Why the Saab Gripen NG is right for Canada

The Saab Gripen NG, capable and affordable.

 If we consider the F-35 not suitable for Canada's needs, what is the alternative?  Despite the argument to the contrary, there are plenty of options available.  Of course, each of those options offers different capability, cost, and political considerations.

Before announcing its selection of the Lockheed F-35, the Canadian powers-that-be briefly considered other fighter designs.  Whether they were given serious consideration or merely paid lip service is for others to debate.  One of those fighter designs was the Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen (Griffon) NG.

Is the Saab Gripen right for Canada?  Not really...  But the Gripen NG (the NG stands for "Next Generation") is.

Earlier versions of the Gripen flown by the Swedish Air Force.
Designed during the last throes of the Cold War to replace Sweden's aging Draken and Viggen fighters, the Gripen was designed from the outset to be an affordable, easily maintained, easily deployed, multi-role fighter capable of   "JAS", which stands for Jakt (air-to-air), Attack (air-to-surface), and Spaning (reconnaissance).  Despite the availability of off-the-shelf multi-role fighters like the F-16 and MiG-29, Sweden made the choice to keep its proud tradition of self-reliance and neutrality.  It also chose to enter the international fighter sales market, as many countries looked to replace their aging Cold War eqiupment.

Although a perfect fit for Sweden, early JAS 39A/B versions of the Gripen proved to be ill suited for other country's needs.  Short ranged, with no mid-air refueling capability, and a limited weapon selection made it unpopular compared to other heavily marketed fighters.  Later versions, the JAS 39C/D allowed mid-air refueling and ability to mount any NATO weapon or electronics.

Saab Gripen NG technology demonstrator.
No longer content to play second fiddle to other manufacturers, in 2009, Saab introduced a new technology demonstrator.  Addressing the concerns of previous versions of the Gripen, this version was equipped with a more powerful engine, increased fuel capacity, AESA radar, helmet mounted optics, and an increased weapon payload.  The Gipen NG appears to be a formidable fighter, but has the unwelcome challenge of facing off against the massive marketing and political might promoting sales of the Lockheed F-35.

Is it fast?

The GE414 engine, as used in the Gripen NG and F/A-18
With an upgraded engine producing 20% more power than previous versions, the Saab Gripen NG will easily match previous versions' top speed of mach 2.  This makes it faster than Canada's current CF-18 (mach 1.8), and way faster than the F-35 (mach 1.6).  Although not as fast as fighters like the Su-35 or F-22, the Gripen should definitely be considered fast enough.  

Rendering of a Gripen carrying two massive belly tanks, four anti-ship missiles,  infrared tracking pod, two Meteor medium range missiles and two IRIS-T short range missiles.
Again, top speed is of little use if it can only be obtained for short periods of time.  Interception duties require a marathon runner, not a sprinter.  With that new, more powerful engine, the Gripen NG has been proven to supercruise, capable of achieving mach 1.2 with air-to-air missiles needed for interception duties.  

Saab has also developed massive 450 gallon external fuel tanks extending its range even further.  This gives the Gripen a combat radius of 1,300km as opposed to the F-35's 1,100km.  The F-35 has the option of external tanks, but again, this spoils its stealth.

All said, the Gripen would be much more suitable for interception duties than the F-35.  It would be able to reach its target much faster, and at a longer range.

Is it Fierce?

Gripen with air-to-air missiles.
In a word:  Yup.

Despite lacking a stealth design, the Gripen does have a rather small frontal radar cross section (RCS) compared to Canada's current CF-18.  Its use of  non radar reflective materials combined with its smaller size give it a RCS of 1/5th the size of the CF-18.  This doesn't even come close to the F-35 however, but the F-35 needs to make some serious trade-offs for its stealth, like internal weapon storage, higher maintenance, etc.

The Gripen NG's AESA radar

Enemy detection shouldn't be a problem for the Gripen NG, equipped with an AESA radar, infrared search and track system (IRST), forward looking infrared (FLIR), and a helmet mounted display similar to the F-35's.
The Gripen's IR OTIS IRST (infrared search and track) visible  at the base of the canopy.  

What about the F-35's data link?  Well...  Turns out Saab actually pioneered the use of data links in the 60's with the Saab Draken.  Newer Saab jets have continued to update its use, and currently the Saab Gripen is compatible with the LINK 16 standard used in NATO.  Information can be instantly exchanged between the Gripen and all friendly units.

Enemy detection shouldn't be a problem, but what about bite?  While not in the same league as the super-expensive F-22, the Gripen should be able to handle itself in combat.  Being a small, lightweight fighter with plenty of power, canard-delta configuration and a low wing loading, the Gripen is more than capable in a tight turning dogfight.  Modern air combat strategy prefers to stay away from dog-fighting however.  Emphasis is placed on using powerful radars and accuarate, long range missiles to engage the enemy from a safe distance.

Gripen weapon selection.
If modern air combat dictates using advanced, long range missiles, then logic dictates we should equip the very best.  Oddly enough, the F-35 doesn't.  Designed around the American AMRAAM medium range missiles, the F-35 doesn't have much "wiggle room" for mounting larger, longer range missiles.  The Gripen, which mounts its missiles externally, doesn't have this problem,  Its compatible with just about any weapon or bomb used by NATO countries, and should continue to be so.

Weapon options for the Gripen NG.
Capable of carrying anything from a short range infrared missile to a standoff range cruise missile, with a 27mm cannon as backup, the Gripen offers similar firepower to the F-35.   Unlike the F-35, the Gripen offers much more flexibility and the ability to mount cutting edge current or future weapons like the MBDA Meteor and IRIS-T(more on these later).  

Is it Flexible?

Yes.  Ridiculously so.

Throughout the 20th century, Swedish military doctrine was one of self reliance, deterrence, and peacekeeping.  Knowing that it would stand little chance of fending off a superpower like the nearby Soviet Union, all Swedish military units were expected to perform while the country was under active occupation.  This meant that that Swedish aircraft were designed to operate, if need be, without the luxury of a proper airbase.

Airbase or cul-de-sac?  Yes.
The Saab Gripen can take off and land on 800 meters of two lane, snow covered highway.  It can be serviced from a transport truck.  Within ten minutes, five recruits and one technician can get it refueled, rearmed, and ready to fly again.  This means that a Canadian Gripen would be able to land at any Canadian airbase, even during lousy weather.  In a pinch, a Gripen could land at small civilian airports throughout the country.  In a real pinch, Ontario's 401 or a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway would be enough.

Sweden, like Canada get's it fair share of snow.  No problem for the Gripen.

For foreign deployments as part of NATO peacekeeping forces, a group of ten Gripens can be supported by single C-130 Hercules, with room to spare in the Herc.

The Gripen fuels via a "probe-and-drogue" as currently used in Canada.

How about the aerial refuelling?  The Gripen utilizes a "probe-and-drogue" system as currently used by Canada's current CF-18, along with a great deal of NATO allies, including the U.S. Navy.  Although the older Sweden only A and B models had no inflight refuelling, the newer C and D models along with the "Next Generation" E and F models use the system.  They should have no problems refuelling mid-air from a RCAF CC-150 Polaris or even a CC-130 Hercules equipped with refuelling pods.  Just like the current CF-18 currently does.

Canada could use its many "Hercs" as aerial tankers.

The Gripen doesn't just promise to be low maintenance, it is low maintenance.  Flown for years by Sweden, South Africa, Czechoslovakia, and other countries, the Gripen has a proven track record for being a safe, economical platform.  The Gripen NG uses the same engine as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, making it a well proven and well supported engine.

Is it frugal?

During the last Canadian federal election, the cost of 65 F-35A Lightning IIs was a reported $9 billion.  This has since been scrutinized and clarified to anywhere between $13 biillion to $30 billion.  The truth is, we don't know how expensive the F-35A will be, and probably won't until it has finished development.

What we do know, is that Saab has offered to sell 65 Gripen NGs to Canada, with 40 years worth of maintenance costs for under $6 billion. Saab has also offered that, if Canada wishes, Gripen production could take place in Canada under contract with Bombardier.

The Canadair CF-5.  American design, built in Canada, then sold to other countries.
This offer has some historic significance for Canada.  In 1968, the RCAF began acquiring copies of the Northrop designed CF-5.  Designed as a low cost, low maintenance fighter (sound familiar?), the F-5 was intended for air forces that didn't have the budget for the cutting edge fighters of the day.  Instead of merely purchasing them, Canadian CF-5s were built by Canadair under license.  These Canadian made F-5s weren't strictly purchased by RCAF either.  Canadian CF-5s were purchased by Turkey, Greece, Venezuela, Botswana, and the Netherlands.

Instead of the mere promise of spread out military contracts building minor components, Canada would be find itself back in the fighter business.  Fielding a fighter made on Canadian soil, by Canadians would be a great source of national pride, regardless of where the fighter was designed.  Better still, if Saab is successful at marketing the Gripen to other countries, those fighters may just come off a Canadian assembly line, just like the CF-5 did years ago.

Even if Saab's promise of $6 billion turns out to be off, it would still be highly unlikely that a Gripen purchase would even come close to the price of an equal F-35A purchase.   With the money it saves, Canada could buy more than the minimum 65 jets required, perhaps even enough to replace the aging CT-114 Tutors used by a certain Canadian air acrobatics team.

What to buy with the money saved:  The stealthy X-47A UCAV.

Given the Gripen's cheaper operating and procurement costs, whatever could we do with all that leftover money?  That answer is easy, make a great fighter better by:

  1. Training.  Give our military personal the instruction and practice required to be the very best.  Keeping a well staffed, well trained roster is of the utmost importance.
  2. Better weapons.  Arm the RCAF Gripen with cutting edge missiles that offer the greatest accuracy and range.
  3. UAVs.  Purchase UAVs to supplement Gripen, along with the rest of the RCAF fleet.

The training part is a self-explanatory.  Part of the reason for America's air dominance over Iraq, Vietnam, and Korea was simply due to its pilots being better trained than their enemy.  Canada has a proud history of fine pilots starting with Billy Bishop and Wilfred "Wop" May.  Let's keep that tradition going.

The MBDA Meteor currently being tested on the Gripen.

What about weapons?  First off, the MBDA Meteor BVR (beyond visual range) missile.  Currently finishing development, it promises to be a leap forward compared to the AIM-120 AMRAAM currently used on the CF-18 and F-35.  What makes the Meteor different is its use of a ramjet rather than a conventional rocket motor.  This allows it to alter its speed giving it better accuracy and range.  It uses a 2-way data link between it and its launching fighter to locate its target.  The Meteor will then alter its speed so that it ideally runs out of fuel just as it it hits its target.  Older missiles such as the AMRAAM use a rocket motor that propels them at fixed speed.  Any manoeuvres made cause it to lose energy and accuracy.  Once the rocket fuel is burned out, the missile quickly slows and becomes ineffective.

The Meteor was originally planned for the F-35, but in its current form, can't fit in the F-35's weapon bay.  A modified version is being considered, but so far there are no concrete plans.  The Meteor will be available, however on the Gripen and Typhoon.  It will also be available on the Rafale, but only with a one-way data link.

The IRIS-T, capable of acting as an "anti-missile missile".
For closer, WVR (within visual range) combat, there is the IRIS-T heat seaking missile.  Capable of operating off any fighter that can field the AIM-9 Sidewinder, the IRIS-T offers several improvements over the older missile.  It's groundbreaking feature, however is that it is capable of intercepting incoming missiles, providing the fighter with an extra mean of self defence.  When aided by helmet cueing systems like those used in the Gripen, the IRIS-T can be used to knock out an enemy missile, even if it is coming from behind.  It's important to not that the IRIS-T cannot be mounted in the F-35 weapons bay.

But what about ground targets?  The F-35's weapon bay seems better suited for either short-range Brimstone missiles or precision guided bombs.  These require the fighter to get deep into enemy territory to neutralize its intended target, violating enemy airspace and slipping through defences.  Wouldn't it be easier just to shoot from a safe distance?  Sounds like a job for a Stand-off munition, also known as a Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM.

The Gripen armed with test versions of the Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missile.
Canada doesn't currently field any form of cruise missile.  Possibly due to budget reasons, possibly due to their reputation as possible nuclear weapons.  Costing up to and over a million dollars a piece, they seem like a rather expensive proposition.  Indeed, guided bombs are quite cheap in comparison.  One must ask however, in a high threat scenario, is it better to use up a $1 million dollar cruise missile, or risk a $100 million dollar jet (and the pilot inside) to neutralize a well defended target?  An ALCM equipped Gripen could launch its payload from 200, 300, even 500km away depending on the missile, taking out priority targets or softening defences enough other fighters to fly in with shorter range weapons.

Canada wouldn't need to seriously break the bank to field ALCMs.  Spain ordered a total of 43 Taurus KEPD 350 ALCM at a cost of €60 million, or roughly $80 million, about the original estimated cost of a single F-35.  With a range of 500km, missiles like these could really keep our fighters a safe distance from enemy defences, performing a role of "aerial sniper".

If stealth is such a "must have" for certain missions, perhaps the money saved by procuring the Gripen over the F-35 would be wisely spent on stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) like the Northrup X-47A (which uses a Pratt & Whitney Canada engine) or the Dassault nEUROn, which was 25% developed by Saab.  UCAVs make much more sense for deployment to the high threat environments stealth designs are meant to counter.  Also, since they are much cheaper and require less time to develop, they can be more easily replaced as detection technology advances.

Cruise missiles are basically a form of UAV, a "kamikaze" UAV, but a UAV nonetheless.  So let's expand on this.

Canada is a big country with lots of wide, open space to monitor.  In order to maintain its sovereignty, Canada must maintain some sort of presence and keep a watchful eye over its land.  Flying high over miles of frozen tundra doesn't seem like best use of an expensive fighter aircraft does it?  Instead, let's give that job to a UAV.
The proposed "Polar Hawk" UAV.
 Northrop Grumman has proposed a variant of its RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV, dubbed the "Polar Hawk" to Canada as a HALE (High Altitude, Long Endurance) surveillance aircraft, capable of monitoring large areas efficiently.  Oddly enough, the U.S. has recently cancelled orders for the Global Hawk, as the U-2 spyplane is actually cheaper to operate.  This may lead to some bargain pricing on the Polar Hawk as Northrop tries to recover costs.  The U-2, a manned, single engined relic dating back from Cuban Missile Crisis, is certainly NOT suited for arctic patrols.

An marine patrol variant of the Global Hawk, the MQ-4C Triton.
Along with the Polar Hawk, Canada would be wise to also field the MQ-4C Triton, another variant of the Global Hawk built for maritime patrol.  The common platform would help offset some of the costs, which would be considerable at approximately $35 million per unit.  Of course, $35 million is a relative bargain compared to a jet fighter that would cost nearly $100 million.  It is an even bigger bargain compared to the aging CP-140 Aurora's logical successor, the P-8 Poseidon at nearly $200 million per copy.

A hypothetical replacement for the CP-140 Aurora, the "Argus II".

NOTE:  So far, little attention has been paid to the CP-140 Aurora and its need for a replacement sooner rather than later.  Although the Boeing P-8 Poseidon is the most likely choice, the Canadian American Strategic Review website, CASR.ca has some rather interesting Canadian made proposals one based on the Bombardier Global Express, and another "Argus II" based on the Bombardier C-Series passenger jet.  Both of these are fascinating proposals that I would support.  (I'm not a huge fan of their proposal to scrap the F-35 purchase in favour of buying F-18G "Growlers" however.)

The future of stealthy strike aircraft, the X-47B UCAV.
In the near future, UAVs will continue to become armed UCAVs.  Although they are not yet, and may never fully replace manned aircraft, they are now part of the airpower landscape.  Canada needs to keep its options open.  UCAV's promise to be cheaper, more stealthy, and have a much quicker development cycle, bringing cutting edge technology to the battlefield sooner.  Future UCAVs promise to be cheaper and stealthier than the F-35.  Being unmanned, they are also a much more logical choice to send into high risk areas.  Canada had better leave some money in the coffers to procure UCAVs in the future, or risk getting left behind.


Some assembly may be required:  The Ikea jokes would be everywhere!
Faster than the F-35, more fierce, more flexible, more frugal, and the option of building our own Gripens on our own soil.  Heck, we might even convince Saab to call the Canadian made Gripens Arrow IIs instead.  Sure, we might disappoint the American military industrial complex, and a few DND higher-ups may lose their chance at a future high paying lobbyist job for Lockheed Martin, but that seems like a small price to pay.  

In the end, we should be looking at getting the best fighter investment for our money.  If money was no object, we would have convinced the U.S. to sell us F-22s.  If all we need are new planes to fly, we can strap machine-guns to Cessnas.  What Canada needs is "bang-for-the-buck".  The Saab Gripen NG is the clear choice.

A Gripen standing over two UAV prototypes..

Best of all, by purchasing a truly affordable fighter, the RCAF would have money left over in the budget to not only improve pilot training, but buy some force multipliers like more advanced missiles and add some very useful UAV aircraft to the fleet.


  1. Thanks to the writer;Canadian citizen Doug Allen,this website is very informative & interesting with facts & figures. I am an American,and not a fan of Lockheed Martins F-35. No longer worth it's price after all the cost over runs. Canada deserves a bigger better,dual engine,long range,heavy duty, supersonic, fighter attackhunter killer,shit kicking,versatile,interceptor. How about,brand new-good old fashioned F-15 Eagles. The Saab Gripen,makes the most sense for a single engine fighter plane.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I do look at the new version of the F-15 being marketed by Boeing, the "Silent Eagle" here: http://gripen4canada.blogspot.ca/p/eurofighter-typhoon-top-and-dassault.html

      Basically, it would be a great choice except for the fact that it is still only a concept with no guarantee of actual production. Also, F-15s are notoriously expensive both to buy and operate. If cost was no object that wouldn't be a problem, but Canada might have troubles fitting it into the defence budget.

      The F-15 and F-14 were both considered instead of Canada's current CF-18, but were deemed too costly at the time, despite being better suited than the slower and shorter ranged F/A-18. If the F-15 was too expensive for Canada to justify it during the height of the Cold War, it's certainly hard to justify it now.

    2. While living in Anchorage Alaska,I loved listening to and watching for McDonald Douglas F-15 Eagles,blast off & return to Elmendorf AFB. Nov2011 Aviation Nation air show Nellis AFB Las Vegas Nevada,F-22 pilot told me the USAF were not going to purchase Boeing Silent Eagles. Probably because they already spent too much on Raptors and need much more money for the F-35. Lockheed Matin is in bed with Uncle Sam. Government spending is completely out of control. The average American citizen,has no idea,or does not even want to know about what their Federal Government is now paying for and wants to buy. Buyer Beware. Canada,watch USA go for broke. What do I know?.I'm just an unemployed construction worker,who loves aircraft. I like Doug Allen's idea about how both the Saab Gripen and Canadian F-18 Hornets,would use the same power plant engine. Almost makes too much sense,and would be very economical..

    3. @ Dan & Doug

      Sorry but the Grippen NG does not use the same engine as our current hornets. It is the same as is used in the super hornet which we do not have.

      While the Grippen NG is a very capable lil fighter and I would love to get a chance to try it out.. It cannot really fill the full needs for Canada. #1 it is single engine. That alone is a massive X mark. The range as well is barely better than that POS 35 (which is a disaster to say the least).

      We have one massive area to patrol in the artic.. Would you want to put a 100M+ plane up there with no runways and have an engine fail? I sure as hell would not and I am an ex-USAF pilot. (And no I'm Canadian not American.)

      The F15SE is to be more reliable, more efficient with newer engines which (unconfirmed and/or not declassified yet) will be efficient enough to allow supercruise capability (despite being an older design). The fact that the USAF will not purchase them is not a shock though with politics and the military in the US who knows.. Flat out it is a killer aircraft (I'm a former eagle driver) and has a range that dwarfs the 35.

      The ETF is also an excellent alternative that is very capable, dual engine and again cheaper than the 35 POS. It easily while a little more expensive is superior to the Grippen for Canadian needs.

      Now the Grippen NG would be more viable if it was dual engine but that is simply not realistic of course... And the range sadly is lacking.. Unlike it's native Sweden.. we are..well.. considerably larger shall we say (since Canada is bigger than the USA lol)

      Ultimately though the really sad part is those that actually strap their ass into such equipment are not as a rule consulted for what is needed / required.. that is left to the morons aka politicians that have their heads so far up their ass they will never see the light of reality.

    4. The Gripen has a ferry range of 4000km and a combat Radius of 1300km 200 more than the F-35, the slient eagle is incredibly expensive for the platform and is still in development, you have no proof of it being more reliable, and the SE is for a specific role air superiority, it costs almost twice as much as one Gripen.

      The original F-15 was always a fighter meant for air dominance although it can be equipped with bombs its software was never intended for it nor is the platform meant for it, the Gripen is multi-role and Canada needs some type of multi-role fight that is proven not an old design with some upgrades.

    5. Also check out the performance of Gripen regarding engine failures. None, nada, zip, nothing and has been operational fors decades and hundred of thousands flight ours.

  2. You guys could afford 100+ Gripen NGs and still save billions over the F-35s.

  3. As a Swede I'd be as proud of Gripen exports to Canada as I am of our hockey exports.

    The philosophy behind the Gripen is sort of the same as the philosophy of our hockey players. Be fast, communicate with your team during the offensive and use your weapon intelligently.

    Many years ago I flew the Electra for the Swedish Post (that was bought from Kelowna Flightcraft). We had some contracted Canadian crews. One thing they all said about Sweden was that the Swedish coffee, did not give you hartburn, like the American coffee did.

    Maybe it it so, that the Swedish fighter will not give Canadians hartburn, maybe the American fighter will?

  4. The Canadian north is a VERY large and rugged place. Conditions demand a twin engine bird. Period.

    1. I can´t see my comment, so I try again.
      The Swedish north is as rugged, but a fraction of the Canadian. The Gripen have been operating there for 20 years without engine failure(Volvo RM12), even after heavy bird strike. During this time at least one Hornet have crashed due to engine failure. At war it´s well known that double engines is double trouble. F-35 have an unproven single engine. So the safest so far seems to be the Gripen, even if the Gripen NG have the GE f414G engine and may be equipped with GE F414 EPE engine when fielded 2017. F414 engines are well proven and the technology developed by Volvo will be used in the Gripen engines, so the safety will probably be the same.

    2. This is not a question about engine reliability. I am sure the RM12 is very reliable. But this is a warplane which means damage during use is very likely. In Sweden, single engine fighters aren't a problem due to the size of the country; in open and flat Canada, if you lose an engine and it's the only you've got, good luck! There're more lakes and bears than people in over half of the 2nd largest country on Earth!

    3. The biggest compromise of the F-35: it is single-engined. I feel like the complexity of that plane is a huge drawback even considering it's impressive capabilities.

      The Gripen looks like a great alternative at a much more reasonable cost.


  5. The engine(Volvo RM12)has been used in the Gripen for 20years over the very rugged north of Sweden with zero engine failure, even after heavy bird strike. During that time at least one Hornet have crashed due to engine failure. So if you want better safety for the pilots, The Gripen is an option.
    At war, double engines is duble trouble.

    1. "At war, double engines is duble trouble."

      No offense but that is completely false to say the least.

      I would take twin engine in a heartbeat for what I flew (I"m ex-USAF) and especially in combat!

    2. Twin engines are good for ground attack but bad for air superiority. They mean more maintenance-heavy, and typically larger and less maneuverable fighter. If you are hit in one engine in aerial combat, you're either going down due to damage or will be shot down by the enemy you won't be able to evade. But in ground attack, it is almost given that aircraft will be shot up and second engine can save lives in such circumstances. Your position is understandable since USAF did not fight a competent enemy in the air since Vietnam, and did not face serious aerial opposition since World War II... but as usual, what is right for one mission is not right for another.

    3. So it's ok to be shot down in air combat but not in ground attack? If you are fighting a competent enemy, their Air Force is going to be a headache; if you are fighting a weak enemy, getting shot up is not going to be very likely.

      Having 2 engines is not a hinderance to air combat, at all! You have twice the power, and a backup engine to fly on. And you don't go into dogfights by yourself, so I don't comprehend why you are saying "If you are hit in one engine in aerial combat, you're either going down due to damage or will be shot down by the enemy you won't be able to evade."

      And if you think having a second engine will decrease your maneuverability, should I mention the MiG-29, if not Su-27?

      I don't have anything against the Gripen. I think it's a perfect fit for Canada - except it's a single engine, but at least they are familiar with the engine.

    4. You didn't get what I'm saying. If you are hit in one engine during aerial combat, second engine is not going to save you. It is far better to avoid getting hit in the first place, which means small, highly maneuverable aircraft... which means single engine, as twin engined aircraft are typically larger and heavier, and also drag more, leading to lower lift-to-drag ratios (there are always exceptions, however, Rafale is excellent in that department due to its mostly unmatched aerodynamic design, while the F-35 has disastrous lift/drag and thrust/drag ratios due to its "stealth" design and high wing loading).

      MiG-29 and Su-27 aren't anything exceptonal in maneuverability right now, but they were when introduced... which had to do with ther aerodynamic design.

  6. Gripens sound pretty good for Canada, and your info is correct. But the US and Canada are trying to build a jet that will defeat new x band radar, and almaz missiles which can detect even the most subtle radar returns. Read the stealth article in popular mechanics(oct 2012) and America's next top bomber article(april or may 2013)

  7. Interesting reading. We who don´t believe in the f-35 superiority have said this all the time: Counter stealth will be developed to the degree that stealth is to little help. All modern fighters will have advanced AESA and Sukhoi´s already have l-band AESA which can detect stealth fighters on long distances, even from the front.
    A big military problem: Sams that create a no-fly half dome with a radius of 400-500 km. How can f-35 help in that case?
    One way to handle this problem is speed and altitude. The higher the speed and altitude of the attacker, the closer to the target you can go before you must escape. F-35 is week in both speed and altitude. The Gripen use speed, altitude, small size and IR to counter this problem. Together with at least the same capability as the F-35, minus the stealth in x-band.

  8. Well I drive a Saab 2000t I wish I could fly Gripen (although the 2000 does very nice:).

  9. F-35 is a great fighter but so far the development cost is too expensive. However, the Gripen NG is a modern and more flexible fighter which can get "the job done" at a cheaper price.

    1. Not only the development cost but maintenance cost is also going to be expensive. I don't have a problem with that as long as the maintenance cost stays and employs Canadians or whatever country purchases the JSF. But with all the money saved with buying Gripen NG, that money can be used in other ways to benefit Canada or that country's economy or social services. Although it will never ever happen, the Mig-29/35 and Su-27's family are a better choice than the Gripen NGs.

    2. Why do you think the Mig´s and Suchoi`s are a better choice? They don´t have better capacity, only higher operational costs, which is more than 70% of the total cost for a fighter. The Gripen E is the only modern fighter with operation costs a third or less of the competitors. It`s even the only modern fighter that can use unprepared roads as airbases and the only light wight fighter with performance as an medium wight fighter. It`s the only fighter that´s truly network centric today, with double datalinks and the most advaced radar(norad=not only radar). It have the highest agility of all fighters(higher than typhoon). Smallest radar, IR and visible signatura of all non-stealt fighters. The engine have so far 100% reliabiliy. I can go on. There are more expensive fighters, but not any better.

    3. If operational cost and turn around -especially turn around- is the only thing to consider, then only the Swedes have a chance. Nothing else out there measures maintenance on a minute/flying hour scale, at least not Western fighters. While it's unfortunate that there's nothing out there with a similar maintenance schedule, it's not the only thing to consider.

      Also, the Swedes aren't the only fighter types able to operate from roads; I'm not sure why it's so special in that case. The Germans have always used autobahns for runways, the Taiwanese practice every year with their fighter force. The Gripen's STOL-ish abilities are to praise for, however.
      Do pay attention, though. The JF-17 of China is designed to operate from 700m fields. J-10s are said to be able to take off in about 200m (Probably clean, but given its similar configuration to the Viggen, I'm not surprised.)
      The A-10 and maybe the F-5 are able to operate from rough fields. Now, are the Gripens able to operate so?

      Russian equipment are generally known for their reliability, and I would agree, given Canada's vast expanse, the Flanker actually makes a lot of sense if it was a neutral country due to its range, twin engines, capability as a air superiority fighter or as a bomb-truck- variant dependent, and general reliability. Equipment and politics are no-brainer problems, and it will cost more to run than Gripens, but nowhere as expensive or neutered as the JSF.

    4. Gripen was originally built to Russian (or USSR) specifications of durability, and I would say that they come no harder than that. Able to operate from any road 400 m long, as I remember, possibly shorter as this was the official measures and the Swedish military don't like to present the real numbers.

      They were not planned to become sitting ducks for a missile but spread out at those roads all over Sweden. They also (from memory though) have a very short time from getting a warning to be able to lift (minutes).

      Also constructed as modules, its parts able to be exchanged (repaired) by some few ordinary mechanics at that same road if needed. As for 'fields' I'm not sure what you mean, but Gripen is one of the lightest fighters in the world, so whatever pressure A-10 puts on its wheels I would expect Gripen to be able to do the same. Then again, I'll leave that question to someone that knows more about what you mean..

  10. I found this analytical comparison of maneuverability and lift (amongst other things, relating to Gripen (C/D primarily) and the JSF somewhat enlighting. http://defenseissues.wordpress.com/tag/saab-gripen/

  11. I think Bombardier has decided it does not want to be a military contractor. I admire this. They will only sell their platforms for recon or air/sea patrol. I am not 100% sure of this, but I think the family who controls it has decided they will not export weapons.

  12. The Brazilian Air Force buy Gripen NG!!!!!!!

  13. It's single engine. Game over for the Gripen. End of story.

    1. Given the RCAF's and the DND's selection of the F-35, the single-engine topic seems to be moot.

      Remember, jet technology and reliability have made great strides since the F-104 "Widowmaker". The F-104 itself was used against its design as a high altitude interceptor. Instead, it was used as a low level strike aircraft. This contributed to the issue.

      Truth is, single engine aircraft are just as, if not more so, safe as twin-engine aircraft.

    2. No.. single engine is NOT as safe or more safe as twin engine aircraft. Especially for any patrols over our arctic or water.

      I am ex-USAF and there is not a chance in hell I would want to fly a single engine in such conditions. If ANYTHING fails with that engine the aircraft is pooched since there are no suitable landing areas especially dead stick.

      Simple fact is as well that as good as the Grippen NG is it still just cannot do what is needed for Canadian needs. Sheer size of our area to patrol eliminates it the same the the POS 35..

      Good alternatives though such as the F-15SE (see my above comments) and the ETF are available and are excellent aircraft.

    3. Gripen has flown in those conditions for over 20 years without engine failure. Even after beeing hit by birds. But if this is the case I guess the F35 is out of the question?

  14. they are developing radar evading technology and it will be cheap so buckle up.

  15. And the Rafale is out of question? Too expensive? A beautiful plane that nobody (except for the French) wants!?
    //Daniel from Sweden

  16. The mention of the P-8 makes me wonder: Many MPAs are prop-driven due to the loitering time needed. The P-8 has a similar range to the CP-140/P-3 but being a jet its on-station time is going to be cut. No one makes mid-size prop-liners anywhere any more. It'll be nice to see the Yukon raise out of the ashes, but is it possible to turn the Hercules into a MPA aircraft? It's got the size and capacity, the slow speed, and commonality with the Hercules because it's a Hercules.

    (A little funny for an air force to be operating both Airbuses and Boeing-liners at the same time as well.)

    I notice on this page that the Gripen at this point is incompatible with Harpoons. That might need to be addressed.

    1. There is the "Sea Herc" concept from Lockheed, which could be a solution.


  17. why shouldn't canada consider a 2 platform option? it seems to me that the gripen would offer outstanding value for money, allowing us to field a larger air force, (65 total aircraft can't really be enough, can it?) everything about it is great, except possibly for range, and being single engined, even though the swedes have proven its reliability in arctic conditions, so why not buy 90 or 100 gripen NG and 30-40 super hornets? they use a common engine, they're both tough as nails, they both offer way better value compared to f35, and between the two they offer an extremely flexible range of capability.

    1. The Gripen range is not less than other fighters, except f-15. Single engine is no problem with 100% reliability. The only drawback is that you can only use engines with proven reliability.

  18. I think the F-15SE is the best option for Canada. We need interoperability with the USAF and our industries would also be able to absorb better cutting edge technology from the Eagle than the Gripen NG though I am sure the latter is a capable aircraft. However given the illustrious record of the F-16 I think the Block 50 and up version are a superior purchase for Canada if we are looking at a single engine fighter. We need to be able to build everything at home and it should be superior quality and be logistically and politically sound decisions.

  19. I think f-15se is certainly worthy of consideration as "the heavy" in a mixed fleet, with its excellent speed and payload capacity, coupled with what are likely to be significant improvements in observability reduction compared to the strike eagle, but it remains a very expensive platform to both buy and operate. The venerable and battle tested f16, while undoubtedly still capable, is frankly not in the same class as even the jas39c/d, currently in operation. I'd offer that its maybe a better bomber than the gripen, simply because its a little bigger, but after that the gripen leaves it in the dust. The single engine issue, while a very real concern with the f16, is absolutely mitigated by the saab aircraft, having been proven to not only exceed the operational availability of any other fighter currently in use, but to do so under swedish conditions, which are harsh and needless to say, similar to canadian. No other fighter can be serviced as quickly, easily and cheaply. No other fighter is capable of as advanced communication integration. When you start to do serious reading on this little plane, the quality of design becomes almost staggering. The airframe, systems and engines are hardier and simpler to maintain in the field, than any competitor. The sensor capability is equivalent to the best of far more expensive platforms such as the eurofighter, rafale , super hornet, even the raptor, but not only that, the highly sophisticated data link allows groups of up to 4 gripens to form a sensor network, unrivaled by anything else, giving them a geometric force multiplier. This has been proven in exercises, even under "red team" restrictions.

    1. I'm impressed. You actually seem to understand what it is capable of. Red Flag war scenarios do it no justice as it is the Swedish data link that really makes it unique, and that one we created in the sixties. So it's proven, and proven again, although not at Red Flag, or against any Nato fighters/units, as far as I know? :). They just don't want us to show them what it can do I guess?

      But buying a aircraft today is a political thing first, a defense issue secondly as it seems.

  20. You have an error on the page - "During the last Canadian federal election, the cost of 65 F-35A Gripens was reported to be $9 billion." You mean F-35A Lightning IIs.

  21. This was a very interesting page to stumble on while looking up some data for some posts i did, trying to get Norway to notice that the F-35 is rubbish for them.

    Anyway, even if the Gripen isn´t "perfect" for Canada, i can safely say that it is better than the F-35, with plenty of room to spare.

    Among the things i found in my search, were some operating costs:
    Gripen, $4700 per flight hour, everything included, highly reliable cost. Stands out however in that maintenance can be handled even by non-technicians with only basic training.

    F-18 E/F, 11000 to 24000$ per hour, mostly all included and fairly reliable numbers,

    Eurofighter, 8000 to 18000$ per hour. The higher number is fairly reliable for heavy duty war conditions with all abilities constantly in use. Lowend number is what you can get if you play it nice and easy.

    F-16, 7000$ per hour, with some questions on completeness of the numbers.

    Rafale, 16500$ per hour, all included, reliable numbers.

    F-35, A variant 21000$, B/C variants 31000$ per hour, highly questionable numbers however as even at the same time, Netherlands were given 24000$ as the official estimate, and due to the extremely high requirements of specially trained technicians, i have seem claims as high as 40000$ even for the A variant.

    And now for the reason i found this page:
    The Scorpion private venture fighter frankly looks pretty darn interesting. Off the shelf components, giving it a cheapskate pricetag (20M $) and per flight hour cost at a mere 3000$, and although both estimates are probably very unreliable, it is still a very interesting concept.

    It´s only really bad part is the relatively low speed at a clearly subsonic max. I figured you might be interested in taking a look at it, as it could be a potential option for Canada. It even manages to have twin engines. ;)

    Regards from Sweden, Patrik

  22. Just want to poit out 3 things
    1. " Newer Saab jets have continued to update its use, and currently the Saab Gripen is compatible with the LINK 16 standard used in NATO. " is completely wrong!!! Gripen E is sporting a 2-way datalink that is 6-9 years ahead of anything USAF will have.
    2. The kill zone of Meteor is a game changer and any Air Force of reputation will have to use it howver in Gripen system it will be operational next year 2014 and for Rafael not before 2020 and Typhoon maybe 2023
    3. Gripen E will not only be stealthy it will also be sporting an integrated EWR suite that is based on gallium-nitride (6-9 years ahead of competitors). It willbe capable to IFF at Meteor range while JSF will be like a sitting duck easily detected by two to four Gripens by interference in IR or Radar using the unparallell datalink having no problem triangulating the sitting duck.

  23. Can Gripen really win or even survive in a dog fight against Russian Sukhois and MIGs? In truth NO... so why not get a fighter that can intercept and overwhlem the enemy. The only contender in my opinion is F15 has served Canada well till now and it will continue to protect Canada in future. The new Advance F15 equipped with newest suites of modern technology is the best Air Superiority Fighter which is in similar price range including maintenance with the Gripen.

  24. Gripen was designed in Sweden which has the same weather in the northern part of the country as Canada does and it is as sparsely populated also. Gripen was designed for easy maintenance and all NATO standard equipment. Believe it is the best choice!

  25. Nice link to what czech airforce think of the reliability of the gripen c/d engine. http://airheadsfly.com/2014/02/26/ahf-inside-the-czech-prize-fighter/ The article says its a F404-GE-400 but thats wrong, its a rm12 engine built 50%by volvo 50% is still f404.
    The new gripen e/f will have a more standardised engine called F414-39E. I guess it will be some changes to this new engine as well because of the whole new naming going only to gripen. Probably some safety features...i dunno really, just guessing.
    If canada would choose gripen they will have money over to fly them more and the new gripen e is really good, you wouldn't get dissapointed.