoints the maximal bomb weight is 5000 lbs. Theoretically
7 x 2000 lbs size bomb – which can be precision guided or “dumb” bomb either – or 3 x 5000 lbs, which means 3 x GBU-28 can be loaded. Only problem, these weapon loads have no sense. Similar case on Su-35 the 32 x 250 kg or the maximal quantity of big precision guided air to surface (AS) such as 6 x Kh-29. F-15E is also able to carry huge quantity of dumb bombs; of course this is pointless capability.(30) On the link the Strike Eagle Demonstrator is presented, it was a modified F-15B for proving the concept.

What is the configuration typical and useful? If we check the link about Rafale we get the right answer.(31) I have to say it is rare such a source which illustrates useful, and not the theoretical loads. What is typical on strike missions?
  • 2 x short range IR missiles
  • 2-4 x BVR air to air missiles (rarely 6)
  • 2 x drop tanks
  • 1 x laser targeting pod or other pod
  • 2x2000 lbs or 2x1000 or 4x1000 lbs or 4-8 x 500 lbs or one bigger stand-off weapons – for example Taurus of AGM-158 – under each wing or fuselage hardpoints. (Sooner or later next generation of small GPS guided bombs will be widely used)
Very big bombs or air to surface missiles mostly carried under centerline, for ex. GBU-28 on F-15E. Of course much more combinations are available besides the typical ones, but not all are as balanced as typical ones.
In air to air configuration Su-30MK, Su-35 and Super Hornet can carry 8 x BVR and 2 x short range IR guided missiles, but these configurations are also not useful. In most of situations simply there are not so many potential targets – regardless of simultaneous engagement capability, which also have limitations – except massive cruise missile attack. For combat air patrols (BARCAP) loiter time is important which mean at least pair of drop tanks on Super Hornet, Rafale and Eurofighter and F-16C. (F-15s are able to carry all drop tanks with full AA ordnance.) Even AA missiles have less drag as big bombs, but dual pylons of AMRAAM and drag of 10 air to air missiles comparable to a “light” strike configuration, therefore in dogfight are not useful. Dogfight can be happened anytime therefore it is not a good idea to fly with full armament with smaller aircraft or which have smaller thrust.
(Fighter variants of F-15s have such a big thrust that full AA armament is not a big issue, especially since use smaller AIM-120 instead AIM-7. Four missiles are carried on fuselage hardpoints the drag increase less as if they are carried on wing racks as on Hornets and other fighters.)
Generally the advantage of bigger aircraft that their performance is less degraded if carries the same amount of weapons as smaller fighters. All bigger 4th generation fighters have at least the same (Super Hornet) or (much) better performance (Rafale, F-15E, EF Typhoon) than Gripen, therefore in AA and especially in AG configurations they are more powerful.
If we check the F-35 we can see it has the same amount of wing pylon as Gripen NG.(32)(33) If necessary on inner wing hardpoints even the heaviest bomb can be carried which is designed for tactical fighters. Yes, JSF loses the stealth capability but rest of 4th generation fighters do not have at all this capability, therefore this is not disadvantage. What is the big difference? With much smaller armament but F-35 can be stealth, but no one of 4th generation fighter are able to reach this. This is what I call real flexibility, firepower, RCS and range are well scalable as the environment demands. If necessary because of any reason on wing pylons likely dual AIM-120 launchers can be applied. I do not know what is the exact plan, but if we accept marketing stuff of Gripen NG this means only a very light assumption for JSF. F-35 has integrated laser target designator and IR camera system, does not rely on pods, in stealth configuration also available this capability.
The Gripen, Gripen NG and F-16 typically can carry less as the listed items, because simply does not have enough pylons. Generally bigger fighters even are able to carry more does not carry the maximal weapon quantity to achieve a reasonable balance between firepower, of range and maneuverability. Calling “questionable” the stealth capability is quite funny, I will explain this later.
Here is some marketing material about Gripen NG, on the picture we can see what have been mentioned.(34) On the picture above the quantity of carried weapons are very impressive, only problem that is theoretical. A part of rack and launchers do not exist, they are nice 3D models on CGI images but they haven’t been developed. The usefulness of this configuration is limited, because of huge drag. With this configuration even an F414EPE powered Gripen NG will have quite weak performance and combat radius also in not the best. What can be a balanced load? Two drop tanks instead SDB bombs and AG ordnance on inner wing hardpoints or vice versa, plus AMRAAM instead of Meteor missiles or only 1-1 Meteor on each wing, because of bigger drag of Meteors.
On the following linked image problem is the same, we can see weapons and racks which have not been developed or still not in production.(35) Where were mentioned the risks, cost and deadlines in the article...? Number of hardpoints is not everything especially if some cannot be used simultaneously, I think here about fuselage hardpoints.
Factor 3: Compatibility and Weapons Capacity
The F-35A cannot yet carry the upcoming MBDA Meteor air-to-air missile; the most advanced NATO compatible air-to-air missile in the world, which is a major disadvantage in air-to-air combat, particularly in terms of engaging a target that is beyond visual range.
Integration is not impossible, at least on external hardpoints can be usable if won’t be developed such a variant which be loaded into weapon bays. Because hundreds of F-35 will be exported, it would be a very illogical decision from MBDA if not to develop such a Meteor variant, because dozens of potential customer will be on the market. So far only conception art have been released but if we accept the CGI images about Gripen NG this is not so “what if “ category for F-35.(36)
Plans to modify the MBDA Meteor to fit into the F-35A’s internal weapons bays have been proposed, but these plans are uncertain and adds to the already monstrous price tag.
Quite a strange aspect, monstrous price tag can be given only for F-35, but for an undeveloped Gripen variant with non integrated weapons the author did not apply the same point of view...
The Gripen and Eurofighter are both already compatible with the MBDA Meteor, along with virtually every other NATO compatible weapon available, giving them a significant combat advantage over the F-35A.
As long as Meteor does not exist, what advantage are we speaking...? They have the same BVR missile (AMRAAM), but F-35 will get also a new AMRAAM variant, the D version sooner or later as well as other fighters. F-35 has stealth capability which is a major advantage in BVR combat.
Even if an F-35A compatible version of the Meteor is developed in the future, that would not increase the capability of F-35A to such an extent as to justify the exorbitant price and poor performance in other areas.
This is the point where I thought that author lost his common sense. All other fighters without weapon bay suffer from the bigger drag of Meteor and RCS increase, but F-35 is not if we assume a bay compatible variant. Because of bigger drag of Meteor 4th gen. fighters in AA configuration likely will carry maximum
4 x Meteor and 2 x AMRAAM or short range IR missiles to maintain a reasonable range. The range, RCS and performance impact up to 4 Meteor missiles is zero for F-35, but not for other fighter.
The F-35A also cannot carry the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile as it does not fit in the internal weapons bay.
In the age of long range GPS or combined LJDAM guided gliding bombs the AGM-65 is an outdated and very expensive weapon because of its rocket engine. No one of AGM-65 has GPS guidance therefore it is not an all weather category weapon. In short, F-35 does not require AGM-65, will have better weapons for example AGM-154 and GBU-39 SDB. Because of the rocket engine and complicated elector optical / laser tracker system a price of AGM-65 is about 100’000+ USD, comparing with the price of a JDAM kit is about 20’000 USD.
This means that on retirement of the CF-18s, all ammunition that is not compatible with the F-35A’s internal weapons bay becomes practically useless.
RCAF has GPS guided bombs and GBU-12 – these already have been used in Afghanistan and over Libya – and AMRAAMs also can be used. (Likely Sidewinder either.) Maybe software update is required because of the requirements of internal bay launch, but the hardware is usable. Did the author think that all European and other operator will scrap the huge stockpile of precision guided bombs and air to air missiles because of F-35...?
The F-35A also presents a problem in terms of integration into Canada’s existing air-infrastructure due to its method of midair refuelling: the “flying boom” method. The flying boom method is only used by the U.S. Air Force. Virtually every other air force in the world, including Canada, uses the “probe-and-drogue” method. Canada’s CF-18s and CC-150 Polaris aerial tankers use this method
What a nice generalization. What does it mean every other air force...? Thousands of F-16s are in service in the world in more than 20 countries, only a fraction of Falcons were modified for basket refueling method. Almost a thousand F-15 are in service not only in USAF (Japan, Saudi-Arabia, Israel, South Korea, and Singapore), all with boom refueling method.
Other issue that RCAF currently has only two bigger tankers, it is not possible build real combat support capability based on just pair of tankers. RCAF has five smaller, which are modified C-130s, but comparing with internal fuel qty. of F-35 they are too small for combat operation, but they can be used for training. 100% availability is only a dream because of maintenance issues, therefore sometimes only one is available. How many fighters can be supported in any operation by a single tanker? Only some, therefore if RCAF needs tankers for supporting any operations other NATO members have to support jets of RCAF. If RCAF really wish to have an own tanker fleet for establishing a real capability at least 6-8 tankers required for a fighter fleet which consist 70-80 aircraft. New tankers can be ordered to be able to use both refueling methods.(37)(38) It can be done with pods, but can be used adapter on end of the boom. Neither of the linked solution is expensive of technically impossible...
If RCAF won’t have resource buy new tankers – or simply does not want – modifying the fuel system of
F-35A is not a serious issue because for F-35B and F-35C, the method have been developed and applied. Yes, their airframes are not the same, F-35A is different, but this is not the world hardest technical issue... Hungarian Gripen fighters later were modified for aerial refueling, even the small airframe the refueling probe is not fixed, can be retracted into airframe.
Another option is buying F-35C. May not only Canada will be the only country who will order the naval variant regardless does not have carrier, Turkey also consider this option. (Not because of refueling issues.) Question is the effect any of this decisions the on fixed price contract.
Using an allied or private midair refuelling tanker adds to the already exorbitant costs and means Canada cannot operate its fighter jet fleet independently.
Only with two tankers we cannot speak about independent capability. RCAF has about 70 Hornet fighters, comparing the total number of fighters two tankers are enough for training but not for larger combat operation supporting dozens of fighters. During Operation Odyssey Dawn RCAF sent both tanker into Europe with about half dozen of Hornets.
Modifying the F-35A to use a probe-and-drogue system is possible, but it adds to the ever-increasing costs.
No, they do not have to be modified if RCAF buy new tankers; but even if they have to bee, not a serious issue, especially if we count the total life cycle cost of F-35s. (Total life cycle cost of F-35 will be commented in the end of critics again.)


Factor 4: Sensors and Situational Awareness
Part of the reason the F-35A was developed was to provide excellent situational awareness to the pilot. This is achieved through a wide range of sensors, data link capability, sensor fusion, Link 16 data link, and a helmet mounted display. The Gripen C/D already offers all these features and the NG Gripen will expand and improve on them.
No, currently operational C/D Gripens do not have MAWS; only on Demo have been built the system, Similar equipment as DAS on F-35 are not available any fighter in the world. Only on South-African Gripen is available the helmet display.
For example, the NG Gripen will include the ES-05 Raven AESA radar, an upgrade over the C/D Gripen’s
PS-05/A radar.
The development of AESA radar has not been finished moreover, USA have decades ahead any other AESA developer.
The F-35A’s sensor features, while impressive on paper, have yet to be fully developed and are still being tested.
One from the linked test video about DAS is almost 3 years old. So much about the “not fully developed” statement... The first batch of F-35 has been manufactured, the test program progressing ahead day by day. I ask again, where is at least one prototype Gripen NG? No, Gripen Demo is not a Gripen NG; it is very far from the Gripen NG.
The Eurofighter and Gripen sensor suites have been more thoroughly tested, so their capabilities are firmly known. The F-35A’s sensor technology is not so significant that it justifies the overall poorer performance in other areas and the vastly increased cost. It comes back to the cost-to-performance ratio. The F-35A simply costs too much and delivers too little.
Gripen NG airframe does not exist and as I have mentioned most of the main equipments are not done therefore is quite an interesting statement the “thoroughly tested” part. Maybe independently some, but not in the final airframe, the product cannot be tested, because it does not exist.
This is the point where I had to think why released in latest years so many articles from authors who do not have any necessary knowledge and skills for writing an objective stuff. Most of them do not know enough about physics and military aviation. Why think so many journalists if they can (?) write about business life, politics, and public events or law they have the skills for military aviation relying on a bunch of links and marketing stuff without critics is very unwise. Just after I have read the first paragraph of article I know what will come...
My teacher in the university said, he don’t want live a world where a baker do the job of a brain surgeon and the surgeon do the job of a baker. Maybe the quote helps to understand what I felt when I read the article...

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLka4GoUbLo.
2. http://aviationintel.com/2011/11/30/americas-f-15s-will-be-around-for-decades/.
3. Ethell, Jeff – F-15 Eagle, page 30.
4. http://publicintelligence.net/hellenic-air-force-f-16cd-flight-manuals/ F-16C/D SUPPLEMENTAL FLIGHT MANUAL T.O. GR1F-16CJ-1-1, page 404.
5. http://wiki.scramble.nl/index.php/Lockheed_Martin_F-22_Raptor#Blocks .
6. http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2011/08/exclusive-us-air-force-combat.html .
7. http://www.indianexpress.com/news/indiainksmiragedeal-francesaysnotopak/600042/ .
8. http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/us-air-force-looks-to-dramatically-extend-f-15-service-life-365200/ .
9. Aviation Week, October 22. 2012, page 27.
10. http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2012/08/usaf-spells-out-f-16-upgrade-p.html.
11. http://aviationintel.com/2011/11/30/americas-f-15s-will-be-around-for-decades/.
12. http://www.radartutorial.eu/20.airborne/ab07.en.html.
13. http://en.valka.cz/attachments/5029/1246965185_AN_APG-81_mapa.jpg.
14. http://web.deu.edu.tr/atiksu/ana45/avi01.jpg.
15. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/011113-N-9746C-001_Engine_Test_at_Sea.jpg .
16. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeDWlJauHwQ.
17. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2CEeY_Cdg0.
18. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZrvAFRhQZc .
19. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHZO0T5mDYU.
20. http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/reduced-f-35-performance-specifications-may-have-significant-operational-impact-381683/ .
21. http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/aerodynamics/q0240.shtml .
22. http://www.ausairpower.net/USN/000-Super-Bug-loadout.jpg .
23. http://www.ausairpower.net/XIMG/Su-30MK2_sheme_b_eng.gif.
24. http://www.uacrussia.ru/common/img/uploaded/military_planes/Su-35/Su-35_weapons.jpg.
25. http://www.ausairpower.net/XIMG/Su-35-KNAAPO-Brochure-Loadouts-2008.png.
26. http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/235/rafaleweaponoptions6ou.jpg.
27. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-1kHp1I65pws/UQCXkmZjvTI/AAAAAAAAAr4/_0EIwOg1XEE/s1600/TYPHOON+LOADOUT+CHART+copy.jpg.
28. http://www.f-15e.info/joomla/en/weapons/loadout-configurations.
29. http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/row/eurofighter-airinter.jpg.
30. http://static.thisdayinaviation.com/wp-content/uploads/tdia//2012/08/McDonnell-Douglas-F-15E-Strike-Eagle-prototype-modified-F-15B-4-MC-71-0291.jpg.
31. http://rafalenews.blogspot.hu/p/rafale-weapon-load-out.html.
32. http://i619.photobucket.com/albums/tt271/SpudmanWP/F-35_Weapon_Stations.jpg .
33. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-TD9jP4lzq4g/UNS38ZpOfRI/AAAAAAAAARs/yfjeQmG5kSw/s1600/F35ctolstores.jpg .
34. http://img.docstoccdn.com/thumb/orig/50528037.png.
35. http://www.aereo.jor.br/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/gripen-ng.jpg.
36. http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/picture-mbda-reveals-clipped-fin-meteor-for-f-35-347416/ .
37. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Boeing_KC-135E_boom_drogue_adapter.JPEG.
38. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9a/Boeing_KC-135R_Multipoint_Refueling.JPEG.
39. https://sites.google.com/site/samsimulator1972/home.
40. http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2008/February%202008/0208reformers.aspx.
41. http://aviationintel.com/2011/11/30/americas-f-15s-will-be-around-for-decades/.

11 comments:

  1. 1. "Mentioning a theoretical top speed clearly shows that the author does not have even the basic knowledge about aerodynamics..."

    Then, he tries to convince the reader that the top speed of a fighter doesn't matter. Running away from your opponent is a critical capability and top speed does help in this regard! ;-) Any fighter pilot will tell you!

    Factual error:

    "In short, currently the F-22 is the only operational fighter in the world which has real supercruise* capability, but even Raptor’s supercruise capability is restricted."

    That's wrong. The typhoon can supercruise with a full weapons load in the air superiority role.

    "Calling “antiquated” the airframe of Super Hornet (aerodynamic conception) is one of the biggest mistakes of the article."

    Antiquated means outdated. The hornet's aerdynamic conception was developed in the 1970s. The airplane has been put into service in 1983. 30 years later, the design must be considered to be dated.

    But, then comes his main argument for the hornet's aerodynamic class:

    "Super Hornet has the biggest sustainable angle of attack (AoA) from 4th generation fighters which do not have thrust vectoring capable engine. The maximal sustainable AoA about 45-50 degrees, it represents how “antiquated” the concept."

    This is actually not very important for a fighter, because the plane will bleed speed very fast if it is travelling at a high angle of attack. Military aircraft usually do not obtain such high alpha in combat, as it robs the aircraft of speed very quickly. Not only do such maneuvers slow the aircraft down, but they cause significant structural stress at high speed. Modern flight control systems tend to limit a fighter's angle of attack to well below its maximum aerodynamic limit.

    "The drag of Gripen NG is much higher if the Meteor missiles are carried; it has much bigger drag than as conventional air to air missile because it has not conventional propulsion; besides the much bigger drag the Meteor also has big impact of radar cross section."

    That's complete rubbish. The drag of a missile is determined by its shape not by its propulsion system. The Gripen is a very small plane, much smaller than the super hornet. Consequently, its going to have considerable advantages in terms of drag.

    I didn't care to read the rest.

    ReplyDelete
  2. After reading the essay in its entirety, I have one simple thought: "What fighter does the author believe is best for Canada, and why?"

    Some of the information is outdated: The Rafale currently uses an AESA radar. The Gripen NG is now the Gripen F demo.

    Some of the arguments use double standards: Excusing the F-35s lack of Meteor missile and aerial refuelling support, but then dismissing the NG as non-existent. It also mentions that a Gripen loaded up with air-to-ground weapons will be a poor performer, not mentioning that this is true for any multi-role fighter.

    As far as speed and supercruise goes: Speed+altitude=energy. Energy wins air combat. Supercruising fighters like the Typhoon, Rafale, and Gripen, do so with with air-to-air missiles. Their speed gives them edge over enemy fighters, as well as reduce their time to interception.

    What the author seems to misunderstand the most is that the Gripen E/F is not an entirely new aircraft, but merely a variant of an existing fighter. The airframe is largely unchanged. It utilizes a new, more powerful engine, redesigned landing gear and lower wing/fuselage design for 40% more internal fuel, and updated avionics and sensors (IRST, AESA radar, etc.). This is very similar to the upgrades planned for the USAF's current F-15 and F-16 fleets. As the author states, both models have already gone through engine upgrades. Needless to say, this is not a high risk venture.

    No aircraft perfect, that much is clear. Given the time, an effective argument can be made against any fighter. The F-22 is a spectacular fighter, possibly the best in the sky, but it is seriously expensive and is currently lacking in WVR abilities (IRST, helmet mounted sights, etc). The Typhoon is a great fighter as well, but lacks in the ground attack role. The F-35 looks to be a far better strike fighter than a dogfighter. The Gripen is good "bang for the buck" but limited by its size.

    At the end of the day, we simply have to ask: What's the best for Canada's needs? Canada needs a fighter that can defend its airspace and meet Canada's NATO commitments in foreign deployments like Libya. That doesn't really narrow it down, but an argument could be made that long range, a supersonic cruising speed, and aerial refuelling is very important given the sheer size of Canada's airspace. What really matters, however is cost. Canada is currently 14th in worldwide military spending. Defence spending is a frequent target for budget cuts. The less expensive the fighter is to procure and operate, the less likely it will become a target for future cuts.

    The Gripen E/F is fast, fierce, flexible, and frugal. That's my argument. Other fighters may be faster, more fierce, possibly even more flexible or frugal... But none offer the same combination of all four.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doug you really impressed me by posting this, A lot of respect to you.

      I need your Email dude

      Delete
    2. You should be able to access it directly at the top of the page, or under the "About me" section with Gonzho's face by it.

      Or, you can just copy and paste: ravenankh@gmail.com

      I believe everybody should have a voice, irregardless what I think of their opinion. What I don't like are pointless arguments and criticism without suggestion of an alternative. A debate needs to be much more than shooting your opponent down, you need to offer a counter-argument that needs to hold up under the same scrutiny.

      As much as I criticize the F-35, I do believe it has the potential to be an excellent strike aircraft. I also give it credit for being the first real supersonic STOVL. I don't believe this makes it the best aircraft for Canada however. News of its high costs are of great concern, as are some of the other issues. Most importantly, the F-35 is focused mainly on the strike role, intended to engage ground targets while F-22s provide air cover. Although I'm sure it will be successful used as such, Canada doesn't have the luxury of presuming F-22s will always be there. Canada doesn't operate a "high/low" mix like the U.S. we have one fighter type and thats it. Politically, the idea of a aircraft focused on the strike doesn't sit that well with Canadians.

      My argument isn't that the Gripen E/F is the best aircraft of all time (it isn't), its that it is the best fit for Canada at this time.

      Delete
  3. Having read this "article" there seems to be one common thread. That if the item (plane, missile, radar system etc) in question is not fully functional at the current time then it should be considered imaginary (i.e. not worthy of considering). The author applies this to the Meteor and the Gripen NG, as we'll the ES-05 Raven radar etc. And to a point, there is validity in this argument. It is very easy to write a marketing brochure on a device but far harder to create a fully functional sample. The author seems to apply this rationale throughout except when it comes to the F35. In its current state, the F35 is a less capable fighter than anything since the WW1. Now let me explain the logic. For a plane to be considered a fighter it has to have the ability to, well ….. fight. In its current form, the F35 is barred from firing its cannon, is not allowed to carry live bombs or missiles (http://www.pogo.org/blog/2013/03/20130306-air-forces-f-35a-not-ready-for-combat.html)
    . Even if it did, it can't communicate with these missiles, it can't direct the bombs to the target, because the targeting system does not work. Yes we have all seen the photos of the F35 dropping a bomb, missile. But we need to remember what these are, they are separation tests. The device being dropped is not s bomb or missile but a lump a metal with the same physical shape. Does this mean the F35 will always be this way? No, at some point in the future these systems should work, according to certain estimates that will be 10 years late. So the JSF is not a fighter, it is a currently a technology demonstrator only. Which is probably why SAAB call the Gripen Demostrator as demonstrator, rather than a Gripen fighter.

    I think the point the author is trying to make about the Meteor being "draggy" is that unlike the AMRAAM or AIM-120. It has an air inlet chute, and this increase the cross sectional area, which by definition of the Coefficient of Drag is increased.

    An interesting line that is often repeated is the that Gripen Demo is very far from the Gripen NG. This is an interesting point because none has seen the Gripen NG yet, so how do you know that it so dissimilar?

    As mentioned by others, the concept of surpercruise having two different measures is, umm .. curious. Supercruise is the ability of the plane maintain speed above Mach 1 without afterburner while performing its intended role, see wiki. The Eurofighter can do it and so can the Rafale.

    Finally there are two items that need to be rehashed.
    Firstly Canada, like Australia doesn't need a bomb truck it needs to primarily defend its airspace and distant second is strike aircraft.
    Secondly, as Doug Allen has often said. "What fighter does the author believe is best for Canada, and why?" And this article does nothing to help answer this question.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Interesting news. South Korea has chosen to buy the German/Swedish long range missile Taurus KEPD 350. Let me quote:

    http://defense-update.com/20130405_south-korea-selects-the-taurus-kepd-350-cruise-missile.html

    "South Korea is likely opt for the extended range version as it seek to extend the range of its strike weapons, in order to cover the entire area of its rival in the north, particularly medium-range ballistic missiles bases located in the North East, and out of reach of the South."

    This is the kind of strike mission the F-35 was originally designed for. It seems that South Korea is planning to use long range and stealthy missiles for the job.

    "Taurus Systems is offering two versions of the missile – one at the Taurus KEPD 350MR with a range of 300 km and the KEPD 350 with a range ‘exceeding 500km..."

    "The country is expected to buy 200 such missiles, to be integrated with F-15K and and KF-16 fighter jets. The new missile is also likely to be carried by the next generation strike fighter (FX-3) Seoul is planning to buy – this could be F-15SE, F-35 or Eurofighter Typhoon..."

    It doesn't make any sense to strap this missile under the F-35's belly. The F-35 would no longer be stealthy and the missile is supposed to perform the job of the F-35. Most porbably, Seoul's next generation strike fighter will be the F-15SE or Eurofighter Typhhoon. Given the current tensions with the north, I would be surprised if the Eurofighter were chosen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,

      This is good news for European defense industry to provide long range missile in such an "american-backyard" country.

      But Eurofighter success for the fighter competition seems highly unlikely for this very reason... few years ago, Rafale was rejected against F-15 for political reasons. That's why Dassault Aviation doesn't even bother to participate in the next tender. [at the time, Dassault reacts in a similar way that Saab for the Norway F-35 selection]

      That's a good try for Eurofighter, but that's almost hopeless, especially if the south koreans want a strike fighter...

      Delete
  5. Hi!
    I'm from Hungary also like Mr. Molnár.

    First, I'm really sorry for my bad English. Mr. Molnár has much more better...

    I was in a long conversation with him about flight cost of Hungarian Gripen.
    This leasing is a very special business construction!
    Hungarian flight cost of operation do not comparable with any other operator.

    One third of the calculated flight cost comes from the moving of currency exchange rate!

    However the calculation doesn't accurate.

    Hungary pays only 32800 flight hours for 14 fighters over 20 yrs period..
    The flight cost per hour on the full 20 yrs period was approx. 75k USD/hour (this is the leasing, not included the "Hungarian" costs in HUF, like wages and fuel).

    Substracting the inflation from this value we get 53k USD/hour cost.
    This included the airframe rent (approx 18-20k USD/hour), operating costs payed to the Swedish contractor (approx. 25-27k USD/hour), and the specific leasing costs (approx. 8k USD/hour).

    No doubt, it's quite a bit expensive for Hungary, but no other way to operate jet fighters, because no industrial facilites for jet fighter support in Hungary. We have to pay for all of it in foreign currency (USD and mainly in SEK). If we were operated e.g. F-16's that would be about the same costs!

    You can calculate yr support costs (and maybe all of the purchase) in CAD. That will be much more cheap!

    I've already discussed all of that with Mr. Molnar.
    But he's America-fun... :)
    So the answer of question "What fighter does the author believe is best for Canada, and why?" is: anything but American...! :)

    If you need, I can send some more detailed calculations, which were based on the public datas of Hungarian Gripen leasing contract.
    These aren't official calculations. This comes from aircraft and defence fun fellows, like you...! :)

    Brgds,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment VB, and welcome!

      It's interesting to see the numbers for the Hungarian Gripen deal, but I'm not sure how relevant they are to Canada's upcoming fighter contract. There are simply too many differences. Leasing vs. Buying. Gripen Cs vs. Gripen E/Fs, currency differences, etc.

      Thanks for the extra insight though! It certainly helps prove that the Gripen is an affordable aircraft.

      If Mr. Molnar has an affection for U.S. hardware, that is certainly his prerogative. I prefer to look at the equipment itself more than its origin.

      Delete
    2. Mr. Molnar is a very skilled engineer! His technical commentaries are very noticeable!
      But he has poor preparedness in politics and weak in economy.

      Gripen is a good choice for Hungary. Size, effectiveness, availability.
      In my opinion, Canada needs a two engined type because of yr country's given...

      Delete
  6. I read through the whole thing as well as the article in the Ottawa Citizen but come away with a feeling that Mr Molnar is not being very constructive or serious. The text is incoherent and confused in several places and, as Doug noted, applies double standards.

    Unlike any competitor, The Gripen was designed to be cost effective from the start. Larger engines like that on the role model - the F-16 where considered but neglected because of larger fuel consumption and more weight (impressive flight characteristics instead achieved using incredible aerodynamics and small size).

    But even as the facts and specs of the Gripen all point to it being the worlds most cost effective aircraft, the Gripen is the only aircraft in the world where a state steps in behind it and guarantees the price. Like Sweden has done in the Switzerland deal. Imagine if the US government would have said thirteen years ago that "we'll guarantee the price of the F-35 and will cover any increase in cost" (!).

    That's how certain Sweden is of the acquisition and operating costs of the Gripen system. That they put my taxpayer money on the line for another nation. A potential customer need only pay the Flygvapnet a visit and ask them.

    There are an incredible amount of factors in fighter deals. It's hard to compare directly. SAAB has certainly been victims of number wizardry from the competitors which is probably why they asked Jane's to do an independent comparison. The Gripen is superior regarding cost effectiveness. This is why the aircraft price comes with a state guarantee, this is why the worlds most reliable source puts the Gripen system head and shoulders above all others low operating costs.

    From what I've heard Hungary are rather happy with their Gripens? Would be interesting to hear how the Gripen C fares against the awesome dogfighting monster Mig-29. Does the Hungarian Gripens have the helmet mounted sights? The Cobra HMD are currently being fitted to Swedish Gripens.

    /Tor

    ReplyDelete