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Study - Evaluation of the EU-India Strategic Partnership and the Potential for its Revitalisation - PE 534.987 - Subcommittee on Security and Defence - Committee on Foreign Affairs - Committee on International Trade

The EU-India strategic partnership has lost momentum. Bilateral ties are not receiving sufficient priority from both sides. Economics remains at the core of this relationship. Since negotiations on the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) may take time to be concluded, EU-India ties should not be held hostage to developments at BTIA level. On defence and security matters, India deals with EU Member States directly and has a good framework for cooperation with major European powers. The recent Indian decision to buy Rafale jets from France will also have long-term implications for EU-India links. Unlike its partnerships with the US and Russia, India has yet to discover the relevance of EU-India relations within evolving Asian security and economic architecture. Growing Indo-American relations and the close transatlantic partnership could provide new opportunities to work together. Collaboration in research and innovation has expanded significantly and dialogues on global governance, energy, counter-terrorism, migration and mobility as well as human rights all show great potential. New dialogues could be initiated on Afghanistan, maritime security, development cooperation and the Middle-East. Indian engagement in resolving the Ukraine crisis could be explored.
Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP

Video of a committee meeting - Wednesday, 17 June 2015 - 10:33 - Subcommittee on Security and Defence - Committee on International Trade

Length of video : 120'
You may manually download this video in WMV (1.2Gb) format

Disclaimer : The interpretation of debates serves to facilitate communication and does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. Only the original speech or the revised written translation is authentic.
Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP

Video of a committee meeting - Tuesday, 16 June 2015 - 16:46 - Subcommittee on Security and Defence - Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

Length of video : 87'
You may manually download this video in WMV (819Mb) format

Disclaimer : The interpretation of debates serves to facilitate communication and does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. Only the original speech or the revised written translation is authentic.
Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP

Video of a committee meeting - Tuesday, 16 June 2015 - 15:05 - Subcommittee on Security and Defence

Length of video : 87'
You may manually download this video in WMV (824Mb) format

Disclaimer : The interpretation of debates serves to facilitate communication and does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. Only the original speech or the revised written translation is authentic.
Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP

RFP Coming for Ancient French Alpha Trainers | Airbus Formulating Heavy Lift Copter | Qatar to Buy 4 More C-17s

Defense Industry Daily - Wed, 17/06/2015 - 05:45


  • As France plans on replacing its fleet of Alpha jet trainers, a Request for Proposals is now expected in September. The Dassault-manufactured advanced trainer the French Air Force intends to replace dates from the 1970s. Alenia Aermacchi has previously seen its M-345 trainer evaluated by the French defense procurement agency DGA, with other possible replacements including both turboprop and jet trainers.

  • Airbus is developing a new heavy lift helicopter, referred to as the X6. A follow-up to the H225 Super Puma, which recently scored export success to Poland, the new concept model will undergo two years of concept definition, in collaboration with potential customers. The company also saw the first successful test flight of its H160 medium lift model a few days ago, with this also announced in Paris on Tuesday.

  • The Czech Republic will be one of three customers for the L-39NG jet trainer, manufacturer Aero Vodochody Aerospace announced on Tuesday. The trainers will go to Czech company LOM PRAHA s.p. who train the country’s Air Force pilots, as well as to two other customers; – the Breitling and Draken International display teams.

  • The cause of the Hungarian Air Force JAS-39C Gripen crash last week is being < href="">attributed to software issues, according to the country’s defense minister. This is pre-empting the outcome of the official investigation, with defense minister Csaba Hende citing initial details of that investigation.

  • Russia is planning to bolster its nuclear forces by adding over forty ICBMs to its arsenal by the end of 2015. The response from NATO has been understandably frosty, meanwhile no details of precisely which missiles the Russian defense ministry intends to produce have been given.

Middle East


  • Indian MIG-29s upgraded by Russia are being delivered to the Indian Air Force, with the new fighters now brought up to the UPG configuration. The first two of the improved jets are currently undergoing flight tests, with an additional pair preparing to start these. The upgrades were contracted for in March 2008, with the deal worth $952 million and covering five squadrons (69 aircraft) of IAF MIGs. The first six aircraft were upgraded in Russia, with the remainder undergoing work in India, using equipment kits supplied by RAC-MiG.

  • In a possible death-knell to the indigenously developed, infamously unreliable Arjun main battle tank, the Indian Army is looking at replacing its fleet of T-72 tanks, releasing a Request for Information regarding a newly-designed modular armored vehicle, known as the Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV). This not only highlights that the Arjun will be unable to meet the Army’s future demands, but indicates that the Indian Army is seeking to base its future combat vehicles on a more open architecture, allowing for rapid integration of future technologies. The new vehicle is slated to enter service by 2025-27; however this is highly likely to slip given the Indian defense ministry’s procurement track record.

  • An Indian Jaguar trainer aircraft came down in near the city of Allahabad on Tuesday, with the pilots ejecting safely. The cause of the crash is as yet unknown, with an investigation now underway.

Today’s Video

  • Outstanding Indian Air Force promo vid

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

The JAS-39 Gripen: Sweden’s 4+ Generation Wild Card

Defense Industry Daily - Wed, 17/06/2015 - 02:23
South African JAS-39D
(click to view full)

As a neutral country with a long history of providing for its own defense against all comers, Sweden also has a long tradition of building excellent high-performance fighters with a distinctive look. From the long-serving Saab-35 Draken (“Dragon,” 1955-2005) to the Mach 2, canard-winged Saab-37 Viggen (“Thunderbolt,” 1971-2005), Swedish fighters have stressed short-field launch from dispersed/improvised air fields, world-class performance, and leading-edge design. This record of consistent project success is nothing short of amazing, especially for a country whose population over this period has ranged from 7-9 million people.

This is DID’s FOCUS Article for background, news, and contract awards related to the JAS-39 Gripen (“Griffon”), a canard-winged successor to the Viggen and one of the world’s first 4+ generation fighters. Gripen remains the only lightweight 4+ generation fighter type in service, its performance and operational economics are both world-class, and it has become one of the most recognized fighter aircraft on the planet. Unfortunately for its builders, that recognition has come from its appearance in Saab and Volvo TV commercials, rather than from hoped-for levels of military export success. With its 4+ generation competitors clustered in the $60-120+ million range vs. the Gripen’s claimed $40-60 million, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Sweden’s lightweight fighter? In 2013 a win in Brazil started to answer that question.

JAS-39: The Gripen Program Saab’s JAS-39A-D Gripens “Could-have” weapons
(click to view full)

The JAS-39 Gripen is an excellent lightweight fighter by all accounts, with attractive flyaway costs[1] and performance. Its canard design allows for quick “slew and point” maneuvers, allowing it to take advantage of the modern trend toward helmet-mounted displays, and air-air missiles with much wider boresight targeting cones. The “Cobra” HMD completes that capability, and became operational on SAAF Gripens as of September 2011. Power to weight ratio is good, its PS-05 radar mechanically scanned radar gets good reviews, some “radar profile shaping” techniques have been employed to reduce its own signature, and its small physical size can make it a tricky opponent for enemy pilots.

Short Take-Off and Landing capability makes Gripen a difficult target on the ground as well. Sweden’s defense doctrines avoid dependence on easily-targeted bases, and its fighters are expected to fly from prepared sites next to automotive highways. Gripens can fly from a 9 x 600 meter/ 29.5 x 1,970 foot runway, and land in 600 meters or less – without using a launch catapult or an arrester hook.

The Gripen has one other asset that is often overlooked: very attractive lifetime operational costs. To date, each new generation of modern fighters has proven to be more expensive than its predecessors to operate and maintain. Since operation and maintenance are over 65% of a fighter’s lifetime cost, this aspect of the defense procurement spiral forces much smaller aircraft orders with each new generation of equipment. The JAS-39 was designed from the outset to counter this trend, and lifetime operating costs were given a high priority when making design and equipment decisions. Many of the Gripen’s competitors have tried, but Saab appears to have succeeded.

More exact cost figures were offered in July 2010 by Gripen technical director Eddy de la Motte, who quoted less than $3,000 per flight hour for Sweden’s Flygvapnet, and “for the export customers it will be less than $5,000, including maintenance, spare parts, fuel and manpower.” On its face, that’s stunning. By comparison, the USAF places the per-hour cost of an F-15 at $17,000 [PDF]. Even given a likely mismatch between direct flight costs, and figures that include allocated life cycle costs including depot maintenance, etc., that is a big difference. Switzerland is one customer where that difference appears to have been decisive. Swiss evaluations reportedly rated the Gripen at roughly half the O&M costs expected for its twin-engine Rafale and Eurofighter counterparts.

Gripen: integrated equipment Hungarian JAS-39C/Ds
(click to view full)

The Gripen’s equipment commonality and choice are good. Its engine is a derivative of GE’s F404, in wide use on F/A-18 A-D Hornets and many other platforms. A wide variety of international equipment has successfully been tested and integrated with the aircraft, including equipment from American, Israeli, European, and even South African[2] suppliers. Some key slots like radar-killing missiles still need to be filled, but Raytheon’s GBU-49/EGBU-12 Enhanced Paveway GPS/laser guided bombs were added in 2009, and Gripen is serving as the MBDA Meteor long-range air-air missile’s test aircraft for flight trials.

The end result is an effective lightweight fighter. As an example, the Hungarian Air Force described their experiences at Exercise Spring Flag 2007, held in May at Italy’s Decimomannu air base in Sardinia. Other participants included France (E-3 AWACS), Germany (F-4F ICE), Italy (AV-8B Harrier, F-16C, Tornado ECR and Eurofighter Typhoon), NATO (E-3 AWACS), and Turkey (F-16C), with tanker support from Italy, the UK and the US. The Gripen’s 100% sortie rate was impressive, and it also generated some interesting comments from Hungarian Air Force Colonel Nandor Kilian:

“In Hungary we just don’t have large numbers of aircraft to train with, but in Spring Flag we faced COMAO (combined air operations) packages of 20, 25 or 30 aircraft. The training value for us was to work with that many aircraft on our radar – and even with our limited experience we could see that the Gripen radar is fantastic. We would see the others at long ranges, we could discriminate all the individual aircraft even in tight formations and using extended modes. The jamming had almost no effect on us – and that surprised a lot of people.

Other aircraft couldn’t see us – not on radar, not visually[3] – and we had no jammers of our own with us. We got one Fox 2 kill[4] on a F-16 who turned in between our two jets but never saw the second guy and it was a perfect shot.

Our weapons and tactics were limited by Red Force rules, and in an exercise like this the Red Force is always supposed to die, but even without our AMRAAMs and data links we got eight or 10 kills, including a Typhoon. Often we had no AWACS or radar support of any kind, just our regular onboard sensors – but flying like that, ‘free hunting,’ we got three kills in one afternoon. It was a pretty good experience for our first time out.”

To keep the basic Gripen relevant, block upgrades occur about every 3 years. Block 19, in 2009, integrates IRIS-T SRAAM (Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile), NATO’s Link-16 as a supplement to Gripen’s own shared awareness datalink, and the Cobra helmet-mounted sight. Block 20 in 2012 is expected to include enhancements to the PS-05/A radar, and the ROVER close-air-support data link used with such success by American forces.

Partnerships & Production JAS-39C

The Industry Group JAS (IG JAS) is the joint venture partnership that develops the Gripen System for the Swedish Armed Forces. Partners included in IG JAS are Saab Volvo Aero Corporation and Ericsson Microwave Systems (now part of Saab Group). The development and production of the Gripen has been one of Sweden’s largest industry projects, consuming up to one-third of the Swedish defense budget in some years. Brazil’s 2014 purchase will give them a role in production, and made Embraer a design partner in the 2-seat JAS-39F.

The first JAS-39s were delivered in 1993, and the last Swedish plane was due to be delivered in 2007. While exact figures are extremely difficult to come by, sources place the average flyaway cost of the JAS-39 at about $40 million[4] per plane, or about $50 million in current dollars. The whole Gripen production run for all customers, according to current orders, will reach 261 aircraft. This consists of:

The multinational UK Empire Test Pilot’s School has bought Gripen flight hours from Saab since 1999. They switched from the JAS-39B to the JAS-39D in 2014.

The lion in winter…
(click to view full)

On the marketing front, Saab now handles all international sales, and ties to its parent firms like Investor AB allow it to offer an attractive program of industrial offsets to potential owners. An initial Gripen International marketing partnership with BAE gave the Swedish aircraft wide global representation, but BAE had conflicts of interest, and a divestiture formally ended the partnership in March 2010. A limited international marketing agreement for the JAS-39E/F is being negotiated with Brazil’s Embraer, but that isn’t done yet.

Unfortunately, the Gripen has lost out in or been absent from important export competitions in Austria (Eurofighter), Finland (F-18), Japan (DNP – F-35), India (Rafale, but not closed), the Netherlands (F-35), Norway (F-35), Poland (F-16), Qatar (DNP – TBD), South Korea (DNP – F-35), Switzerland (F-18, then a win but a lost referendum), and Singapore (F-15SG Strike Eagle to replace A-4 Skyhawks). Meanwhile, Sweden downsized its Gripen force to 100 JAS-39 C/D aircraft, flooding the market with second-hand models and choking new production opportunities. All in a market where overall export orders were already below Saab’s expectations.

A number of factors could be cited as reasons for this situation: purchasing slowdowns across the industry, the inertia of existing relationships and equipment standardization, Sweden’s lack of geopolitical weight in contrast to countries like the USA, France or Russia. In Singapore’s case, its status as a single engine lightweight fighter with limited range also hurt it – as did its partner BAE’s greater interest in promoting its own Eurofighter.

Still, the bottom line is that the Gripen was dependent on exports for profitability, as a result of the unprofitable contract Saab signed with the Swedish government. The government’s ability to assist with foreign export orders has proven to be very limited, and envisaged export orders have been more in line with skeptics’ predictions than with corporate hopes.

Can the Gripen production line survive? Upgraded variants have given the fighters new traction in the global marketplace.

JAS-39 Gripen: The Way Forward JAS-39NG: Evolution
(click to view full)

One way forward is through upgrades. Most JAS-39s offered in recent export competitions touted important improvements beyond the present C/D versions. The most important is next-generation AESA radar technology, which offers substantial improvements in detection, resolution, versatility, and maintenance costs. Other common upgrades include uprated engines and longer range. Eventually, they were formalized into 2 programs. The test and development program is called Gripen Demo. Production aircraft will be JAS-39E/Fs, though they’re also referred to as Gripen NG (“next generation”).

Regardless of the exact upgrade sets offered, the hope remains the same: that appropriate upgrades would allow the Gripen to continue offering better performance and features than lightweight fighter peers like the F-16 and MiG-29, including new variants like Russia’s new thrust-vectoring MiG-35 and Lockheed’s AESA-equipped F-16 Block 60 “Desert Falcon” flown by the UAE. They’re also intended to allow the Gripen to compete on more even terms with more expensive fighters like the Rafale, F/A-18 Super Hornet, etc.

In those competitions, Gripen would be positioned as a lower-budget option with “close enough” capabilities overall, and outright advantages in key areas. So far, that positioning has been right on the money in Brazil and Switzerland.

Gripen NG
click for video

That competitiveness is essential. Like France’s Rafale, which also depends on exports to finance its ongoing development, the Gripen is finding itself dependent on home government handouts in order to remain technologically competitive. That’s less than ideal, but given the Gripen and Rafale’s status as the future backbones of their respective national air forces, non-competitiveness is hardly an option. Absent further foreign sales, therefore, the question for both aircraft is how badly future upgrade costs will eat into their home market’s fighter procurement and maintenance budgets. Which explains Saab’s eagerness to escape this trap.

New weapons integration will continue, highlighted by the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile in 2014 – 2015. The sale to Brazil may be especially helpful in this regard, as it creates a customer with full source-code access who will be very interested in integrating their own weapons and systems. They’ll be building on a set of pre-planned upgrades, which form the core of the JAS-39E/F’s improvements.

Sensors & C4 ES-05 Raven AESA
(click to view full)

The first set of chosen Gripen enhancements will improve the pilot’s situational awareness, and this set of enhancements is being designed with an eye to retrofit compatibility on existing JAS-39C/D Gripen fleets. The upgrade set includes:

An AESA radar in place of the present PS-05 is an important future selling point, and has been promised in several of Saab’s recent foreign bid submissions. As of March 2009, Saab is partnered with Selex Galileo to design an ES-05 Raven AESA radar that builds on Selex’s experience with the Vixen 500 AESA, Ericsson’s PS-05 radar, and its Nora AESA experiments. The Raven incorporates an identification friend-or-foe (IFF) function that works in conjunction with the cheek-mounted active array SIT 426 IFF.

In an unusual twist, the Raven AESA will be movable using a single-bearing system, increasing its total field of view by a factor of 2 to +/- 100 degrees, and improving “lock, fire, and leave” maneuvers. The cost is paid in reliability and maintenance, because the pivot mechanisms create a point of failure and maintenance, whereas fixed AESA radars are mostly maintenance-free. Saab is betting that the improved scan performance will justify the cost. The quality of Raven’s AESA transmit/receive modules, and their integration, will also play a large role in the radar’s final performance.

Reaching this point wasn’t easy, and the developmental state of its radar has been a weakness for Saab in competitions like India’s M-MRCA. Saab bought Ericsson’s radar group, which also makes the Erieye AWACS radar, in March 2006. Later that year, they began the “Nora” AESA project, but by autumn 2007 they had changed their approach, and looked to leverage existing radar initiatives instead. That would have been fine in a normal marketplace, but underhanded anti-competitive behavior by Dassault and the US government left Saab without a viable partner, and cost them years of time on a critical market feature.

Gripen Demo & JAS-39D
(click to view full)

Sensors & Datalinks. Beyond the Raven radar, a passive IRST (infra-red search and track) system will be added to improve the JAS-39NG’s aerial target detection, without running the risk that the Gripen will reveal itself by emitting detectable electro-magnetic energy. The JAS-39E/F’s Skyward-G system is air-cooled, which eliminates the weight and maintenance of cryogenic liquid cooling systems.

IRST systems are useful against some ground targets, and all aerial targets. They especially enhance performance against opponents with “low observable” radar stealth enhancements. If medium-long range infrared guided missiles like MICA-IR or NCADE are integrated in Gripen at some future date, an IRST system can even provide missile guidance beyond visual range, without triggering the target’s radar warning receivers.

Link 16 is a situational awareness upgrade, and retrofits are also available for earlier Gripen models. Gripens already had a proprietary datalink that allows them to see a common picture of the battlefield, but the NATO Link-16 standard is more widely used, and adds the ability to share with other types of aircraft, air defense radars, ships, etc. (see June 11/07 entry, below).

EW/ECM. Electronic warfare enhancements are another component of situational awareness these days, and Swiss evaluations in 2008/2009 rated this as a platform strength. Upgrades are critical, in order to keep the platform current. The JAS-39 E/F will get them, and Elbit Systems’ PAWS-2 appears to be at least part of the upgrade.

Structural/ Mechanical JAS-39NG CAP Concept
(click to view full)

Mechanical upgrades are in the works, too.

Size & Payload. Early projections for the single-seat JAS-39NG showed a larger fighter, in order to carry more fuel, and more weapons on 2 extra stations (10 total). Subsequent reports regarding the JAS-39E/F confirm that the fighter will be longer and wider, but aims to have the same wing loading ratio as earlier models. Empty weight for the Gripen Demo technology development prototype was reported as 7,100 kg, which is up from the JAS-39C’s 6,800 kg, but still well below the 10,000 kg of the F-16E Block 60.[5] Maximum takeoff weight for Gripen Demo was a bigger jump from previous versions, rising to 16,000 kg from 14,000 kg. The derivative JAS-39E/F may end up being even heavier, at 16,500 kg or greater. Maximum payload only jumps from 5,000 kg up to 6,000 kg, however, because of…

Fuel. One of the Gripen’s handicaps against competing fighters has been its range. A 38%+ jump in internal fuel capacity is meant help to offset the Gripen NG’s weight and power increases, while extending the aircraft’s combat air patrol radius to 1,300 km/ 812 miles, and boosting unrefueled range to 2,500 km/ 1,560 miles. The landing gear is repositioned to accommodate those extra fuel cells. A new underwing 1,700 liter (450 gallon) fuel tank has been flown, and tanks capable of supersonic drop will be tested in future. With the full set of drop tanks, the JAS-39E/F’s total flight range is expected to reach 4,075 km/ 2,810 miles.

Engine. Hauling all of that around will require a more powerful engine than the current RM12 variant of GE’s popular F404. GE’s F414, produced in partnership with Volvo Aero and in use on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet family, will be that engine. The base model offers a 25-35% power boost over its predecessor the F404, and the developmental F414 EPE could offer another 20% thrust increase on top of that, for a total boost of 50-62%.

Key F414G alterations for the Gripen will include minor changes to the alternator for added aircraft power, and Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) software that’s modified for single-engine operation, instead of the Super Hornet’s twin-engine configuration. Reports also indicate that Saab will look to add divertless supersonic intakes to the JAS-39E/F. This technology saves weight while offering similar or better engine performance, and can be found on the F-35, as well as on China’s JF-17, J-10, and J-20 fighters.

Saab Group remains on track with the basic Gripen Demo program, which has also been referenced as the “Gripen MS21″. The next step will involve setting the final specifications for Sweden and for initial buyers, and finalizing the “JAS-39 E/F” design. Development is expected to be done by 2018-2020, with new JAS-39E/F fighters entering service in Sweden around 2023.

The Next Gripens: Industrial Gripen Demo rollout
(click to view full)

In July 2006, Saab received a SEK 1 billion contract from the Swedish government (about $150 million) to improve the aircraft, and develop the Gripen Demo/NG. This was later followed by a NOK 150 million (about $25 million) agreement with Norway in April 2007, and a set of industrial partnerships with key suppliers. A welter of upgrade contracts, studies, and private investment initiatives have also worked to finance R&D of key components, including the avionics and radar.

Saab’s approach to those Gripen Demo partnerships has been a departure from past practice. Instead of selecting key technologies and modifying them to become proprietary, as was the case for the F404-based Volvo RB12 engine, Gripen Demo is using far more “off the shelf” parts. As noted above, its new GE F414 engine will feature minimal changes, so the upgraded engine is expected to cost 20% less than the its RB12 predecessor. Suppliers like Honeywell and Rockwell were reportedly asked to just provide their products, and let Saab handle integration. There are even rumors that Saab may embrace the same HMDS pilot helmet used on the F-35, instead of Saab’s Cobra. At present, Saab is leading a team of Gripen Demo partners that include:

A demonstrator for the new version was rolled out in April 2008, and has been in flight testing since. Current negotiations with the Swedish, Swiss, and Brazilian governments are aimed at freezing the configuration for the JAS-39E/F/BR, which will feed back into the final industrial team.

As of April 2014, a much-modified JAS-39D (aircraft #39-7) is the primary component test bed, with upgraded avionics including a digital HUD, a production-standard ES-05 Raven AESA radar, and the SkyGuard IRST. Saab is currently assembling aircraft #39-8, a more representative test prototype of the JAS-39E/F that’s due to fly in 2015. Aircraft #39-9 is due to join the test fleet in 2016 as a primary system testbed, while aircraft #39-10 is due to fly in 2017 in the final JAS-39E configuration at the production-standard weight.

Future Gripens? Sea Gripen Concept
(click to view full)

Other aircraft upgrades are not advertised at present, but have been the subject of industry rumor and conditional commitments.

Some reports have touted the possibility of a thrust-vectoring engine in future Gripen upgrades, but this was not listed as a selling point in Saab’s submissions to Norway or Denmark, and has not been mentioned in any Gripen Demo descriptions. More probable rumors involve upgrading existing fighters to JAS-39 C+/D+, by adding the improved F414G engine.

Other reports over the years have focused on a carrier-capable Sea Gripen, and Saab had indicated that it would spend up to half of Gripen NG’s development budget on this variant, if it found a partner. In May 2011, however, an announcement seemed to indicate that the firm was beginning to move forward on its own, with development centered in the UK.

Carrier landing is usually a very difficult conversion, but Saab can take advantage of the aircraft’s natural Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) design. The Sea Gripen would add new undercarriage and nose gear to cope with higher sink rate forces and catapult launches, strengthen the existing tail hook and some airframe sections, and improve anti-corrosion protection. Launch options would include both catapult (CATOBAR) and “ski jump” ramp short take-off (STOBAR) capabilities, with maximum launch weight about 1/3 lower for STOBAR launches. Carrier landing speed is already in the required range under 150 knots, but the current 15 feet per second sink rate needs to be able to reach 25 feet/sec.

Sea Gripens have a possible future role in Brazil as a naval aircraft on Brazil’s NAe Sao Paolo or its successor. They also exist as a very unlikely backup to Britain’s F-35B Lightning IIs on the new CVF carriers, should absolute disaster strike.

Export Opportunities Czech JAS-39C/Ds
(click to view full)

Time will tell whether the JAS-39 Gripen’s unique combination of performance, price, and life-cycle benefits will find enough buyers in the end, or if it will go down in history as the twilight of Sweden’s indigenous combat aircraft designs. Thus far, buyers have included Sweden (195 + 60 JAS-39E upgrade), Brazil (36), South Africa (28), the Czech Republic (14 lease/buy), Hungary (14 lease/buy), and Thailand (12).

Meanwhile, Saab Defence & Security continues to pursue sales possibilities worldwide. The base list comes from a 2006 Bloomberg interview that outlined Saab CEO Ake Svensson’s thoughts about the aircraft’s potential export customers in the coming years. A report from Jane’s, based on that interview, added more specifics. Subsequent developments have closed off some opportunities, and added others.

Still open

  • Argentina: The country has been looking to replace its aged fighter fleet, and is discussing a deal for 24 JAS-39E/Fs, to be signed through Brazil’s Embraer. The catch? The USA and Britain both make critical parts.
  • Baltics: There is an lease requirement for up to 12 aircraft in Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania, but no active pursuit yet.
  • Belgium: interest formally notified in 2014.
  • Bulgaria: Stated in 2004 that it has a requirement for 20 aircraft to replace 6 MiG-21s and 15 MiG-29s. Issued a Request for Information (RFI) to Saab in May 2006. A 2011 RFI cut that to 8 planes. No movement or decision, but Russian aggression seems to be adding to their sense of urgency.
  • Croatia: Was looking for 8-12 aircraft, with an in-service date of 2011. A JAS-39C/D offer was presented, with Swedish JAS-39As to be loaned as an interim force. No action as of October 2014.
  • Greece: In limbo. Was looking to purchase a second tranche of 30-40 advanced fighters, with the process expected to begin in 2006. That was delayed, then hope was held out, then the 2010 fiscal collapse happened. Still in limbo.
  • Finland: Studying a EUR 6 billion program to replace their 62 remaining F/A-18C/D Hornets. Possible joint air defense cooperation with Sweden would help, but Gripen isn’t compatible with their stocks of AIM-9X and AIM-120C-7 air-to-air missiles. Buy decision expected after 2020, replacement to finish by 2030.
  • Indonesia: Looking to replace about 16 F-5E/F fighters. Indonesia has been expanding its own SU-27/30 and F-16 fleets, but they seem to want a 3rd fighter. The shortlist is a confused mix of heavy Su-35s & F-15s, and light F-16s & JAS-39s.
  • Malaysia: Limping along with MiG-29Ns until 2015, but not happy. Saab will offer 12-24 fighters and up to 2 Saab 340AEW AWACS aircraft for lease, competing against Boeing, Dassault & Eurofighter. Their AWACS offering, and unique experience with leasing, will help. So will neighboring Thailand’s happy experiences with the same mix.
  • Philippines: They just bought 12 South Korean FA-50s as low-cost light fighters, but the government says they will also want more advanced fighters to counter ongoing Chinese pressure, and the Gripen has been mentioned. We’ll see.
  • Slovakia: They need to replace their 8 serving MiG-29s, and want to cooperate with the Czech Republic, which is a Gripen customer. Believed to be looking at 6-8 JAS-39Cs, to the same standard as the CzAF.
  • Slovenia: There have been incredible reports re: national aspirations to field 40 aircraft. It’s difficult to see how they could afford anything even close to that, and they don’t fly any fighters at present.


  • Hungary: Customer. The country extended its existing Gripen lease to 2026, and is looking to phase out its fleet of MiG-29s. Saab once thought that another 6 aircraft were possible within the lease extension, but that would have to be a separate deal mow.

Decided/ Closed

  • Brazil: Win (36 – 26E, 8F). The canceled F-X program got underway again, as Swensson had hoped, and Gripen outfought the favored Dassault Rafale. Follow-on buys could expand Brazil’s orders to 60 – 104 fighters, including a potential carrier-based variant within 10-15 years. Brazil will be a Gripen NG development and export partner, with full responsibility for the JAS-39F.

  • The Czech Republic: Extension. In July 2010, Saab officials said that they saw the potential for up to 10 more planes there, but the next 12-year cycle from 2015-2027 just extended the existing lease for 14 JAS-39C/Ds, while adding minor upgrades. On the other hand, continued Czech use makes a similar 6-plane lease/ buy the overwhelming favorite for Slovakia.

  • Denmark: DNB. Offered about 48 JAS-39DKs for their F-16 replacement competition. The Danes cancelled that competition, and now expect to buy just 25-35 fighters (F-35A, F/A-18E/F, or Eurofighter), with a decision delayed until 2014-15. Denmark is an F-35 Tier 3 industrial partner, and Saab and FXM decided not to bid in round 2.

  • Hungary: Extension. Renewed their 12-plane lease until 2026, and did not add any planes. Their ownership is one more reason that Slovakia is likely to fly Gripens.

  • India: loss. India’s M-MRCA competition for 120-190 fighters. JAS-39IN is out, and France’s Rafale is the pick… if M-MRCA can finish without a restart. Escalating costs have the buy under pressure, but even if Rafale negotiations fail, Sweden’s offer has shifted from the Gripen to collaboration on India’s own Tejas Mk.2.

  • The Netherlands: loss. A Tier 2 F-35 partner, but political pressure forced a competing bid, and Saab submitted one for 85 planes in 2008. The bid is essentially lost at this point, with the main Labour Party opposition apparently caving in to a similarly-expensive buy of just 35 or so F-35As.

  • Norway: loss. Had a requirement for 44 fighter aircraft to replace its F-16s. EADS withdrew its Eurofighter, then the F-35A won against the JAS-39N, but it may never have been a real competition. F-35A purchases have begun.

  • Romania: loss. Was looking for 40 new aircraft, but cut that down to 24 used F-16C/D Block 25s from Portugal.

  • Switzerland: canceled (22 JAS-39E picked, but lost referendum). Was expected to start the process to replace 3 of its F-5 squadrons later in 2006, but starts and stops pushed a decision to 2011. Saab’s Gripen was picked against the Rafale and Eurofighter in 2013, and Parliament ratified the decision, but a lack of courage in defending their position cost the government the referendum in 2014.

  • Thailand: Win (12). was looking to replace its aging F-5s, and Gripen won against more F-16s or Russian SU-30s. A follow on order brought their total to 12 JAS-39C/Ds, as part of a package that also included 2 S340 AEW planes. 2014 reports indicate that they may want another 6.

JAS-39 Gripen: Major Events 2014

Saab will build JAS-39Fs as well; Live opportunities in: Indonesia, Malaysia, Slovakia; Future opportunities in the Philippines? Thailand?; Government blows referendum in Switzerland, deal dead. CzAF JAS-39C, L-159As
(click to view full)

June 17/15: The cause of the Hungarian Air Force JAS-39C Gripen crash last week is being < href="">attributed to software issues, according to the country’s defense minister. This is pre-empting the outcome of the official investigation, with defense minister Csaba Hende citing initial details of that investigation.

Dec 15/14: Belgium. Sweden’s FMX defense export agency indicates that back in June it had received a request on joining a feasibility study for Belgium’s future combat aircraft procurement. FXM of course accepted and recently submitted a background document to the Belgian Ministry of Defence. The request applies to next generation Gripen Es. Belgium is going to upgrade its F-16s so they have ample time to make a decision. The F-35 is seen as a strong contender, if the Belgians can afford it.

Nov 9/14: Argentina. Argentina may want to do a deal with Brazil (q.v. Oct 22/14), but Britain has now publicly said “no.” To be more precise, they reiterate the continued existence of a ban. A spokesperson for the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills:

“We are determined to ensure that no British-licensable exports or trade have the potential to be used by Argentina to impose an economic blockade on the Falkland Islanders or inhibit their legitimate rights to develop their own economy…”

About 30% of the JAS-39E/F will be British, from the ejection seats to the radar, landing gear, and a number of electronic systems. Embraer could try to downgrade and substitute, but Argentina lacks the money to finance such an ambitious effort. Now add the fact that a newly-Republican US Senate and House would block export’s of GE’s F414 engines. As knowledgeable observers expected, Argentina will have to look elsewhere. C4ISR & Networks, “Argentina Buying Gripens? Brits Say ‘No Way'”.

Oct 22/14: Argentina. During the Embraer KC-390 medium jet transport’s rollout, Argentina and Brazil sign a formal “Alianca Estrategica em Industria Aeronautica.” Argentina is already making parts for the KC-390, and they need a larger partner for a number of other reasons. The FAB’s releases add that:

“El Gobierno nacional decidio iniciar una negociacion con la administracion de Dilma Rousseff para la adquisicion de 24 aviones Saab Gripen dentro del programa denominado FX 2…”

Regional export rights are also expected to be part of the $5+ billion deal, which is signed on Oct 24/14. That could get interesting, because the Gripen has systems from the USA and Britain in it. You might be able to replace electronics, but it’s expensive – and ejection seats and engines are a lot tougher. Sources: FAB NOTIMP, “Argentina quiere comprar 24 cazas supersonicos”.

Oct 18/14: Finland. The Finnish government has commissioned a working group to investigate Finland’s future tactical and strategic air defense options, with the tactical level centered around an estimated EUR 6 billion project to replace the country’s 60+ F/A-18C/D Hornets. New fighters would be delivered by 2030, at which point the Hornet fleet would be retired; but The working group is also looking to see whether it’s possible to upgrade the existing Hornets, which beat the JAS-39A/B Gripen and 2 other contenders in 1992. MoD official Lauri Puranen puts it this way:

“A 30-year old Formula 1 car can’t survive in this world, and we need to find out if a 30-year old fighter jet can…”

The answer depends on what you want them for, and how much better newer alternatives like the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, JAS-39E/F Gripen, F-35A/B etc. might be for the missions you need. An increasingly aggressive Russia, armed with SU-30SM, SU-34, and SU-35 fighters, is a significant threat – and its long-range S-400 anti-aircraft missiles can cover all of Finland. The Finns seem to understand this time, because the study will also look at options like joint air defense with Sweden, or joining the NATO alliance.

A decision to pursue joint air defense with Sweden could give the JAS-39E/F Gripen a “second time lucky” edge, but Finland’s stocks of AIM-9X and AIM-120C-7 air-to-air missiles are currently incompatible, and Russian anti-aircraft missiles could force a need for stealth that pushes detection range outside of Finnish airspace. The missile-compatible and stealthy F-35 also has a constituency (q.v. April 22/14), and so does the less expensive F/A-18E/F, but the Super Hornet may not have a live production line by then. Sources: FDF (2010), “The Successor of the Hornet Needs to Be Decided Only in the Early Twenties” | YLE Uutiset, “Finnish Defence Forces to replace aging Hornet fighter fleet” | Corporal Frisk, “Replacing the ‘capabilities of the Hornet fighter aircraft'”.

Sept 17/14: IHS Jane’s reports that:

“Saab is offering “100% technology transfer” in its bid to supply the Indonesian Air Force (Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Udara – TNI-AU) with its JAS 39 Gripen combat aircraft, a company executive has told IHS Jane’s.”

It’s a similar offer to the ones they made to India and to Brazil. Indonesia also has a native aviation industry, though PT Dirgantara has been focused on transport aircraft (CN-235, C-212) and helicopters (AS332). With that said, if Southeast Asia is an area of focus for Saab (q.v. Sept. 8/14), it makes sense to have a local partner who can build aerostructures and perform advanced maintenance. Sources: IHS Jane’s Defence Industry, “Saab offers “100% technology transfer” in bid to secure TNI Gripen deal”.

Sept 8/14: Indonesia. Saab begins actively pitching the JAS-39 to Indonesia, which indicates some level of belief in a serious competition, and in Saab’s odds within that competition. To an outside observer, “F-16 capability at a lower ownership cost” seems to be the basic competitive positioning.

The other driver at work may be the global market as a whole. An objective look for Saab sees the Middle East opting for the most expensive jets, while Asia’s biggest players have already made their picks. Africa doesn’t have much opportunity to offer beyond the South African win, and the coming deal with Brazil will cover any possibilities in Latin America. There are a number of small country opportunities in Europe, but those competitions are mostly in limbo. By process of elimination, Southeast Asia is a necessary focus for Saab right now, and Thailand has shown that even small wins lead to larger buys in time. A “max win” scenario in the region could add small but notable Gripen fleets in Malaysia and Indonesia, then follow-on possibilities in the Philippines (q.v. July 10/14), and perhaps even Vietnam over the medium-long term. Every regional win will make Saab more competitive within the region. Sources: Saab AB, “Gripen: Ideal for Indonesian Air Force”.

Aug 30/14: Slovakia. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Sweden have signed a Letter of Intent to co-operate on using the JAS-39 Gripen, “…for ett bilateralt samarbete kring en gemensam luftrumsovervakning av Slovakien och Tjeckien.” Which is to say, as a foundation for bilateral airspace overwatch co-operation between Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Note that past reports have gone as far as positing a common Gripen fighter squadron (q.v. April 3/14) if Slovakia also buys the aircraft, organized as a main base and a secondary forward base. Sources: Swedish FXM, “Idag har Sverige, Tjeckien och Slovakien undertecknat en avsiktsforklaring rorande samarbete kring Gripen” | Flightglobal, “Slovakia creeps closer to Gripen agreement”.

July 21/14: Denmark. Confirmed media reports indicate that Saab declined to bid in the re-launched Danish fighter competition, believing that they faced a situation similar to Norway’s where Lockheed Martin’s F-35 had already been picked. Denmark is already a Tier 3 F-35 industrial partner.

Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet) and Airbus (Eurofighter Typhoon) bid alongside Lockheed Martin and Saab, for an expected order of just 24-32 fighters. In contrast, the Norwegian experience appears to have triggered a more gimlet-eyed appraisal of opportunities by Saab, who also declined to participate in a recent Canadian RFI that was believed to be a political front. Each bid costs millions to prepare, so it’s a smart use of money – if one’s corporate intelligence is good enough to make consistently accurate assessments. Sources: Swedish FXM, “FXM not submitting tender for Gripen to Denmark” | Politiken, “Sverige opgiver at saelge kampfly til Danmark” | Reuters, “Saab will not bid for Denmark warplane order -newspaper” | Seeking Alpha, “Lockheed, Boeing, Airbus enter bids for Danish fighter jet tender”.

No bid in Denmark

July 15/14: Sea Gripen / Slovakia. Saab’s Lennart Sindahl tells a Swedish newspaper that the JAS-39E has become the base for a Sea Gripen design, following studies done in the UK.

They don’t intend to move forward without a confirmed customer, however, and the 3 countries they cite (India, Thailand, Brazil) amount to 1 valid prospect. India has already picked the MiG-29K and Tejas Naval LCA for its carriers, and Air Force dependencies on similar planes means that neither choice will change. Thailand has a carrier that’s arguably too small for a STOBAR fighter like Gripen, but it doesn’t matter – they lost the ability to operate fixed wing aircraft from it several years ago. It’s now a helicopter carrier that isn’t used very much, because they can’t afford it. That leaves Brazil, a Gripen customer working to co-develop the JAS-39F, who will need aircraft to replace the Skyhawks on NAe Sao Paolo in about a decade.

On a more optimistic note, he also says that Slovakia is getting closer to a deal for 6 JAS-39C Gripens, to give them interoperability with the Czech Republic and Hungary. Sources: SvD Naringsliv, “Saab tar kliv mot Gripen anpassad for hangarfartyg”.

July 10/14: Philippines. The Philippines recently bought 12 FA-50 light fighters, but Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin is reportedly interested in more advanced aircraft as well. Saab’s Gripen is reportedly on their radar screen, given the type’s low maintenance costs for a modern fighter. Sources: Saab’s Gripen Blog, “Gripen Has Admirers In Philippines Too”.

July 7/14: Weapons. MBDA announces that Saab and Sweden’s FMV have concluded missile integration firings with the JAS-39C/D Gripen and the Meteor BVRAAM (Beyond Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile). The March 2014 launches completed the full integration program, which includes new MS20 operating software for the jet.

Full Meteor capability will be delivered as part of Swedish Flygvapnet MS20 upgrades. Once that upgrade is cleared for service, the JAS-39 Gripen will be the 1st platform able to use the long-range Meteor, whose continuous ramjet propulsion also widens its no-escape zone. Gripen’s Eurofighter and Rafale competitors won’t even begin to catch up until 2017, and there’s no scheduled integration date for other fighters. Sources: MBDA, “Gripen Closes In On Operational Meteor Capability”.

June 17/14: No Gripen for India. As negotiations to buy advanced Rafale fighters stall, and projected costs rise sharply, India’s Business Standard reveals that Saab had proposed to take a 51% share of a joint venture company, then leverage their expertise to help with HAL’s LCA Tejas Mk.2. It was an abandonment of Gripen in India, but for Saab, the JV would give them a major new niche in the global marketplace: a low-end fighter in a class below the Gripen and its Western competitors.

DRDO chief Dr V K Saraswat was enthusiastic, with an RFI in 2012 and an RFP in 2013. The idea does indeed make great sense in terms of India’s needs. The catch? Incoming DRDO chief Dr Avinash Chander was more focused on developing the Mk.2 alone, and believed that any foreign partnership would require a global tender. In India, that would take years. If MMRCA negotiations for the Rafale fail, on the other hand, and DRDO continues to fail at fielding even the Tejas Mk.1, the new BJP government may decide to take a second look at all of its options. Sources: India’s Business Standard, “Rafale contract elusive, Eurofighter and Saab remain hopeful”.

May 18/14: Switzerland. Unsurprisingly, a tepid and convictionless defense of the Gripen fighter deal results in a referendum loss, with projections showing about a 53.4% no vote. The only surprise is that the margin was this narrow, indicating a winnable vote. Compare and contrast with the September 2013 referendum, which resulted in the Swiss keeping conscription. Or the government’s success in the referendum that ratified their F/A-18 Hornet buy.

While some governments in Europe will re-run referendums until they get the result they like, the Swiss aren’t like that. The TTE fighter buy, and the unrelated referendum proposal to implement a SFR 22 (about $25)/ hour minimum wage, are both history. Switzerland will need to depend on French and Italian jets for basic airspace protection, and Sweden is very likely to end up buying Brazilian Super Tucano trainers instead of Swiss PC-21s. Sources: Swissinfo, “Swiss Reject $3.5 Billion Gripen Purchase in Blow to Saab” | Deutsche Welle, “Swiss referendum turns down minimum wage and new fighter jets” | Reuters, “Swiss voters narrowly block deal to buy Saab fighter jets: projection”.

Referendum kills Swiss buy

April 24/14: Weapons. Sweden has decided that they need KEPD 350 cruise missiles on their Gripens, but their politicians are doing a poor job explaining why. The semi-stealthy Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missile uses a combination of GPS navigation and Imaging Infrared final targeting, with a range of around 500 km/ 310+ miles. They’re integrated on Gripen, but Sweden has never bought any, even though Taurus is a consortium between Airbus, MBDA, and Saab Bofors Dynamics.

Now Defence Minister Karin Enstrom is pushing for a purchase, as part of the governing center-right coalition’s proposals to strengthen Sweden’s defenses post-Crimea (q.v. April 22/14). She touts their “wider reach and the ability to fight distant targets,” adding that “high-precision capacity can also have a deterring effect”. What she doesn’t explain is why that’s necessary, leading observers to conclude that it’s because Germany (KEPD 350) and Finland (AGM-158 JASSM) have been buying such weapons. Overall, it’s a terrible explanation to a country who sees its defense policy as defensive-only, especially after the government’s own foreign minister said in 2013 that cruise missiles would “never be relevant” for that very reason.

It also misses a critical military need, in the face of new advanced air defense missiles with ranges beyond 160 km. In order for Sweden’s Gripens to even fly over defended territory safely, Gripens need to be able to destroy enemy surface-to-air missile platforms that may threaten them, without entering their killing range. The KEPD 350 can perform this role, but the Gripen’s other integrated weapons cannot. If advance thought had been given, and Sweden’s military had outlined a “deep strike” doctrine aimed at the gathering places and logistics of any attacking force, advance consensus on an argument to establish that policy could also have served as a springboard for buying these missiles.

Firing a “bolt from the blue” works well if you’re shooting live KEPD 350s. If you’re a politician, however, it’s just poor preparation. Sources: The Local – Sweden, “Sweden wants cruise missiles ‘for defence'” | Radio Sweden, “Analyst: events sped up cruise missile decision”.

April 22/14: Finland. The Finns are looking ahead to eventual replacement of their upgraded F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters, which beat Saab’s early-model Gripens to become Finland’s first post-Russian fighters. The new discussion involves the JAS-39E/F and F-35A, and will probably involve other machines as well, depending on what’s still in production. But the politics are going to make your head spin. Helsinki Times:

“Carl Haglund (SFP), the Minister of Defence, has rejected the proposal by Eero Heinaluoma (SDP), the Speaker of the Parliament, to acquire JAS Gripen fighters from Sweden in a bid to promote Nordic co-operation…. “Although I advocate co-operation with Sweden, we should not acquire Swedish JAS fighters when we could acquire American F-35 stealth fighters for roughly the same price. Performance must take precedence in the investment,” emphasises Haglund…. “There may be fewer aircraft than at present, but the price tag will be a minimum of five billion euros. A special funding is required.”

Let’s leave aside that the F-35 won’t be roughly the same price, creating fleet size issues, and avoid the military arguments for each plane in light of Finland’s geography. SFP is the Svenska folkpartiet i Finland – Swedish People’s Party of Finland. You read that right. Finland has a Swedish cultural minority, which has often been part of the balance of power in Parliament, and Swedish is a recognized 2nd language that is taught in Finnish schools. As one might imagine, there are also some tensions under the surface. So, the prominent Social Democratic Party (SDP) is suggesting Gripens, but the influential Swedish party is saying no. On the other hand, how would it look if they just smiled and agreed to something this big? Sources: Helsinki Times, “Haglund advises against JAS fighter acquisition”.

April 22/14: 10 more in Sweden? Party representatives from all 4 parties in the current center-right governing coalition make a public statement, officially committing to more defense spending in light of Russia’s recent actions. The increase would be about $760 million per year (SEK 5 billion), and the main beneficiary will be the submarine fleet, which would add 3 newly-designed boats to the 2 in operation. The second beneficiary will be the JAS-39E fleet, which would grow to 70 planes. The 3rd new priority would be an improved air defense system.

In declining order of party seats, the spokespeople were Fredrik Reinfeldt (Moderate), Jan Björklund (Liberal People’s), Annie Loof (Centre) and Goran Hagglund (Christian Democrats). This is a minority government, which currently has a majority because of the Sweden Democrats, a right-wing populist party that’s described as ultra-nationalist, but includes an influential contingent of Chaldean Christians who immigrated from the Middle East. The party is outside the formal governing coalition, but very disinclined to vote with the left-wing opposition parties. Sources: Dagens Nyheter, “Sa vill regeringen starka forsvaret” | The Local – Sweden, “Sweden to beef up air force to counter Russia”.

April 18/14: Update. JAS-39E/F testing seems to be focused on components so far. A much-modified JAS-39D (aircraft #39-7) is the primary component test bed, with upgraded avionics including a digital HUD, a production-standard ES-05 Raven AESA radar, and the SkyGuard IRST. Saab is currently assembling aircraft #39-8, a more representative test prototype of the JAS-39E/F that’s due to fly in 2015. Aircraft #39-9 is due to join the test fleet in 2016 as a primary system testbed, while aircraft #39-10 is due to fly in 2017 in the final JAS-39E configuration with the production-standard weight. Sources: Selex ES, “Selex ES Advances Gripen Systems”.

April 16/14: EW. Finmeccanica subsidiary Selex ES says that tests involving a fighter and ground radars have cleared the way for production of their BriteCloud decoys, which contain DRFM active jammers and are are shot out of a dispenser instead of being towed behind the aircraft. That dispensing method creates larger miss distances for missiles that home in on the decoy, which is very helpful against proximity fuse warheads. It also eliminates added drag on the fighter. The flip side is that you don’t get the decoy back, but cylindrical BriteCloud decoys are the same size and shape as a flare, and can be dispensed from a standard 55mm flare cartridge.

That kind of capability is predictable given the advancing power of electronics, but realizing it is a big technological step forward. Britecloud will be part of the JAS-39E/F’s defensive systems, and is also available as an upgrade to existing JAS-39A-D fleets. Sources: Selex ES, “Selex ES successfully demonstrates BriteCloud Expendable Active Decoy technology”.

April 4/14: Sensors. Saab announces the first flight with the new Selex ES SkyGuard long range Infra Red Search and Track sensor, which can pick up other aircraft using heat instead of radar. Now all they need is a beyond visual range air-to-air missile that can take full advantage, like the French MICA IR or Russian R-27T/ AA-10T. Sources: Saab, “Saab successfully completes flight test with IRST for Gripen E”.

April 3/14: Slovakia. The Czech Republic’s Lidove Noviny writes that working groups are finalizing the details regarding major cross-cooperation with the Slovak Air Force, which currently flies 8 MiG-29s (2 trainer, 6 front-line) but is discussing a Gripen lease.

Key goals include cross-border operations for in-process missions like air policing intercepts, and full cross-servicing of each other’s fighters. Obviously, that will become a lot easier if Slovakia leases the same planes. The newspaper adds that if Slovakia does lease Gripens for operations after the MiG-29s’ service agreement expires in 2016, a joint Czech and Slovakian fighter squadron would be formed, with one main and one minor air base. Sources: Prague Post, “LN: Czech, Slovaks to connect their fighter squadrons”.

April 2/14: Espionage. Saab Switzerland spokesman Mike Helmy confirms that “Secret services have attempted to intercept our communications,” driven by unnamed states on behalf of their industries.

Saab Switzerland is a very logical target. A new customer for an advanced weapon, busy sharing a lot of industrial data as they look to line up manufacturing partners, gives new meaning to the phrase “I’d tap that.” Sources: Swiss RTS, “Le groupe suedois Saab, constructeur du Gripen, se dit victime d’espionnage”.

March 18/14: Malaysia. Reports suggest that just 3 manufacturers will submit leasing options in response to a Malaysian RFI. Saab will submit a bid of up to 24 fighters and 2 S340 AEW aircraft through Saab International Malaysia Sdn Bhd, addressing 2 Malaysian needs at once.

Boeing (F/A-18F) and BAE (Eurofighter Typhoon) have reportedly submitted bids as well, but neither has Saab’s military leasing experience. Dassault has reportedly declined to participate with its Rafale, while Sukhoi’s status (RMAF flies SU-30MKMs) is unclear in the absence of a response.

Malaysia will have to look at the bids, and decide if they’re willing to even lease new fighters as replacements for the RMAF’s dwindling MiG-29N fleet. In the wake of the mysterious Malaysian Airlines FLT 370 fiasco, however, Saab’s offer of AEW aircraft may give both the company and the program a higher profile in Malaysia. Sources: The Malaysian Reserve, “Three fighter jet makers to submit leasing bids” | TIME Magazine, “Another Lesson from MH370: Nobody is Watching Malaysian Airspace”.

Feb 12/14: Thailand. Flight Global says they’re a happy customer, and may want to boost their fleet to 18:

“Saab is in discussions with Thailand for six additional Gripen C/D fighters, the Swedish company says. In a press briefing, Saab Asia-Pacific president and chief executive Dan Endstedt said talks are ongoing. He did not give a timeframe for the possible acquisition, but says that he hopes the deal “happens soon”.”

Sources: Flight Global, “SINGAPORE: Saab looks for additional Thai Gripen sale”.

Feb 4/14: JAS-39F. IHS Janes reports that Brazil wants both single-seat and two-seat variants, unlike Sweden or Switzerland. Perhaps there will be a JAS-39F after all:

“Saab has confirmed to IHS Jane’s that Brazil’s aerospace industry will be given the opportunity to develop a two-seater version of the Gripen NG as part of the USD4.5 million consignment of 36 fighter aircraft…. Out of the 36 fighter jets under the FAB F-X2 programme, eight of the aircraft will be twin-seat Gripen Fs and the rest [DID: 28] will be in the single-seat Gripen Es.”

That would increase Brazil’s workshare, and give them a solid design role, but it also increases costs. Negotiations will be interesting. The other question involves weapons. The JAS-39D eliminates the 27mm cannon found in the JAS-39C, and it remains to be seen whether the JAS-39F will follow the same pattern. Sources: IHS Jane’s 360, “Saab confirms twin-seat Gripen F development for Brazil”.

Jan 17/14: Swiss referendum. Switzerland’s Federal Council announces that the TTE program’s national public referendum will be held on May 18/14, as a yes/no vote re: the Swiss Gripen Fund Law approved by Parliament. The opposition still has to collect 50,000 signatures first, but an organized group is unlikely to fall short of that goal on a high-profile issue, while supported by sitting political parties, in a country of 8 million people. They make it.

Subsequent developments show a pattern wherein the Swiss parties supporting the deal, Sweden, and Saab all abandon the political field under trumped-up pressure, effectively conceding the legitimacy of their argument. The government looks set to lose, even though the Swiss air force was off duty during an airline highjacking in the middle of the referendum. The hijacking had to be handled by Italian and French fighters. Read “Switzerland Replacing Old F-5 Fighters with New Gripen-E” for full coverage.

Jan 8/14: Slovakia. Slovakia is reportedly leaning toward JAS-39 fighters as a replacement for its MiG-29s. They might be able to get second-hand F-16s or Kfirs for less, but the JAS-39’s low maintenance costs are very attractive, and they want to cooperate with the Czech Republic. Flying the same jets offers them the ability to share costs and services at a much deeper level.

Slovakia currently fields 9 L-39 Albatros light attack planes, plus 3 in storage, and reportedly has 6-12 flyable MiG-29s. They’ve never bought fighters as an independent state – what they fly is what’s left of the fleet that was received in their “Velvet Divorce” with the Czech Republic. Sources: MINA, “Slovakia to replace Mig29s with Swedish JAS39″.

Jan 7/14: Indonesia. Indonesia wants to replace its 11 remaining F-5E/F Tiger II light fighters with 16 modern aircraft. Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro confirmed that they “have received proposals from several jet fighter manufacturers,” and are evaluating them. Indonesian Military Commander General Moeldoko added that the TNI-AU has studied the SU-35, F-16, F-15, and JAS-39 Gripen.

Moeldoko wants the requisition plan included in Indonesia’s Strategic Plan II for the 2015 – 2020, but the air force’s choice will also depend on available funds. The F-15 is significantly more expensive than other options, and if the air force wants 16 fighters, the state of Indonesia’s economy will influence what they can buy. Sources: Antara News, “Defense Ministry looking to replace aging F-5 tiger fighter aircraft”.

Jan 2/14: Czech. The Czech government has negotiated its next lease period for their JAS-39C/D Gripens. The new deal will have a longer lease term (12 years + 2 year option), and annual payments about 31% lower. It would be interesting to know how the lease-to-buy program has been affected by these changes, and to have clarity regarding the terms of ongoing aircraft modernization.

The catch is that October’s elections upended Czech politics, in the wake of scandals involving ex-PM Petr Necas and the PMO’s chief of staff that included an affair, using military intelligence to keep an eye on his estranged wife, and possible payments to legislators who resigned in advance of a critical non-confidence vote. The ODS party went from 2nd place to 5th, and its allied parties also lost ground. The new center-left government will be headed by the CSSD (Social Democrats), and includes the ANO protest party and the KDU-CSL Christian Democrats. The outgoing government could have signed the deal, but decided to leave it to the new government on the grounds that it’s a strategic decision.

The new government approves the deal on March 12/14 – see “Contracts” section. Sources: Wikipedia, “Czech legislative election, 2013″ | Czech Ministerstvo obrany, “Vlada schvalila prodej letounu L-159, prodlouzeni pronajmu gripenu prerusila”.


Formal Swedish Gripen NG approval – with conditions; Swiss government approves Gripen NG; Gripen NG picked in Brazil; Denmark competition starts up again; Serious about Sea Gripen; Work begins to build the JAS-39E; No Gripen weapon school in South Africa. Gripen-F Demo
(click to view full)

Dec 18/13: Brazil. Earlier press reports that the competition was stalled for another 2 years are proven wrong by a somewhat unexpected announcement by the Ministerio da Defesa that Brazil has picked Saab’s Gripen-NG as their preferred bidder, and expects to buy 36 planes for $4.5 billion. That’s currently just an estimate, as negotiations need to sort themselves out. A final contract and financial arrangements are expected in December 2014, and deliveries are expected to begin 4 years later. That’s a challenge for Saab, as any schedule slippage in the development program would create a late delivery. Late fees can be expected to be a negotiating point, and Brazil’s MdD says that leasing JAS-39C/D Gripens as an interim force may be addressed in the negotiations as a 2nd contract.

The Gripen NG contract figure tracks exactly with previous reports by Folha de Sao Paolo, which means an additional $1.5 billion contract can be expected for long-term maintenance and support. Saab was the cheapest of the reported offers, beating Boeing ($5.8 billion) and Dassault ($8.2 billion, reportedly reduced) by significant margins. Once Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA spying on Brazil’s government killed Boeing’s chances, there was no middle ground. The Rafale’s reported $10.2 billion purchase + maintenance total made it 70% more expensive than Saab’s Gripen. Brazil’s economic slowdown, and the Rousseff government’s focus on entitlement spending, made that cost chasm a big factor.

It wasn’t the only factor. The Gripen has Ministry statements indicate that industry’s long-standing preference for Saab’s industrial terms played a role, as Gripen-NG offers the prospect of participating in a new fighter’s design. So, too, did the unique prospect of full access to weapon integration source code, which the Ministry cited in its Q&A. That will allow Brazil to leverage its revived arms industry, and easily add weapons like Mectron’s MAR-1 radar-killer missile. Throw in the ability to participate in the future design of a carrier-based Sea Gripen variant to replace ancient A-4 Skyhawks on Brazil’s carrier, and Saab’s industrial combination overcame the Gripen’s reliance on an American engine and other equipment.

The Brazilian Air Force has a dedicated website to explain its choice. Dassault issued a terse statement pointing out the presence of US parts on Gripens, and positioning the Rafale in a different league. Which may be true, but it’s also true that global fighter buys have historically been heavily weighted toward a less-expensive league. Sources: Brazil MdD, “FX-2: Amorim anuncia vencedor de programa para compra de novos cacas” | MdD, “Perguntas & Respostas sobre a definição do Programa F-X2″ (Q&A) | Dassault, “FX2 contest – 2013/12/18″ | Folha de Sao Paulo, “Dilma agradece Hollande por apoio contra espionagem dos EUA”.

Brazil picks Gripen NG

Dec 6/13: Not in T-X. Boeing and Saab AB sign a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) to jointly develop and build a new advanced, cost-efficient advanced jet training solution for the USA’s upcoming T-X competition to replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging supersonic T-38s. The JDA has Boeing as the prime contractor and Saab AB as primary partner. Its scope covers design, development, production, support, sales and marketing of “a completely new designed aircraft, built to meet the needs of the Air Force.”

While Boeing’s predecessor companies did take Northrop’s YF-17 and develop it into the “new” F/A-18 Hornet, Boeing clarified to DID that their offering would not be derived from the JAS-39. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing and Saab Sign Joint Development Agreement on T-X Family of Systems Training Competition”.

Nov 26/13: Qatar. La Tribune cites a number of French export opportunities in Qatar, where the JAS-39 Gripen reportedly wasn’t even invited to bid. That helps France’s Rafale, and so does the USA’s failure to approve export requests in time to respond to the fighter RFP. At least 1 bid from an American manufacturer is expected, but Qatar already uses French weapons on their existing fleet of 12 Mirage 2000-5s, and they are a strong French defense customer generally. If Qatar really does want a mixed fleet, per some reports, the Rafale’s competition narrows to only the Eurofighter. Sources: La Tribune, “La France au Moyen-Orient (3/5) : le Qatar premier client du Rafale?”.

Sept 18/13: Switzerland. The Swiss upper house (Ständerat, or Council of States) votes 27 – 17 in favor of the Gripen fighter deal, following a 119 – 70 – 5 vote in the Swiss National Council. That completes elected political approval, but the deal is very likely to need approval in a countrywide referendum. If so, May 2014 is crunch time. Sources: SBC’s SwissInfo: “Gripen go-ahead: Fighter jets given parliamentary all-clear” | Saab Group, Sept 18/13 release.

Sept 12/13: Czech Republic. After over a year of negotiations, the Czech Government has agreed on terms to lease its 14 Gripen aircraft (12 JAS-39C, 2 JAS-39D) for another 14 years, to 2029. The next step is for the contract to be detailed and then formalized in a signed agreement.

The current 10-year, CZK 19.6 billion (about $1.033 billion) lease-to-buy arrangement lasts until 2015, so there’s no urgent rush. Still, it’s nice to settle the issue after a long period of proposed interim extensions (q.v. Feb 14/12), threats to end the lease (q.v. March 15/13), etc. The new Rusnok government appeared eager to settle the issue on a long term basis (q.v. July 15/13), and has successfully created a framework for doing so. Source: Swedish FXM export agency, Sept 12/13 | See also Saab, “Gripen for the Czech Republic”.

Czechs agree to new 14-year lease terms

Sept 11/13: T-X? Aviation Week reports that Boeing may abandon its push for a clean-sheet advanced jet trainer design, and hook up with Saab to offer a Gripen variant for the USA’s T-X. Subsequent comments from Saab EVP Lennart Sindahl that “We remain focused on the continued development of the Gripen E and the fighter will never be a trainer” make sense from a branding point of view, but Sindahl adds that Saab is open to new business opportunities, and using 2-seat JAS-39Ds as the base would offer an interesting recycling of Saab’s last-generation design.

There’s no doubt that a JAS-39 Gripen, which is flown by Britain’s Empire Test Pilot School, can effectively simulate the most advanced jets. It comes built for supersonic speeds and high Gs, with a helmet-mounted sight, modern weapons, and proven low operating costs. Even with a lower-end radar than AESA-equipped front line variants, it would serve well as a swing-role entrant that could fly Air National Guard (ANG) roles for domestic emergencies. It could also function as an excellent aggressor aircraft, providing capabilities that equal or exceed existing F-16C aggressors at a lower operating cost. F-22s are already using much more primitive T-38s as opponents in order to keep operating costs down, so having Gripens on hand would be a notable upgrade.

Those capabilities set Gripen apart from the General Dynamics/ Alenia M-346, but not from the Lockheed Martin/ KAI T-50, whose TA-50 and FA-50 variants can perform air policing and aggressor roles at a lesser but possibly adequate level.

That’s why price is likely to be the key for Saab – and for Boeing. On the one hand, the notional T-X order of 300 planes would double total Gripen production since the fighter’s inception, creating some economies of scale for a JAS-39T. Boeing can already deliver the significantly larger, twin-engine Super Hornet for around $60 million; still, in order to beat competitors hovering around $30 million, they’ll need to do more than just use 1 GE F404 engine and a cheaper radar. Sources: Aviation Week, “Boeing And Saab To Propose Gripen For T-X”.

Sept 4/13: Operating Costs. South Africa’s iOL News offers a snapshot of JAS-39C/D operational costs per flight hour (CPFH) for the South African Air Force. That’s a tricky area, for 3 reasons. The 1st is that there’s no standard formula, so different militaries can include different costs. The 2nd twist is that the SAAF fleet’s small size increases “dry” costs per flying hour, as fixed costs are amortized over fewer planes. The 3rd twist is unique to low-readiness countries like South Africa, who spend more per flight hour because they allocate few flight hours, but still have to maintain all of the jets. Even with all these caveats in mind, it’s still an interesting data point, especially alongside its comparison to a popular platform:

“[SAAF Director of Combat Systems] General John Bayne… said the “dry costs” (without fuel) for a Gripen were R104 600 per flying hour and fuel cost R30 800, giving a total “wet cost” of R135 400. Hawks fly at a dry cost of R67 500, with fuel costs of R15 400 and a total cost of R82 900…. “To date the Hawks have flown over 10 000 major accident-free flying hours since 2005 and the Gripens 3 500 since 2008,” said Bayne.”

At current exchange rates, that translates into JAS-39C/D flying-hour costs of about $10,465 dry and $13,350 wet; both are wildly higher than IHS Jane’s Aerospace and Defence Consulting’s 2012 estimate of $4,700 per flight hour. The same study’s figures for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet help provide some perspective, however, with a base US Navy Super Hornet figure of $11,000 CPFH, but $24,400 listed for Australia. Fortunately, we have a 2nd set of SAAF data points from a more popular platform. Gen. Bayne’s figures for the sub-sonic Hawk Mk.120 trainer & light attack jets translate to $6,755 dry and $8,295 wet. One good way to normalize Gripen figures for prospective customers is probably to create a ratio involving in-service Hawk trainers under similar circumstances vs. SAAF costs, then adjust from there. Source: iOL, “SAAF jets aren’t in storage, says general” | StratPost, “Gripen operational cost lowest of all western fighters: Jane’s”.

Operating Costs

July 24/13: Netherlands. Financieel Dagblad reports that Saab’s final offer to the Dutch government included penalties for late delivery. A reasonable move, given that the F-35 is about as close to operational capability now as it was 5 years ago.

To make things more interesting, Rekenkamer estimates are saying that the country’s EUR 4.5 billion acquisition budget is likely to buy just 33-35 F-35As, instead of the 85 fighters originally planned. Dutch News.

July 18/13: South Africa. DefenceWeb quotes Saab South Africa President Magnus Lewis-Olsson, who tells them that the SAAF’s interim Gripen support contracts ended in April 2013. Saab was hoping to get a support contract in place within the next few months, but if it doesn’t, SAAF personnel can only provide front-line maintenance. Over time, their fleet will become unable to fly. defenceWeb | DID: “South Africa’s Sad Military: Why Maintenance Matters.”

July 17/13: Weapon School. Saab South Africa President Magnus Lewis-Olsson tells defenceWeb that a planned global Gripen Fighter Weapon School in South Africa (q.v. July 10-18/12) represents a missed opportunity for the country. The 1,000 square meter training HQ would have been at AFB Overberg in the Western Cape, which Saab liked for its central location and available flight space. The course would have used a mix of Swedish and South African pilots, keeping those SAAF pilots current, and reimbursing the SAAF for the use of 4-6 Gripens that aren’t flying anyway due to budget cuts. Oddly, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) didn’t move to support the initiative, and in fact seemed to campaign against it.

Meanwhile, Saab has completed its syllabus and is ready to begin construction of the School and start training. Other countries have expressed interest, and Saab will be moving forward. defenceWeb.

July 15/13: 1st JAS-39E. Saab announces that they’ve begun building pre-production test aircraft 39-8, the 1st complete pre-production version of the JAS-39E. They’re beginning with the front fuselage, as part of manufacturing and assembling of all parts of the fuselage. After the fuselage join comes the installation of cables, mount systems, the outer shell and other equipment. Other parts of the airplane are also being assembled during this process, and they will eventually be joined to or installed in the fuselage. Saab.

July 12/13: Czech Republic. The new Rusnok government’s defence minister Vlastimil Picek says that he’ll submit a proposal for extending the Czech Republic’s JAS-39C/D Gripen lease after the Chamber of Deputies’ expected vote of confidence in early August 2013. Military deputy chief-of-staff Bohuslav Dvorak added that the next lease would be longer than the 10-year lease signed in 2004.

The reality is that the Czech defense budget dropped 25.6% in absolute terms from 2005 – 2012, from CZK 58.44 billion to 43.47 billion and down to about 1.1% of GDP. The dueling imperative are that the Czech Air Force can’t realistically switch to another fighter, given the costs of new training, spare parts, etc. At the same time, they need to negotiate a deal they can afford within that small budget. Prague Daily Monitor | Defense News re: budget comparison.

May 15/13: Sea Gripen. Saab remains serious about its “Sea Gripen NG,” and has been working on the idea since their May 2011 announcement. They’re targeting India, Italy and the UK alongside Brazil, but India has picked the MiG-29K, and is developing their own lower-tier naval LCA fighter. Italy and the UK both seem committed to the F-35B. The leaves Brazil, where a Sea Gripen may be necessary, in order to compete for F-X2.

Brazil’s Navy is expected to buy its own fighters to equip a new aircraft carrier, which is expected to replace NAe Sao Paulo around 2025. They expect their 24 new fighters to be the same type as the FAB’s F-X-2 winner, which leaves Saab competing against 2 proven naval fighters in Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornets and Dassault’s Rafale-M.

To help build their case, former Brazilian naval aviator Comte. Romulo “Leftover” Sobral is invited to flight test a JAS-39D, in order to verify the design’s basic suitability for naval conversion. Sobral liked the aircraft’s intuitive flight controls, ground handling, stability at low airspeeds, acceleration response, handling at the high angles of attack used in carrier landings, and good visibility. He even liked the flight suit. The plane landed in 800m, and Comte Sobral believes that the plane does have the basic requirements to become an effective naval fighter. The Sea Gripen’s lack of proven status, and absence of even a flying prototype, will still hurt the JAs-39. On the other hand, the time lag from F-X2 to a naval buy gives Brazilian industry a unique opportunity to participate in designing the Sea Gripen. Saab Gripen Blog | Full article at Defesa Aerea & Naval [in Portuguese].

April 10/13: Brazil. Saab executive Eddy de la Motta is quoted as saying that Brazilian JAS-39 Gripen NGs would use AEL’s avionics, creating a forked version under the wider development effort. This will help Saab meet industrial offset obligations, and also create commonality for Brazil’s fighter fleet, but integrating all of those components with the plane’s mission computers, OFP core software, weapons, etc. is not a trivial task. Elbit subsidiary AEL’s avionics are used in many Brazilian aircraft, with the exception of the Mirage 2000s that will retire as F-X2 fighters enter the FAB.

A less comprehensive suite of AEL avionics will also be used in Boeing’s F/A-18 International, which offers AEL’s wide-screen display and some other components to all potential customers. Defense News.

March 13/13: Denmark. The Danes pick up their fighter competition as promised, following their announced hiatus in April 2010. Invited bidders include the same set of Lockheed Martin (F-35A), Boeing (Super Hornet), and Saab (JAS-39E/F) – plus EADS (Eurofighter), who had withdrawn from the Danish competition in 2007. The goal of a 2014 F-16 replacement decision has been moved a bit farther back, and now involves a recommendation by the end of 2014, and a selection by June 2015.

The Flyvevabnet are reported to have 30 operational F-16s, with 15 more in reserve, out of an original order of 58. Past statements indicate that they’re looking to buy around 25 fighters as replacements, but there are reports of a range from 24-32, depending on price. Danish Forsvarsministeriet [in Danish] | Eurofighter GmbH | Saab | JSF Nieuws.

March 8/13: Brazil. Brazil has asked the 3 F-X2 finalists to extend their bids for another 6 months from the March 30/13 deadline, as the Brazilian commodity economy remains mired in a 2-year slump. The competitors had hoped for a decision by the time the LAAD 2013 expo opened in April.

The length of the cumulative delays could create changes for the bids, and it effectively squashes any faint hopes that the new jets would be able to fly in time for the 2014 World Cup. Reuters.

March 15/13: Czech Republic. Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas says that the latest Swedish contract extension offer doesn’t meet Czech “expectations,” and makes noises about a competition to choose different fighters. He’ll repeat that line in July, as negotiations continue. Ceske Noviny.

March 13/13: South Africa. Opposition Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier forces the ANC government to acknowledge that 12 of its 26 delivered JAS-39/C/D fighters were in long term storage, and sums up the situation this way:

“The sad facts of the Gripen system are as follows: 26 Gripen fighter jets were delivered; 10 or fewer are operational; 12 are in long-term storage; there are six qualified pilots; there are about 150 flying hours available to the entire squadron for 2013.”

Read “South Africa’s Sad Military: Why Maintenance Matters” for full coverage.

Jan 17/13: Sweden. The Swedish government gives formal approval to the planned purchase of 60 JAS-39E/F fighters, a bit more than a month after the Swedish Riksdagen voted 264-18-19 in favor.

This isn’t an order, just approval to negotiate one – and there’s a big condition attached. If Switzerland backs out, and there are no orders from other countries, the Swedish deal will also die.

The SEK 47.2 billion framework contract is announced on Feb 15/13, see contracts section for more. Saab’s Gripen blog | Sweden’s The Local | Aviation Week | UPI.

Swedish approval – with conditions


Sweden votes for JAS-39E/F; Czech extension; Swiss pick; South Korean opportunity declined. Sea or Land attack
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Dec 10-13/12: Testing. Swedish and Swiss pilots successfully test the Gripen-F Demo, and its new AESA radar, at Linkoping in Sweden. Swiss DDPS [in French] | Saab’s Gripen blog

Dec 6/12: Swedish vote. Sweden’s Riksdagen votes 264 – 18, with 19 abstentions, to approve the JAS-39E/F Gripen Next-Generation program. The total estimated cost, including maintenance and operation, is estimated to SEK 90 billion up until 2042. Swedish FXM | Saab’s Gripen blog.

Sept 23/12: Malaysia. RMAF chief Tan Sri Rodzali Daud tells The Sun Daily that Saab’s offer to lease 18 JAS-39 Gripens is under serious consideration, as a lower cost alternative to buying MiG-29N replacements. Other sources had told the paper that the Gripen and the RMAF’s existing SU-30MKM fighter had been eliminated in technical tests, but Daud stressed that all competing aircraft were still under consideration. He added that a special budget might be necessary to fund MRCA, and that operating and maintenance costs would play a big role in the RMAF’s choice. Indeed, O&M costs have been the main reason behind Malaysia’s desire to retire its MiGs.

If those criteria turn out to be accurate, then the SU-30MKM’s installed maintenance base, and Gripen’s proven design for low operating costs, could give them an important advantage over the Eurofighter and Rafale in Malaysia. Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet would fall somewhere in between. It’s more expensive to operate than the Gripen, and doesn’t have much commonality with Malaysia’s F/A-18D Hornets, but the joint base at Butterworth, Malaysia would offer Super Hornet interoperability with Australia. Just as the Gripen would offer interoperability with neighboring Thailand.

Sept 21/12: Sweden. Sweden’s government presents its 2013 budget request to Parliament, which includes the planned SEK 300 million (about $46 million) to begin paying for Gripen E/F development.

The challenge is that the agreed formula of SEK 300 million in 2013-14, and SEK 200 million thereafter, only gets them to SEK 2.3 billion by 2023. Unfortunately, the Swedish Forsvaret now says that the Gripen E/F program is expected to cost “cirka fem miljarder kronor” (about SEK 5 billion) above and beyond the current 10-year plan, and the plane is scheduled to enter service by 2023, 10 years after development funding begins. To us, that sounds like “half funded”; we’ve asked the Forsvaret to clarify. Swedish Forsvaret [in Swedish] | Swiss DDPS [in German].

July 10-18/12: Pilot school? Saab says that they’re moving to establish a new global Fighter Weapons School for Gripen pilots at the SAAF’s Overberg base, in the southern Cape area, along with the Swedish and South African air forces. The first class is said to be targeting an October 2013 opening. Aviation Week:

“A former site for secret South African/Israeli missile tests, Overberg hosts the SAAF’s test squadron and was chosen because it offers access to maritime, desert and high-elevation training areas, live ordnance areas and instrumented ranges with land targets… The SAAF will provide the school with [4-6] JAS 39C/D Gripens, plus aggressors (opposition aircraft) and targets if necessary, and each student will fly 20 day and night sorties. Discussions with other Gripen operators have already started. Airborne early warning and control aircraft or tankers could be added later.”

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) follows with a sharp rebuke:

“We would like to place on record that there has never been any discussion between SAAB and the SANDF. It is with dismay that we read such in the media when no interaction whatsoever with regard to the purported school. The Air Force Base Overberg is a sensitive security establishment of the SANDF and will remain solely in the hands of the SANDF. The suggestion therefore that such a school will be established is devoid of truth.”

Saab tells defenceWeb that it remains 100% committed to the project, and says that the SAAF was onboard and supportive, “but final and formal approval with South African government bodies is still outstanding.” Saab | Aviation Week | defenceWeb.

July 10/12: Weapons – Meteor schedule. The Gripen will be the 1st plane integrated with MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-to-air missile, and the plane’s role during the last 6 years of firing trials could allow an early finish in 2013, instead of the planned 2014 operational date.

Subsequent revelations place the Eurofighter’s operational date with Meteor within 2017, and the Rafale’s in 2018.

MBDA has undertaken 21 test firings to complete the development program, is about the deliver a final performance statement that it’s “fully compliant from a lethality and kinematic point of view”, and is building the first production missiles. Aviation Week.

June 18/12: JAS-39E/F. Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman reports from an aerospace conference at Sweden’s Malmen AB, where they’ve discussed details of the JAS-39E/F. They’re hoping that the first 2 development aircraft can fly in late 2013.

The plane’s new sensor set, avionics, and mission computer will be designed so that they can also serve as JAS-39A-D upgrades. The airframe is another matter. Sweetman describes the airframe as “largely new” compared to the JAS-39C/D, with new mid and aft fuselage sections, and widened blended wing-body sections, based on the design and lessons from Gripen Demo. The overall description involves a longer and slightly wider fighter that maintains the same wing loading, despite a gross weight increase over the JAS-39C/D that has reached 5,000 pounds. It’s also supposed to supercruise with weapons, using divertless inlets. Even with a new engine for those inlets to feed, however, the extra weight will make armed supercruise a challenge. The F414 EPE, which adds more thrust, is reportedly under discussion, but configuring the EPE for more thrust will penalize range.

Feb 29/12: JAS-39E/F. Sweden’s armed forces publish a report recommending that at least 60-80 JAS-39E/F Gripens be present in the future Swedish air force, with new aircraft beginning to arrive in 2020 and the entire effort lasting until 2030 or so. The military said its aim was to split the upgrade cost with “at least one other strategic partner country,” but did not reveal whom. It eventually becomes clear that the partner is Switzerland.

This sort of arrangement would usually mean new-build planes, given the extent of the changes, but Saab itself talks about upgrades, and so have earlier reports (vid. Jan 26/12). Either way, Swedish acceptance would stabilize the future of its next-generation Gripen project. Swedish media talk about a SKR 30 billion (about $4.5 billion) project, though the military isn’t discussing any firm estimate yet. Saab | Sweden’s The Local.

Feb 14/12: Czech mates. The Czech Republic’s government has reportedly decided to pursue a 5-year extension of the 10-year, CZK 19.6 billion (about $1.033 billion) lease-to-buy for its 14-plane JAS-39C/D fighter fleet, rather than opting for an immediate replacement tender. Czech defense minister Alexandr Vondra said that he didn’t expect Czech-Swedish negotiations to last longer than 4 months, but they have.

The net effect is to freeze the Gripen as the country’s intermediate-term fighters, and make the Czechs’ long-term fighter fleet plan an issue for a follow-on government. Subsequent negotiations and a new government would later change the country’s plans. Ceske Noviny | Ottawa Citizen.

Feb 13-14/12: Swiss 2009 evaluation leaked. The confidential 2008/2009 Swiss Air force evaluation results are publicly leaked. Its verdict that the Gripen didn’t meet minimum Swiss requirements for its future fighter directly contradicts earlier statements from Swiss military and political leadership that all 3 planes on offer had done so. This leaves the entire basis of the Swiss selection open to question, and pressure is building across the political spectrum.

In response, the Swiss have stated that they’re still open to formal offers, essentially touching off another round of bidding. Officials have staunchly defended their pick in the meantime, saying that it met Swiss requirements by the time the final offer was evaluated. Saab’s public stance reinforces both tracks, saying that they are finalizing Switzerland’s JAS-39E/F configuration, while dropping strong hints that they will lower their price in response to Dassault’s maneuvers (vid. Jan 29/12).

DID has confirmed that at least 2 key attributes did change between the report and the award: the Gripen’s ability to hit multiple targets in one pass, using newly-integrated GPS-guided weapons; and an operational helmet-mounted display. Read “Switzerland’s F-5 Fighter Replacement Competition” for full coverage, including report excerpts.

Jan 31/12: India loss. Dassault’s Rafale is picked as the “L-1″ lowest bidder for India’s 126-aircraft M-MRCA deal, even after the complex life-cycle cost and industrial calculations are thrown in. Next steps include the negotiation of a contract, in parallel with parliamentary approval and budgeting.

Until a contract is actually signed, however, India’s procurement history reminds us that even a “close” deal is just 1 step above a vague intention. The contract may take a while. Even the French government sees a deal as only an 80% probability within 6-9 months. The budgeting is likely to be even trickier. The IAF’s exclusion of cost considerations in picking its finalists means that the only question now is: how far over the stated budget will a full Rafale buy go? Some reports place the deal’s cost at around $15 billion – an increase of up to 50% from previous estimates. If economic downturns or squeezed defense budgets make those outlays a big enough issue, early enough in the process, it could have the effect of re-opening the competition. British PM David Cameron has expressed an intent to change India’s mind, and both Saab and Boeing are still positioned within India, in order to be ready for a renewed opportunity. In a competition that’s re-opened for financial reasons, the Gripen would have much better odds. Read “India’s M-MRCA Fighter Competition” for full coverage.

Jan 29/12: Switzerland. Dassault makes Switzerland a new final offer, after the competition: 18 Rafale fighters for SFR 2.7 billion (EUR 2.24 billion, $2.96 billion), instead of 22 Gripens for SFR 3.1 billion. On a per-plane basis, that’s 17.5% less than Dassault’s reported “final” RFP offer of SFR 4 billion for 22 Rafales.

The offer is aimed at the Swiss parliament, but the way it was handled looks set to create plenty of enemies. Parliamentary discussions are expected to begin in mid-February.

Jan 29/12: South Korea. The Korea Times quotes a DAPA spokesman, who confirms that Saab submitted an application to attend the F-X-3 fighter program’s mandatory explanatory session. They were joined by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and EADS. The report adds that DAPA doesn’t see the Gripen as likely to meet its competition’s requirements. Then again, that’s what explanatory sessions are for. Saab itself told the newspaper that it hadn’t decided whether or not it would bid.

When the bids are submitted, Saab isn’t among them.

Jan 26/12: Swedish JAS-39E/Fs? Defense News reports that the Swedish government will soon begin examining a proposal from Swedish Air Force Command to upgrade 100 Gripens to next generation status:

“Some 20 possible new configurations for a Gripen E/F version are being examined by Saab, the AFC and FMV… The AFC advocates that the Air Force’s stock of C/D version Gripens be upgraded on a phased basis to spread the total cost over a five- to 10-year budgetary period. The AFC views the impending government decision, which it anticipates will be made in March, as the most critical funding issue facing Swedish defense.”

Jan 26/12: Switzerland. An anonymous letter from a “Groupe pour une armee credible et integree” alleges that Switzerland’s benchmark fighter tests had their results manipulated. The accusations are seen as being detailed and specific enough to prompt Switzerland’s parliamentary sub-committee for security policy to investigate further. 24 Heures [in French].

Jan 5/12: Czechmate? Financial Times Deutschland reports that Germany is looking to sell some of its used Eurofighters to Eastern European countries, at the cut-rate price of EUR 60-80 million each. The Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia and Romania are named. Even that price is likely to be rather steep for these countries, in comparison to alternatives like used F-16s, unless Germany can propose substantial savings on training and maintenance. Czech defense ministry spokesman Jan Pejsek says that: “I can completely exclude that talks have taken place, even a [informal] probing.”

Meanwhile, allegations that the CSSD government’s original deal to buy 24 JAS-39 fighters may have been marred by corruption, is creating uncertainty around the possible 2015 renewal of the 12-year, CZK 20 billion (now around $1.04 billion), 14-plane Czech lease-to-buy deal. The current OSD government is reportedly very cool to the idea, and may be considering less-capable options like the American F-16. Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said in June 2011 that it would be difficult to imagine renewing the contract until the corruption investigation was concluded, and recently added that the country’s deteriorating economic situation would have to be taken into account when making this choice. Czech Position.


Swiss win; India elimination; Doing the Brazilian limbo; Competition in Croatia; RM12 engine upgrades; Cobra HMD operational; Thais operational; Sea Gripen started. Swiss takeoff
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Dec 1/11: Swiss win. Switzerland announces their choice – and it’s Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen. Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer estimates the cost of the envisaged deal at up to CHF 3.1 billion (currently $3.5 billion, probably more by 2014), for 22 planes. The DDPS explicitly stated that Gripen also won because it offered lower maintenance costs that made it affordable over the medium and long term. The deal includes a provision for 100% value industrial offsets to Swiss firms. Dassault wasn’t very happy, though they did concede that the Gripen beat them on price.

For various reasons, a secure contract isn’t expected until sometime in 2013. If the contract goes through, Switzerland will join Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa, and Thailand as Gripen operators. Read “Switzerland Replacing its F-5s” for full coverage.

Swiss pick

Oct 14/11: Croatia. The Swedish Defence and Security Export Agency (FXM) publicly presents the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen offer, which has already been submitted to the Croatian government. It involves the sale of 8-12 JAS-39C/D fighters, rather than more advanced Gripen Demo/NG planes. Sweden would also loan Croatia some older JAS-39As as an interim force, to avoid a fighter gap as its aged MiG-21s are retired. The offer also support and training agreement for pilots and technicians, and an industrial co-operation package backed by Saab’s delivery record in the Czech Republic, Hungary and South Africa.

The biggest competitor in Croatia is thought to be the Eurofighter. It’s more expensive than the Gripen, but German influence, and the potential for shared training and support, is expected to make it a competitive option. Vid. March 27/08 entry re: the RFI. Saab Group.

Sept 20/11: Cobra HMD operational. South Africa’s air force becomes the 1st customer to declare the Gripen’s Cobra Helmet-Mounted Display operational, on 2 Squadron in Makhado. South Africa was the system’s first customer, but Sweden has since ordered its own Cobra HMDs.

Like all helmet-mounted displays, the Cobra dramatically improves the effectiveness of the plane’s short-range air-to-air missiles, by allowing launches at targets within a much larger field of view. Saab Group.

HMD operational

Sept 14/11: Switzerland. The Swiss House of Representatives and Senate approve a SFR 5 billion per year armed forces budget, instead of SFR 4.4 billion. The difference is about $682 million per year, and some of that will reportedly be used to help fund Switzerland’s fighter purchase.

Sept 12/11: RM12 engine upgrade. Volvo Aero discusses a 2-15% thrust increase for the JAS-39A-D model’s F404-derived engine, at the ISABE 2011 conference in Sweden. They also tout the engine’s record of over 150,000 flight hours without a single major engine mishap, which is indeed impressive. It helps to begin from a very stable, long-serving design like GE’s F404, but it also requires a design focus by Saab and Volvo Aero, extending into the maintenance system used by operating air forces.

Project leader Torbjorn Salomonsson saw the RM12’s improvements coming from an improved FADEC controller, improved fan and blisks for better airflow, and a new high-temperature turbine adapted from GE advances in the F404 and F414. Volvo Aero head of research, Henrik Runnemalm, added that:

“We have stated previously that it is possible to significantly increase the thrust of the existing RM12 engine at a very competitive cost. We will then have a more powerful and economical engine. It also means that we can upgrade the 220 engines that the Air Force already has whilst maintaining engine competence within country.”

July 8/11: Thailand. In a ceremony at Wing 7’s air base in Surat Thani, The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) officially declares its new air defense system operational. That includes the 6 initial Gripens, the S340 AEW Erieye plane, and the ground command and control systems. The system was originally intended to reach this milestone in September, but they managed to be 2 months early. Saab.

May 24/11: Sea Gripen starts development. A Saab Group release states that Saab AB will open a new UK headquarters and a new Saab Design Centre in London. The engineering center:

“…will capitalise on the UK’s maritime jet engineering expertise and is scheduled to open in the late Summer. Initially staffed by approximately 10 British employees, its first project will be to design the carrier-based version of the Gripen new generation multi-role fighter aircraft based on studies completed by Saab in Sweden.”

A 12-18 month concept design phase will follow. After that, Saab will need to decide whether or not to build a flight demonstrator. Sea Gripen was initially pushed for India (q.v. Dec 28/09 entry), but with Gripen out of M-MRCA unless something changes, the likely targets would appear to be Brazil’s suspended F-X2 program, or a Plan B for Britain if its F-35 plans go awry. As an example, imagine that catapult installations in the new CVF carriers prove unaffordable, ruling out F-35Cs, while the F-35B STOVL fails its probation and is canceled. With UK firms already providing 28% of the Gripen NG, Sea Gripen could tout itself as a legitimate British alternative to the more-expensive Eurofighter Naval concept. See also Flight International.

Sea Gripen studies

May 18/11: Brazil. Official opening of the Swedish – Brazilian centre of research and innovation (Centro de Inovacao e Pesquisa Sueco-Brasileiro, CISB) in Sao Bernardo de Campo, Brazil, which grew out of the Saab CEO’s September 2010 visit to Brazil. So far, the centre has attracted over 40 partners from academia and industry, who will be active partners in the specific projects. Areas of focus will be in Transport and Logistics, Defence and Security, and Urban development with a focus on energy and the environment.

Saab President & CEO Hakan Buskhe cites a coastal surveillance radar project with Atmos and a datalink development project with ION as examples, and the firm sees many opportunities in Brazil beyond the Gripen project. Civil security will get special attention, as Brazil is hosting both the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games within the next few years. Saab Group.

April 27/11: Indian elimination. Saab confirms that the JAS-39IN Gripen has been eliminated from India’s M-MRCA competition, which has become a duel between Dassault’s Rafale and EADS/ BAE/ Finmeccanica’s Eurofighter Typhoon. Read “India’s M-MRCA Fighter Competition” for full coverage.


Feb 22/11: Thailand. The initial batch of 6 Gripen fighters arrives in Thailand. Bangkok Post.

Thai delivery

Feb 8/11: India. Saab announces the establishment of a Research and Development Centre in India, with an initial base of 100-300 Indian engineers. Areas of focus would include aerospace, defense, and urban innovation, including civil security.

See also Saab’s “India – an important part of Saabs production flow“, which covers Saab Aerostructures’ industrial strategy more generally. To date, Saab is working with Tata Advance Material (small to medium sized composite parts), QuEST Engineering (sheet metal and machined parts), and CIM Tools (machining and sub-assemblies).

Feb 4/11: Bulgaria. Bulgaria issues another fighter replacement RFI, soliciting information from Boeing (Super Hornet), Dassault (Rafale, Mirage 2000), EADS (Eurofighter), Lockheed Martin (F-16), and Saab (JAS-39 Gripen) re: 8 new and/or second-hand fighter jets, to replace its existing fleet of 12 MiG-21s.

Bulgaria issued a similar RFI in 2006, for 20 jets, but the global economic crash, and Bulgaria’s own issues in trying to pay for past defense purchases, forced a hold. The Defense Ministry has taken pains to emphasize that this is just an exploratory request, and is not the start of a purchase tender. Nevertheless, November 2010 saw the formation of a National Steering Committee and an Integrated Project Team, to draft preliminary fighter replacement operational, technical, and tactical requirements. That followed October 2010 remarks by Bulgaria’s Defense Minister Anyu Angelov, who discussed spending BGN 1 billion (around $725 million) for the purchase of an uncertain number of new fighter jets to replace its MiG-21s, while modernizing its fleet of 16 MiG-29A air superiority jets. Sofia News Agency | Saab | SNA re: Saab visit.

Jan 17/11: Brazilian limbo. President Rousseff leaves the entire F-X2 competition in limbo, in light of concerns about the financing of the purchase, how much to borrow for the initial fighter purchase, and inter-agency disagreements. The exact commitment is a decision later in 2011, but no contract until 2012. In practice, however, there is no firm timeline or deadline for a decision, the 2011 decision date is later revoked, and domestic spending priorities loom large in Rousseff’s agenda. Which makes this a de facto suspension.

If it is a suspension, it leaves the situation of every contender in play.


BAE divests, ends partnership; Swedish sims upgraded; Danish delay; DJRP Reco pod; SAAF just for show? Gripen Demo w.
IRIS-Ts, Meteors, GBU-10s
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Sept 23/10: DJRP Reco pod. Thales announces that it has delivered its Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pod (DJRP) for installation and integration flight trials on South Africa’s JAS-39C/Ds. The electro-optic and infrared Thales DJRP completed its factory integration tests at Thales’s optronics facility in Glasgow, Scotland in June 2010.

Handover of the reconnaissance pod to the South African Air Force (SAAF) will occur after the integration phase.

Aug 7/10: India. India’s Times Now news show reports that the M-MRCA trials will leave only Dassault’s Rafale and EADS’ Eurofighter in the race. To be confirmed. Brahmand | Livefist.

July 13/10: Sea Gripen, Exports. Flight International reports from Farnborough on JAS-39NG plans and testing, including plans to allocate development funds for a carrier-based “Sea Gripen” variant, as described above. Having said that:

“The Sea Gripen will not be developed by Sweden alone… but potential partners could include Brazil and India, who have been offered to do work in their own countries. [Gripen technical director Eddy] De la Motte says the “cost of that programme will be a couple of billion Swedish crowns; more than one billion [DID: over $135 million]. It will be half of the Gripen NG’s development programme cost.”

The big challenge is that India has already picked the MiG-29K as its carrier-borne fighter, and Brazil may well close its door by picking the carrier-capable Rafale. Other carrier-using countries have locked in their future fighter choices, with the exception of Thailand and Spain. This means the Gripen would need to win in Brazil, or depend on new countries joining the ranks of naval fighter operators, in order to make Sea Gripen viable. For now, the announcement adds to their existing bid in Brazil, and thanks to the stated need for a partner, it costs nothing up front. With respect to export opportunities overall:

“Looking out to 2016, Saab-led Gripen International sees multiple export opportunities for almost 230 aircraft with Bulgaria (16), Croatia (12), the Czech Republic (10), Denmark (36), Hungary (six), Malaysia (12), the Netherlands (85), Romania (24), Switzerland (22) and Thailand (six).”

Finally, Gripen technical director Eddy de la Motte gave JAS-39 figures of less than $3,000 per flight hour for Sweden’s Flygvapnet, and “for the export customers it will be less than $5,000, including maintenance, spare parts, fuel and manpower.” On its face, that’s stunning. By comparison, the USAF places the per-hour cost of an F-15 at $17,000 [PDF]. Gripen is engineered for significant savings, but there’s also a possible mismatch between direct flight costs, and figures that include allocated life cycle costs including depot maintenance, etc.

Mid-May 2010: India. Gripen NG demo makes its international debut by taking part in the last phase of the Indian evaluation trials for the M-MRCA competition, following 135 test flights in Sweden. Testing includes high altitude trials at Leh airbase, 3,300m/ 10,826 feet above sea level, as well as testing under tropical conditions and comparative flight tests. Saab AB.

April 21/10: Raven AESA. Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Galileo provides an update concerning its “Raven 1000P” prototype AESA radar. The radar is flying on the Gripen Demo, and has been demonstrated in air-air and air-ground modes, including long range synthetic aperture radar scans at medium and high resolution imagery. The company says simply that “expected performance has been achieved,” without providing clarifying details, and notes that development and new capabilities will continue. SELEX Galileo release [PDF].

April 15/10: Romania. Agence France Presse quotes Jerry Lindbergh, a Swedish government official in charge of defense exports, who says that Sweden could provide Romania with 24 new “fully NATO interoperable Gripen C/D fighters, including training, support, logistics and 100 percent offset for the amount of one billion euros ($1.3 billion),” paid off over 15 years with low interest rates.

In essence, they’re offering newer and better fighters, for the same price as very-used F-16s. Alenia would later match this with an offer of its own for 24 used Italian Eurofighter Tranche 1s, which possess no precision ground attack capability. Read “Nothing But Netz: Romania’s New Fighters” for full coverage of Romania’s fighter buy.

March 24/10: Danish delay. Denmark decides to delay its fighter decision to 2014, with no delivery until 2018.

That gives the F-35 a chance to stabilize costs, and win an order it appeared to be losing to Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. The Gripen remains a distant 3rd, but could recover. The US Navy plans to end Super Hornet production in FY 2015, barring exports to countries like India. Aviation Week Ares.

March 23/10: Exports drive Swedish simulator upgrades. Saab Group announces that Swedish Air Force Wing F 7, based at Satenas, is upgrading from JAS-39 A/B to JAS-39 C/D aircraft and simulators. The Multi Mission Trainer is already converted, and will soon be followed by the Full Mission Simulator.

What’s driving the conversion is the Thai order. The Gripen instructors at 1st OCTU are now preparing to train the first batch of Thai Gripen pilots, who recently arrived to Sweden.

March 15/10: Denmark. Danish radio station DR Forside reports that the Tier 3 JSF partner Denmark will pick Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet as its future fighter, instead of the F-35A JSF or Saab’s JAS-39DK Gripen NG.

According to the report, the ministry’s decision awaits an auditor’s review before being forwarded to the full government and to parliament. The formal contract and delivery date for new fighters are also expected to be delayed, with the F-16 fleet flying on and their replacements entering service in 2017-18. DR Forside [in Danish] | Aviation Week Ares.

March 9/10: India. Sweden flies its Gripen fighters into Bangalore for MMRCA-related trials – but India’s Business Standard reports that they’ll be JAS-39D Gripens, not the new Gripen NG. That could get the platform disqualified, depending on the decisions made by the IAF and Indian MoD:

“The Gripen NG… has always been one of the hottest contenders in the fray. Saab’s default on the MoD’s trial directive, which lays down that the fighter being offered must be the one that comes for trials [leaves it] vulnerable to disqualification… the Swedish Air Force, having opted to buy the Gripen NG, has ordered a series of improvements on the Gripen NG prototype. With those under way, Sweden’s flight certification agency, SMV, has ruled that the prototypes require additional flight-testing in Sweden before the aircraft can be sent to India… Sources close to the Gripen campaign say IAF pilots will be offered a chance to fly the Gripen NG during a visit to Sweden from April 6 to April 10. Gripen International will also ask for fresh dates for bringing the Gripen NG to India for trials.”

March 5/10: BAE divests. BAE’s 11.2 million Class B shares in Saab Group are sold to Investor AB, the Wallenberg family’s publicly traded holding company, at SEK 95.50 per share. The 10.2% share is half of BAE’s remaining 20.5% stake in Saab. Following the sale, and some conversions of some Investors AB and all BAE stakes from Class A to Class B shares, Investor AB’s stake in Saab will change from 19.8% of the capital and 38% of the voting rights, to 30% of Saab and 39.5% of its voting rights. Investor AB Head of Corporate Communications, Oscar Stege Unger, reportedly had this to say:

“[Cooperation between BAE and Saab has] in practice ceased, in as much as Saab manages the Gripen exports itself. There has also been a degree of overlapping between BAE and Saab in larger deals… Now BAE have decided that they do not see this as a strategic holding and want to pull out. We also think that it is good that we clarify the ownership structure.”

The March 4/10 closing price for Saab amounted to SEK 106.00 per share, so Investor AB is presumably happy already. Investor AB | BAE Systems | Sweden’s The Local | UK’s Telegraph | Bloomberg | Defense News.

BAE divests

March 4/10: South Africa. South Africa’s News24 reports that the country’s Gripen jets, along with its MEKO-A frigates and Manthatisi Class U209/1400 submarines, are effectively present only for show, given their extremely low budgets for actual usage.

The SAAF’s current fleet of 11 Gripens will spend 550 hours in flight in the current financial year, which compares to NATO standards of 20 hours per pilot per month (240 per plane per year). Most of that will take place during the 2010 World Cup. In the next 2 years, that meager total will shrink to a fleet total of 250 flight hours per year – or about 9.6 flight hours per plane, per year, with the full fleet of 26 planes.


Raven AESA partnership; EGBU-12 GPS/laser guided bombs integrated; Brazilian dogfight; Dutch deal delineated; Dassault’s double-cross; JAS-39NG Supercruise. Gripen Demo
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Dec 28/09: Sea Gripen. Reports confirm that co-development of a carrier-capable “Sea Gripen” design was part of Saab’s response to India’s M-MRCA fighter competition RFI, adding that Brazil’s future fighter requirements were also targeted. Key changes are outlined, and Gripen VP of Operational Capabilities Peter Nilsson tells StratPost that the Sea Gripen is intended for both CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery) as well as STOBAR (Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery – “ski jump”) operations:

“There will obviously be differences in the MTOW (Maximum Take-Off Weight). In a CATOBAR concept, the Sea Gripen will have a MTOW of 16,500 kilograms and a maximum landing weight of 11,500 kilograms. In a STOBAR concept it depends on the physics of the carrier. Roughly, the payload of fuel and weapons in STOBAR operations will be one-third less than the payload in CATOBAR operations. There will be no differences in ‘bring-back’ capability,” he says.”

Oct 22/09: Denmark downgrade. Danish Defence Minister Soren Gade says that Denmark plans to purchase just 25-35 jets to replace its 48 operational F-16s, instead of the 48 aircraft originally envisioned. Gade now believes the soonest an agreement can be reached on the purchase would be the start of 2010, and the Copenhagen Post reports that the military has estimated the purchase will eventually cost “at least 100 billion kroner” (at current rates, about $20 billion – presumably, this includes lifetime maintenance and full equipping costs).

That cost estimate is creating pause, especially in light of a February 2009 report that says the current F-16 fleet still has many hours left in their airframes. The cost imperative to stretch the current fleet runs up against the potential Danish aerospace jobs and manufacturing technology improvements that will accompany any new fighter order. A Danish Defence Command committee was set up in 2007 to evaluate the competitors, which currently include the F-35A, Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon, and Sweden’s JAS-39NG Gripen. Defence minister Garde is quoted as saying that at this point, there is no preference among the competitors. Copenhagen Post | defense aerospace.

Oct 4/09: Brazil. Brazil’s FAB confirms that revised bids are in from all 3 short-listed contenders, and Saab’s offer clearly has significant support from the Swedish government.

Gripen International’s revised bid offers a wide range of elements, including: Full involvement in the Gripen NG development program; Complete technology transfer and national autonomy through joint development; Independence in choice of weapons and systems integration; Production in Brazil of up to 80% Gripen NG airframes, via a full Gripen NG assembly line; and Full maintenance capability in Brazil for the Gripen NG’s F414 engine. That last offer would largely remove the threat of future American interference, and it would be interesting to see how Gripen International proposes to achieve it. Gripen International touts “significantly lower acquisition, support and operating costs” for its plane, and all this would be backed by a firm proposal for full long-term financing from the government’s Swedish Export Credit Corporation.

The additional offers are equally significant. Brazil will have the sales lead for Gripen NG in Latin America, with joint opportunities elsewhere. Saab would join the KC-390 program as a development and marketing partner, and Sweden will evaluate the KC-390 for its long term tactical air transport needs, as a future replacement for its recently-upgraded but aging C-130 Hercules aircraft. Saab also proposes to replace Sweden’s aged fleet of about 42 SK60/ Saab 105 jet trainers with Embraer’s Super Tucano, but it received a SEK 130 million ($18.8 million) deal in September 2009 to upgrade the planes’ cockpit systems, and current Swedish plans would see the SK60s continue in service until mid-2017. FAB release [in Portuguese] | Gripen International release.

Sept 29/09: Brazil. Embraer release:

“Regarding the article published in the Valor Econômico newspaper, dated September 28, 2009, Embraer clarifies that it is not directly participating in the selection process of the new F-X2 fighter for the Brazilian Air Force and, contrary to what was stated, it has no preference among the proposals presented. Embraer reaffirms its unconditional support of this process, always in close alignment with Brazil’s Aeronautics Command and the Ministry of Defense.”

Sept 28/09: Brazil. Brazil’s leading aerospace firm Embraer drops a political bombshell. Embraer’s Deputy Chief Executive for the defense market, Orlando Jose Ferreira Neto, tells Valor Economico that the firm was asked to advise the Air Force re: industrial proposals, and concluded that participating in the JAS-39NG Gripen’s development offers Brazil’s aerospace industry the best long-term benefits. Embraer reportedly saw the JAS-39NG as offering the opportunity to participate in the design process, rather than just producing parts.

The opinion is a shock, as France’s interest in buying Embraer’s KC-390 transports was expected to leave Brazil’s top aerospace firm solidly on-side for the Rafale bid. T-1 Holdings executives (see Sept 17/09 entry) were also quoted in the article. In response, Defence Minister Jobim fires back to say that the government will make these decisions, not Embraer. Dow Jones | Defense Aerospace translations (note: links will not last) | Valor Online, via Noticias Militares [in Portuguese] | Defesa Brazil [in Portuguese] | O Globo [in Portuguese].

Sept 17/09: Brazil. Saab announces that over 20 engineers from the Brazilian firms Akaer, Friuli, Imbra Aerospace, Minoica, and Winnstal are already working on the Gripen NG project in Linkoping, Sweden, with the Swedish government’s authorization. The 5 firms will participate as the T1 holding, and would be responsible for projecting and manufacturing the JAS-39BR’s central and rear fuselages and wings. If all goes well, Akaer predicts that as of 2010 a team of at least 150 engineers and technicians from the T1 holding will start working in Brazil, alongside 20 Swedish specialists.

Beyond Gripen production, the holding’s goal is to form a new Brazilian aeronautical center in Brazil, and some technology transfer in the area of composite materials is reportedly underway already. Shaping the wing of a supersonic craft requires higher quality levels than civil applications, as well as manufacturing challenges owing to thicker and more resistant parts. Management and integration training within a holding structure of this type will also be required.

Sept 7/09: Brazil. Brazil’s Ministerio Da Defesa announces that Dassault Aviation is now the F-X2 competition’s preferred bidder, and the country will order 36 Rafales subject to further negotiations. The announcement also says that Brazil has secured French cooperation to develop Embraer’s KC-390 medium transport, and possibly buy 10-12 of the aircraft when they’re introduced.

This sale would be France’s 1st export order for its Rafale fighter, after numerous attempts spanning more than a decade. The twist in this story is that the air force has yet to request final bids, or deliver its evaluation and recommendations.

Sept 7/09: Dutch deal described. The Dutch TV show KRO reporter does an expose, which claims that the Ministerie Van Defensie (MvD) has knowingly misled Parliament regarding its F-35 procurement plans. The report says that the Dutch Defence Materiel Organization head had told the MvD in 2005 that its plans for 85 F-35s was not sustainable at expected budget levels. But the MvD continued to use that number when describing its planned budget and plans to Parliament, and even signed off on that number in the 2006 production phase agreement.

The MvD responds that it still intends to buy 85 aircraft, and that a budget increase to EUR 6.1 billion will take care of the gap. Which is true – if the pricing for the F-35As can be relied on. In contrast, KRO reveals that Gripen International has submitted a firm fixed-price bid for 85 in-service JAS-39NLs at EUR 4.7 – 4.8 billion. KRO reporter video [Flash] | Defense Aerospace KRO partial translation | MvD response [in Dutch].

June 16/09: South Africa. Swedish Chief Prosecutor Christer van der Kwast decides to close the preliminary investigation concerning alleged bribes in connection with the sale of Gripen fighters to South Africa. Saab SVP for Communications and Public Affairs Cecilia Schon Jansson, is unequivocal:

“No illegal methods have been forthcoming from Saab, and this is strengthened by the fact that the Chief Prosecutor now decided to close the investigation.”

See: Chief Prosecuror’s statement [in Swedish] | Saab Group release.

March 24/09: ES-05 Raven AESA. Saab and SELEX Galileo sign an agreement to develop an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the JAS-39NG. This is both a major milestone event and a contract, so it’s covered in full the “contracts” section, below.

March 10/09: RBE-2 Dassault double-cross. Aviation Week’s “AESA Radars Are A Highlight of Aero-India” points to problems with the JAS-39’s AESA radar, which stems from Dassault’s acquisition of a large shareholding in Thales. Rather than produce an RBE2 AESA radar that’s available on 2 platforms, Dassault appears to be excluding other options. The hope appears to be that this will lead to more orders for Dassault’s Rafale, rather than just shrinking Thales’ installed base for AESA fighter radars. Aviation Week:

“In 2007, Saab struck a deal with Thales to provide an AESA antenna for the Gripen Demo program, to be mated with the signal processor from the JAS 39C’s Saab PS-05 MSA radar… Thales will honor the Gripen Demo contract but its AESA will not be available for a production NG.

Sweden has talked about [Raytheon’s] RACR, but would prefer the PS-05/A’s “back end” modules for ease of integration and to stay away from control issues associated with U.S. components. The answer may lie with Selex, which, first as Ferranti, then as GEC-Marconi and subsequently as BAE Systems, was Sweden’s partner on the original PS-05/A.”

Selex was also Saab’s partner in the M-AESA R&D project. Selex Galileo’s Italian division has considerable experience with the Grifo family of mechanically scanned radars, while Selex S&AS UK division has already created the Vixen AESA radar for smaller fighters. Korea’s F/A-50 was recently barred from using the Vixen 500E, under an agreement with co-developer Lockheed Martin that did not allow the F/A-50’s capabilities to surpass the ROKAF’s F-16s.

Feb 2/09: Brazil. Gripen International confirms a Brazilian F-X2 bid involving 36 JAS-39NG aircraft. Their release adds that Brazil will have “direct involvement in the development, production and maintenance of the platform but it will also generate transfer of key technology including access to Gripen source codes.”

Boeing confirms that it has submitted a bid involving 36 F/A-18 Super Hornet Block IIs, with the APG-79 AESA radar. It is presumed that Dassault also submitted a 36-plane bid for its Rafale fighter. Boeing release | Gripen International release.

Jan 21/09: “Supercruise.” A JAS-39NG “supercruises” over the Baltic Sea, flying at 28,000 feet above Mach 1.2, without using afterburners, until the pilot ran out of test area and had to head back to the Saab Test Flight Centre in Linkoping. Saab Group release.

Very few aircraft can supercruise at all, and the fuel penalty means that most fighters’ time above Mach 1 during their entire service lives is measures in minutes, not hours. Supercruise cannot be operationally useful, however, unless it can be maintained with weapons mounted. The extra weight and drag created by externally-mounted weapons can make this a real challenge, which is why supercruise reports beyond America’s F-22A have been in “clean” configuration, with no weapons carried. Unless details are given to the contrary, the working assumption is that this was a “clean” configuration flight.


Gripen Demo rollout; Norway loss. JAS-39D, Swiss arrival
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Dec 18/08: Dutch study. Tier 2 Joint Strike Fighter partner The Netherlands issues a comparative study of the F-16 Block 60+, JAS-39MG Gripen, and F-35A, which has been compiled in cooperation with several organization, and audited by 2 ministries and RAND Europe. It recommends the F-35 as the best combat aircraft. Surprisingly, it also concludes that the F-35 also has the lowest capital costs, and the lowest anticipated life-cycle costs. The issue will now go before Parliament.

Read “Dutch MvD Report Urges F-35 over Gripen NG, F-16E Fighters” for full details and updates.

Nov 20/08: Loss in Norway. The first domino falls. Norway chooses the F-35 over the JAS-39, though the way they chose to make that decision and announce it has created controversies, and had a negative effect on relations with Sweden. The decision itself is now controversial as well, after Sabb’s CEO took the very unusual step of holding a public presentation full of very specific criticisms regarding the accuracy and fairness of Norway’s process.

Nov 6/08: Jane’s publishes “Analysis: Why 2009 could be the year of the Gripen.” It calls attention to the ongoing competitions in Brazil (36+), Croatia (12), Denmark (48), India (126+), the Netherlands (85), Norway (44), Romania (around 40) and Switzerland (36) make final selections, and estimates total sales of up to 523 aircraft worth around $35-40 billion at stake:

“It will be a truly crucial period in shaping the future of the global fighter market. The common link between these eight contests is the presence of the Saab Gripen in the bidding process… Jane’s believes the Gripen team has reasons for optimism, however. First of all, in terms of the aircraft’s capability, Saab is offering its enhanced Gripen NG (Next Generation) variant for the Brazilian, Danish, Dutch, Indian and Norwegian requirements… According to Saab, further enhancements will be rolled out in three-year increments… Development and incorporation of specific customer-funded requirements is also envisaged as part of a 50-year programme plan… the Gripen NG programme would be accelerated in the event of a contract win and the aircraft would be available to enter service from 2014.

With regard to cost, the Gripen NG is viewed by Jane’s as competitive in terms of both acquisition and through-life support costs when compared to its rivals. Bob Kemp, sales and marketing director for Gripen International, citing figures produced for the Dutch fighter contest, said Saab believes that the Gripen NG, as part of an 85-aircraft fleet, would cost EUR6 billion (USD7.6 billion) less than the F-35 in terms of life-cycle costs over a 30-year period…”

Aug 25/08: Netherlands. Gripen International delivers its formal response to The Netherlands’ F-16 replacement program, which has been re-opened due to ongoing political controversies concerning the F-35’s eventual costs.

Eurofighter GmbH and Dassault refused to participate in this exercise, citing unrealistic time limits and perceived favoritism, and Saab’s request for an extension was denied. Saab reportedly replied to 85% of the 250 questions that had to be answered by 25 August; some questions with respect to integration with American products were reportedly not answered, as American firms must receive clearance from the US government in order to even discuss that information with Saab.

The F-35A is still heavily favored, but Saab’s offer is an all inclusive package comprising 85 next-generation “JAS-39NL” Gripen NG aircraft, plus a complete package of training, spares, simulators and support, and industrial co-operation to at least 100% of the total value of a possible contract. Other interesting elements include an option for final assembly in the Netherlands, and a ‘Repairables Exchange Service’ designed to lower costs and reduce their customers’ need for initial inventories of spare parts. Gripen International release | Gripen International Presentation [PDF, 3.2MB] | Gripen International Offer Summary [PDF, 3.2MB].

July 2/08: Switzerland. Gripen International delivers its initial bid to the Swiss government, and announces conditional industrial partnerships. See DID coverage.

April 28/08: Gripen International delivers its MMRCA bid to India’s Ministry of Defence. The JAS-39IN is based on the Gripen NG/ Gripen Demo, and includes an AESA radar and an IRST (InfraRed Scan and Track) system, a Transfer of Technology (ToT) program, a life-time logistics support solution sourced from Indian suppliers with support from Saab and its partners, and full industrial offset cooperation. Gripen International release | Saab release.

Eddy de la Motte, Gripen International’s India Campaign Director:

“Gripen IN will provide India with a capability that offers complete independence of weapon supply… We will do this by transferring all necessary technologies to enable Indian industry and the Air Force to build, operate and modify Gripen to meet all indigenous requirements over time.”

April 28/08: Norway. Gripen International delivers its bid to the Norwegian government. Dagbladet reported, and Gripen’s release confirmed, that Norway added a new wrinkle – a guarantee from Sweden that it would not be the only operator of this fighter type. That guarantee may have consequences for the size of Sweden’s Gripen force.

Gripen Demo
c. Gripen International
(click to view full)

April 23/08: Gripen Demo Rollout. A 2-seat version of the next-generation Gripen Demonstrator aircraft is ‘rolled out’ to the media and public at a ceremony in Linkoping, Sweden.

Photos show it equipped with illustrative mock-ups of IRIS-T short range air-air missiles, Meteor long-range air-air missiles, and Paveway precision-guided bombs. Gripen International release | Saab release | Saab: Videos from the ceremony | Gripen: Saab CEO interview & rollout videos

March 27/08: Croatia. Sweden’s FMV procurement agency announces that it has answered a Request For Information from Croatia, involving a potential lease to buy deal for 12 Saab-made Gripen fighter jets. No prices are quoted at this stage, but Reuters reports that the jets would be former Swedish Air Force planes. Other candidates for Croatia’s air force reportedly include the EADS Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin’s F-16, and Russia’s MiG-29.

Sweden’s FMV adds that : “This invitation from the Croatian authorities follows the recent receipt of similar invitations from Norway, India, Denmark, Switzerland, Romania and Bulgaria…” Reuters report | Reuters Sidebar: “FACTBOX-Balkan candidates offer NATO leaner military muscle

March 3/08: India. With Gripen competing in India’s MMRCA contest, Saab hosts Indian TV journalist Vishnu Som from New Delhi Television for an episode of his new show, “The Jet Set.” See the full episode: Saab release | Full episode [Windows Media]

Jan 17/08: Switzerland. The JAS-39 Gripen is one of 4 aircraft solicited in a competition to replace 3 of Switzerland’s 5 aging F-5 E/F squadrons. Other competitors are Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, and EADS’ Eurofighter. See “Switzerland Replacing its F-5s” for more.

Jan 17/08: Norway. Gripen International announces that it has been formally invited to bid on the Norwegian F-16 replacement fighter contract. It will compete one-on-one with the F-35A lightning II.


F414 for Gripen Demo; Brazil’s back; Link-16 added; Spring Flag 2007. Gripen w. “smokewinders”
c. Gripen International
(click to view full)

Dec 21/07: Norway, Netherlands. EADS pulls its Eurofighter out of the Norwegian and Danish competitions, leaving both future fighter programs as a straight-up competition between the JAS-39 and the F-35. The rationales given are vague and make little sense, but many sources believe their key objection is official favoritism toward the F-35. The government-to-government nature of the F-35 deal, it seems, wouldn’t require the same industrial offsets, though the F-35 program has pledged significant production contracts with Denmark’s Terma and with Norwegian firms.

The Motley Fool, on the other hand, wonders if the same dollar devaluation that’s hammering EADS in the passenger jet market is also creating a price chasm for the Eurofighter. At $100-120 million per aircraft vs. $50-70 million for its Gripen and Lightning II competitors, it was already a significantly more expensive aircraft before dollar devaluation. Bloomberg | Financial Times | Flight International | Motley Fool.

Dec 13/07: Hungary. Hungary receives its last 3 Gripen fighters from its 14-aircraft lease/buy deal signed with the supplier and Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration (FMV). Its fleet now consists of 12 JAS-39Cs and 2 JAS-39Ds. A Dec 10/07 announcement by Kaj Rosander of Gripen International added that “We have fulfilled our total export [read: industrial offsets] obligations to the Hungarian Ministry of Economy and Transport.” Flight International

Dec 5/07: Denmark. Gripen International release: “In connection with a Gripen deal with Denmark, Saab is planning extensive co-operation with Danish industry. Saab has signed a large number of agreements for over 100 percent of the contractual value.”

Denmark’s F-16 replacement order will cover up to 48 planes, and Saab Group’s DKK 10 billion ($1.9 billion) co-operation agreement with dominant Danish defence company Terma in the areas of aviation, space, defense and civil security includes non-military contracts. Saab’s automotive enterprise remains a significant asset when competitions turn on industrial offsets, and is a much wider focus than Terma’s F-35 related contracts; then again, it has to be, since far fewer Gripens are likely to be produced. The Saab-Terma agreement is spread over 10-15 years, and parts of it are dependent on Denmark selecting the Gripen NG for its air force. See full Gripen release.

Nov 29/07: Denmark. The Gripen team submitted their formal proposal to Denmark in December 2005, in response to that country’s RFI(Request for Information), but supplementary information was also requested. The Gripen team’s response is formally handed-over, on time. Gripen International release.

Nov 8/07: IRIS-T. A JAS-39 Gripen fires an IRIS-T short range air-air missile with an operational target seeker for the first time. It was a high g-load test firing using a fully operational missile without a warhead, and was successful at hitting the target over the Vidsel range in northern Sweden. The IRIS-T is a multinational (Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden) 4th-5th generation SRAAM that is currently under development for several air forces. Gripen International’s Jan 16/08 release adds that:

“The missile is being developed to combat targets at short range and is also designed to strike targets behind the firing aircraft. IRIS-T will enter service alongside the Cobra HMD (Helmet Mounted Display) System…”

Nov 5/07: Brazil re-launch. Brazil’s F-X competition appears to be on again, with a $2.2 billion budget for 36 front line fighters. A 50% boost to defense spending in the FY 2008 budget accompanies the announcement. Looks like Brazil may be serious this time, and the Gripen is tagged as one of the contenders.

Oct 2/07: Gripen International announces that a 10-ship flight of Swedish Air Force F21 Wing’s JAS-39C/D Gripens were hosted by the USAF 493rd Fighter Squadron “Grim Reapers” at Lakenheath, England for joint exercises. Electronic warfare systems were the focus of the exercise, the pilots performed Close Air Support missions and executed air-to-ground attacks against targets defended by simulated surface-to-air missile systems during the week-long exercise. They also flew air combat missions against the Grim Reapers’ F-15C Eagles; unfortunately, no results were given.

Sept 28/07: South Africa. As is often the case, South Africa’s Gripen purchase involved industrial offsets. Given the nature of South Africa, those offsets involved special quotas for small and medium “black empowered enterprise” engineering firms. Saab discusses those efforts, with a focus on a 2006 R11 million ($2 million) contract between Saab and Aerosud under which local engineering firms secured sub-contracts for the supply of ground support equipment.

South Africa’s Aerosud is responsible for the program, including managing and mentoring a select group of BEE companies which manufacture the various items, raising their quality standards so that they could become qualified suppliers to the aerospace industry. Items supplied include electrical test equipment, overhaul platforms and test rigs to tailored engine inlet covers, engine trolleys and cockpit access ladders. Companies supplying these items include Cape Town’s Quad Engineering, ContactServe of Olifantsfontein, and the Tshwane-based companies Vacuform and Hartell. Gripen International feature.

Sept 12/07: Denmark. Danish Minister of Defence Soren Gade and the Swedish Minister of Defence Sten Tolgfors signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding Gripen at Saab in Linkoping, Sweden. Denmark is planning to replace its aging F-16 fleet of 48 aircraft within the next 10 – 15 years, and are conducting a comprehensive evaluation of different aircraft types. The MoU guarantees that all relevant Swedish information which is needed for the Danish evaluation of the Gripen fighter will be available; in practical terms, the JAS-39DK is now an official member of the fighter competition. Saab release. A Gripen International release adds that the Danish Air Force Chief, Major General Stig Ostergaard Nielsen flew in a JAS-39D during his August 2007 visit to Sweden.

July 2/07: F414 picked. Saab announces that GE Aviation’s new F414G fighter engine will power its next-generation Gripen models. The F414G is derived from the popular 22,000+ pound/ 96 kN thrust F414-GE-400s that power the twin-engine F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and offers a 25-35% power boost over its predecessor the F404. Key F414G alterations will include minor changes to the alternator for added aircraft power, and modified Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) software for enhanced single-engine operation.

GE Aviation and Volvo Aero Corporation will be working together on the new F414G fighter engine. Although Volvo Aero has manufactured modified F404 engines under license for past Gripen fighters, GE will be supplying GE F414G engines directly to Saab for the Gripen Demo project, with Volvo as a major sub-contractor. GE is currently delivering 2 F414 Engines, with flight-tests and customer demonstration evaluations planned for 2008-2010. Gripen International.

July 2/07: Gripen International continues to tout its aircraft for India’s MRCA fighter competition. India Defence reports that the firm has gone one step farther than the July 2006 promise to have all airframe production take place in India. The firm stresses that the aircraft would be next-generation “Gripen Demo” aircraft, and adds that they were “willing to provide all the know-how for India to carry out modifications according to its needs.” This is a very high level of technology transfer, and resembles the benchmark adopted by the partner nations in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter consortium.

India’s government finally issued the formal RFP for the MMRCA competition on Aug 28/07.

June 11/07: Link-16 added. Saab announces that Link 16/ MIDS compatibility will become an option on the JAS-39, replacing or complementing the existing Swedish datalink. Full Link 16 certification is planned for 2008. The Link-16 program is part of the SEK 1 billion ($139 million) Version 19 systems upgrade – see July 3/06 entry in the contracts section, below. Finally, this tidbit was interesting:

“By the late 1950s Sweden’s military thinkers and aircraft builders had recognized the game-changing effect that a linked flow of secure electronic combat data could have on tactics and operations. It is well known now – but was once a highly-classified national secret – that Saab’s J 35 Draken was fielded with one of the world’s first operational datalink systems. Since then, every generation of Saab combat aircraft from Draken to Viggen to Gripen has fielded more and more powerful datalink capabilities.”

May 2007: Spring Flag 2007. In September 2007, Hungarian pilots described their experiences at Exercise Spring Flag 2007, held in May at Italy’s Decimomannu air base in Sardinia. It included combat assets from France (E-3 AWACS), Germany (F-4F Phantom ICE), Italy (AV-8B Harrier, F-16C, Tornado ECR and Eurofighter Typhoon), NATO (E-3), Turkey (F-16C), and Hungary (JAS-39C/D Gripen) with tanker support from Italy, the UK and the US. The Gripens were the only participating aircraft with a 100% sortie rate, and generated some interesting comments from Hungarian Air Force Colonel Nandor Kilian re: the Gripen’s radar capabilities and low visual cross-section (see above, or follow the link).

If you’re curious about the view from inside these kinds of exercises, DID recommends former USAF Air Weapons Controller John S. Green’s “Command and Control” recounting of a 1980s exercise involving American F-15s in Germany.

Feb 8/07: Norway.F-35 Lightning II Faces Continued Dogfights in Norway.” Endre Lunde chronicles developments in Norway, including endorsement of the Gripen by one of the governing coalition’s political parties.

2006 and earlier

Saab buys Ericsson Microwave; Saab layoffs; Red Flag EW; Terma MoU in Denmark; Terma MRP reco pod. JAS-39 landing
c. Gripen International
(click to view full)

Nov 16/06: Red Flag Alaska – Gripen EW rules! Saab’s release discusses Gripen’s performance at Red Flag Alaska. During the 11-day exercise, the 4 aircraft each flew 2 sorties per day, accumulating 340 flight hours (150 ‘on mission’) with a staff of 12 pilots and 35 maintenance technicians.

In the tactical realm, note the release’s confirmation that the JAS-39 has the ability to drop Laser Guided Bombs carried on one Gripen aircraft, using laser designator pods fitted to another Gripen aircraft. The aircraft’s warning and electronic warfare systems (EWS) also got high ratings: Lt. Col. Lindberg said that:

“…it was almost impossible for the Red air force to get through our EW systems. We always knew where the air defense was, could avoid them and still do our work, even in very dynamic situations, with the threat getting more complex each day.”

Nov 16/06: IRIS-T. Saab announces successful tests with the IRIS-T short-range air-air missile, in order to verify Gripen compatibility. IRIS-T is in production, and is a multinational project that includes Germany, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Norway and Spain. It was developed following German experience with the Russian R-73/AA-11 Archer on East German MiG-29s, which caused them to rethink the entire design philosophy behind ASRAAM and pull out of the multinational project.

Nov 3/06: Terma MoU. Saab and Danish defence and aerospace company Terma announce a Memorandum of Understanding for a longer-term business relationship. As a first concrete step, Terma and Saab signed a Contract for production of DKK 10 million (about $1.7 million) worth of Gripen parts, to begin immediately at Terma’s facilities in Grenaa, Denmark. Gripen International

Nov 1/06: Denmark. Danish Aerotech A/S and Saab AB conclude a conditional cooperation agreement worth up to DKK 200 million (about $34.3 million). If Denmark decides to purchase the Gripen fighter as a replacement for its current F-16 fighters, Danish Aerotech is expecting to supply Saab with mechanical, electrical and electronic components as part of the new cooperation agreement. Since its establishment in 1992, Danish Aerotech has been a Saab partner responsible for all maintenance on Danish Saab T-17 training aircraft. Gripen International.

Aug 23/06: Bulgaria RFI. Gripen International announces its response to Bulgaria’s May 2006 RFI: 16 JAS-39 Gripen C/D aircraft (12 single and 4 two-seater) with full support and training provided in cooperation with the Swedish Armed Forces. Several financing options were outlined, and Saab/GI’s usual 100% offset promise was included. The first aircraft could be delivered within two years.

July 19/06: India. Saab pledges to conduct all production in India if it wins the MRCA fighter competition, and cites its record of successfully meeting industrial offset provisions.

June 26/06: Red Flag, ho. Flight International reports that 7 Swedish Air Force Gripens (5 JAS-39Cs and 2 two-seater JAS-39Ds), Two Tp84s (C-130H), and 12 pilots will be headed to Eilson AFB, Alaska under Lt. Col. Ken Lindberg for the latest Red Flag Alaska exercise. As a traditionally neutral country, Sweden has not participated in such exercises before. The Gripens will be deployed with LITENING III targeting pods, and will participate in both air-air and air-ground missions (4-6 aircraft each day, 2 missions per day), including leading mixed air groups from participating nations. They will take off from Ronneby AFB, Sweden on July 13, fly mostly overland without air-air refueling, and arrive on July 17, 2006. This Red Flag Alaska will run from July 24 – August 4, 2006, and is expected to involve 47 fighters and 6 support aircraft from participating countries. See Flight International article for more on the Gripen deployment, and a US Air Force Link article has more background re: the Red Flag Alaska exercises.

June 20/06: Meteor. The JAS-39 Gripen successfully completes its first test set of MBDA Meteor missile firings. Further flight test campaigns will be performed with the Meteor on the Gripen combat aircraft during 2006 and beyond.

June 12/06: Saab buys Ericsson Microwave. Saab Group acquires Ericsson Microwave Systems, who make the Gripen’s current PS05 radar – and probably its future AESA radar as well. EMS also makes the Erieye AESA radar that serves on Saab’s S-1000 and Embraer’s EMB-145 airborne early warning aircraft. See DID coverage.

JAS-39N concept
(c) Gripen International
(click to view full)

May 15-16/06: Denmark, Norway. Gripen International announces the tabling of offers to Denmark and Norway for JAS-39 Gripens to replace those nations’ aging F-16 fleets. The aircraft would have “longer range and greater payload” than existing JAS-39 C/D Gripens, but other than that no details of the offers themselves are released.

For slightly more background, see also their Dec 9/05 release “Gripen for Denmark – Tailor-made to suit Danish needs!

April 25/06: Swedish cuts? The Swedish Armed Forces submit their 2007 budget proposal, which includes a plan for the reduction of Sweden’s Gripen force to just 100 aircraft. The remainder of the force will either be sold on the international market to approved buyers, or scrapped.

March 24/06: eDefense Online publishes “Gripens in Hungary Spark EW Revival.” The archive no longer exists, but an excerpt follows:

“The original decision to lease 14 Gripens from Sweden was made in September 2001 by the country’s previous conservative government. Although many, mostly economic reasons were given for this surprise move against the US offer of Lockheed Martin (Ft. Worth, TX) F-16s, insiders in Hungary say that as a kind of “side effect,” the HDF will have access to a more comprehensive electronic-warfare (EW) system that offers a more “independent” EW capability. While providing “indigenous” EW planning for the customer was included in the original December 2001 contract calling for the leasing of air-to-air-combat-oriented JAS 39A/B aircraft, when the current post-communist government altered the deal in March 2003, more capable hardware was ordered as well. The revised contract includes the lease-to-own of the unique JAS 39 EBS (Export Baseline Standard) HU (Hungary) version, which has a significantly improved EW system compared with its predecessor.”

Dec 13/05: Meteor. Gripen is the first aircraft to flight-validate system integration with MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-air missile. Gripen International.

June 8/05: Layoffs. Saab announced that it will lay off 350 workers in four business units, owing to a reduction of work for the JAS-39 Gripen. The 350 lay-offs involve workers at Saab Aerostructures, Saab Aerosystems, Saab Aircraft and Saab Support. Saab had already laid off 1,000 people in 2003 and 2004; and including this latest move, notice had now been given to 760 people in 2005. The company warns that it expects to lay off a further 1,000 – 1,500 people in 2005 and 2006.

March 29/05: Terma MRP. Flight tests validate Terma’s new Modular Reconnaissance Pod (q.v. contract, Jan 7/02). Flight tests and evaluation will be ongoing at Saab in Linkoping for approximately a year, and introduction into Swedish service to replace the AJSF-37 Viggens will be in 2006. Saab Group’s release quotes Richard Ljungberg, Saab test pilot and former Swedish Air Force recce pilot:

“Excellent handling qualities, the digital flight control system took care of everything; it just feels like flying a clean aircraft… We even tested camera functions in the pod together with maneuverability of the aircraft during the first flight.”

JAS-39 Gripen: Contracts & Awards 2014

Czechs extend lease to 2027; ETPS multi-year support to 2018 and new fighter; JAS-39F development MoU. Gripen for FAB
(click to view full)

Oct 27/14: Sweden. Sweden’s 2015 budget will need to make some changes, in the wake of the Swiss fighter referendum defeat:

“In order to ensure the development and acquisition of the new JAS Gripen 39 E, we will take the responsibility for the completion of its upgrade and production. As a consequence of the incomplete JAS-deal with Switzerland, the allocation to defence equipment will be given an additional SEK 2 billion in 2014. This initiative will be funded in part by reducing the appropriation for international operations by SEK 500 million. The allocation for defence equipment will also receive a further SEK 900 million in 2015. The JAS-project will thereby receive a total of SEK 2.9 billion over the next two years. This is crucial in order to ensure that the lost revenues in the JAS-project do not have a negative impact on other planned equipment acquisitions.”

SEK 2.9 billion is about $404 million at current exchange rates. Sources: Swedish MoD, “Budget reinforcement to the Swedish Armed Forces’ regimental- and air surveillance capabilities”.

Oct 24/14: Brazil. Saab signs a SEK 39.3 billion / BRL 13.363 billion / $5.475 billion contract with Brazil’s COMAER for 28 JAS-39E and 8 JAS-39F fighters, alongside provisions for training, initial spares, and a 10-year Industrial Co-operation contract to transfer technologies to Brazilian industry. Embraer will have a leading role as Saab’s strategic partner, with a JAS-39F co-development role and full responsibility for production.

This contract winds up having wider implications as well, by securing Sweden’s order for 60 JAS-39Es. As signed, it required at least 1 other customer, which was going to be Switzerland until a weak effort from that government destroyed the deal in a referendum. Brazil has now become that additional customer, and Saab expects that this commitment will keep the JAS-39 in service to 2050.

What’s left? Brazil’s FAB confirms that the interim lease agreement for 10-12 JAS-39C/Ds will be a separate deal with the Swedish government. Meanwhile, the JAS-39NG contracts still require certain conditions before they become final, such as required export control-related authorizations from the USA et. al. All of these conditions are expected to be fulfilled during the first half of 2015, with deliveries to take place from 2019 – 2024. Sources: Saab, “Saab and Brazil sign contract for Gripen NG” | Brazil FAB, “Brasil assina contrato para aquisicao de 36 cacas Gripen NG”.

Brazil: 36 Gripen NG

July 12/14: ETPS. Saab signs a new agreement with QinetiQ’s Empire Test Pilots’ School from 2015 – 2018, continuing an association that has been in place since 1999. ETPS will continue to use the JAS-39D fighter they switched to earlier in 2014, after a long period using a JAS-39B for the most advanced portions of the curriculum. Hakan Buskhe, Saab’s President and CEO:

“Since 1999 Gripen has trained more than 70 test pilots and provided more than 800 hours for the ETPS. Saab has a record of 100 per cent on-time delivery with a jet that is totally reliable. The relationship between Saab and the ETPS is something really unique.”

ETPS buys Gripen flight hours from Saab, plus all required support, instead of owning the planes. Operations are conducted at Saab’s Flight Test Department in Linkoping, Sweden, with ETPS instructor pilots flying under Saab supervision. Saab provides supervisory pilots, the Gripen aircraft, logistics, ground support and facilities. Saab 105 jet trainer aircraft are also provided, to act as radar targets for training. Campaigns typically last for 1 week in May and 4-5 weeks in August and September. Sources: QinetiQ/ UK MoD LTPA, ETPS | ETPS, “The Saab Gripen” | Saab, “Saab and ETPS sign new multi-year agreement for continued Gripen training”.

Empire Test Pilot School

July 11/14: JAS-39F Brazil MoU. There’s no agreement yet for the Gripen lease, but Saab and Embraer have signed the expected Memorandum of Understanding around JAS-39E/F production.

Embraer will be the Brazilian industrial lead, performing its own assigned work while managing all local sub-contractors in the program. They’ll also work with Saab on systems development, integration, flight tests, final assembly and deliveries, with full joint responsibility for the 2-seat JAS-39F Gripen NG. Sources: Embraer and Saab, “Embraer to partner with Saab in joint programme management for Brazil´s F-X2 Project”.

March 3/14: Brazil. Brazil and Saab sign advance agreements on defense cooperation, which lay the foundation for the future Gripen contract. This includes a defense cooperation framework agreement, whose scope is already wider than just fighters, and a corollary agreement that commits to appropriate levels of secrecy and security procedures within that cooperation framework. The new agreements build on documents signed in 1997 and 2000, and both will be forwarded to Brazil’s National Congress for approval.

The industrial goal is to be able to produce 80% of the plane in Brazil, which has future implications given that final Brazilian orders over time are estimated at 60 – 104 fighters. Equally significant, the accompanying security agreements include access to the Gripen’s source code. That will allow Brazil to add its own weapons to the new fighters, increasing the global attractiveness of both Saab’s Gripens and of Brazil’s weapons. A current wave of Latin American upgrades could create timing issues for wider regional sales, but export partnership arrangements are under discussion. They currently revolve around Latin America, and developing nations with close Brazilian ties (“das nacoes em desenvolvimento com as quais o Brasil possui estreita relacao bilateral”). Sources: Brazil FAB, “Brasil assina acordos de cooperacao e da prosseguimento a compra dos cacas suecos” | See also Defense News, “Fleet Modernization Drives Requirements Across South America”.

Brazil: Defense cooperation agreements

March 12/14: Czech Republic. The Czech cabinet approves a 12-year the extension of their Gripen fleet lease, with a 2-year option to 2029. Annual outlay will be CZK 1.7 billion, for a total of CZK 20.4 billion over the base period ($1.033 billion). That’s reportedly about a 31% drop. The official contract signing is expected later, but this decision was the key event.

The deal includes the jets, training for 25 pilots and 90 maintenance technicians, depth logistics support, and upgrades to add Link-16 and night vision optics. Sources: Swedish FXM, “Czech Republic approves new Gripen agreement” | Ceske Noviny, “Czech govt approves extension of Swedish Gripen fighters lease” | Sweden’s The Local, “Czech renew lease on Jas Gripen jets”.

New Czech lease

March 4/14: Sub-contractors. Switzerland’s RUAG receives a CHF 68 million ($41.1 million) contract from Saab to develop and produce payload mountings for the JAS-39E’s hardpoints. The order reportedly includes 4 work packages, with CHF 15.5 million ($9.4 million) committed immediately for design, system development, and prototypes for 3 JAS-39E test planes. RUAG is already soliciting sub-contractors within Switzerland.

An option for series production would make up the rest, but Saab can award it elsewhere if the Swiss referendum fails. As appears likely. Sources: RUAG, “RUAG wins contract for SAAB Gripen E payload mountings” | UPI, “RUAG making payload mountings for Gripen fighters” (their currency conversion is wrong) | Saab’s Gripen Blog, “Swiss Technology Group RUAG Collaborates With Saab”.

Jan 30/14: Support. Saab announces a SEK 174 million (about $27 million) Swedish option to support and maintain Gripen fleets throughout 2014, placed under the June 29/12 multi-year contract. The contract still covers JAS-39 fleets in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Thailand. South Africa has its own independent support contract, after a long period of bungles and a near-crisis for its fleet (q.v. Dec 19/13).

Work will take place at Saab’s facilities in Linkoping, Arboga, Jarfalla, Gothenburg… and Ostersund, which wasn’t mentioned in the 2012 contract. Saab’s June 2012 announcement placed the contract’s maximum option value at SEK 2 billion (about $283.6 million), but this release has revised that to SEK 1.36 billion (about $208 million), with SEK 795 million allocated so far. Sources: Saab, “FMV places order for Gripen support and maintenance”.

2012 – 2013

Sweden & Switzerland agree in principle to buy 82 JAS-39Es, followed by a framework contract and the development contract; Sweden issues 60-plane conversion contract; Hungary extends lease to 2026; South Africa gets a real support contract. JAS-39D & Swiss F/A-18
(click to view full)

Dec 19/13: South Africa. South Africa has been relying on short-term interim support contracts that expired in April and endangered the fleet, but a SEK 180 million ($27.5 million) contract with Armscor creates a longer-term arrangement from 2013 – 2016 that should improve costs and predictability.

The contract includes typical support services like engineering support, MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul), and spares replenishment, as well as technical publications amendments to keep them current with SAAF changes. Read “South Africa’s Sad Military: Why Maintenance Matters” for full coverage.

South African support

Dec 18/13: Sweden. Saab receives its Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) contract to convert 60 JAS-39Cs to JAS-39 Gripen Es. The SEK 16.4 billion (about $2.498 million) contract covers the next decade of work from 2013 – 2023, with initial deliveries scheduled in 2018.

The contract is announced the same day that Brazil picks Gripen NG for an initial $4.5 billion buy of 36 planes. That may be simple coincidence, but the Feb 15/13 umbrella contract did have provisions that would allow Sweden to end the conversion contract if the Swiss referendum rejects a fighter buy, and no other customers had committed. While the final contract with Brazil isn’t expected until December 2014, their selection puts that doomsday scenario to rest.

This contract was expected in the fall, and is larger than the math in the initial contract had suggested (SEK 12.962 billion, q.v. Feb 15/13). It follows SEK 13.2 billion in final development contracts (q.v. Feb 15/13, March 22/13), and represents Gripen NG’s 1st production order.

Swedish Gripen E conversion contract

Dec 18/13: Meteor. Saab announces an SEK 186 million (about $28.4 million) order from Sweden’s FMV procurement agency, to finish integration of the Meteor long range air-to-air missile on Gripen E. These funds are on top of the February 2013 contract to develop the JAS-39E Gripen NG.

The order will play out over Gripen E’s 2013 – 2023 development, but Meteor is scheduled to become operational on JAS-39C/D models in 2014, and JAS-39E conversion shouldn’t take that long. The challenge will be bringing the new fighter itself up to an adequate readiness state for qualification trials, which creates a likely certification threshold of 2017 – 2019. Sources: Saab Group, “Saab Receives Order for Integration Support of Weapon System for Gripen E”.

Dec 3/13: Sub-contractors. Israel’s Elbit Systems EW and SIGINT – Elisra announces a contract “for the integration and delivery” their PAWS-2 passive missile warning system “onboard the Gripen fighter.” They don’t say whether this is only for a particular country, as an available upgrade for any model, or targeted for the new JAS-39E/F. The latter option is most likely, as an improved Missile Approach Warning System was an explicit component of the Gripen-E’s upgrades.

PAWS looks for the heat plume of incoming missiles, and calculates whether it’s a potential threat. If it is, PAWS triggers a pilot warning, and can fire automatic flare/ chaff countermeasures while cueing DIRCM direct laser countermeasures. If it isn’t a threat, the system doesn’t bother the pilot, and saves on-board resources until they’re needed. PAWS-2 already serves aboard Israel’s unique F-16i Soufa deep strike fleet, and Elisra says that it was picked for Gripen after in-depth evaluations that included a comparative live fire test. Sources: Elbit Systems, “Elbit Systems Selected to Provide Electronic Warfare Systems for the Gripen Fighter System”.

April 2/13: Industrial. Saab announces that they’ve set Swiss workshare for all future JAS-39E fighters, but haven’t set their exact industrial partnerships yet. They’ve committed to the armasuisse policy of having 5% of their industrial benefits in Italian-speaking regions, 30% in French speaking regions, and 65% in German speaking regions.

Swiss industry will become sole suppliers of the fighter’s rear fuselage, tail cone, air brakes, pylons, and external fuel drop tanks.

March 22/13: Gripen E SDD. Saab receives its SEK 10.7 billion (about $1.65 billion) system design & development order for the JAS-39E, covering work over 2015-2023. It includes full definition and development work for the type, as well as adaptation of test and trial equipment, simulators and rigs.

This brings total Gripen-E funding to date SEK 13.2 billion, on top of funding to create and test Gripen Demo over the last several years. Additional funds under the SEK 47.2 billion development and production framework agreement will be booked when each order is received, and are expected in 2013-2014. If Sweden’s FMV exercises a cancellation under the conditions of the framework agreement, they are liable to Saab for both costs incurred to date, and for cancellation fees. FMV [in Swedish] | Saab Group.

JAS-39E development contract

Gripen Demo
(click to view full)

Feb 15/13: Contract. About 2 months after an overwhelming Dec 6/12 parliamentary vote (q.v. Events section, above), Sweden’s FMV signs a SEK 2.5 billion development contract with Saab for 2013-2014 work on the JAS-39E Gripen Next-Generation. The contract also comes with a number of development and procurement options, which could raise the total to SEK 47.2 billion (currently $7.471 billion).

Within another month or 2, Saab expects to sign a contract that funds the rest of Gripen E development, worth SEK 10.6 billion. This would bring the development and testing total to SEK 13.1 billion (about $2.075 billion) on top of Gripen Demo, far higher than initial estimates (vid. Sept 21/12 entry).

By the end of 2013, Saab expects to sign a contract to convert 60 Swedish JAS-39C fighters to JAS-39Es. That will require a lot of work, because the fuselage is substantially different. Initial JAS-39E deliveries aren’t expected until 2018, and the type isn’t currently expected to gain its operational capability designation before 2023 or so.

By the end of 2014, Saab expects to sign a tranche contract for JAS-39E specific equipment, support and maintenance. It would begin in 2018, alongside the first upgraded Swedish fighters.

The umbrella contract adds provisions for 22 new Swiss JAS-39Es, plus initial support, training, etc. By 2014, Saab should know if the referendum on the purchase has passed. The Swiss contract will be CHF 3.126 billion, or SEK 21.138 billion / $3.384 billion at current rates. If Switzerland’s referendum fails to pass and no other customer has bought the JAS-39NG, however, the contract has provisions that would cancel the conversion deal with Sweden at agreed-upon terms.

A bit of math leaves an interesting question. If the Swiss deal is included in the SEK 47.2 billion figure, then 47.2 billion – 13.1 billion development – 21.138 Swiss = just SEK 12.962 billion/ $2.04 billion. That has to cover major structural modifications on 60 Swedish fighters, add expensive new equipment including engines and radars, AND finance a support deal encompassing all of the JAS-39E’s unique new features and parts. $34 million per fighter is possible for the conversion, but conversion and maintenance is a stretch. The Riksdagen’s Gripen upgrade vote had approved SEK 90 billion to 2042, so the explanation may be that the JAS-39E support annex is very short term. [DID adds: the final conversion contract alone was SEK 16.4 billion] Swedish FMV | Saab.

JAS-39E contract framework for Sweden, Swiss

Aug 25/12: JAS-39E/F. Sweden’s government announces that they are committed to buying 40-60 next-generation JAS-39E/F fighters, as part of a joint effort with Switzerland who will buy 22 more. To fund this effort, they’ve agreed to commit another SEK 300 million to the defense budget in 2013 and 2014, and SEK 200 million per year after that.

By the time the 1st planes are scheduled to enter service with the Flygvapnet, in 2023, that extra funding would amount to SEK 2.3 billion (currently almost $350 million), if subsequent governments maintain it. It’s hard to know if that’s enough, as negotiations are reported to be in progress for the system development contract, but if the aircraft includes everything it’s supposed to have, that would be a cheap price. Green Party MP Peter Radberg says that his party calculates the likely development cost at “a couple of billion kronor per year” instead.

At the same time, the Swiss government issues a statement that there is an agreement in principle between armasuisse and Sweden, completing a Memorandum of Understanding signed on June 29/12. The countries will reportedly share support and upgrade costs under an umbrella model, and final details of specifications, delivery dates, prices, equipment and infrastructure have reportedly been settled, pending final approval from Swiss political authorities. That will include a national referendum – see “Switzerland Replacing Its F-5 Fighters” for full coverage of that buy. Swedish government Release [in Swedish] & Video | Swedish Armed Forces | Svenska Dagbladet – full statement from 4 party leaders [in Swedish] | Swiss government [in German] | Swedish-Swiss Framework Agreement [PDF, in French] | Saab Group || Sweden’s The Local | Expatica Switzerland | Agence France Presse | Aviation Week | Bloomberg | Reuters.

JAS-39E/F commitment

June 29/12: Support. A multi-year support deal with Sweden’s FMV replaces all of the existing Gripen support contracts with a single contract that includes performance-based support and maintenance, extra funding for the MS20 upgrade package, and studies and definition activities for further Gripen development. It covers Gripen fleets in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Thailand, but not South Africa.

The initial order is SEK 3.6 billion ($510.5 million) plus a series of 1-year options totaling up to SEK 2 billion (currently $283.6 million) until December 2016.

Performance-based activities include spare parts, maintenance of aircraft systems, and technical engineering support. there’s also an international angle, as Saab’s work maintains updated technical publications and logistics solutions for operation of the Gripen system in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Thailand. Most of the work will take place at Saab’s facilities in Linkoping, Arboga, Jarfalla and Gothenburg. Sources: Saab, “Saab signs support and development agreement with FMV for Gripen”.

Swedish support, 2012-2016

Jan 30/12: Hungarian extension. Hungary opts to extend its lease of 14 Gripens for another 10 years, to 2026, but doesn’t add any more planes just yet. Terms aren’t disclosed, but the Budapest Business Journal reports that:

“Hungarian Defence Minister Csaba Hende said earlier that extending the lease until 2026 would save the state HUF 63bn [DID: about $290 million]… Government data show the Gripen lease costs the budget an annual HUF 30bn. Training programmes for the aircraft cost an additional HUF 2bn a year.”

That would place the 10-year extension at about $1.1 to $1.4 billion equivalent, including training, based on straight-line extrapolation. In 2001 the Swedish and Hungarian governments entered into a lease-purchase agreement, with a further modification in 2003 that included 14 Gripen C/Ds (12 single-seater and 2 two-seater aircraft). All aircraft were delivered in 2006 and 2007, and all 14 aircraft were in operation with the Hungarian Air Force by the end of 2008. The current contract was due to expire in 2016. Saab | Budapest Business Journal.

Hungarian extension

2010 – 2011

Thais orders another 6 JAS-39C/Ds, AEW plane, missiles; Meteror BVRAAM integration contract; Swedish orders to modernize and maintain the fleet, incl. new avionics system; Curtiss-Wright DSPs for new AESA; Swedish JAS-39
(click to view full)

Sept 6/11: ES-05 Raven. Curtiss-Wright Corporation announces a $15 million contract from SELEX Galileo to supply rugged embedded digital signal processor modules from 2010 – 2014. The company’s Motion Control segment will develop the DSP modules at its Ashburn, VA facility.

The firm has confirmed that their DSPs will provide the radar processing for the new ES-05 Raven AESA fire control radar system, and the contract could rise to $25 million over the lifetime of the program.

July 1/11: Support. Sweden’s FMV issues SEK 1.034 billion (about $159 million) worth of contracts to Saab for a variety of Gripen-related services in 2011.

First, Saab will undertake continual maintenance and updates for Sweden’s JAS-39C/D fighters, in compliance with the Swedish Armed Forces’ long-term planning. Second, related efforts will work to maintain the Swedish fleet’s operational capability, including technical support, product maintenance, flight testing, and flight simulator operation. finally, Saab will conduct studies regarding further JAS-39 development, and a resource baseline will be laid down for renewed Gripen testing and verification in the long-term. Saab.

May 18/11: Avionics. Saab announces a SEK 152 million (about $24.1 million) order from the Swedish FMV for cockpit development work on the Gripen C/D fighter, upgrading the material system 39/ edition 19 configuration during 2011-2012.

March 3/11: Support. Saab announces a SEK 120 million (about $19.1 million) order from the Swedish FMV Defence Material Administration, to provide technical support, product maintenance, flight test and simulators to ensure that Sweden’s Gripen fleet remains ready and operational. The work will be done during Q2 2011, mainly at Saab facilities in Linköping, Arboga, Gothenburg and Järfälla.

Jan 25/11: Upgrades. Saab announces a SEK 127 million (about $18.2 million) order from the Swedish FMV to modify undeclared sub-systems of Sweden’s JAS-39 edition 19 fighters – the 2009 upgrade baseline. Work will be carried out in 2011 and 2012.

Nov 23/10: Thai Order #2. Saab receives a SEK 2.2 billion (currently $316.6 million) order from Sweden’s FMV to provide Thailand’s 2nd tranche of fighters (6 JAS-39C Gripens) and equip the 2nd S340 AEW&C aircraft being sold to Thailand.

There’s also a 3rd component to the overall deal – Saab’s RBS-15F air-launched anti-ship missiles. Precise designations matter here. The FMV specified RBS-15Fs, which are radar-guided Mk.I missiles, without the land attack capabilities of the longer-range, GPS/radar guided Mk.III variants. The RBS-15Fs can be carried on the Gripens to hit ships over 70 km away, using a 200 kg warhead delivered by a stealthy, wave-hugging approach that includes programming for indirect attack vectors, and evasive maneuvers.

The agreement is reportedly signed by RTAF commander in chief Air Chief Marshal Itthaporn Subhawong and FMV Director General Gunnar Holmgren, and FMV’s announcement would not disclose the full value of the government-to-government contract. Swedish FMV | Gripen International | Saab Group | Bloomberg | Engineering News, South Africa | Flight International | ScandAsia | China’s Xinhua.


Nov 16/10: Training. Saab announces an order from the Swedish FMV procurement agency, to deliver 3-dimensional (3D) models to the Swedish Gripen simulators, to be generated from aerial images using Saab’s new Rapid 3D Mapping(TM) system.

Sept 8/10: Meteor. Sweden’s FMV military procurement agency gives Saab a 4-year, SEK 312 million (about $42.75 million) contract to integrate MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-to-air missile with their JAS-39 fleet’s radar, displays, and support and maintenance systems like simulators and planning computers. The order includes test flights and test firing, as well as a 2-way datalink for communication with the missile and even “hand-off” targeting after it has been fired.

The JAS-39 has a head start in this area. It has been the Meteor missile’s test platform since 2006, and has already conducted several Meteor test firings. Work will mostly be performed in Linkoping, Sweden, with some involvement from the Gothenburg facilities. Sweden is now the 3rd country to sign Meteor production orders, after Britain and Spain, but the other 2 countries will mount them on the Eurofighter Typhoon. Saab Group | Gripen International | Defense News.

Meteor integration

June 1/10: Support. Saab announces a SEK 230 million (currently $29.4 million) support contract from the Swedish Defence Material Administration. It covers product maintenance, technical support, and basic operations such as test flying, rigs and simulators, in order to ensure that the Svenska Flygvapnet’s Gripens remain operational. Work will be undertaken during the second half of 2010, at Saab’s Swedish plants in Linkoping, Arboga, Goteborg, and Stockholm. Saab AB.

May 25/10: Upgrades. Saab AB announces a 2-year, SEK 450 million (currently $57.25 million) contract from Sweden’s FMV procurement agency, in order to develop a next-generation set of Gripen avionics upgrades. Saab VP and head of the Aeronautics business area, Lennart Sindahl, explains part of the problem, which is common to all modern combat aircraft:

“Computers with the best performance possible today will be viewed as inadequate for the tasks facing Gripen in ten years, when the aircraft must remain modern for a further twenty years. Few high-tech products have a service life as long as Gripen.”

In response, Saab will develop a completely new avionics system that includes new displays, back-end computing, and features like sensor fusion, the ability to sort and selectively display information with different security classifications, and changes to the electronic system architecture. The challenge is doing these things without breaking existing capabilities, of course, and the new package isn’t scheduled to enter service with Sweden until about 2020. Saab AB.

March 31/10: Upgrades. Sweden’s FMV procurement agency issues a 4-year, SEK 400 million (about $42.3 million) contract to Saab Group to improve the reconnaissance pod’s user interface, and give it night-time capability.

The Gripen can also carry the LITENING-III surveillance and targeting pod, which has full night-time capability, and its ReeceLite relative. This order, however, almost certainly involves Terma’s Modular Reconnaissance Pod (MRP 39, q.v. Jan 7/02 entry below).

March 30/10: Support. Saab announces a SEK 600 million (about $82.6 million) support contract for 2010-2011:

“The contract represents a part of continual system maintenance and updating tasks for the Gripen and complies with the Swedish Armed Forces’ long-term planning for the Gripen… as well as maintaining the material prerequisites for conducting coordinated testing of the flight system. The material prerequisites include renewal of test equipment and test aircraft for testing of the Gripen system on the long term.”

March 10/10: Upgrades. Saab announces a 5-year, SEK 2 billion (currently about $280 million) contract from Sweden’s FMV procurement agency, aimed at upgrading the existing fleet of JAS-39 C/D Gripen fighters. On the capability front, upgrades will include improved communications systems, and ECM (Electronic Counter-Measures) defensive systems, upgrades to the existing PS05 radar that will increase its range and add new functions, and integration of additional weapons.

On the operational front, Saab will be making some changes to reduce operating costs, based on the fleet’s 130,000 hours of flight experience to date. Interestingly, there’s also a project to “reduce the noise and emissions from test runs during engine maintenance.” Work will mainly take place at Saab’s Swedish plants in Linkoping, Gothenburg, Jarfalla, Kista and Arboga. Saab release.

Feb 16/10: IRST. Saab picks SELEX Galileo’s Skyward-G Infrared Search and Track (IRST) to equip Gripen NG. Saab Gripen blog.

2008 – 2009

Swedish government support & upgrade contracts, incl. EW & IFF, IRIS-T SRAAM integration; Sweden orders Cobra HMDs; MRP 39 reece pod development; ETPS support agreement; ES-05 Raven AESA radar development contract with SELEX, after Thales sabotages RBE2-AA AESA collaboration; F414 picked for Gripen NG; improvements. RTAF Gripens
(click to view full)

May 9/09: Thailand. The Thai Democrat Party government cancels its 15 billion baht follow-on option for 6 Gripens. Faced with a drop in government revenues, it slashes the coming defense budget from 171 billion to 151 billion baht.

Subsequent comments indicate that the purchase may end up being delayed, rather than canceled. That is what happened, in the end.

March 24/09: ES-05 Raven AESA. Saab and SELEX Galileo sign an agreement to develop a mechanically-pivoted Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the JAS-39NG. Terms are not disclosed.

The Raven’s base technology comes from SELEX Galileo’s proven Vixen family of AESA radars, but it has evolved while incorporating technologies and experiences from other radars, including the existing PS-05. Part of that evolution is an innovative combination of AESA focus and low signal “leakage” beyond its focus area, with the potentially wider field of regard that mechanically-pivoted radars can possess. The result will be a far more capable radar than previous Vixen offerings. The new joint radar is now known as the ES-05 Raven, and the addition of mechanical rotation to traditional AESA strengths is an interesting design choice that will give the Raven a unique set of strengths (wider scan; lock, fire and leave tactics) and weaknesses (reliability, maintenance). The end quality of its AESA transmit/receive modules, and their integration, will also play a large role in the radar’s final performance.

The arrangement is initially aimed at Brazil’s F-X2 fighter competition, where it leverages Selex Galileo’s strong pedigree equipping Brazil’s F-5BR fighters (Grifo-F radar) and AMX light attack jets (Scipio radar). Once integrated and proven, of course, the AESA upgrade would be available to any Gripen customer. Saab | Gripen International.

Raven AESA partnership

Feb 10/09: Sub-contractors. Saab and TATA Consultancy Services (TCS) partnered Aeronaoutical Design and Development Centre (ADDC) has been awarded its first contract by Saab to participate in the aerostructural design and development for Gripen NG. Gripen International.

Feb 9/09: Studies. Saab announces an SEK 400 million (about $49.7 million) order from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) for 2009 studies regarding future Gripen capabilities.

Until significant export sales are made, Sweden remains the home market and financier of the ongoing upgrades required to keep Gripen current. This order is a continuation of a project that started last year, and will form the base for the Swedish Armed Forces decisions regarding what capabilities and technologies to incorporate in subsequent versions.

Jan 8/09: Support. Saab announces a SEK 550 million (about $70 million) order from the Swedish FMV procurement agency, to support the Swedish Air Force. Covered activities during 2009 will include program management, product maintenance, support, flight testing, pilot equipment and simulators.

Gripen Demo rollout
(click to view full)

July 9/08: EW. Saab announces a pair of orders from the Swedish FMV procurement agency worth SEK 574 million (about $95.5 million).

A SEK 324 million order for Electronic Warfare Systems (EWS) will equip Sweden’s aircraft with up to date antennae, transmitters and appropriate electronics, and deliveries will be made during 2008-2009.

The second contract is a SEK 250 million contract for weapons pylons that will enable the Gripens to use GPS-equipped weapons systems like JDAM bombs; most likely this involves pylons with MIL-STD 1760 circuitry. Deliveries will take place between 2009-2011.

April 23/08: Thales AESA. Saab announces a contract with France’s Thales to develop a new advanced radar based on AESA technology. Peter Andersson, product manager at Saab Microwave Systems:

“At present Thales is developing an AESA within a French radar programme and, like Saab Microwave Systems, is one of the world leaders within the radar field. Together we can quickly develop a demo-product that can show the markets the advantages of AESA technology. The collaboration over the antenna is also cost effective and is in line with Saab’s overall strategy of finding industrial partners for Gripen… Our collaboration is for the Gripen demo. We will have to see what happens in the future.”

The collaboration is good for Thales, which have been building the RBE2 AESA radar for France’s Rafale fighter. With other future fighter markets locked up, a Gripen deal offers them their best hope of leveraging that technology into wider sales. Both Thales and Saab have experience with AESA radars, but the global fighter market pits them against established competitors in the USA’s Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, and prospective competitors in Russia’s Phazotron and Euroradar (EADS, Finmeccanica’s SELEX SAS and Galileo Avionica, and INDRA).

Saab Microwave Systems is responsible for the overall radar system and its capability, Thales contributes with the antenna, and Saab Aerosystems is responsible for integrating the final product into the JAS-39. Collaboration surrounding the AESA radar actually started in autumn 2007; integration of the complete radar system will continue during 2008, and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2009. The first test flights are planned for summer 2009, and Saab intends to follow that with customer demonstrations.


Jan 8/08: IFF. Saab has awarded the Thales Group a contract to supply new IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) Combined Interrogator-Transponders (CITs) for existing and future JAS-39 Gripen fighters. Price was not disclosed.

The contract covers a total of 143 aircraft. 68 Swedish Gripens will receive NATO Mode 4 CITs, and another 75 Gripens (47 Swedish, 14 Hungarian, 14 Czech) will be upgraded to Mode 4 CITs with Mode S capability that gives each aircraft its own “squawk” and can tell aircraft apart in a crowded sky. The aircraft will be ready for the transition to the new NATO Mode 5 secure IFF capability, but this will not be part of the current upgrades. [Source Epicos report link now broken.]

2007 and Earlier

Thailand orders 6;

Note that this section is not complete. See the Gripen Program Timeline, above, for key milestones and buys involving Sweden, South Africa, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

Gripen & S-1000
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Oct 17/07: Thailand. The Thai government announces a $1.1 billion deal for 12 JAS-39 Gripens and 2 S-1000 Erieye AWACS aircraft. Phase 1 will feature 6 Gripens and 1 AWACS for $600 million, with a $500 million Phase 2 option for another 6 Gripens and the 2nd AWACS.

Thailand’s current political situation did much to clinch the deal – but it also risked unraveling it. Read: “Thailand Buying JAS-39 Gripens, AWACS” for full coverage.


Oct 17/07: Gripen Demo – Go! SEK 3.9 billion ($600 million) contract with the Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV) to upgrade 31 Swedish Air Force JAS-39 A/B Gripens to the very latest JAS-39 C/D standard. The FMV has also given the go ahead for the next-generation ‘Gripen Demo’ variant.

Gripen Demo

Oct 3/07: Cobra HMD for Sweden. A SEK 345 million ($54 million) deal between Sweden’s FMV and Saab promises to equip Swedish Gripens with the Cobra Helmet-Mounted Display. South Africa has already ordered it for their Gripens, and an HMD can really add to a fighter’s air-air capabilities.

July 2/07: F414 picked. Saab announces that GE Aviation’s new F414G fighter engine will power its next-generation Gripen models. The F414G is derived from the popular 22,000+ pound/ 96 kN thrust F414-GE-400s that power the twin-engine F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and offers a 25-35% power boost over its predecessor the F404. Key F414G alterations will include minor changes to the alternator for added aircraft power, and modified Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) software for enhanced single-engine operation.

GE Aviation and Volvo Aero Corporation (now part of GKN) will be working together on the new F414G fighter engine. Although Volvo Aero has manufactured modified F404 engines under license for past Gripen fighters, GE will be supplying GE F414G engines directly to Saab for the Gripen Demo project, with Volvo as a major sub-contractor. GE is currently delivering 2 F414 Engines, with flight-tests and customer demonstration evaluations planned for 2008-2010. Gripen International release.

F414G for Gripen Demo

April 26/07: Norway. Norway and Sweden sign a Memorandum of Understanding on co-operation in development work on future versions of of the JAS-39, worth NOK 150 million (currently about $25 million) over 2 years, plus the option to further extend the agreement. There was also a Letter of Agreement (LoA) signed between Norway and Saab subsidiary Gripen International that will enable Norwegian companies to undertake advanced development work in a range of high technology areas, such as composites, communication systems, studies and integration work for Norwegian weapon systems, ammunition, logistics and data systems connected to Next-Gen Gripen development.

July 17/06: UK ETPS. Trainee test pilots at Britain’s world-class ETPS (Empire Test Pilots’ School), which is operated by QinetiQ in partnership with the UK MOD, have signed a new agreement that increases their use of the JAS-39 Gripen. In 2005 all syllabus requirements were met, zero flights were lost due to unserviceability, and where all teaching goals in all areas were exceeded. The new 2006 deal will see a 30% increase in student numbers, a 20% increase in flights per student, the training of a third ETPS Instructor Pilot (IP) and the inclusion of Flight Test Engineer students within a refined syllabus. The 2006 program goes very well, with 56 sorties in just 10 flying days, and no downtime due to mechanical issues.

The 2006 test pilot students will be drawn from the French Air Force, the United States Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force and Britain’s Royal Air Force. See Saab release for more details.TEXT


MRP-39 on Gripen
(click to view larger)

July 3/06: Upgrades. Saab received a SEK 1 billion ($150 million equivalent as of 05/07) order from the Swedish Defence Material Administration, covering continued development of the Gripen System. The order reportedly covers various software upgrades, as well as other development activities supporting the long term development of the Gripen system. Work will be performed at Saab Aerosystems and Saab Aerotech in Linkoping, Sweden as well as at Saab Avitronics in Jarfalla and Kista, Sweden. See release.

March 23/06: Drop tanks. Saab Aerosystems appoints Swiss firm RUAG as single source supplier for drop tanks to the Gripen. At the same time, an initial EUR 4 million order for more than 60 export drop-tanks was announced, with first deliveries scheduled for August 2007.

Note that entries before 2006 are incomplete at this point.

Dec 29/05: IRIS-T. Saab receives a SEK 150 million ($18.9 million) contract for integration of the IRIS-T 4th generation short-range air-air missile on the Gripen. Saab is planning to fire the first shot with IRIS-T in 2007, but the integration process will continue to 2009.


Jan 7/02: Terma MRP. Terma A/S announces a sub-contract from Saab Avionics AB to make Modular Reconnaissance Pods for the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen fleet, in order to meet the Swedish FMV’s request for a new reconnaissance system. Terma bid jointly with Saab on that contract as the partner responsible for the pod system. AerotechTelub is responsible for Integrated Logistic Support, Recon Optical for the CA270 sensor, and L3 Communication for the digital mass memory.

Terma is contracted to develop, qualify and supply the Modular Reconnaissance Pod (MRP 39), including the Environmental Control System, Electrical System, Ground Support System, and part of the Reconnaissance Management System (RMS). The MRP 39 is conceptually based on Terma’s successful F-16 MRP, but it employs a circular cross-section on the lower area of the pod, and an advanced rotating window section. The rotating window is attached directly to the MRP 39 strongback and can be positioned at various positions along the length of the pod mid-section, giving the system more flexibility to add different sensors with different weight and balance restraints. The window section’s 360 degree rotation is electronically synchronized to the sensor aiming, except for take-off and landing where it is rotated up to a safe position.

The upper part of the MRP 39 has a square cross-section providing room for the strongback, ducts for the environmental control system, cabling, etc. The idea is to offer more internal pod space, and provide separation that helps eliminate or limit buffeting and dynamic vibrations on the sensitive equipment.

The Environmental Control Unit (ECU) will be a new, hybrid structure providing both air and liquid coolers and heaters, plus two symmetrical, multi-speed fans. The ECU will be installed in the aft cone of the MRP 39 and it will be handled as a single, line replaceable unit for ease of maintenance. Saab re: partners.

Terma MRP 39 Reco Pod

End notes

fn1.’s July 2006 report attempting to estimate the true cost of western fighters placed the JAS-39C Gripen at over $68.9 million per plane based on the offer to Poland, and estimated the plane’s program cost (R&D amortized) at $78.7 million. To give the reader a quick idea of how that benchmarks, costs for the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet were estimated at $ 78.4/ 95.3 million, the Eurofighter at $ 100-120/ 120-145 million, and the F-35 Lightning II at $ 115 LRIP / 112.5 million. Read the full report here. The report also noted Saab’s official response of $35-40 million per plane flyaway costs, however, and acknowledged the problems involved in calculating per-plane figures based on foreign orders due to other costs and terms. [Return to story]

fn2. Saab clarified that they had not integrated and qualified all of the weapons shown in the “could-have weapons” illustration. Rather, it was intended to display a full range of options that Saab could integrate, in response to customer requests and funding. DID is working on a current list. [Return to story]

fn3. The Gripen’s “visual stealth” may surprise some people, but it shouldn’t. A lightweight fighter with a small frontal cross-section always has this edge in air-air combat. An especial disparity occurs when fighters like that confront bigger aircraft; American F-4 Phantoms had some nasty experiences along these lines in Vietnam, flying against much older MiG-17s and MiG-19s. A trip to the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, AZ, where a MiG and Phantom are positioned right across from one another, makes the difference clear. Now throw in the Gripen’s high maneuverability, and the widened ‘threat cone’ for modern short-range infrared missiles. An enemy pilot must now scan for threats in a much larger area – when seconds are all he has, he risks missing an oncoming Gripen in a quick scan, or looking in the wrong place.

In exchange for these advantages, lightweight fighters have traditionally given up the powerful radars that could guide medium-range missiles. Moore’s Law of rising silicon chip power has removed this trade-off, and turned it into a difference of degree rather than an absolute difference in capability. [Return to story]

fn4. “Fox 2 kill” means an infrared missile shot. Many current Gripens are equipped with Sidewinders, but the plane has also been integrated with the European multinational IRIS-T, and the South African/ Brazilian A-Darter. [Return to story]

fn5. Many thanks to reader Dave Dogman, who took the time to read the Saab presentation to Norway and noted the typo – it isn’t 8,100 kg empty weight for Gripen NG, but 7,100 (up from 6,800). DID is grateful to him for pointing this out. [Return to story]

Additional Readings & Sources

DID thanks Saab and the Swedish FMV for their assistance with this article. Any mistakes are our own. Readers with corrections, comments, or information to contribute are encouraged to contact DID’s Founding Editor, Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.

JAS-39 Gripen: The Platform

JAS-39 Gripen: Ancillary Equipment

Peer Competitors

Export Competitions: Highlights

News & Views

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

C-17s for Qatar

Defense Industry Daily - Wed, 17/06/2015 - 02:19
(click to view full)

In 2008, Qatar’s military air transport assets would have involved pressing the Qatar Emiri VIP Flight at Doha into service, with its mix of Boeing aircraft (707, 727, 747), small Airbus models (320 family), and a Falcon 900 business jet. As the Gulf Cooperation Council begins to work together more closely, however, and members like the UAE begin to adopt specialty roles, improved air transport capabilities are a natural outgrowth.

Tactical airlifters like the C-130 Hercules serve in other GCC countries, and Qatar ordered 4 new C-130J-30s in October 2008, but they’re also reaching higher. In 2008, they ordered 2 C-17 Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft for the Qatar Emiri Air Force, via direct commercial sale, with a future option for another 2.

Qatar’s Orders QEAF delivery ceremony
(click to view full)

The C-17 aircraft and engines were sold via direct commercial sale, rather than a Foreign Military Sale that must be announced by the DSCA. As a direct commercial sale, the Pentagon does not announce Boeing’s C-17 sales, and there is no obligation for Boeing to do so. Based on past C-17 purchases, the 4 planes and initial fielding provisions are likely to cost about $900 million, plus support costs.

A sale of this nature goes beyond just the aircraft, of course. The DCS sale of 4 planes has been accompanied by official requests for associated equipment and services from Boeing, as well as work under the C-17’s Globemaster Sustainment Partnership. Services will include operational maintenance, logistics support and training, spare and repair parts, support equipment, flight engineer training, communications equipment, maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services, preparation of aircraft for shipment, etc.

The QEAF’s order has since been surpassed by purchases in the UAE (6) and India (10), but it was significant to Boeing in 2008. For one thing, it demonstrated the growing internationalization of the C-17’s customer base. By itself, the Qatari order was too small to affect the looming closure of the C-17 production line, but the vote of confidence helped lengthen it, especially as Qatar began using the aircraft as a visible way of exerting international “soft power” influence. Painting their 1st C-17 in Qatar Airways colors was meant as an explicit statement of that intent, and as a way of raising their plane’s profile when it did venture out on missions.

Announced Contracts and Key Events 2011 – 2013

Deliveries done; Spare engine request. QEAF C-17 #4
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June 17/15: Qatar has signed a contract with Boeing for an additional four C-17 airlifters, to complement the four already in service with the Gulf state. Other C-17 customers within the GCC include Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

June 27/13: Engines. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Qatar’s formal export request for 2 F117-PW-100 spare engines to power its C-17s, plus associated support equipment, training, and other US government and contractor support. Unlike the C-17s and their original engines, this is being handled as a Foreign Military Sale.

The estimated cost is $35 million, and Pratt and Whitney of East Hartford, CT will be the prime contractor. Final prices are subject to contract negotiations, but this is a well-understood off-the-shelf item. The amount should be very close.

Dec 10/12: #3 & 4. Boeing delivers the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s 4th C-17 Globemaster III at a ceremony in Long Beach, CA. Because the contract is a Direct Commercial Sale, the firm didn’t have to announce the contract when Qatar picked up its 2 additional options. Qatar received its 3rd airlifter “earlier this year,” and this delivery makes number 249 for Boeing.

Earlier in 2012, Qatar’s C-17s supported the NATO-led operation in Libya, and provided relief for drought victims in Kenya. In early 2010, QEAF C-17s delivered humanitarian aid to Haiti and Chile following devastating earthquakes. Boeing.

Purchases & deliveries complete

June 15/11: Flight International reports that:

“Unrest in the Middle East has shifted priorities in some key countries. This has prolonged discussions on potential deals with Qatar to purchase two more C-17s and with Kuwait to buy its first C-17, said Bob Ciesla, Boeing’s C-17 programme manager.”

2008 – 2010

From request, to deliveries and missions. QEAF C-17, Malta
click for video

Oct 22/10: GSP. Boeing receives a $64.6 million contract modification, covering for the continued performance of the C-17 Globemaster III sustainment partnership for NAMA (NATO) and Qatar. At this time, $32.5 million has been obligated (FA8614-04-C-2004).

March 10/10: It’s good to have happy customers. At Quatar’s Air Force Day, Boeing and the QAF tout the new airlifter’s achievements. Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al-Malki, head of head of Qatar’s airlift selection committee, says that international humanitarian missions were part of the rationale behind the purchase of these strategic airlifters.

A QEAF C-17 touched down in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, just days after the Jan 12/10 earthquake, while another mission flew to Chile on March 4/10 in response to that country’s Feb 27/10 earthquake. Boeing release.

Oct 6/09: GSP. An $11.5 million contract to exercise the FY 2010 option for the continued performance of the C-17 Globemaster III Sustainment Partnership for Qatar Emiri Air Force aircraft. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated (FA8614-04-C-2004).

Boeing provides Qatar’s C-17s with operational support, including material management and depot maintenance support, under the C-17 Globemaster III Sustainment Partnership at Al Udeid Air Base, where the QEAF’s C-17s are based.

Sept 10/09: #2. Boeing delivers the QEAF’s 2nd C-17 Globemaster III during a ceremony at the company’s C-17 final assembly facility in Long Beach, completing Qatar’s initial order.

Qatar 02 will make a brief stop at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., before heading to its new home at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. It is registered as a military aircraft yet bears the same gray, maroon and white livery seen on government-owned Qatar Airways commercial jetliners. Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al-Malki, head of Qatar’s airlift selection committee, says that this unique C-17 paint scheme is intended to build awareness of Qatar’s participation when it is used during multinational operations around the world. Boeing release.

Aug 11/09: #1. Boeing formally delivers delivered Qatar’s 1st C-17 Globemaster III airlifter during a ceremony at the company’s facility in Long Beach, CA. Actual use in Qatar is dependent on the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s plans and requirements regarding testing and training. Boeing will formally deliver Qatar’s 2nd C-17 later in 2009. Boeing release.

July 31/09: GSP. A $64.4 million modification to the international C-17 Globemaster III Sustainment Partnership contract, which will add sustainment support the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s C-17 aircraft during FY 2009-2011. At this time, $6.7 million has been committed by the MSWE/516 AESG/PK at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8614-04-V-2004).

July 21/08: Qatar signs an agreement with Boeing to buy 2 C-17 airlifters and associated equipment and services, with an option for 2 more. Because it’s a Direct Commercial Sale, Boeing isn’t required to divulge the terms. Boeing release.

July 11/08: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF format] Qatar’s official request for logistics support, training, and associated equipment and services, to accompany the 2 C-17s it’s buying via direct commercial sale.

The proposed services will require 10 U.S. Government and contractor representatives to participate in training, and be present for technical reviews twice per year. The total value of the support arrangements could be as high as $400 million.

Qatar buys 2

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

JSTARS Replacement: Competition Opened Wide

Defense Industry Daily - Wed, 17/06/2015 - 02:05
E-8C JSTARS Connectivity
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The USA’s 17-plane E-8C J-STARS (Joint Surveillance Targeting and Attack Radar System) fleet’s ability to monitor enemy ground movements over very wide areas, while seeing through problematic weather conditions, has made it an invaluable contributor to every US military ground campaign over the last 15+ years. Other countries are finally introducing similar capabilities, but the JSTARS fleet size, maturity, and array of functions make it a unique class asset for America’s entire alliance structure. All Boeing 707 family E-8 Joint STARS aircraft are assigned to the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base, GA, a “total-force blended wing” with active-duty Air Force, Army and Air National Guard personnel.

An asset like that needs to be kept current, or replaced with something that is. E-8 planes have received both system upgrades and R&D work, in order to improve aircraft readiness and operating costs. A 3rd round of upgrades is beginning, but the USAF seems to be leaning toward a limited future for its battlefield surveillance and relay planes.

Improving JSTARS JT8D pod on E-8C
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Plans to improve JSTARS have focused on 3 main areas.

One is the planes’ aged Pratt & Whitney TF33-102C engines. By 2011, an R&D program had proved out a replacement concept involving PW’s JT8D-219 engines in a pod-based kit, but the USAF hasn’t funded fleet conversion.

The 2nd area involves the aircraft’s electronics, which age out at a faster pace than other components. The entire force was upgraded to Block 20 status in 2005, but the use of commercial hardware and software standards only solves part of the problem. The canceled E-10A had already made big investments in an updated Battle Management Command and Control (BMC2) mission suite, but adding BMC2 to existing E-8 aircraft would involve substantial rewiring and other “deep maintenance” work. That’s time-consuming and expensive.

Proteus & MP-RTIP pod
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The 3rd area involves the planes’ radar and sensors. J-STARS operations have to contend with their AN/APY-7 radar’s limitations, which have been underscored by the challenges inherent in campaigns against stateless terrorists and counter-insurgency fights. One is that the radar has to “break track” with a target, in order to collect an image. Another is the radar’s resolution, which is adequate to find tanks and ground vehicles, but doesn’t reach the under 1 meter resolution of current technologies. It isn’t difficult to imagine that a J-STARS or Global Hawk would need to perform wide area scans, while focusing with higher resolution on one target of interest, and occasionally taking high-resolution synthetic aperture radar pictures for transmission to HQ or other platforms, all at the same time.

The E-8C J-STARS can’t do that at the moment, but the architecture of AESA radar arrays is making this sort of thing possible on platforms like advanced fighters. Understandably, the USAF wanted this capability for its reconnaissance aircraft. A new AESA radar called MP-RTIP was originally developed for the (canceled) E-10A JSTARS replacement, with a claimed 5x – 10x resolution improvement over the JSTARS’ APY-7. A smaller version will now be mounted on Global Hawk Block 40 UAVs, and one obvious approach would be to equip E-8s with a full-size MP-RTIP or a similar radar.

The cost of that conversion has pushed the USAF away from that idea, while looking at other methods to improve the platform. The JSTARS Radar Modernization (JSRM) replaced 2 radar receivers with 1 modern receiver, improving resolution and tracking. 2011 tests added a keel beam accessory bay (KAB) behind the APY-7 radar, and installed a high-resolution MS-177 multispectral camera for sub 1-meter resolution and target identification. The KAB could accommodate other sensors instead, which would add flexibility to the platform. A February 2013 test even added MP-RTIP, after a fashion. It showed that E-8s could stream MP-RTIP radar data from a RQ-4B Block 40 UAV for analysis on board, then use the E-8’s superior communications systems to distribute the results.

JSTARS Upgrades: Current Plans & Progress Re-engined JSTARS
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In April 2013, the USAF’s FY 2014 JSTARS budget entry explained some of the program’s remaining parameters. They break down into 2 main areas. One is Spiral Development, and accompanying efforts to keep training systems up to date. The other is the core electronics problem of parts that are going out of production, called “Diminishing Manufacturing Sources.” The submission also explained what happened to the re-engining program.

Re-engining. The USAF has terminated the re-engining program without completing System Design and Development, though they did develop a design and successfully fly an aircraft with it. What’s left? Completion of all logistics development tasks and operational tests.

Spiral Development. This involves various technology development/insertions to enhance target identification, data processing & transmittal, and weapon control capabilities, such as:

  • JSTARS Net Enabled Weapons (JNEW) and Joint Surface Warfare (JSuW). JSuW-JNEW activities include participation in the JSuW Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) and Engineering and Manufacturing Development for Network Enabled Weapons (NEW) which includes, but is not limited to Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Air Surface Warfare-Anti-Surface Warfare (JASSM-ASuW).
  • JSTARS Radar Modernization (JSRM). The JSRM activities apply MP-RTIP receiver technology to JSTARS, replacing 2 current receivers with a single receiver based on modern technology.
  • Blue Force Tracker (BFT).
  • Battlefield Airborne Communication Node (BACN) compatibility, allowing the E-8 to work with the USAF’s airborne communications relay and translation fleet of EQ-11A Global Express jets, and EQ-4B Global Hawk drones.
  • Combat identification and future program planning for Analysis of Alternatives recommendations.

Future program planning activities include but are not limited to:

  • Modular equipment enclosure (MEE)
  • Automatic identification system (AIS)
  • Analyst support architecture (ASA) software
  • Common data link (CDL) integration

Spiral development also supports requirements that arise quickly under current and future Urgent Operational Needs (UON), quick reaction capabilities (QRCs), top-down directed efforts, requirements definition, capability gap analysis, pre-Milestone A (MS A) technical risk reduction activities, Blue Force Tracker, multi-agency communication capability (MACC) and the Air Force tactical receive system (AFTRS) radio replacement for the integrated broadcast service (IBS) data, other large airborne platform integration efforts including self-defense suite (SDS), and radar & aircraft performance improvements. Equipment developed under spiral development are procured under Kill Chain Enhancement-MN-38203.

Avionics Diminishing Manufacturing Sources. Av-DMS efforts deal with electronics that are either out of production or about to be. Fixing the problem could involve buying a lot of spares, but it often involves redesigning affected systems to use modern electronics. JSTARS has a long list, and its efforts include, but are not limited to:

  • Aircraft Information Program (AIP)
  • Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS)
  • Communications
  • Navigation
  • Surveillance and Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) upgrades
  • Control and Display Unit (CDU) Replacement
  • Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT)
  • Flight Data Recorder (FDR)
  • Electronic Flight Bag (EFB)
  • Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF)
  • Embedded GPS Inertial (EGI) with Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM)/M-Code GPS
  • Digital Multi-Function Flight Display (Attitude Direction Indicator
  • Horizontal Situation Indicator and Attitude Heading Reference System)
  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B)
  • A new flight management system (FMS)
  • Flight director
  • Instrument Landing System (ILS) Marker Beacon multi-mode receiver (MMR)
  • Digital engine instruments.

Additional Modernization efforts include interoperability with manned and unmanned platforms (q.v. Feb 25/13 entry); space data links; advanced Battle-Management Command and Control (BMC2) concepts; 8.33/25 kHz VHF Radio with Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) voice and data communication; ISR Constellation; Air Moving Target Indicator (AMTI – can detect low, slow-flying aircraft); Advanced Radar Modes (ARM); Aided Target Recognition (ATR); Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)/Enhanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ESAR); Network Centric Collaborative Targeting (NCCT); and Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS) Network Architecture Upgrades (BNAU).

Pilot interview

Over the last couple of years, there has been some progress, but that’s winding down as the USAF prepares to implement its set of modifications:

FY 2011 Accomplishments: Completed JSuW Link 16 JCTD; continued JSRM radar receiver development; completed SYERS (MS-177 multispectral camera) demo in new keel bay extension; continued Avionics DMS development; completed Enhanced Land Maritime Mode (ELMM) SDD and began production; continued CNU-JTRS replacement development; continued 8.33/25 kHz Radio with SINCGARS retrofit; continued PME DMS RASP SDD; FVB mitigation; Analysis of Alternatives; QRC efforts; and Spiral Development. Supported non-recurring engineering activity including development; FAA Certification; Flight Testing; Flight Performance Manuals; Pneumatic SDD (bleed air); Maintenance Training.

FY 2012 Accomplishments: Completed JSRM radar receiver development and began flight demo; Continued Av-DMS [Diminishing Manufacturing Sources] development and studies; Completed BNAU [SATCOM upgrades] design, and began BNAU integration and test; Continued Flight Viability Board (FVB) mitigation, QRC efforts, and Spiral Development. MIDS-JTRS tests successful, and it’s approved for E-8C fielding. Completed CNU-JTRS SDD design, integrate, test and Link 16 Concurrent Multi-Netting (CMN)-4/2,Dynamic Net Management(DNM), and Link 16 Enhanced Throughput (LET) study.

FY 2013 Plans: Will complete JSRM radar receiver flight demo, will complete Av-DMS development and studies, will complete BNAU integration and test, and will continue FVB mitigation, QRC efforts, and Spiral Development. Completed manned-unmanned interoperability test with Global Hawk Block 40 UAV and its MP-RTIP radar.

FY 2014 Plans: Will continue FVB mitigation, QRC efforts, and Spiral Development. Upgrade contract awarded (q.v. Oct 22/13).

Competition, and the E-8’s Future P-8 AGS concept
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The envisioned JSTARS upgrade program has faced continued delays, and continued shrinkage. Its current $110 million estimate is just 4% of Northrop Grumman’s initial Plan B suggestion, which indicates a focus on keeping the fleet operational rather than enhancing it significantly.

Meanwhile, competitors are proposing alternatives, as advancing technology brings similar or better capabilities within reach of smaller aircraft.

Boeing began by proposing a $5.5 billion program to replace the E-8C fleet with a derivative of its 737-based P-8A Poseidon sea control jet, instead of paying that estimated amount to upgrade the E-8Cs with new cockpits, sensors, and engines. Boeing’s P-8 AGS would include the Raytheon-Boeing Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS) or its AAS successor, Raytheon’s AN/APY-10 multi-mode radar in the nose, some of the E/A-18G Growler electronic attack plane’s ESM electronics for detection and geo-location of electro-magnetic emissions, and an electro-optical surveillance and targeting turret. Because they use current radar technologies, the P-8A’s surface-looking radars are reportedly already competitive with JSTARS. A P-8 derivative would also give the USAF space and integration for weapons or additional sensors, while keeping the P-8’s new civil-compliant avionics, new mission electronics, new airframe, and the lower operating and maintenance costs of a smaller, more advanced, and widely used jet.

Boeing’s unofficial proposal led Northrop Grumman to counter with a less expensive “Plan B” radar improvement option, using 1 foot x 8 foot cheek fairings derived from its top-end APG-77 and APG-81 fighter radars. This would be combined with a keel beam accessory bay (KAB), which can also include other sensors like long-range cameras for positive personal identification. Northrop Grumman contended that this would drop the E-8 fleet’s upgrade price to around $2.7 billion: $900 million for re-engining, $500 million for new APY-7 receivers and exciters, $1 billion for the cheek array, and $300 million for avionics upgrade and battle management improvements.

UK: Sentinel R1
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After 2013, it appears that the USAF would rather spend that kind of money on new jets that offer modern capabilities from the outset, and cost much less to operate. 737s are cheaper to run than 707s, but several competitors are looking even smaller, to business and regional jets from Bombardier, Embraer, and Gulfstream. Initial solicitations are due soon, and the USAF is imagining a modern fleet beginning to enter service around 2022.

Raytheon has already created the ASTOR Sentinel R1 for Britain, using Bombardier’s Challenger 604. Brazil uses Embraer’s P-99B, based on their ERJ-145. Lockheed Martin’s Dragon Star/ Net Dragon MULTI-INT rental uses a Gulfstream III, and they’ve been working with Italy in Afghanistan. Boeing offers their P-8 as a base, and they’re also supplementing it with a smaller Bombardier Challenger 604 MSA offering, which borrows the P-8’s core mission systems. The P-8A’s mission system will soon be programmed to include overland radar surveillance, so the MSA’s only barrier will involve mounting an appropriate radar.

If the USAF can’t find any recapitalization money because of budget-swallowing programs like the F-35 fighter, their options will shrink. The Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAV family’s continued momentum in the face of USAF opposition could leave the USAF dependent on USAF RQ-4B surveillance and EQ-4 BACN communications fleets to perform lesser slices of the E-8C’s roles, with the hope that improvements over time would allow flying over a wider range of conditions, and broaden each UAV’s capabilities. NATO’s pooled RQ-4B Block 40 AGS fleet would also be available for a set number of hours each year.

The US Navy could also take over a chunk of this role. USN P-3Cs have already been used for overland surveillance in CENTCOM, and their 737-based P-8A Poseidon replacements will gain an extremely capable surface-looking AAS radar by 2019 or so (P-8A Increment 3). Poseidon’s MQ-4C Triton UAV companion is a Global Hawk derivative with its own surveillance capabilities, including an advanced surface-scanning AN/ZPY-3 AESA radar that’s currently optimized for maritime surveillance.

Contracts and Key Events FY 2015

Replacement competition. Inside the E-8C
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June 17/15: Following Northrop Grumman, L-3, General Dynamics and Gulfstream’s lead, a competing team of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Bombardier are now positioning to compete for the Air Force’s JSTARS recap program. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin had previously announced their intention to partner for the competition, with Bombardier set to bring their long-range business jet to the team, to complement Raytheon’s sensor portfolio and Lockheed Martin’s system integration expertise. The Air Force has also opened up the competition to European firms.

June 15/15: Northrop Grumman has partnered with General Dynamics, Gulfstream and L-3 to compete for work on the Air Force’s Joint STARS (JSTARS) recap program. In March the Air Force opened up the competition to European firms, with other US competitors including a Raytheon/Lockheed Martin team, with the JSTARS replacement program pushed back in February to a revised deadline of 2023. The newly-announced team will most likely base their replacement platform on the Gulfstream G550 business jet.

March 11/15: Air Force throws competition open to European aviation firms. Airbus, Dassault and Bombardier may now be invited to compete for a JSTARS replacement. The initial decision to attempt a replacement with a Boeing 767-based airframe with Northrop Grumman was cancelled due to gushing costs. The Air Force is opening it up to international competition. The service also indicated that it would like to see an airframe that is smaller than the original JSTARS Boeing 707 E-8C.

Feb 19/15: Lockheed teams with Raytheon. Lockheed is teaming with Raytheon in its bid for the JSTARS replacement program, bringing its active array sensor technology to the competition. Other competitors include Boeing, and incumbent Northrop Grumman. The JSTARS replacement program was pushed back a year to 2023 with the Administration’s initial budget announced a couple weeks prior.

Nov 17/14: What’s next? Northrop Grumman hasn’t made any commitments regarding the pending E-8 JSTARS replacement competition (q.v. June 17/14), except to say that they will participate. They have a solid base to build on from their E-8 JSTARS, their MP-RTIP radar now flying on RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40s, and their effort to develop the canceled E-10A’s command and battle management system. They’re even doing advance testing already:

“Since this whole thing began, we’ve been doing all of the required things you would expect in terms of risk reduction, requirements analysis, trying to understand the system architecture,” [Alan Metzger] said. Northrop has refined its battle management command-and-control software and integrated it with assorted computers, communications systems and sensors within a Gulfstream 550 testbed.”

Why the G550? It is flown by Israel in AEW&C and SIGINT/ELINT roles, but the real reason is that it’s basically the smallest aircraft under consideration for the role. If you know what’s possible there, you have a known lowest baseline to adjust from, depending on what the USAF’s RFP spits out. With that said, this course of action does convey a pretty clear sense in the industry that the USAF is looking for something a lot smaller than the E-8C. Sources: NDIA Magazine, “JSTARS Contractor Joins Modernization Competition”.

FY 2011 – 2014

JSSIP III restrained improvements contract; Demonstrations: Advanced camera sensor, Streaming for Global Hawk radar data; USAF leaning toward replacement not upgrades. E-8C JSTARS
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June 17/14: What’s next? The USAF is looking at options for recapitalizing JSTARS, with Initial Operating Capability of 4 planes by 2022, in order to counter escalating operations and maintenance costs. The planes need to accomodate about 13 crew and a 13? – 20? radar, stay on station for 8 hours with aerial refueling capability for more, and reach 38,000 feet. The USAF plans to ask for $2.4 billion over the next 5 years, but the dollars don’t really exist to launch another major USAF program. Hence USAF JSTARS recapitalization branch chief Lt. Col. Michael Harm:

“With the completion of the 2011 JSTARS mission area analysis of alternatives study and the onset of Budget Control Act-directed budget levels, it became clear that the future of the JSTARS weapons system lay in a more cost-effective platform as compared to extending the lifecycle of the current 707 airframes.” ….The Air Force is currently drafting requirements for the program, which will be finalized by early 2015, Harm said. In order to keep the system affordable, it plans on using commercial, off-the-shelf equipment and minimizing new technology development.”

Boeing is expected to enter its P-8, which is already configured for the mission and the above requirements once the LSR radar is added. Added costs would be limited to expansion of communications links and software development, and Navy commonality would be a big plus.

Raytheon’s Sentinel R1 already serves in the JSTARS role with Britain’s RAF, and the smaller Bombardier jet needs ongoing system and software development to reach its full potential. Operating costs would be lower, expanding the current USA-UK Airseeker RC-135V Rivet Joint ELINT/SIGINT partnership to encompass Sentinel R1s is a thinkable option, and Bombardier can lean on Raytheon and/or its Learjet subsidiary as the American lead. Aerial refueling might be the issue, given Sentinel’s configuration and the USAF’s insistence on dorsal boom refueling.

Gulfstream is looking to do something similar by partnering up and offer either the G550, which is already in use by Israel and its customers in AEW&C (CAEW) or ELINT/SIGINT (SEMA) variants, or the longer-range G650. They say that the’ve done the design work for aerial refueling, but haven’t had a customer take them up on it yet. E-8 JSTARS lead Northrop Grumman, who led the canceled E-10A program and retains key technologies, is a very logical partnering choice. With that said, Lockheed Martin has their own expertise to offer, and their Dragon Star ISR aircraft-for-lease is a Gulfstream.

The USA’s default option, of course, is to do nothing. The E-8C fleet would then become vulnerable to future fleet-sized USAF cuts. Meanwhile the P-8As would field in the Navy and informally take over some of the JSTARS role, alongside USAF UAVs like RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40 and its EQ-4 BACN counterpart. Sources: NDIA National Defense, “Industry Ready to Compete for JSTARS Recapitalization Program”.

Oct 22/13: JSSIP III. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Melbourne, FL receives a sole-source $414.5 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity Joint STARS System Improvement Program III contract, with a combination of firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive-firm, and cost-plus-fixed-fee elements. the. JSSIP III aims to improve E-8C performance, capability, reliability and maintainability, but won’t touch the plane’s engines.

Sources in Washington suggest that the scope of this program has been squeezed repeatedly from all sides, as the contractor and USAF worked hard to find new solutions, and a common ground that can attract and keep funding. What emerged was a minimalist upgrade focused on replacing operator work stations (OWS) and radar signal processor computers, installs larger OWS displays, and migrates the OWS operating system to a LINUX-based, open-system architecture. Upgrades to the system’s on-board network infrastructure increase its bandwidth. Sources say that the initial $43 million contract will buy 7 conversion kits, with follow-ons for up to 9 more kits and for installation work. The entire set of actual awards would reportedly spend just $110 million of this contract.

Note that the JSTARS Total System Support Responsibility (TSSR) contract is due for renewal very soon. It’s instructive to compare the relative costs of the USAF’s sustainment contract vs. this upgrade contract, in order to fully understand the cost of this fleet.

Work will be performed at Melbourne FL, and is expected to be complete by Oct 20/20. USAF Material Command’s Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA will manage the contract (FA8730-14-D-0002). See also Northrop Grumman, Oct 30/13 release.

JSSIP III upgrades

Oct 21/13: At AUSA 2013, Northrop Grumman’s booth displays a small “Broadcast GMTI” kit, which would allow the E-8C to send its radar pictures directly to nearby ground forces. GMTI stands for “Ground Moving Target Indicator” software, which helps battlefield radars highlight and track moving targets. The aircraft is already being used as a communication relay, so bandwidth isn’t a problem.

Sept 23/13: Replace it. USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh tells AFA’s Air and Space Conference that the USAF prefers outright replacement of JSTARS. It’s Tier 2 behind the F-35, KC-46A, and new bomber, which means it probably isn’t affordable under actual budgets. Nevertheless, Walsh says the USAF is trying to build a plan for providing battlefield surveillance “at the best cost over time” using an analysis of alternatives.

There’s definitely a need. The 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron has flown the overall JSTARS fleet an average of 19.4 hours each day since 9/11. Other USAF officials say that the E-8 fleet’s depot track record, the need to replace their electronics, and their size and old engines makes them less competitive than alternatives.

Technologies have advanced considerably. Boeing’s 737-based P-8 AGS is one option, offering the USAF the most room for specialized equipment, and a platform with many key systems already finished via US Navy development funds. Elsewhere around the world, even smaller platforms are flying this mission. Israel operates a SEMA variant of the G550 large business jet, Brazil offers the R-99B/ EMB 145 Multi-Intel based on its ERJ-145 regional jet, and Britain’s Sentinel R1 fleet uses a Bombardier Global Express long-range business jet airframe. Sources: USAF 116th ACW, “JSTARS Recapitalization” | AFA Air Force Magazine, “Replacing JSTARS”.

Feb 25/13: Global Hawk + E-8. A flight test involving the T-3 JSTARS test aircraft and an RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40 drone streams data from the UAV’s superior radar to the E-8. Northrop Grumman program director Bryan Lima states that:

“Operators in the Joint STARS aircraft were able to use the Global Hawk as an adjunct sensor…. We were able to display and use the Global Hawk’s radar data on the Joint STARS platform to extend and improve the overall surveillance capabilities and utility of both platforms.”

Sources: Northrop Grumman, March 6/13 release.

Jan 17/13: MIDS JTRS. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). MIDS JTRS is included, and there’s some good news: FY 2012 testing showed that many of the 2010 IOT&E test’s deficiencies have been fixed.

MIDS JTRS on the E-8C JSTARS was declared operationally effective and suitable, but with limitations. The system worked, with no terminal failures in 114.3 hours of testing. The problem is that terminal operators had display problems, which needs to be fixed.

Within the same volume as the MIDS-LVT, the software-defined MIDS JTRS will be able to handle Link 16 with NSA certified encryption, Link-16 Enhanced Throughput (ET) and Link-16 Frequency Remapping (FR). It will also have TACAN (a tactical air navigation aid providing range and bearing from a beacon), UHF or VHF, and the Wideband Networking Waveform as communication options, and additional capabilities are implemented on 3 additional programmable channels from 2 MHz – 2 GHz. The US Navy is continuing development of 2 major MIDS JTRS increments: CMN-4 (Link 16 four-channel Concurrent Multi-Netting with Concurrent Retention Receive) and TTNT (Tactical Targeting Networking Technology). These new capabilities may require significant hardware and software design changes to the MIDS JTRS core terminal, as well as modifications to host platforms for TTNT. That adds considerable technical risk, and will require extensive testing.

April 4/12: MIDS-JTRS. The MIDS JTRS terminal is approved for Full Production and Fielding by Mr. Frank Kendall, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Despite earlier problems with ViaSat terminal, both MIDS-JTRS vendors have now been found Operationally Effective and Operationally Suitable by Commander, Operational Test & Evaluation Force (COTF) and Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E), and will soon attain Initial Operational capability (IOC) on 3 different platforms: the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter family, the E-8C JSTARS battlefield surveillance & communication aircraft, and the RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic eavesdropping plane. JPEO JTRS [PDF]

March 14/11: Sensors. Northrop Grumman announces that they’ve completed Congress-mandated installation and testing of an MS-177 multispectral camera that adds visual imagery on top of the E-8C’s AN/APY-7 synthetic aperture radar pictures. Adding camera capability means permission to launch attacks in minutes, instead of hours, with no need to confirm using other platforms like UAVs.

The 500 pound Goodrich MS-177 sensor, derived from the U-2 spy plane’s Syers-2 camera, can keep focus on a target that’s head-on at the start of the plane’s pass and moves to the side as the plane flies, instead of being limited to side shots. It’s housed in a new keel beam accessory bay (KAB) behind the APY-7 radar, on JSTARS test aircraft T-3.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems director of Joint STARS’ architectures and concept demonstrations, Mike Mos, touts the key benefit as identification: “From long distances, the APY-7 radar combined with the MS-177 camera could identify very clearly people, buildings, automobiles and ships.” The APY-7 radar has been tweaked so it can spot moving individuals, a well as tanks, but attacks can’t be launched based on radar images alone. Some other form of positive identification is required, typically photos or video images. Cameras provide sharper images than the APY-7, and even the new MP-RTIP radar can’t tell you, for example, the registration number painted on a ship’s side. Or see a face.

The test has wider implications. The KAB could contain other sensors, creating other opportunities to expand the E-8’s payloads. Next steps for the team include more aerodynamic modeling and testing with the new fairing, and research into other sensor combinations. The team hopes this will pave the way for low percentage cost, high impact upgrades to the entire 17-plane fleet. See also Defense News re: initial September 2010 installation.

FY 2005 – 2010

$500+ million upgrade contract; E-8C Block 20 conversions finished; MP-RTIP radar progresses, slowly; Boeing submits a counter-proposal to the USAF. E-8 JSTARS
(click to view full)

Sept 24/10: MP-RTIP. Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Western Region in El Segundo, CA receives a $12.3 million contract modification which will fund MP-RTIP radar system development and demonstration for integration with the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 program. At this time, the entire amount has been committed by the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA (F19628-00-C-0100; PO0220).

Sept 13/10: P-8 AGS. The battle over the E-8 JSTARS fleet’s future is heating up. Boeing is proposing a derivative of its P-8A Poseidon sea control aircraft as a proposed $5.5 billion, 1-for-1 replacement of the current E-8C fleet, instead of paying that estimated amount to upgrade the E-8Cs with new cockpits, sensors, and engines. The Boeing AGS version would include the Raytheon-Boeing Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS), Raytheon’s AN/APY-10 multi-mode radar in the nose, some the same Electronic Support Measures for emissions geo-location that are featured on the E/A-18G Growler electronic attack plane, and an electro-optical surveillance and targeting turret. A P-8 derivative would also give the USAF space and integration for weapons on board, or additional sensors in those spaces.

Northrop Grumman believes the Boeing figure may be a lowball price, and has its own proposal to add 1′ x 8′ array radars on the plane’s cheeks, derived from the firm’s APG-77 and APG-81 AESA radars that equip F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters. Today, JSTARS operations have to “break track” with a target to collect an image. The cheek fairings would solve that problem, while keeping the existing AN/APY-7, in order to lower the upgrade price to around $2.7 billion: $900M re-engining, $500M for new APY-7 receiver and exciters, $1 billion for the cheek array, $300M for avionics upgrade and battle management improvements. This would replace the previous push to swap the APY-7 for their new MP-RTIP radar.

Northrop Grumman executives have expressed concern that USAF officials haven’t showed them the 2009 initial capabilities document, which could launch a competition to replace or upgrade the E-8C. That isn’t a required step, but it is common practice. This may be because the USAF is considering even wider options – like putting the focus on “persistent ground looking radar and optical surveillance with high resolution moving target capability,” instead of an E-8C vs. 737 AGS competition. If so, the firms could find themselves competing with other platforms, possibly including derivatives of airship projects like Northrop Grumman’s US Army’s LEMV etc. Aviation Week | Flight International.

Boeing’s alternative

July 13/10: Sub-contractors. Tactical Communications Group, LLC announces a contract from Northrop Grumman’s E-8 JSTARS team for multiple TCG BOSS systems, in order to conduct comprehensive testing for Link 16 standards compliance by the new mission system and MIDS-JTRS terminals.

March 24/10: Sub-contractors. Curtiss-Wright Corporation announces a $10.5 million contract from Northrop Grumman Corporation to provide an upgraded Radar Signal Processing (RSP) solution for use in the JSTARS program. The initial portion of the contract, for $5.1 million, was awarded to cover “Prime Mission Equipment (PME) Diminishing Material Source (DMS),” ensuring that the USAF will have enough on hand in future. An additional $5.4 million was awarded to enhance the RSP solution “so that it meets advanced radar processing capacity requirements necessary to support future radar performance needs.”

The contract is part of a larger upgrade to the RASP (Radar Airborne Signal Processor (RASP) system used in Joint STARS. Curtiss-Wright’s Motion Control segment will design and manufacture the Radar Signal Processing (RSP) solutions at its San Diego, CA facility.

March 13/09: Accident. A contractor leaves a plug an E-8 fuel tank relief valve – and it nearly costs the USAF a JSTARS plane and all aboard when the wing fuel tank blows out during an aerial refueling near Qatar:

“The PDM [Programmed Depot Maintenance] subcontractor failed to follow Technical Order (TO) mandated procedures when employing the fuel vent test plug during PDM. Due to the relatively short period of time between take-off and [aerial refueling], the [aircraft] did not have the opportunity to burn a substantial amount of fuel from the number two fuel tank which could have allowed the “dive flapper” valve to open after the tank’s excessive air pressure decreased to the point where the flapper valve would open. This explains why this mishap did not occur… between the time [the plane] left the PDM facility and the time of the mishap [on March 13/09].”

The damage is “only” $25 million, and the JSTARS may end up being retired from the fleet. Sources; USAF Accident Report [PDF] | Defense Tech, “A Basic Mistake That Trashed a JSTARS” (incl. pictures).

Major but non-fatal accident

Aug 7/09: MP-RTIP. Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Western Region in El Segundo, CA received a $57.1 million modified contract to provide a demonstration unit of the initial parts of the MP-RTIP for the Joint Stars E-8 platform. At this time, $27.2 million has been committed by the Multi-Sensor Command and Control Aircraft Program Office at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA (F19628-00-C-0100 P00174).

Nov 4/08: MP-RTIP. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. of El Segundo, CA receives a $5.8 million cost reimbursement with award fee contract modification under the Joint STARS Radar Modernization program. They will perform a risk reduction study to examine the full extent of the effort required to integrate the (now-canceled) E-10’s planned MP-RTIP radar onto the E-8 JSTARS platform. All funds have already been committed by Hanscom AFB, MA (F19629-00-C-0100, Modification P00153).

Work on the study will be done at Northrop Grumman facilities in Norwalk, CT; Melbourne, FL; and El Segundo, CAl and Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems business unit. See also Northrop Grumman release.

April 8/09: In “Air Force Radar Plan Imperils Troops,” the center-libertarian Lexington Institute asks:

“What’s wrong with this picture? The Air Force plans to spend over a hundred billion dollars to buy 2,000 new fighters, but it can’t find the money to upgrade a handful of radar planes with better technology for tracking insurgents. Even though it has already spent a billion dollars to develop the new technology it now says it can’t afford to install. And even though warfighters in Iraq have identified an urgent operational need for the new capability.”

Nov 21/05: Upgrades. Northrop Grumman Corp. in Melbourne, FL receives a maximum $532 million cost-reimbursement fixed-price contract to procure improvements which will increase the E-8C fleet’s performance, reliability, and maintainability. The USAF can issue task orders totaling up to the maximum amount, but may issue less.

This contract will include a wide range of efforts, from studies to systems engineering and simulations, engineering change proposals, manufacturing, installation, test and demonstrations, production and retrofit, documentation, support, and training. The USAF is currently most interested in improvements to communications, navigation, surveillance, air traffic management, mobile target tracking, advanced radar systems, and airborne networking and communications improvements.

Work will be complete in December 2011. Solicitations began in August 2005, with 1 proposal received by the Headquarters Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, MA (FA8708-06-D-0001).

Contract for studies & upgrades

Aug 16/05: Northrop Grumman completes E-8C Block 20 upgrades to JSTARS planes delivered before 2002. Block 20 upgrades use integrated commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) computing and signal-processing hardware from Mercury Computer Systems and Compaq Computer Corporation. The full change creates more of an “open-systems” configuration for hardware and software, rather than relying on proprietary military electronics. Sources: Northrop Grumman, “Northrop Grumman Completes Joint STARS Computer Upgrade”.

Block 20 complete

Appendix A: Death of the E-10 E-10 M2CA Concept
(click to view full)

The E-10A aircraft concept sought to combine the functions of 707-based E-3 AWACS aerial surveillance and command aircraft, and E-8 J-STARS ground surveillance planes, all packaged in a single 767-400 jet. Advances in modern electronics made the project thinkable, but budgetary constraints killed it in early 2007, leaving the USA’s existing E-3 and E-8 fleets to soldier on.

The E-10A had 2 key technologies that continue to draw interest.

One was an updated Battle Management Command and Control (BMC2) mission suite that would be used as the aircraft’s nerve center. The bad news is that adding BMC2 to existing aircraft would involve substantial rewiring and other “deep maintenance” work.

The other was the MP-RTIP (Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program) wide-scan AESA radar, which will deploy a smaller-size version on NATO’s AGS (RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40) fleet. Northrop Grumman has been pressing for an E-8C radar upgrade that would leverage their billion dollars worth of work on MP-RTIP, and improve E-8 scan resolution by a factor of 5x-10x.

Since December 2000, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have been teamed for the design, development and production of MP-RTIP, and development of MP-RTIP continues under a $1.2 billion program. Its X-band Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar uses beam steering that can couple electronic and mechanical options. Specifics will depend on the platform and payload space, and antenna size can be tailored accordingly.

MP-RTIP’s Rocky Road RQ-4B Block 40 rollout
(click to view full)

As of the end of May 2009, MP-RTIP was behind its original schedule, and had not tested its most advanced variants. While the basic synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and ground moving target indications (GMTI) have finished testing, technical glitches took their toll. Due to issues with radar calibration, about 376 hours and 64 flights with Scaled Composites’ Proteus vehicle had been needed to iron out radar system level performance verification (RSLPV) on these basic modes, out of a total of 1,063 hours and 186 flights as of May 2009.

The MP-RTIP is reportedly having problems with “concurrent modes” when the radar is asked to do several things at once, which has cause high-level Pentagon officials to air their dissatisfaction in public.

Remaining modes in 2009 included ground high-range resolution (HRR) and concurrent moving-target indicator (MTI) modes. The HRR/c-MTI combination leverages the advantages of AESA technology and improved processing, in order to field a substantially improved SAR/GMTI ground radar scan. Ground HRR allows more precise measurement of a target’s length, while concurrent MTI does not force the radar to suspend collection in other modes while MTI is running. Some sources add that MP-RTIP will also have aerial MTI capability, which would give it the ability to find other UAVs and cruise missiles.

Additional Readings Background: E-8 JSTARS

Other E-8 related

News & Views

Lexington Institute (April 8/09) – Air Force Radar Plan Imperils Troops.

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

US firms receive approval from DBA to begin Denmark’s MH-60R production

Naval Technology - Wed, 17/06/2015 - 01:00
The Danish Business Authority (DBA) has approved four US companies to begin the first phase of industrial cooperation projects to deliver MH-60R Seahawk helicopters and associated services to Denmark.
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USMC’s MV-22 Osprey conducts first successfully lands aboard Dutch warship

Naval Technology - Wed, 17/06/2015 - 01:00
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Raytheon completes testing and evaluation live fires of new AIM-9X missile

Naval Technology - Wed, 17/06/2015 - 01:00
The US Navy and Raytheon have completed the operational testing and evaluation live-fires of the AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II infrared air-to-air missile.
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HMS Sultan conducts operational sea training exercise

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Interview with German Naval Aviation Command on Naval Helicopter Integration

DefenceIQ - Tue, 16/06/2015 - 06:00
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No CAS? No Problem! Ground-Launched SDB could close the gap

DefenceIQ - Tue, 16/06/2015 - 06:00
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Global Offshore Patrol Vessels 2015: Active Programmes Map

DefenceIQ - Tue, 16/06/2015 - 06:00
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The MQ-4C Triton: Poseidon’s Unmanned Herald

Defense Industry Daily - Tue, 16/06/2015 - 02:50
BAMS Operation Concept
(click to view full)

The world’s P-3 Orion fleets have served for a long time, and many are reaching the end of their lifespans. In the USA, and possibly beyond, the new P-8 Poseidon Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft will take up the P-3’s role. While the P-8’s base 737-based airframe offers strong service & maintenance arguments in its favor, the airframe is expensive enough that the P-3s cannot be replaced on a 1:1 basis.

In order to extend the P-8 fleet’s reach, and provide additional capabilities, the Poseidon was expected to work with at least one companion UAV platform. This DID FOCUS Article explains the winning BAMS (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance) concept, the program’s key requirements, and its international angle. We’ll also cover ongoing contracts and key events related to the program, which chose Northrop Grumman’s navalized MQ-4C Triton Global Hawk variant.

Next-Gen Maritime Patrol Systems: Issues and Options USN ERJ-145 ACS concept

The P-3 fleet’s heavy use in both maritime surveillance and overland roles points up a potential problem with its successor the P-8A Poseidon. The 737-based aircraft will be bought in fewer numbers than the aircraft it replaces, but its high end Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS) capabilities could quickly turn it into a sort of “mini-JSTARS,” making it a platform with strong maritime and land surveillance capabilities like NATO’s similar sized Airbus 321-based AGS battlefield surveillance aircraft.

As an expensive but in-demand asset, the P-8’s coverage scope could easily translate into a fleet run ragged by high flight hours per airframe, and forced into early retirement. See the Strategic Review article “Brittle Swords: Low-Density, High-Demand Assets” [PDF] for more background on this phenomenon.

The logical response is to pair the P-8s with a lower cost counterpart.

Hence the P-8 Poseidon’s companion Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV program, run by NAVAIR’s PMA-263 program management office.

BAMS: Requirements and Missions NGC on BAMS
click to play video

The BAMS UAV is formally designated MQ-4C Triton: “M” as a multi-mission aircraft, even though all of its missions are ISR/reconnaissance missions.

The name fits. In mythology, Triton was Poseidon’s son, and the messenger of the sea. Tritons will work with the P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft on missions that will include maritime surveillance, collection of enemy order of battle information, battle damage assessment, port surveillance, communication relay; plus support for maritime interdiction, surface warfare, battlespace management, and targeting for maritime and strike missions. MQ-4C Increment 3 UAVs and beyond are slated to add SIGINT capabilities, to capture enemy communication and radar transmissions. They would begin replacing the current EP-3 fleet in that role.

The MQ-4C UAV’s required capabilities definitely placed it at the high end of today’s UAV spectrum. BAMS had to be capable of a completely pre-programmed mission track, communication plan, and sensor employment plan, with manual override possible to support real-time control and/or re-tasking. The baseline requirement for operation with the P-8A is currently Level II control (receipt of sensor data to/from), with a proposal to quickly increase to Level IV (full control except landings) in the P-8A’s first improvement cycle. It also needed the ability to land on its own if necessary, however, using pre-surveyed and pre-programmed air fields.

Many of those capabilities are already present in existing medium UAVs. The requirements that follow are not.

BAMS: expected ‘orbits’
(click to view full)

BAMS had to have a minimum mission radius of 3,000 nautical miles, with a 10 hour time to on-station at 2,000 nmi mission radius, and autonomous flight through moderate icing or turbulence. More to the point, the requirements were expressly crafted for persistence. They included an 80% Estimated Time On Station (ETOS) for a group of BAMS platforms, over a period of 1 week (168 hours). That means UAVs in the air, within their assigned patrol zones at an estimated 900 nmi distance from launch, for 134 hours out of 168. That’s the minimum – the goal is 95% ETOS, or almost 160/168 hours.

The Navy saw BAMS UAVs employed within 5 “orbits” around the globe, with no more than 3 UAVs operating at the same time within each orbit. While this may make BAMS seem like a tiny program, consider the fact that all aircraft have fatigue lifespans measured in flight hours. Many fighters have lifespans of 10,000-12,000 hours. Transport aircraft can reach 30,000-40,000 hours, with major rebuilds along the way. Now consider the number of UAVs required to support flight profiles within those orbits, which are estimated to sum to 43,800 on-station flight hours/year, plus flight times to and from station for each mission. Over an expected program operational lifetime of about 20 years.

BAMS also has an unlisted, but critically important, program requirement. As UAVs proliferate in this role and begin undertaking long-range missions, they’ll require enough secure bandwidth to transmit large first-pass processed data sets to accompanying aircraft or ground stations. That cannot be provided from within the BAMS program, though communications relay packages on high-altitude BAMS UAVs will help military commanders on the surface. BAMS is in turn reliant on the USA’s Global Information Grid’s future security and capacity, in order to reach its full potential.

BAMS Options BAMS/P-8 mission sets
(click to view full)

Some nations use smaller business jet derivatives for maritime surveillance, and this option was closely considered by the Navy. The joint ACS (Aerial Common Sensor) program had potential dual-use features that could have made it a maritime surveillance supplement, as well as a SIGINT/ELINT (Signals & Electronic Intelligence & intercepts) platform to replace the Navy’s aging EP-3 Aries II fleet. The ACS program’s demise has taken that option off of the table for now. As it happens, however, the Navy had already chosen a different kind of companion for its P-8.

While business jets offered economy and numbers, the US Navy believed that unmanned UAVs could bring more to the long and oft-times tedious job of maritime surveillance. They can undertake very long-endurance flights of 30 hours or more, in part because they don’t have to carry processing stations and crew, or worry about aircrew endurance.

Northrop Grumman was always the favorite to win the BAMS competition. Its unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV had already proven itself in battlefield surveillance roles around the globe, and had been used as the Navy’s GHMD/BAMS-D maritime surveillance UAV testing and concepts research.

In contrast, the General Atomics MQ-9N Mariner’s main offered efficiency at much lower flight ceilings, up to 3,000 pounds of integrated weapons, and commonality with the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper strike UAV.

Boeing’s manned/unmanned G550 business jet was the 3rd major entry, offering the largest payloads, twin-engine redundancy, and compatibility with a civilian fleet.

BAMS: The MQ-4C Triton MQ-4C Triton rollout
(click to view full)

The “RQ-4N” system chosen by the US Navy was based on the USAF’s RQ-4B Block 20 Global Hawks, but it incorporated a wide range of changes on the way to its unveiling as the MQ-4C Triton.

Sensors received the biggest overhaul. MQ-4Cs will have a more rounded belly housing for Northrop Grumman’s own 360-degree coverage AN/ZPY-3 AESA radar, as part of their Advanced Integrated Sensor Suite (AISS). Unlike conventional mechanically-scanned radars, AESA radars offer the ability to zoom in on several targets of interest, and they can do this without stopping the broader scan. That shift from Raytheon’s side-looking AESA radar used in the RQ-4B could have become a major risk factor, which was a big reason behind Northrop Grumman’s decision to field their new radar on a Gulfstream II BAMS test bed during the competition.

Beyond the radar, “Electronic Support Measures” systems that can pick-up, map, and identify radar emissions initially relied on Northrop Grumman’s LR-100, but Sierra Nevada’s Merlin ESM system was substituted in order to meet the program’s requirement for 360-degree, 300 nm/ 555 km coverage. In the visual spectrum, AISS includes an optical day/night surveillance and targeting turret.

Other sensors expected for the MQ-4C include a “due regard” radar and other systems that let them descend safely into potential air traffic over international waters (currently facing development difficulties), Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) in various modes, and of course sensor packages with additional SIGINT/ELINT equipment and other specialty mission packages. The UAV must be able to perform “first pass” processing of any data it receives, before sending it on to other ships, aircraft, and/or ground stations.

RQ-4N concept
(click to view full)

Communications. A Ka-band Wideband Gapfiller satellite link will replace the commercial Ku-band link used by the USAF, in order to ensure 100% accessibility over long stretches of water. In addition, a pair of Ku-band and X-band datalinks have been added to the fuselage sides, to act as communications relays. Those relays, plus the addition of dual Common Data Links instead of single-CDL, and Link 16 capability UHF/VHF radios with HAVE QUICK and SINCGARS capability, will allow real-time data feeds to other Navy ships and aircraft. The US Air Force is reportedly considering this upgraded set for its own Global Hawks.

On the MQ-4C, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver will allow the detection, identification, geo-location, and tracking of cooperative ships equipped with AIS transponders.

Mechanical. The need to have Navy UAVs descend and rise from altitude during over-water missions requires de-icing systems on the MQ-4C’s engine inlet, wings and tail. Strengthened wing structures were also deemed to be necessary.

One final mechanical issue concerns the Global Hawk design’s single turbofan engine. To cope with possible engine outages without losing these ultra-expensive UAVs, the USAF reportedly uses a combination of modified control software and alternate “glide-to” landing bases. When flying over vast ocean expanses, high altitude flight will be required, in order to keep the “glide-to” option alive.

BAMS: The Program

In April 2008, NAVAIR’s PMA-263 selected Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4N Global Hawk, which has since been re-designated MQ-4C. The FY 2014 budget cut the program from 70 (5 test + 65 operational UAVs) to a total of 66: 5 test + 61 operational UAVs.

BAMS Budgets from FY 2009 include:

Industrial team members include:

NGC performs Global Hawk sub-assembly work at its Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, MS, and anticipates performing final assembly at its St. Augustine, FL manufacturing center.

Triton’s Tactical Support Centers for command and control will be focused around the P-8A’s main bases: NAS Jacksonville, FL and NAS Whidbey Island, WA. Initial MQ-4C basing will include Ventura County Naval Base, at the Point Mugu, CA facility. Beyond that, NAVAIR has been tight-lipped, but reports have highlighted a few likely locations.

Andersen AFB on the island of Guam, which already supports some RQ-4 Global Hawks, is expected to become an important forward Pacific base, along with Hawaii and Diego Garcia. A fall 2013 agreement with Japan will provide for some Global Hawk basing in Japan itself, as a forward deployment from Andersen. It would be logical to expect MQ-4Cs as part of any eventual arrangement there. Australia’s Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean have also been discussed as a way of relieving congestion at Diego Garcia, while keeping RQ-4 and possibly MQ-4 UAVs closer to sea lanes and countries of interest. The required infrastructure upgrade is an issue for Australia, however, and much may depend on Australia’s own purchasing decisions regarding the MQ-4C.

Sigonella AB in Sicily, Italy is already a key Global Hawk base, and it will also house NATO’s RQ-4B Block 40 AGS fleet. It’s likely to serve as the Triton’s hub to help cover Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, but other bases in that region would make the fleet much more effective. Advanced spy planes have already flown out of the UAE, which would be very convenient for covering the Middle East and western Indian Ocean. Portugal’s Azores was a key naval air waystation for decades until NAF Lajes was inactivated in the late 1990s, and would be well positioned for operations to cover Africa’s oil-rich and piracy rich western coast. It’s worth keeping an especial eye on developments in those 2 locations.

BAMS: The International Angle Mariner UAV
(click to view full)

The US Navy has been using the RQ-4 Global Hawk as a demonstration and proving platform to refine requirements and concepts of operations for BAMS, under the GHMD(Global Hawk Maritime Demonstrator) program. Even so, UAVs aren’t widely used for maritime surveillance just yet.

Beyond America’s shores, India has successfully used Israel’s Heron and Searcher II UAVs for coastal patrol as well and overland surveillance; UAVs from their 2005 follow-on Heron order have also been pressed into service along the coasts. To the southeast, Australia has undertaken successful trials with the General Atomics’ Mariner UAV for Coast Guard duties along its resource-rich Northwest Shelf. In the Great White North, Canada is evaluating UAVs for a maritime surveillance role under its JUSTAS program; Phase 2 could even include arctic surveillance out of Goose Bay, Labrador. IAI/EADS’ Eagle UAV, and General Atomics’ Altair high-altitude UAV derived from the MQ-9 Reaper, have already been tested as part of requirements definition.

Every one of these countries could eventually end up involved in the BAMS program.

P-8i test flight
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India’s MPA competition chose the “P-8I” as their next maritime patrol aircraft. With BAMS integration already scheduled for their chosen platform, a nation that sees its responsibilities stretching across the Indian Ocean from the Straits of Malacca near Singapore, to the Persian Gulf, and down to Madagascar, has obvious uses for the compatible Triton long-range, long-endurance UAV platform.

India seems to agree with this logic, but a treaty that it hasn’t signed is in the way. MTCR was originally aimed at limiting cruise missile exports, but a jet-powered UAV shares enough characteristics to create problems. Discussions are ongoing.

The Canadians have also been approached as possible partners in the P-8A Poseidon program, as a future replacement for their P-3/CP-140 Auroras. Thus far, they have made no commitments. Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman is offering them an RQ-4 variant called “Polar Hawk” for Arctic patrol, incorporating some MQ-4C features like de-icing. The vast expanses of Canada’s north make the speed of a jet-powered UAV very attractive, Northrop Grumman will have to beat General Atomics, which is offering its jet-powered Predator C as well as its slower MQ-9 UAV. If NGC can win, adding more Global Hawks for other missions would become easier.

AP-3C: who’s next?
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Australia went even further, and made itself a partner in BAMS via its AIR 7000 program. First Pass Approval was given in September 2006, and a Project Agreement was signed on Jan 13/07. Australian Embassy personnel have attended NAVAIR PMA-263 industry days, Australian technical experts are part of the BAMS integrated project teams, and NAVAIR’s BAMS RFP now includes an “Australian Unique Option” section. BAMS had passed its Milestone B “go/no-go” decision, and was analyzing unique Australian requirements before an expected Australian second-pass approval decision that could begin Australian BAMS production in 2012, and achieve Initial Operating Capability in 2015.

In 2009, however, Australia chose to drop out of the BAMS program, with sources citing both operational stress over the P-8A’s similarly-timed introduction, and fiscal pressures. They could still choose to drop back in, and their May 2013 Letter of Request for technical information is a step in that direction. The trade-off is that they’ll be looking at more of a finished product, with less scope for free-of-charge changes.

BAMS: Contracts & Key Events BAMS cutaway
(click for full PDF)

Unless otherwise noted, all contracts originate with the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD.

FY 2015

Know MQ-4C

June 16/15: In a third and final contract awarded to Northrop Grumman on Monday, the firm was handed a $39.1 million contract to improve the current air-to-air radar subsystem design of the Navy’s MQ-4C Triton UAV and to demonstrate that the radar technology is feasible and risk-mitigated. The Navy has previously stated that it intends to fit a “due regard” radar to the Triton, as part of capability upgrade scheduled for introduction by 2020.

March 9/15: First deployment scheduled. An MQ-4c Triton will be deployed to Guam in FY 2016, according to information passed to Congress from Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations. The drone, capable of staying in the air for more than a day, was first flight tested just six months ago.

Nov 3/14: Sense-and-Avoid. After canceling the original plan for a “due regard” sense-and-avoid system to prevent collisions with other aircraft (q.v. April 9/14, Aug 13/13), the Navy has re-issued a less advanced RFI.

Instead of requiring radars that could handle ground clutter for low-altitude landings, the MQ-4C will take the more sensible approach of using airport radar data. Instead of demanding full capability up front, the Navy wants a “modular” and “scalable” design that will be improved over time. Ultimately, they want Triton to comply with ICAO ANNEX 2, Section, 3.2; U.S. Code of Regulations (CFR) Part 91.111 and 91.113; and Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 4540.01 guidelines for safe flight. But they’re willing to begin with DoDI 4540.01. Sources: #N00019-15-P7-PMA-262-0029, “MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Sense and Avoid Air-to-Air Radar Capability” | Flightglobal, “US Navy re-starts sense and avoid radar for MQ-4C”.

FY 2014

Basing; SIGINT limitations; Sense-and-
Avoid problems; Global Hawk Block 40 will have some maritime capability; Triton cuts coming? MQ-4Cs at Palmdale
(click to view full)

Sept 23/14: Cuts? Reuters reports that reliability improvements in the MQ-4C may be a double-edged sword. The target had been 68 UAVs, in order to maintain 5 “orbits” of 4 UAVs on call for continuous surveillance. Better reliability could tempt the Navy to cut the number bought. The USAF’s RQ-4B Block 40s will also have some maritime surveillance capability (April 28/14), which adds to the pressure.

FY 2015 is expected to see the first production purchases of long-lead items, but budget cuts to date have already slowed program delivery to initial use in 2017, and IOC to mid-2018 with a full orbit of 4. Sources: Reuters, “UPDATE 1-Navy says may trim Northrop drone order due to better reliability”.

Sept 18/14: Testing. After an 11-hour, 3,290 nmi cross-country flight at 50,000 feet along the Mexican border, across Florida, and then up the Eastern Seaboard, Patuxent River, MD gets its 1st MQ-4C. PMA-262’s Pax River tests will include flight envelope expansion, sensor and communications testing, and interoperability testing. Sources: “Navy’s Triton unmanned aircraft completes first cross-country flight” | NGC, “MQ-4C Triton UAS Arrives at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Enters Next Phase of Testing.”

July 4/14: Front-line thoughts. Foxtrot Alpha’s “Confessions Of A US Navy P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol Pilot” interviews a US Navy P-3C pilot who now flies P-8As. He also has some thoughts regarding the MQ-4C, and its performance compared to the current EP-3E electronic eavesdropping plane. His 3 areas of concern are bandwidth limitations, jamming, and real-time strike support:

“It is worth considering what the MQ-4C Triton can and cannot do. Any Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) operations by Triton will likely be limited by satellite bandwidth. I’m speaking from my own knowledge and assumptions here, but consider the task at hand. If you want real-time data off a UAV you have to transmit it via a satellite uplink to a ground monitoring station…. Is it more cost-effective to simply wait till the MQ-4C lands and accept that the downloaded intel will then be hours old? Maybe or maybe not.

Now let’s consider a wartime scenario. Other nations have demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities, including kinetic hard-kill capabilities against low Earth orbit satellites. While this isn’t a concern for geo-synchronous communications satellites, the ability to jam or spoof UAV satellite uplinks was possibly demonstrated during the loss of the RQ-170 [stealth UAV] over Iran. How secure exactly are our satellite uplinks? Are they safe from cyber attack? Will this bandwidth be available to the Navy during wartime or will more pressing communications take precedence? This is all above my pay-grade but realize that UAV endurance doesn’t come without a price.

There’s another factor to consider and that’s the nature of the EP-3E’s mission. EP-3s are capable of supporting a Carrier Strike Group’s air wing by providing communications and signals intelligence support. This is a distinctly ‘real-time’ function as enemy air defense operators may only speak for a few moments or activate SAM radars for several seconds. The latency (time delay) inherent in satellite communications and control systems could possibly mean the difference between life and death for strike pilots in F/A-18 Hornets heading into the target area. If you take away EP-3E, you may lose that real-time SIGINT and COMINT capability.”

April 28/14: Friendly competition? The USAF is touting success in an 11.5 hour RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40 flight over the Point Mugu sea range in California.

This Maritime Modes program risk reduction work involves testing software that lets the Block 40’s MP-RTIP AESA radar use a Maritime Moving Target Indicator and a Maritime Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (MISAR) to track surface vessels. The MQ-4C has other naval capabilities beyond these, but then, MP-RTIP is well-tuned for land surveillance. As budgets decline, Global Hawk variants that can do similar jobs may find themselves competing for budget dollars. Sources: USAF, “Air Force tests new surveillance capability”.

April 9/14: Sense-and-Avoid. The US Navy still wants to place this technology on the MQ-4C, not least because it will be required for low-altitude flying in many areas of interest. The problem is that miniaturizing the Exelis AESA radar turned out to be much harder than they thought, to the point where they had to pause and look at other options (q.v. Aug 13/13).

Above 18,000′, standard ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) and TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) “due regard” systems can keep the UAV from getting too close to civilian aircraft, and to many military airplanes as well. Below that altitude, ground and ship-based radars can be used, and something might be doable using aerial radars like AWACS plus datalinks. On the other hand, the whole point of the MQ-4C is to survey areas where those assets aren’t already on patrol.

This is a serious issue for UAVs generally, so it may be worth biting the bullet and investing the funds required to solve the problem. It may even be a hard and significant enough problem to justify DARPA’s involvement. Sources: USNI, “Navy Expanding Search for ‘Sense and Avoid’ Technologies for Triton”.

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. The program dashboard and timeline have been updated accordingly, though the Navy’s program office has authorized NGC to develop a new target baseline and schedule with increased costs and schedule delays. That isn’t represented in the charts yet. The program has 3 big technical risks left.

One is software, thanks to about 1.6 million lines of new code in an 8 million line system. There are another 2 software phases left before operational evaluation begins in January 2016.

Another is navigation. In September 2013, the Global Hawk program experienced an anomaly with a navigation system, suspending the derivative Triton’s test flights until a workaround was identified. The problem remains unfixed.

Finally, the air-to-air “sense and avoid” radar subsystem (q.v. Aug 13/13) for operating in civil airspace has hit a wall, and delayed the program by about 1 year.

March 28/14: Infrastructure. The Guam MACC Builders joint venture in Honolulu, HI wins a $45.5 million firm-fixed-price task order under a multiple-award construction contract. they’ll design and build a high bay maintenance hangar to support MQ-4C forward operations and maintenance at Andersen AFB, Guam. That involves scheduled inspections, airframe repairs, pre- and post-flight operations, as well as technical order compliance and aircraft modifications. A pair of unexercised options could raise the total to $46.7 million.

All funds are committed immediately, using a combination of FY 2010 and FY 2014 budgets. Work will be performed in Yigo, Guam, and is expected to be complete by April 2016. Six proposals were received for this task order by NAVFAC Pacific at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, HI (N62742-10-D-1309, #0003).

March 24/14: Testing. The Mq-4C has completed the envelope expansion portion of its test flights (q.v. Jan 6/14). Sources: NGC, “Northrop Grumman, U.S. Navy Complete Initial Flight Testing of the Triton Unmanned Aircraft System”.

March 4/14: FY15 Budget. The USN unveils their preliminary budget request briefings. Precise figures are only offered later, but the Navy does offer planned purchase numbers for key programs between FY 2014 – 2019.

MQ-4C Triton production was supposed to start with 3 UAVs in FY15, but that isn’t happening because the program is behind. In addition to the late start, the Navy’s mid-term budgets will also slow the production ramp-up. Production begins in FY16 instead with 4 (unchanged), and continues with 4 in FY17, 4 in FY18 (-2), and 4 in FY19 (no previous comparable). Subsequent documents show that the program’s overall budget doesn’t change all that much, but around $400 million is added to R&D, and costs per UAV rise a bit. Those costs may drop a bit in future, if Australia buys in as expected.

The immediate pause makes sense, but the vastness of the Pacific and supposed importance of the “Pacific Pivot” don’t seem to be getting a lot of weight in the Navy’s 5-year plan – which also cuts P-8 sea control aircraft, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye AWACS. Sources: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF].

Jan 6/14: Testing. Northrop Grumman announces that the MQ-4C is half-way through the envelope expansion portion of flight testing. It’s still early days, with the longest mission being just 9.4 hours at up to 50,000 feet. Sources: NGC, “Multimedia Release — Northrop Grumman, Navy Complete Nine Flights of Triton Unmanned Aircraft System”.

Nov 4/13: Sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman Corp. and Triumph Aerostructures’ Vought Aircraft Division have finished initial MQ-4C structural strength testing at Vought’s Dallas, TX facility. Which means torturing the wings and bending them 22% beyond US Navy structural requirements, in hopes they don’t break or permanently deform. This isn’t just a life-span issue. It’s a very immediate requirement whenever a Triton UAV has to drop down for a closer look at something, possibly through inclement weather.

Vought was involved in these tests because they produce Global Hawk family wings. A fatigue test of the entire airframe will begin in 2017. Sources: NGC, Nov 4/13 release.

Oct 7/13: Basing. The Whidbey News-Times reports that the MQ-4C’s Tactical Support Centers for command and control will be placed at the 2 main P-8A support centers: NAS Jacksonville, FL and NAS Whidbey Island, WA. It seems like a fairly obvious operational conclusion, but it was also the consensus of environmental assessments.

“Four of the MQ-4C Tritons will be based out of Ventura County Naval Base in California [by 2016], but the existing P3 tactical support center at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station will be expanded to support both the P8-A and the Triton…”

Sources: Whidbey News-Times, “New drone supports P-8A Poseidon”.

FY 2012 – 2013

Test plan approved and BAMS becomes “MQ-4C Triton”; NGC buying 1 for itself; Australia renews interest, but it’s lukewarm; India is interested; DOT&E testing report; RQ-4A BAMS-D crash; Sense and Avoid tech suspended. MQ-4C: 1st flight
click for video

Sept 9/13: Australia. Australia’s Liberal Party is back in power after a convincing electoral win over Labor. While the new government’s commitment to 2% of GDP for defense spending is a broad positive for industry, their level of commitment to the MQ-4C weakened:

“The acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles will be dependent on the advice of the chief of the Defence Force and service chiefs, as well as a clear cost-benefit assessment that demonstrates the value of these aircraft.”

Triton is likely to pass that test, but this is a step back from earlier statements to the effect that Triton was a high-priority buy. Sources: Australian Liberal Party, “The Coalition’s policy for Stronger Defence” | Defense News, “New Australian Leadership Pledges to Boost Defense Spending”.

Aug 14/13: Infrastructure. Small business qualifier Whitesell-Green, Inc. in Pensacola, FL wins a $15.9 million firm-fixed-price contract to build a BAMS Mission Control Complex at NAS Jacksonville, FL. It will be a freestanding 2-story structure with two Electromagnetic Interference Shielded Mission Control Systems, a Tactical Operations Center with sensitive compartmented information facility spaces, and numerous roof-top mounted antennas. This project will also renovate some interior spaces, including a reconfigured command suite, systems reconfiguration, and in some cases finish upgrades. Finally, additional antennas will be built at a remote site south of the new facility.

All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL, and is expected to be complete by December 2014. This contract was competitively procured via Navy Electronic Commerce Online, with 8 proposals received by NAVFAC Southeast in Jacksonville, FL (N69450-13-C-1258).

Aug 13/13: Sense-and-Avoid. BAMS Program manager Navy Capt. Jim Hoke says that ITT Exelis’ radar-based Airborne Sense And Avoid system (q.v. Aug 10/12) is “behind schedule,” so the Navy has “made a decision to pause on the capability right now” and has stopped work. Hoke says that he understands how important this capability is for operations in crowded airspace and allied countries (vid. May 29/13, May 14/13), especially given the MQ-4C’s operational need to descend to lower altitudes at times for a closer look, but “all options are on the table.” If the system really is seen as critical, that could mean a re-compete of the sub-program, or the Navy could decide to join the USAF’s ABSAA effort (q.v. July 30/12).

Re-competes can be problematic, but this may be a case where the circumstances are attractive. The natural scalability of AESA radars means that any successful implementation could be applied to other large UAVs, from NATO’s planned RQ-4 Block 40 AGS Global Hawk variant, to smaller MALE UAVs like the MQ-9 Reaper or MQ-1C Gray Eagle. That’s a significant and growing opportunity for the winning contractor, with follow-on “proven leader” opportunities around civil UAV use. This dynamic could attract firms willing to invest up front with low bids or substantial resources, and the base ABSAA field is a mature one thanks to civil aircraft. Breaking Defense.

Sense-And-Avoid radar on hold

June 25/13: Australia. With an election coming, the MQ-4C Triton seems secure, as both parties remain committed to it. Reuters:

“There’s not a lot of new money in our policy, (but) we are going into Broad Area Maritime Surveillance, the Triton,” said conservative defense spokesman David Johnston, who is likely to become defense minister following the September 14 elections…. “This is about maritime security and surveillance in the Indian Ocean,” a senior Labor insider with close knowledge of defense planning said. “This is a force multiplier. It’s better to think of Triton as a mobile satellite we can steer around the Indian Ocean,”

June 14/13: Sense-and-Avoid. BAE Systems’ AN/DPX-7 Reduced Size Transponder (RST) Indentification Friend-or-Foe system flies on the MQ-4C for the 1st time. IFF transponders broadcast coded location signals to friendly aircraft, and also receive signals from civil and military aircraft around them. They aren’t a complete solution to the problem of operating in crowded airspace, but with the right programming and UAV flight system connections, they can help. Unmanned Systems Technology.

May 29/13: Sense-and-Avoid. Answers from Northrop Grumman clarify the MQ-4C’s sense-and-avoid systems:

“Triton’s due regard radar is meant to provide safe separation of aircraft while the system is in flight at lower altitudes. The U.S. Navy’s mission requires that Triton be able to descend to lower altitudes to make closer identification of surface vessels. The radar is still in development and would be flight tested on Triton at a later date. This is a Navy requirement to ensure that the Triton UAs can safely operate over international waters.”

With respect to ICAO certification issues, Northrop Grumman would only say Global Hawk is the first unmanned aircraft system to achieve a military airworthiness certification. That can only be used to fly a pre-approved, monitored flight plan in American civil airspace, and then only if a specific supplemental FAA certificate of authorization (COA) is granted in advance. Whether this level of certification will work at NAS Sigonella, Italy is a question that the US Navy will need to answer. “Saigon” has already been a base of operations for RQ-4B Block 20 Global Hawks, which lack any form of collision avoidance system. The question is how restricted future MQ-4C flight options would be, absent further certifications.

May 22/12: Fly! The MQ-4C has its 1st flight. The flight was originally scheduled for March 2013, but all goes well, The Navy and Northrop Grumman flight test team conducts an 80 minute flight from Palmdale, CA, reaching up to 20,000 feet while remaining within restricted airspace.

Northrop Grumman says that additional flight tests will take place from Palmdale to mature the system, before it’s flown to the main flight test facility at NAS Patuxent River, MD, later this year. It will be interesting to see if it flies there under its own power, or is disassembled and carried in a heavy-lift aircraft. Even the carrier-based X-47B stealth UCAV had to travel to Pax River on a truck, because the FAA wouldn’t certify it for flight in civil airspace. The MQ-4C is designed with a sense-and-avoid system, so the FAA could conceivably grant it a waiver. US Navy Capt. Jim Hoke is the current Persistent Maritime UAS office (PMA-262) program manager, and it will be up to him to oversee transportation arrangements. US Navy | US NAVAIR | US Navy Live | NGC.

1st flight

May 22/13: XP – 7. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Bethpage, NY receives a $15.3 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to upgrade some MQ-4C Triton components from Windows XP to Windows 7. Microsoft is ending support for XP, hence the shift, which will happen in quite a few US military programs. We wonder about the security implications of using Windows at all in an incredibly expensive autonomous system, but that’s a separate discussion.

Work will be performed in Hollywood, MD (33.5%); Bethpage, NY (25.8%); Rancho Bernardo, CA (15.6%); San Diego, CA (12.7%); Salt Lake City, UT (9.8%); Stillwater, OK (1.10%); Melbourne, FL (1.0%) and Van Nuys, CA (.05%), and is expected to be complete in April 2014. Funds will be committed as needed by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-08-C-0023).

May 16/13: Australia. Australia’s government announces that they’re sending a formal Letter of Request to the USA for the MQ-4C Triton UAV. The letter will become a Foreign Military Sales Technical Services Case with the United States Navy to obtain detailed cost, capability and availability information. They emphasize that they haven’t picked the MQ-4C yet for AIR 7000 Phase 1B, but they didn’t announce letters of request for any other platforms that might compete with the Triton, like General Atomics’ MQ-9. Which may have separate opportunities of its own:

“As also outlined in the 2013 Defence White Paper, Defence will analyse the value of further investment in unmanned aircraft for focused area, overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, including for use in border security operations. This will include the potential expansion of the role of these assets in the ADF to include interdiction and close air support, subject to policy development and Government consideration.”

See: Australia DoD | US NAVAIR.

May 14/13: Euro Hawk falls. Germany has decided to end the Euro Hawk UAV project, after spending EUR 562 million on system development and test flights. Not only would it cost hundreds of millions more euros to attempt EASA/ICAO flight certification, but German authorities reportedly lacked confidence that they would receive a certification at the end of the process. Rather than pay another EUR 600 – 700 million for additional UAVs and equipment, and an equivalent amount to attempt EASA certification, Germany will attempt to find another path.

The remaining questions fall instead on Sigonella, Italy, where NATO and the USA plan to base MQ-4C Tritons, and RQ-4B AGS Global Hawk Block 40s. German lawmakers are raising those questions, and some are advocating pulling out of NATO’s AGS as well.

March 4/13: Australia. Aviation Week reports that Australia may want more P-8As, at the possible expense of its MQ-4C companion UAVs:

“The RAAF is quietly making a case for 12 Poseidons, arguing that eight would not be enough to cover the vast oceans surrounding the continent. And the unmanned requirement is now described as “up to” seven high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft, potentially reducing Northrop Grumman’s opportunity. At the same time the air force sees an argument for a supplementary drone, possibly the Predator, to take on some of the electronic-intelligence missions that would otherwise fall to the Poseidons and Tritons.”

This is a bit of a head-scratcher. The stated purpose of sustained ocean coverage would be better served by adding another orbit of 3-4 MQ-4Cs (to 10-11), using the P-8s as more of a fleet overwatch and contact response force. Likewise, it makes little sense to use a different UAV for ELINT/SIGINT collection, especially the slow and shorter-range MQ-9. Rather, one would use the MQ-9s in nearer-shore maritime and EEZ patrols, along the lines of the 2006 Northwest Shelf experiments, in order to free up MQ-4Cs for longer-range expeditions over strategic corridors, and the ELINT/SIGINT mission they will be equipped for as of Increment 3.

Feb 22/13: Australia. Australia may have officially dropped out of the BAMS development phase (vid. March 2/09 entry), but News Corp. reports that Defence Minister Stephen will sign a formal export letter of request for the MQ-4C at the 2013 Australian International Airshow. Australia has remained part of the P-8A program for a manned sea control jet, so the MQ-4C is a natural pairing.

The purchase budget is expected to be $A 2-3 billion, but it may be overshadowed by Australia’s expected announcement that they will buy another 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets. News Corp.

Feb 7/13: India. Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C business development lead Greg Miller tells Shephard’s UV Online that India’s RFI for a High Altitude, Long Endurance maritime surveillance platform holds promise:

“They want to follow the US model; P-8 and Triton…. The Indian Navy agrees with the US’ requirements, which exactly fits our sweet spot.”

Their problem is the same problem facing South Korea: the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which bans the export of cruise missiles or unmanned vehicles with certain range and payload limits. India hasn’t signed MTCR, but the issue needs to be resolved at a government-to-government level. UV Online.

March 28/13: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2012, plus time to compile and publish. With respect to BAMS, they say the design is stable, with 99% of drawings releasable to manufacturing. Software code is a challenge, as are the UAV’s new-design wings. Disruptions to the USAF’s Global Hawk programs aren’t expected to affect schedule, but fewer UAVs produced does drive up the cost per UAV. Excerpts:

“The second development aircraft, the first aircraft with a full sensor suite and the air-to-air radar subsystem, is nearing completion and is expected to begin testing in 2013…. However, the program poses a significant software development challenge, utilizing nearly 8 million lines of code, more than 20 percent of which will be new. Much of the remaining software is derived from Global Hawk; however, officials noted that integration and testing of this code is taking longer than expected. Officials also noted that delays in the manufacturing of the aircraft wing as well as corrections to software during integration of subsystems are the primary reasons for a delay in the program’s operational assessment and production decision….”

Jan 17/13: DOT&E testing. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The MQ-4C Triton is included, and the program is falling behind. The plan was to conduct an Operational Assessment in June 2013, leading to a Milestone C decision in October 2013.

Unfortunately, a combination of UAV mission computer software stability problems, and radar performance issues identified in tests with Northrop Grumman’s radar-equipped Gulfstream-II jet, delayed flight testing from May 2012 to “at least” January 2013. The program has also “deferred development and testing of [unspecified] air vehicle and sensor capabilities until after Milestone C in order to reduce current test schedule pressures.”

The plan to reach Milestone C by October seems less and less likely, especially given additional “ground test delays encountered in [fall 2012].” Northrop Grumman will also need to resolve issues with software stability for both the mission computer and ZPY-3 MFAS radar, radar detection and tracking consistency, and radar image quality.

Jan 8/13: Company bird. Northrop Grumman is spending its own money to build and equip its own MQ-4C UAV, complete with the same sensor set the Navy will get. The UAV is under construction, and just had its wings and fuselage joined.

It isn’t the first time Northrop Grumman has done this; indeed, in many ways it’s just a further extension of the company Gulfstream-III business jet test bed, which has been flying since before the development contract was awarded. Initial missions for the company’s UAV will involve supplementing Navy tests, in order to help the team reach their goal of operational UAVs by late 2015. Eventually it will become a platform for demonstrations, integration of different sensors that the US Navy or other customers are interested in, and system performance improvement testing.

1 MQ-4C for Northrop Grumman

September 2012: Testing. A 2nd MQ-4C is added to ground test efforts, with a focus on control software and subsystems. NGC.

Aug 10/12: Sense-And-Avoid. ITT Exelis exhibits their BAMS airborne sense-and-avoid (ABSAA) radar for the first time, at the Unmanned Systems North America conference in Las Vegas. It’s the 1st U.S. Department of Defense ABSAA/ ICAO “due regard” radar program of record, with flight testing expected to start in Q1 2013.

Aug 10/12: Sense-And-Avoid. ITT Exelis exhibits their BAMS airborne sense-and-avoid (ABSAA) radar for the first time, at the Unmanned Systems North America conference in Las Vegas, NV. It’s the 1st US Department of Defense ABSAA/ ICAO “due regard” UAV radar program of record, with flight testing expected to start in Q1 2013.

Their “SkySense 2020H” can be adapted for other UAVs, but the self-contained, 50 pound MQ-4C configuration involves 3 thin-tile AESA array panels mounted at the front of the UAV. It operates in the Ku-band with an 8-10 nmi range, and a 110 degree wide x 30 degree high field of view. AESA radars are flexible if the right software is installed, and Exelis is also looking at using SkySense for weather radar and communications functions. AIN Online.

July 2012: Testing. 1st MQ-4C Triton begins ground tests. NGC.

July 30/12: Sense-And-Avoid. The USAF Research Laboratory (AFRL) has been working on a sense-and-avoid system called Multiple Intruder Autonomous Avoidance (MIAA) since 2008, and is about to conduct the final test phases using a Calspan-operated Learjet as an RQ-4 surrogate. Co-operative commercial aircraft are dealt with using standard methods: a traffic collision avoidance system and ADS-B. Aviation Week says that for non-cooperative aircraft:

“The flights will evaluate collision-avoidance algorithms and a new electronically scanned sense-and-avoid radar, as well as a new technique to perform passive target ranging from the two-dimensional imagery provided by electro-optical sensors.”

Once they’re done, MIAA will become move to EMD system development as part of the USAF’s Global Hawk program. The Navy and Army are both interested, however, and are partners in this effort. A Global Hawk flight is planned in 2015, with Initial Operating Capability planned in 2017. Aviation Week, via NPS.EDU: “Sense-And-Avoid System To Transition To Global Hawk”.

June 14/12: Triton unveiled. Northrop Grumman and US NAVAIR unveil the 1st MQ-4C at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, CA plant, and announce its operational moniker: “Triton.” In mythology, Triton was Poseidon’s son, the messenger of the sea. US NAVAIR | Northrop Grumman.

MQ-4C “Triton”

BAMS-D Crash
click for video

June 11/12: BAMS-D Crash. An RQ-4A BAMS-Demonstrator Global Hawk crashes into a marshy tributary of Maryland’s Nanticoke River, during a routine training flight from Naval Air Station Patuxent River. There were no injuries to civilians and no property damage, but the crash site has been blocked to recreational boat traffic while the agency investigates. The crash leaves 4 UAVs in the program: 3 for testing, tactics, and doctrine development in the USA, and 1 deployed abroad with the 5th fleet. CNN | Wired Danger Room | WBOC.

May 30/12: Canada. Northrop Grumman Corporation and Canada’s L-3 MAS announce plans to offer Canada a “Polar Hawk” UAV for surveillance of Canada’s arctic land and seas.

As one might guess, it will need to share a number of structural features like strengthened wings and improved de-icing with the MQ-4C Triton. Improved satellite communications, with specialized receivers for polar-orbit satellites, will also be necessary. Sensors aren’t discussed, but the accompanying picture shows a conventional Global Hawk shape, without the AN/ZPY-3 MFAS. NGC.

May 29/12: More SDD. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Bethpage, NY receives a $32.8 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification, for BAMS system development and demonstration. This modification funds a maintenance concept change that will develop a logistics management I.T. system, and improve the transition from contractor logistics support to organic military maintenance by the Navy. Funding will be committed as needs arise.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY, (74.54%), Rancho Bernardo, CA (20.82%), Melbourne, FL (4.59%), and Palmdale, CA (0.05%); and is expected to be complete in September 2015 (N00019-08-C-0023).

January 2012: Testing. The Pentagon approves the MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP), which will guide efforts to bring the UAV to a successful Milestone C decision, and into low-rate initial production. DOT&E.

Test plan approved

FY 2010 – 2011

Designation shifting to MQ-4C; Sub-systems in development. Global Hawk
(click to view full)

April 25/11: ZPY-3. Northrop Grumman announces the start of system tests for the BAMS UAV’s Multi-Function Active Sensor (MFAS) maritime surveillance radar. MFAS will use a 2-dimensional radar with both electronic and mechanical scanning.

Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector facility in San Diego, CA is expected to take delivery of the 1st MFAS in June 2011, following ongoing radar software mode development and hardware synchronization and integration activities. A 2nd radar is slated for delivery in September 2011, and risk reduction flight tests on board the company’s Gulfstream II test-bed expected before year end.

March 16/11: Northrop Grumman Corporation completes the 1st of 3 BAMS fuselages under the SDD phase. The MQ-4C fuselage will undergo final assembly and system checkout at the company’s Palmdale, CA facility, ahead of its first flight in 2012. NGC.

March 7/11: CDR. Northrop Grumman announces that the BAMS program completed its system-level Critical Design Review (CDR) with the U.S. Navy in February 2011 – but it is not fully closed yet. The government and Northrop Grumman teams will be working to close out issues raised during the CDR, before it can be officially over.

The system-level full CDR sets the initial product baseline for the MQ-4C system, and was preceded by 10 subsystem and segment CDRs. Northrop Grumman VP and BAMS program manager Steve Enewold says that the SDD phase’s first 2 UAV fuselages are being built at Moss Point, MS, and the first will ship in April 2011 to Palmdale, CA for final assembly. The next major milestone is Test Readiness Review, planned for fall 2011. First flight is expected in 2012, and Enewold says the program continues to meet its acquisition baseline cost, schedule and performance requirements.

Feb 18/11: Sense & Avoid. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Sector’s Battle Management & Engagement Systems Division in Bethpage, NY receives a $25.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to develop an “airborne sense and avoid capability for the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aircraft system in support of the Navy and Air Force.” The goal is a TRL 7 system, i.e. a prototype tested in operationally-relevant conditions.

The wording is interesting, as it implies that USAF RQ-4A/B Global Hawks will also be fitted with this capability. As they should be. Sense and avoid technologies are used in commercial aircraft, in order to prevent mid-air collisions. While flying at 60,000 feet will go a long way toward zero collisions, the UAVs do not begin at that altitude, and BAMS in particular will not spend all of its mission time at that level. Throw in funded experiments like aerial refueling between 2 Global Hawk UAVs, and expectations that the stratosphere is likely to be more crowded in future, and the necessity of sense & avoid technologies becomes clearer. To this point, however, the US Navy and USAF have pursued different technology approaches: an ITT-supplied air-to-air radar and ADS-B cooperative surveillance for the Navy, and a multi-sensor “multi-intruder autonomous avoidance (MIAA)” USAF project that uses 3 electro-optical cameras, a low-power radar, and the civil TCAS traffic collision avoidance system.

Work to reconcile those approaches into a common prototype will be performed in Bethpage, NY (50%) and San Diego, CA (50%), and is expected to be complete in November 2012. $7,368,022 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-G-0004). See also: Aviation Week.

Feb 9/11: Northrop Grumman announces a $3.3 million contract to participate in the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Control Segment (UCS) Architecture Working Group (UCSWG), sponsored by the Office Secretary of Defense’s (OSD) Unmanned Warfare Office.

The UCSWG is an open technical standards committee consisting of industry and government representatives from each UAS program of record, several emerging UAS programs and small businesses. The objective of the UCSWG effort is to define a common UAS control station architecture based on standard data models and service interface definitions to enable interoperability, scalability and adaptability of UAS ground stations.

Sept 1/10: New designation. A ceremony at Northrop Grumman’s Moss Point, MS manufacturing facility marks the beginning of RQ-4N BAMS UAV construction.

It is also the first official mention of the platform’s MQ-4C designation. Northrop Grumman spokesman Jim Stratford explains that “M” stands for “Multi-mission,” referring to planned expansion to communications relay and SIGINT missions. The “C” is because there are significant differences from the USAF’s RQ-4B Block 20/30/40, such as anti-icing and sense/avoid capabilities. The “RQ-4N” was Northrop Grumman’s designation during the BAMS competition, but it was never official. Northrop Grumman.

March 3/10: Sub-contractors. Curtiss-Wright Corporation announces a $25 million contract from Northrop Grumman Corporation to provide BAMS’ Advanced Mission Management System (AMMS). Curtiss-Wright will design, develop and manufacture BAMS UAV AMMS units at the company’s Motion Control facility in Santa Clarita, CA Hardware deliveries will start at the end of 2010 and continue through 2011.

FY 2008 – 2009

BAMS System Development & Demonstration contract; Australia steps back from BAMS program. Australian RQ-4N? No.
(click to view full)

Aug 13/09: USAF getting ideas? The Shepard Group reports that The United States Air Force is exploring a potential communications suite re-architecture for its RQ-4 Global Hawk fleet, based on the Navy’s RQ-4 BAMS set. The BAMS de-icing system has also attracted interest.

April 27/09: Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems in Bethpage, NY received a $22.4 million modification to a previously awarded cost plus award fee BAMS System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract (N00019-08-C-0023). This modification will add wing static and load testing for the BAMS RQ-4N UAS.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (90%) and Bethpage, NY (10%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012.

March 2/09: Australia out. Defense minister Joel Fitzgibbon announces that Australia will not be exercising its option to continue as a member of the BAMS program. The country is shelving the “AIR 7000 Phase 1B” project, in order to concentrate on the introduction of the 737-based P-8A Poseidon instead. Despite the minister’s focus on operational difficulties and schedule slips, Northrop Grumman’s statements cite fiscal pressures as one of the key reasons behind the decision.

Australia will probably want and need maritime patrol UAVs at some point, and its public-private CoastWatch program already has a provision for introducing some to the mix over the next decade. The question around BAMS is what price Australia might pay in penalty fees, if any, should the country decide to rejoin the BAMS program at a later date. Australian DoD | The Australian | Canberra Times.

Australia out

Feb 4/09: Delays. Aviation Week reports that the BAMS schedule has slipped, owing in part to delays created by Lockheed Martin’s protest. The first RQ-4N BAMS will begin testing in FY 2012 instead of FY 2011, with low-rate production beginning in FY 2013, and initial operational capability declared by FY 2016 instead of 2015. Full delivery is now expected by FY 2019.

Feb 4/09: Reports indicate that one of the Gobal Hawk Maritime Demonstration UAVs has deployed to CENTCOM’s theater of operations by the US Navy. Information Dissemination believes that its future will include pirate tracking off of Africa’s eastern coast. GHMD is a limited program that is both a predecessor to BAMS, and a way to experiment and learn how an advanced maritime patrol UAV can be used in real world operations (CONOPS).

Dec 23/08: Northrop Grumman announces that U.S. Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX-20) gave the RQ-4 Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) team its Q2 2008 Test Team of the Quarter award. To date, the 2 GHMD demonstrator aircraft have flown more than 1,350 hours.

The team’s accomplishments included performing more than 1,000 hours of flight operations over an 18-month period, troubleshooting issues with the communications system, integrating the automatic identification system into the aircraft so it can be used in civilian air space, conducting tests with the ocean surveillance initiative, and developing tactics and guidelines for unmanned patrol systems. From January to June 2008, the team also supported various operational activities, including the Southeastern Anti-Submarine Warfare Initiative 08-2, the USS Iwo Jima Group Sail, and the Commander Carrier Strike Group 8. The team’s successes during this period culminated with the Trident Warrior exercise in June 2008, when the team flew more than 113 hours over a 5-week period, including an unplanned 23-hour humanitarian mission in which a GHMD was re-tasked to assist in the Northern California wildfires. July saw the UAVs participate in the Rim of the Pacific 2008 fleet exercise, which saw the team finish 4 missions totaling more than 92 hours.

Sept 29/08: Rolls Royce puts out a release confirming that Northrop Grumman has selected their AE 3700H engine to power the RQ-4N BAMS UAV. This is hardly a surprise, as Rolls Royce was part of the bid team and those same engines power non-naval Global Hawks. Rolls Royce release.

Aug 8/08: The Congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) denies a protest from the Lockheed Martin MS2/ General Atomics team, which offered its MQ-9 Reaper derived Mariner UAV for BAMS. The grounds of that denial were interesting, and included improvement in Northrop Grumman’s contractor performance in comparable programs like the USAF’s MQ-9 systems. An improvement that was not matched by similar corrective successes at General Atomics.

The BAMS program had been frozen while the appeal went forward, but it is now free to begin in earnest. US Navy NAVAIR announced on Aug 11/08 that the program would resume. See: GAO decisions #400135.1/2.

GAO denies protest, contract continues

April 22/08: Northrop Grumman Corp. Integrated Systems in Bethpage, NY won a cost-plus-award-fee contract with an estimated value of $1.16 billion for the BAMS System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase. This phase includes the design, fabrication, and delivery, of 2 unmanned RQ-4N Global Hawk variant aircraft with mission payloads and communications suites; one Forward Operating Base Mission Control System; one Systems Integration Laboratory; and one Main Operating Base Mission Control System.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (30%); San Diego, CA (25%); various locations throughout the United States (13%); W. Salt Lake City, UT (9%); Rolling Meadows, Ill., (7%); Falls Church, VA (6%); Baltimore, MD (5%); and Norwalk, CT (5%), and is expected to be complete in September 2014. This contract was competitively procured through a request for proposals; 3 firms were solicited and 3 proposals were received, as the RQ-4N beat out the General Atomics Mariner and Boeing’s “optionally manned” G550 for the contract (N00019-08-C-0023). See also US DoD release | Northrop Grumman release.


Jan 31/08: An 18-month, $15 million cooperative agreement between the United States and Australia becomes part of the pre-system development and demonstration processes for the US Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System program. DC Military.

FY 2007 and Earlier

BAMS competition and contenders; Australia joins the program. NGC’s Gulfstream II
(click to view full)

Sept 4/07: General Atomics talks about their BAMS efforts, which they are undertaking in conjunction with Lockheed Martin. The firm announces successfully completion of wind tunnel testing at the San Diego Air & Space Technology Center on a 1/10 scale model of its Mariner, which “exceeded our expectations… Preliminary evaluations validated key competitive capabilities of the aircraft and suggest that Mariner’s design is even more efficient than originally assumed.”

Basically, the testing enabled a specific set of configuration changes to be evaluated at a lower cost and faster pace, while generating important data regarding performance and statistical sensitivities.

Aug 6/07: Northrop Grumman promotes its “sense and avoid” approach, which is intended to meet the BAMS requirement of safely operating alongside manned military and civilian aircraft.

Though they rely in part on high-end capabilities like the Global Hawk’s radar, UAV deconfliction is a major industry issue and the underlying algorithms used are likely to be significant beyond BAMS – in its X-47B UCAS-D unmanned naval fighters, for instance.

June 18/07: Boeing enters the fray. The BAMS 550 would create a manned/unmanned version of the Gulfstream G550 business jet (already in service with the Navy) with fully integrated sensor and communications suites and an advanced mission control system. The Boeing BAMS 550 industry team consists of Boeing, Gulfstream, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell, and touts “an offering that significantly improves upon the historically low reliability, limited payload and extensive support requirements of legacy unmanned aircraft systems.” The Register | Boeing handout [PDF]

May 24/07: Northrop Grumman Corporation discusses its BAMS offer and proposed approach. Their offer is based on an RQ-4N maritime-configured RQ-4B Global Hawk, that will meet “all of the threshold and more than 90% of the Navy’s objective requirements.” The RQ-4N will benefit from the GHMD contracts and efforts already undertaken with the US Navy.

Northrop Grumman’s approach is called Head Start, and is organized around step by step risk assessment that concentrates on system elements, sensor effectiveness, and demonstrating a ForceNet-compliant communications system. Head start will also use a specially modified Gulfstream II business jet as a flying test bed, equipped with the radar sensor that Northrop Grumman is offering as part of its BAMS system. Bill Beck, BAMS Head Start program manager, says: “The test-bed will be used to perform end-to-end communication functionality testing using the Advanced Mission Management System for network, bandwidth and sensor control. It will be tied to a company-built prototype of the Mission Control System (MCS), located at our Hollywood, Md., facility.” The prototype MCS contains off-the-shelf commercial software and hardware components, in keeping with the US Navy’s drive toward upgradeable open architecture approaches.

Carl Johnson, NGC’s vice president of the BAMS program, claims that. “This approach creates a significant program schedule margin which ensures an initial operation capability well ahead of threshold requirements.”

The Northrop Grumman RQ-4N BAMS team includes Northrop Grumman as prime contractor and team leader, unmanned aerial vehicle supplier and developer of the Multi-Function Active Sensor active electronically scanned array radar and the Night Hunter II electro-optical infrared sensor; L-3 Communications providing communications integration; Raytheon supporting the Mission Control System segment; and Rolls-Royce providing the jet engine.

May 8/07: Lockheed Martin discusses its BAMS proposal, which involves the modified Mariner version of General Atomics MQ-9/Predator B. The firm has partnered with EDO, FLIR Systems, Honeywell, LSI, and Sierra Nevada Corp., and its entry will offer an Electro Optical Infrared (EOIR) high definition camera, Automatic Identification System (AIS) to identify ships at sea, a communications relay capability, and Link 16 among its systems.

The Mariner shares its avionics, fuselage, flight controls, and engine (Honeywell TPE-331-1OT turboprop) with the MQ-9/Predator B, but adds enhanced wings (88 foot wingspan) and tails to support the increased takeoff weight, plus 2,000 pounds of additional fuel, 34 antennas for communications, anti-icing and deicing capability, and a retractable EO/IR surveillance turret as part of its 1,350 pound internal payload. The design has an extra 800 pounds of internal payload to offer, plus 4,000 pounds of external payload, which can be carried up to 50,000 feet. Maximum range would be 7,100 nautical miles, albeit at a rather slower speed than the jet-powered RQ-4. The flip side is that the Mariner would be able to cruise for long periods at low altitudes, and do so efficiently. Defense Daily.

May 3/07: The Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System source selection process formally begins, with receipt of proposals from aerospace manufacturers. A winner is expected to be announced this fall following BAMS Milestone B approval, with a System Design and Development (SDD) contract award following soon after.

Cdr. Bob Dishman, the BAMS Integrated Product team lead, is quoted in a NAVAIR release as saying that “This is a full and open competition and we are satisfied with the number, breadth and technical maturity of the proposals we have received.” See full NAVAIR release.

Jan 29/07: Flight International reports that the US NAVAIR is delaying the release of tenders for its broad area maritime surveillance (BAMS) unmanned air system requirement until mid-February, in order to enable modification of bid documents to meet unique Australian requirements for the system.

Jan 13/07: Aussies in. Australia formally signs a project agreement to participate in the BAMS system development and demonstration phase.

July 28/06: The Australian government has given first pass approval to AIR 7000 Phase 1, under which Australia will spend A$ 1.0-1.5 billion to develop a “multi-mission unmanned aerial system.” Formal negotiations can now begin with the USA on a cooperative development program linked to BAMS, and a final participation decision is expected by late 2007. Australian industry participation will be a key factor, especially with respect to the Integrated Ground Environment for UAV control and fusion of sensor information.


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Israel’s Arrow Theater Missile Defense

Defense Industry Daily - Tue, 16/06/2015 - 02:23
Arrow test concept
(click to view full)

In a dawning age of rogue states, ballistic missile defenses are steadily become a widely accepted necessity. Iran is widely believed to be developing nuclear capabilities, and Israeli concerns were heightened after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged that Israel be “wiped off the map” (the fact that America was also placed in that category went largely uncovered).

Because missile defenses are so important, states like India and Israel have taken steps to ensure that they have the ability to build many of the key pieces. The Arrow project is a collaboration between Boeing and IAI to produce the missile interceptors that accompany the required radars, satellites, command and control systems.

NOTE: Article capped and coverage suspended in 2011.

The Arrow System Arrow launch
(click to view full)

In general, the Israeli Arrow is a more advanced weapon than the Patriot and possesses far more range, undertaking high altitude interceptions and covering a wide area (est. 90km/ 54 mile range, maximum altitude 30 miles/ 50 km for Arrow 2) as a Theater Missile Defense (TMD) system. Unlike the USA’s THAAD, PAC-3, or SM-3 which all use “hit to kill” technology, Israel’s Arrow relies on a directed fragmentation warhead to destroy enemy missiles. It can work in conjunction with a number of systems, but its main Israeli partner is the Green Pine long-range, ground-based fire control radar. The system and its engagements are controlled by the mobile Citron Tree battle management center. Since the launchers are also mobile, and the radars are semi-mobile, the system is resistant to pre-emptive strikes if good discipline is maintained.

The exoatmospheric, 2-stage Arrow-3 will use pivoting optical sensors and its own upper-stage kick motor, instead of separate control rockets for final steering. The goal is a highly maneuverable missile that can reach more than double the height of existing Arrow-2 interceptors, using a lower-weight missile. This will also have the effect of extending the missile’s range.

In contrast, Israel’s Patriot PAC-2s are more of a local point defense system with a range of about 40km/ 24 miles. They were all Israel had during the 1991 Gulf War, but these days, Israel’s Patriot PAC-2 GEM+ missiles will only be launched if the Arrow missile fails, or the target is outside the Arrow’s protective umbrella. In that respect, the Arrow/Homa system will play a role similar to the longer-range naval SM-3 Standard missile that forms the high end of Japan’s planned ABM shield (and seems destined for Europe and other states in a land-based role), or the US Army’s THAAD.

Overall responsibility for Arrow lies with the U.S. Missile Defense Organization (MDA) in Washington, DC, and the Israel Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Israel. The program is executed by the Israel Missile Defense Organization in Tel Aviv, and the US Army Program Executive Office for Air and Missile Defense’s Arrow Product Office in Huntsville, AL. Key contractors include:

  • Israel Aircraft Industries (prime contractor, Arrow missile, Green Pine fire control radar)
  • Tadiran Electronics in Holon, Israel (Citron Tree battle management center)
  • Boeing (about 35% of the Arrow missile, manages many US subcontractors)
  • Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control in Orlando, FL (radar seeker)
  • Raytheon in Santa Barbara, CA (Infrared seeker)
  • Other American subcontractors include ATK in Iuka, MS and Clearfield, UT; Manes Machine, in Fort Collins, CO; Ceradyne Thermo-Materials, Inc., in Scottsdale, GA; and Sanmina SCI, in Huntsville, AL.
  • Rafael Armament Development Authority, Haifa, Israel (Black Sparrow air-launched target; joint U.S./Israel effort).

EL/M-2080 “Green Pine”
(click to view larger)

Israel deployed the first battery of Arrow-1 missiles on March 14/2000, and has continued to upgrade the system. The summer of 2005 marked delivery of the first co-produced Boeing/IAI missiles. Israeli and US troops engaged in pre-training for the biennial Juniper Cobra exercise in 2007, and part of that process includes working out interoperability issues between the Patriot PAC-3 system (ad PAC-2 GEM+ that Israel deploys) and Arrow.

On July 29/04 Israel and the USA carried out joint experiment in the USA, in which the Arrow was launched against a real Scud missile. The experiment was a success, as the Arrow destroyed the Scud with a direct hit. In December 2005 the system was successfully deployed in a test against a replicated Shahab-3 missile. This feat was repeated on February 11/07.

Despite some international interest in the Arrow, the USA has blocked export initiatives so far. Although India purchased an Arrow-capable “Green Pine” radar from Elta in 2001, and has expressed interest in deploying its own battery of Arrow interceptor missiles, U.S. concerns regarding compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR, an international agreement limiting the proliferation of ballistic missile technology) have effectively halted such plans for the time being. This did not stop India from using the Green Pine technology in its own November 2006 anti-missile test, using a modified Prithvi short-range ballistic missile with an exo-atmospheric kill vehicle and a hit to kill warhead.

Contracts & Key Events, 2004-Present Arrow-3 development
click to play video

The section is still being updated.

June 16/15: Joint US-Israel missile programs may benefit from additional funding under a Defense Appropriations Bill, following a vote in the House. The programs covered by the increase in funds include the Iron Dome, Arrow, Arrow 3 and David’s Sling systems. The last of these will receive the most significant boost, with an additional $286.5 million allocation.

Feb 22/11: An Arrow System successfully intercepts a ballistic target missile during a flight test conducted at Pt. Mugu Sea Range, CA. This test is part of the Arrow System Improvement Program (ASIP) and was conducted jointly by the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

The test represented a realistic scenario, and all the elements (Arrow, Green Pine radar, Citron Tree BMC) performed in their operational configurations, using new Block 4 software designed to improve their ability to discriminate targets. US MDA release | video || Defense News.

July 27/10: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense votes to fund Israel’s missile defense programs at $422.7 million for 2011, nearly $96 million above the original White House funding request. This represents a doubling of aid for missile defense from 2010, in the wake of an emerging consensus that the CIA’s 2007 estimate of Iran’s nuclear weapons program was wrong, and underestimated Iranian progress.

On the other hand, the structure of that funding is less good for the Arrow program. While the HASD added $58 million to the administration’s original FY 2011 Arrow-3 request, that provisional $108.8 million is actually less than FY 2010 funding of $157.4 million ($60M request + $97.4M Congress added). Likewise, the complementary medium range RAFAEL/Raytheon David’s Sling/Magic Wand dropped from $134.7 million in FY 2010 to $84.7 million requested in 2011. The net increase comes from a one-time, $205 million grant for the procurement of 10 RAFAEL Iron Dome batteries for defense against short-range missiles. HASD Chair statement [ PDF] | HASD Table [PDF] | AllGov | Jerusalem Post | Israel’s Globes business news.

July 26/10: Israel and the United States sign a deal to develop and field the Arrow 3 system. It will be capable of tracking and shooting down ballistic missiles at a higher altitudes, including fully exoatmospheric threats. US MDA | China’s Xinhua.

March 22/10: Defense News reports that U.S. and Israeli government and industrial partners will press ahead with Arrow 3 work through good faith understandings, until formalized government-to-government accords catch up. The goal is to deploy the new missile by 2014.

Production of the Arrow-2 is winding down, and final deliveries are planned by the end of 2010. Government and industrial partners have apparently been working together on Arrow-3 for nearly 2 years, moving the program through at least 4 of the US Missile Defense Agency’s required technology “knowledge points, and validate critical subsystems. A first fly-out is planned for 2011.

(click to view full)

April 7/09: The Israeli Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency conduct a successful test of the Arrow ballistic missile defense system. The operationally realistic test was conducted in Israel, using an ASIP interceptor co-produced by Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The event marked the co-produced Arrow II’s 2nd intercept in 2 attempts, as well as its 3rd successful flight test. Boeing.

Jan 4/09: Israel’s Arutz Sheva news service reports that the Arrow missile defense system has been deployed near Ashkelon, in part because IAI has worked with American firms and developed an updated radar system named MC4. The new radar can also deal with smaller missiles, such as the Hamas government’s Kassam or Grad rockets being launched from Gaza. Using GPS and camera sensors, the MC4 system tracks the flight path, and within a minute of launch, it can determine both the launch site and projected landing site of the missile.

At the same time, pressure is building to add Northrop Grumman’s SkyGuard laser system to Israel’s defenses, a system whose technology is based on joint US-Israeli research:

“Supporters claim that the Skyguard laser based system is more suited to Israel’s needs than the rocket-based Rafael solution. Firstly, the laser can intercept short range missiles such as the Kassam rocket which hit their targets in less than 10 seconds. The rocket-based Rafael system can only hit medium-range rockets which reach their targets in more than 20 seconds. In addition, each laser round fired costs approximately $3,000. In contrast, defensive rockets for the Iron Dome system are estimated to cost over $100,000. Supporters also claim that the Skyguard system could be deployed in a short amount of time, whereas the completion of the Iron Dome rocket system is not foreseen in the near future.”

Sept 29/08: The USA has deployed an unspecified X-band radar system in Israel, manned by around 120 American personnel. Reports hint that the system may be similar to the radars deployed to Japan, or the AN/TPY-2 used as part of the THAAD system. The Guardian:

“One key feature of the system is that information from early-warning satellites – which greatly increases the radar’s ability to pinpoint launches – would remain in US hands. The satellite ground station would be in Europe and transmit data to Israel.

…The high-powered X-Band system, manufactured by Raytheon Company, would allow Israel’s Arrow II ballistic shield to engage an Iranian Shehab-3 missile about halfway through its 11-minute flight to Israel, six times sooner than Israel’s existing Green Pine radar can. The X-Band can track an object the size of a baseball from 2,900 miles away.”

Feb 14/08: IAI announces that The Israel Ministry of Defense (IMOD) / Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) has awarded a follow-on production contract to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)’s MLM Division for an undisclosed number of additional Arrow 2 Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile (ATBM) system interceptors. The interceptors will be assembled in Israel at IAI’s MLM Division, the Arrow prime contractor, with major portions coming from Boeing IDS, the U.S. prime contractor in Huntsville, AL., ATK in Luka, MS., and various other subcontractors across the U.S.

Aug 23/07: The Jerusalem Post publishes “IDF modifying Arrow deployment in the North.” Key quote:

“Following this past summer’s war and the recognition that the next war will involve Syrian and Iranian missile barrages, the Air Defense Forces decided to adopt a “wide deployment” for its Arrow missile batteries.”

Aug 6/07: Jane’s Defence Weekly: “Israel is leaning towards upgrading its own anti-ballistic missile Arrow Weapon System (AWS) rather than acquiring the US Theatre High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system. While no formal decision has yet been taken, Jane’s has learned that officials from the Israel Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation (BMDO) have informed the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) about potential complications with integrating THAAD into the country’s missile-defence alignment.”

March 26/07: An improved Arrow II missile, with modifications to its hardware and electronics under the Arrow System Improvement Program, is successfully test-fired this afternoon at Palmahim Air Force Base. The interceptor performed successfully according to design specifications, meeting all expectations and objectives. This is the 1st successful test of the improved configuration, and the 2nd test overall of a co-produced interceptor. Testing is managed by the Israeli Missile Defense Organization, in close cooperation with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

Test objectives were to collect flight engineering data for future test events, and to test the capabilities of the improved Arrow interceptor. This test marks the U.S./Israeli Arrow II program’s 14th success in 16 attempts. US MDA [PDF].

Feb 12/07: A successful ballistic missile intercept test by the Arrow missile defense system, conducted at night over the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the 1st test of a co-produced Arrow intercept missile fired from an improved launcher, using 2 Arrow batteries separated from each other. The target, called “Black Sparrow,” was launched from an F-15 fighter aircraft at which point the Fire Control Radar acquired the target and notified the Battle Management Center. A defense plan was issued and a mission command was sent to the Launch Control Center to fire the interceptor missile. This test marks the U.S./Israeli Arrow II program’s 13th success in 15 attempts. US MDA [PDF].

Spring 2005: The 1st co-produced Arrow 2 interceptor is delivered by IAI to the MoD. Source [PDF].

Feb 2/05: Israel Defense Forces carry out a successful test of the IAI/Boeing Arrow anti-missile system at a secret location in the center of the country. The Jerusalem Post reports that “an F-15 fighter jet flying over the Mediterranean dropped a Black Sparrow test missile specially designed to simulate an incoming Iranian Shihab 3 missile headed toward the Israeli shore.” The successful interception occurred at a higher altitude than previous efforts, and tested recent improvements made to the Arrow 2 system.

Israeli Air Force Patriot missile batteries also participated passively in the test, following the incoming missile with their radars. The Times of India notes that this was the 14th test of the system, which has included joint tests in the USA and advanced tests simulating advanced separating warheads. As evidenced by the Patriot batteries’ participation in this latest test, Israel is working to integrate all of its key assets and connections to US data into one national system, rather than relying on fragmented local control. Jerusalem Post | copy at United Jerusalem.

Pt. Mugu launch
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Aug 26/04: US Missile Defense Agency [PDF]:

“The Arrow anti-ballistic missile system was used today in a joint Israel/United States test exercise as part of the ongoing Arrow System Improvement Program (ASIP). The test was the second in a series conducted at the Point Mugu Sea Range in California. It was the thirteenth Arrow intercept test and the eighth test of the complete weapon system. The Arrow interceptor was launched toward the target but no intercept was achieved. Many of the test objectives were successfully completed, and the test data is being analyzed by test engineers to determine why an intercept did not occur.”

July 29/04: A modified Arrow System Improvement Program anti-ballistic missile successfully intercepts and destroys a ballistic missile target today, west of San Nicolas Island on the Pt. Mugu Sea Range in California. Point Mugu was used, in order to offer a realistic scenario that could not have been tested in Israel due to test-field safety restrictions.

The objective of the test was to demonstrate the Arrow system’s improved performance against a target that represents a threat to Israel. This was the 12th Arrow intercept test, and the 7th test of the complete Arrow system. US MDA [PDF]

April 1/04: Boeing announces a $78 million contract from Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to produce Arrow II interceptor components. The contract, effective immediately, runs through 2006 with options for additional production until Q2 2008. The total contract value could exceed $225 million if all options are exercised.

Boeing and IAI signed a teaming agreement in 2002 to co-produce the interceptor for the Arrow weapon system. The firm is responsible for production of the electronics section, the radome, motorcases for the booster and sustainer, and the canister that holds the interceptor in the missile launcher. Boeing production and program management will be conducted in Huntsville, AL. IAI, the prime contractor of the Arrow system, is responsible for system integration and final interceptor assembly in Israel.

Boeing will manage several major subcontracts to support the Arrow interceptor production including Alliant-Techsystems in Iuka, MS and Clearfield, UT; Manes Machine, in Fort Collins, CO; Ceradyne Thermo-Materials, Inc., in Scottsdale, GA; and Sanmina SCI, in Huntsville, AL.

Sept 14/2000: The Israel Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Army, conduct the 2nd successful intercept of a target ballistic missile by the Arrow Weapon System (AWS) in Israel. This was the 8th overall Arrow-2 flight test, but the 1st intercept for the against a new air-launched, in-bound target called the Black Sparrow.

The Arrow interceptor took off and flew in a nominal trajectory, acquired the Black Sparrow target, then locked on and homed on the designated threat. The warhead was fused at the proper range and the Arrow interceptor destroyed the target. The Green Pine fire control radar and Citron Tree battle management center participated fully in the test, performing battle planning, launch operations, and up link/down link message applications, as well as post intercept verifications. Both assets worked according to plan and fulfilled all test objectives. Analysis of all data is underway to evaluate and confirm results. US MDA [PDF]

Additional Readings & Sources

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Bringing Home the BACN to Front-Line Forces

Defense Industry Daily - Tue, 16/06/2015 - 02:01
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In late June 2009, the USAF awarded Northrop Grumman Defense Mission Systems Inc., of San Diego, CA an urgent requirement contract for its Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) System. Under current plans, Northrop Grumman will help the USAF deploy BACN in up to 4 “E-11″ Bombardier BD-700 Global Express (see also BACN-modified photo) ultra-long-range business jets, and in up to 4 EQ-4B Global Hawk Block 20 UAVs, for sustained deployment through 2015.

BACN is an airborne communications relay that extends communications ranges, bridges between radio frequencies, and “translates” among incompatible communications systems. That may sound trivial, but on a tactical level, it definitely isn’t.

The BACN System Global Express
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BACN was developed under a Department of Defense Microelectronic Activity contract (#H94003-04-D-0005), as part of the Interim Gateway Program. It provides a high-speed, Internet protocol (IP)-based airborne network infrastructure that that extends communications ranges, bridges between radio frequencies, and “translates” among incompatible communications systems – including both tactical and civil cellular systems. Using BACN, a Special Forces soldier on the ground could use a civil cell phone to speak to a fighter pilot in the cockpit.

BACN supports seamless movement of imagery, video, voice and digital messages, with support for waveforms that include SINCGARS (single-channel ground and airborne radio system), DAMA (demand assigned multiple access), EPLRS (enhanced position location reporting system), SADL (situation awareness data link), Link 16, and IP-based networking connectivity using TTN (tactical targeting network), TCDL (tactical common data link) technology, CLIP (Common Link Integration Processing), and 802.11b. Northrop Grumman’s joint translator/forwarder (JXF), originally developed for US Joint Forces Command, is to accomplish digital-message transformation.

That kind of system can be especially useful in rugged terrain that block line-of-sight communications, in combined civil/military situations, or when different services or even different countries are operating side by side in the field. Afghanistan meets all of those criteria, an so do some aspects of operations in Iraq.

F-22A: Got BACN?
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There are even reports that BACN may be installed in the F-22 Raptor as a communications gateway that would solve some of that platform’s issues; releases concerning the JEFX 08 exercises were vague on this subject, mentioning only BACN’s ability to receive unique F-22 waveforms.

As of 2006, the Northrop Grumman BACN team included:

  • Northrop Grumman’s Defense Mission Systems, Space Technology, Integrated Systems and Information Technology sectors
  • NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX
  • Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, IA
  • Raytheon Solipsys in Laurel, MD
  • L3 Communications in Salt Lake City, UT
  • Qualcomm Inc. in San Diego, CA
  • ViaSat Inc. in Carlsbad, CA

BACN served

Northrop Grumman and teammate Orion Air Group provide 24/7 operations and support services for BACN on the front lines.

At present, BACN is flying on 3 modified E-11A Global Express long-range business jets (1 leased, 2 USAF-owned), and 3 (soon 4) EQ-4B Global Hawk Block 20 UAV variants. Another E-11 plane has been contracted for integration.

Contracts and Key Events

Unless otherwise specified, contracts are issued and managed by the staffs at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA, and performed by Northrop Grumman. Contracts began with the firm’s Defense Mission Systems, Inc. unit in San Diego, CA, then shifted to Northrop Grumman Systems Corp’s Defense Systems Division in Herndon, VA after 2010, following the firm’s move to Washington, DC. Since then, the contractor’s side had shifted back and forth between Herndon VA and what is now Northrop Grumman Space & Mission Systems Corp. in San Diego, CA.

FY 2014 – 2015

EQ-4B Operations

June 6/15: On Monday the Air Force awarded a $145.4 million contract modification for services in support of the Battlefield Airborne Communication Node Joint Urgent Operational Need (BACN JUON). Contractor Northrop Grumman also benefited from a $35.7 million modification to the KC-10 tanker Contractor Logistics Support program.

Aug 6/14: Northrop Grumman Corporation announces an $89.7 million contract option to continue operating and supporting BACN (4 E-11A jets, 3 EQ-4B UAVs, all payloads) in support of overseas contingency missions through June 2015. Sources: NGC, “Northrop Grumman Awarded Contract to Continue BACN Mission Support Contract”.

Jan 15/14: Northrop Grumman Information Systems in Herndon, VA receives a $52.3 million firm-fixed-price cost-reimbursement modification, exercising CLIN options to continue supporting and operating E-11A BACN aircraft.

$31.8 million in FY 2014 O&M funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed at Kandahar AB, Afghanistan, as well as Wichita, KS, and is expected to be complete by Jan 23/15 (FA8726-13-C-0001, PO 0013).

FY 2011 – 2013 SmartNode on Firebird
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May 7/13: Northrop Grumman Space and Missile Systems Corp. in San Diego, CA receives a $89.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, extending the FY 2009 BACN payload contract that covers deployment support and operation of the fielded systems.

Work will be performed at San Diego, CA, and abroad at locations where currently deployed until June 22/14. $7.5 million in FY 2013 Operations and Maintenance funds are committed immediately by the USAF Life Cycle Management Center/HNAK at Hanscom AFB, MA (FA8726-09-C-0010, PO 0076).

Nov 1/12: E-11A. A $48.2 million firm-fixed-price contract for E-11A BACN platform maintenance at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan. The contract will run until February 2018. Whether the Afghan regime will run that long is another question (FA8726-13-C-0001).

Sept 27/12: 4th E-11A. A $33 million contract modification for BACN Node payload integration and supplemental type certificates on E-11A aircraft S/N 9506. That serial number indicates a new contractor-owned aircraft. This will bring the number of E-11As to 4: 2 leased, and 2 government-owned.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be completed by Oct 31/13. The AFLCMC/HNAK at Hanscom AFB, MA manages the contract (FA8726-09-C-0010, PO 0059).

New E-11

Sept 7/12: EQ-4B #4. Northrop Grumman delivers the USAF’s 4th EQ-4B Global Hawk 4 months ahead of schedule, in a flight from the Palmdale, CA facility to Grand Forks AFB, ND. It’s the 2nd scheduled delivery from the Dec 28/11 entry.

Briefings with appropriate personnel reveal that it may be the 4th EQ-4B delivered, but it’s only the 3rd one flying for the USAF. The Aug 20/11 crash (added below) explains the discrepancy. NGC release, Oct 23/12.

June 2012: EQ-4B #3. Northrop Grumman delivers the USAF’s 3rd EQ-4B Global Hawk ahead of schedule. It’s the 1st scheduled delivery from the Dec 28/11 entry. Source.

June 21/12: All. A $106.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, to extend the deployment and operation of BACN payloads installed in 3 EA-11A jets and 3 E-Q4B Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles.

Work will run to June 22/13, and will be performed both within the United States, and outside the USA where currently deployed (FA8726-09-C-0010, PO 0043).

June 21/12: E-11A. A $50.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 8 more months of E-11A Platform Maintenance support for the 3 aircraft: tail numbers 9355, 9358, and 9001. Work will be performed at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan until Feb 24/13 (FA8726-09-C-0010, PO 0053).

May 17/12: SmartNode – BACN Lite. Northrop Grumman completes a series of test flights for its SmartNode Pod, which is based on BACN technology but can be carried by smaller aircraft and UAVs. SmartNode can connect to BACN platforms, ground operational centers or other pods to create encrypted, high-bandwidth digital data and voice connectivity. The project is funded by the firm and by a US military customer, and Northrop Grumman used its own Firebird “optionally manned” plane because the designated platform wasn’t immediately available for testing.

The SmartNode Pod is designed to be a part of the Pentagon’s Joint Aerial Layer Network (JALN), which would link ground, space and airborne communications nodes to offer military forces the bandwidth they require. That had been the goal of the $20-25 billion TSAT satellite program, before it was cancelled; JALN represents a much more diverse and incremental approach to the same problem. Discussions with Northrop Grumman indicate that BACN would sit at the top tier of JALN, while SmartNode is a mid-tier solution that won’t do satellite communications, has fewer message translation options, won’t support as many networks, and won’t support many of the classified American networks. On the other hand, it’s a 250 pound payload that can fly on MALE(Medium Altitude Long Endurance) UAVs like the US Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle, IAI’s Heron, etc., providing high-bandwidth relay and a useful subset of technical translations at less cost, in more places. NGC | USAF re: JALN.

March 30/12: E-11A. A $26.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price, time-and-material contract modification exercises options for a 7.5 month extension of E-11A serial number 11-9001 services, in support of Overseas Contingency Operations from April 1/12 through Nov 16/12. Should be painted in a nice military grey by now (vid. Nov 18/11), but the USAF hasn’t bought the jet, yet.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (44%) and Yorktown, VA (56%) – (FA8726-09-C-0010, Modification PO 0050).

Feb 23/12: E-11A. A $34.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification adds a 4-month extension for the continued operations support and maintenance of the USAF’s 2 BACN E-11A jets, and operational support and maintenance of the BACN payloads. Work will take place in San Diego, CA, and the extension runs until June 22/12 (FA8726-09-C-0010 PO 0042).

Dec 28/11: EQ-4B. Northrop Grumman Defense Mission Systems Inc. in San Diego, CA receives a $47.2 million firm-fixed-price contract to buy and integrate BACN payloads on 2 more RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 20 aircraft: AF-11 and AF-13. These 2 HALE UAVs will be provided to Northrop Grumman as government furnished property. Then Northrop Grumman will integrate the BACN payload and turn them into EQ-4Bs, bringing the delivered fleet to 4 and the serving fleet to 3.

Work will be performed in Palmdale, CA, and is expected to be complete by Aug 22/12 for AF-11, and Dec 15/12 for AF-13. USAF Material Command’s Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, MA (FA8726-09-C-0010, PO 0041).

2 more EQ-4B UAVs

Nov 18/11: E-11A. A $29.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification. The modification is for a Continuous Airworthiness Maintenance Plan (CAMP) Level 8C inspection of Air Force aircraft E-11A, serial number 11-9001, followed by a 5-month extension of the operation and support of the aircraft. It also provides an option to repaint the aircraft to USAF specifications, and for correction of any faults found during CAMP inspection.

This is the same sort of sequence followed for the other 2 leased jets, just before the USAF bought them. One firm was solicited and one firm submitted a proposal to USAF Materiel Command’s Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, MA (FA8726-09-C-0010, PO 0038).

Nov 3/11: The USAF’s BACN platforms get official designations. The Bombardier BD-700s are E-11As, and the modified Global Hawk Block 20 UAVs are EQ-4Bs. Northrop Grumman.


Sept 30/11: E-11A. Orion Air Group, LLC in Newport News, VA receives a $50 million firm fixed price contract to buy 2 of the leased “E-11A” Global Express BD-700-1A10 jets, serial # 9355 & 9358, including their engines. The aircraft and engines were provided to the Pentagon by Northrop Grumman, under a sub-lease for operations (FA8726-09-C-0010). Now we know why the Sept 21/11 contract had that re-painting option.

US Air Force Materiel Command, Electronic Systems Center, Airborne Networks Division at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA manages this contract (FA8307-11-C-0014).

Bizjet buyout: 2 E-11As

Sept 21/11: E-11A. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp.’s Defense Systems Division in Herndon, VA receives a 5-month, $43 million extension to a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to operate and maintain the other 2 E-11A Global Express BACN jets, serial numbers 11-9355 and 11-9358. This contract also provides for the operation and maintenance of the BACN payload by Northrop Grumman, and offers an option to re-paint the 2 BD-700 aircraft to USAF specifications (FA8726-09-C-0010, PO 0035).

Aug 20/11: EQ-4B lost. One of the USAF’s EQ-4B’s (tail number 04-2017) crashes about 105 nautical miles NW of Kandahar, during a communications relay mission over Afghanistan. The accident investigation believes that a connector failed, which led to the loss of electricity for the payload, and for the aileron and spoiler flight control systems. That made the UAV uncontrollable, and it arrowed into the ground within 4 minutes. There isn’t much left, as one might imagine given the UAV’s starting altitude. The investigation isn’t 100% definitive, because the avionics were not recovered at the crash site.

The EQ4B is home-based at Beale AFB, CA with the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, but it was forward-deployed to Afghanistan for its missions. Crash investigation [PDF].

EQ-4B crash

July 8/11: E-11A. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp.’s Defense Systems Division in Herndon, VA receives a 4-month, $20.7 million extension to a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for operate and maintain E-11A Global Express BACN jet, serial number 1-900. This contract also provides for the operations and maintenance of the BACN payload (FA8726-09-C-0010, PO 0032).

June 25/11: The BACN system completes its 2,000th USAF mission flown in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Since the system was deployed to support Afghan theater operations in October 2008, BACN has accumulated more than 20,000 operational flight hours in those 2,000 missions, with a mission availability rate of 98%.

The interval from Oct 1/08 – June 25/11 inclusive is 998 days, which means an average sortie rate of about 2 missions per day, 24/7.

Mission #2,000

Dec 21/10: The Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) have selected the BACN Joint Urgent Operational Need (JUON) program to receive one of the Top 5 DoD Program Awards given annually for excellence in systems engineering.

BACN also has been honored in 2010 with the Weapon Systems Award from the Order of Daedalians, a national fraternity of military pilots, and the 2010 Network Centric Warfare Award for Outstanding Achievement from a Defense Industry Partner, from the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement. Northrop Grumman.


Dec 13/10: E-11A. A $74.6 million option for continued maintenance and support of the payload installed in 2 of 3 modified BD-700 Global Express aircraft leased from March 2011 through October 2011. Money will be committed as needs arise (FA8726-09-C-0010; P00021).

Nov 30/10: All. A $34.1 million contract modification to extend BACN payload maintenance and support in current theaters of war. At this time, $10 million has been committed (FA8726-09-C-0010; P00020).

FY 2006 – 2010 RQ-4B Block 20
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Sept 22/10: EQ-4B. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Sector in San Diego, CA received a $20 million contract modification which will provide replenishment spares relative to the RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 20 BACN joint urgent operational need effort. WR-ALC/GRCKA at Robins Air Force Base, GA manages this contract (FA8528-09-D-0001; PO 0016).

BACN was originally deployed on board a high altitude NASA WB-57 aircraft. Deployment on board the Global Hawk UAV is the next step beyond its current platform, a modified Bombardier Global Express business jet.

March 11/10: Sub-contractors. ViaSat in Carlsbad, CA receives $21.5 million firm-fixed-price contract and delivery order for MIDS-LVT Link 16 terminals, combining purchases for the USA (68%) and Germany (11%); and for Australia (18%) and South Korea (3%) under the Foreign Military Sales program.

Contract funds in the amount of $1.6 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Work will be performed in Carlsbad, CA (30%) and in various other sites worldwide (70%), and is expected to be complete by Feb 28/12. This contract was competitively procured via the Space and Naval Warfare Systems E-commerce Web site, with 2 offers received, based on a synopsis released via the Federal Business Opportunities Web site (N00039-10-D-0032).

ViaSat’s subsequent release says that this new award includes LVT (1) terminal variants for F/A-18, P-3, and E-2D aircraft; and MH-60R/S helicopters, along with terminals for the BACN program and other U.S. Navy applications. The MIDS-LVT Lot 11 order also includes LVT (2) “ground” terminal variants for various U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and Joint Forces applications, as well as terminals for Germany, Australia, and Korea.

Feb 22/10: All. Northrop Grumman Defense Mission Systems, Inc. in San Diego, CA, was awarded a $77.9 million contract to maintain and support the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node system “in support of overseas contingency operations” through fiscal year 2010. The award is corrected on Feb 25/10 to add an order number, and say that only $58.4 million has been committed (FA8726-09-C-0010, P00008).

Jan 26/10: Recognition. At the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement’s Network Enabled Operations conference in Arlington, VA, BACN receives the 2010 Network Centric Warfare Award for Outstanding Achievement from a Defense Industry Partner. NGC release.

Sept 14/09: All. A $35.5 million contract to provide the rapid fielding and support of the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node System. At this time no money has been obligated; it will be allocated as needs arise (FA8726-09-C-0010, P00003).

June 24/09: Contract. A $276.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee urgent requirement contract for its Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) System. At this time, $97.8 million has been obligated by the 653rd Electronic Systems Group at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA (FA8726-09-C-0010).

The contract will fund fielding in 3 long-range Bombardier BD-700 Global Express jets, and 2 Global Hawk RQ-4B Block 20 UAVs. It will also fund the company’s support for continuing operations of the existing BACN-equipped BD-700, which the Air Force deployed to the front lines in December 2008. See also Northrop Grumman release.

BACN ordered

Oct 18/06: Development. Northrop Grumman will continue to enhance and expand the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) under 2 recently awarded Defense Microelectronics Activity contracts, issued under its Advanced Technology Support Program.

The 16-month, $25 million BACN Spiral Technical Phase II will continue base development, building on the initial $25.7 million BACN contract in April 2005. The 24-month, $8.5 million Intraflight Datalink Gateway System will add a secure data link allowing the F-22 Raptor to communicate with other platforms without compromising its stealth. Northrop Grumman.

BACN Development Phase II

Additional Readings

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Hewitt Equipment to replace Canadian Halifax-class frigates’ generators

Naval Technology - Tue, 16/06/2015 - 01:00
The Canadian Department of National Defence has selected Hewitt Equipment to replace the diesel-electric generator (DG) sets and the provision of in-service support for the Navy’s fleet of Halifax-class frigates.
Categories: Defence`s Feeds