Assessing the Gripen for the Philippine Air Force – July 2013 Part Two

‘Small Radar Cross Section’
The Gripen is a small aircraft, you could say it is tiny, even, especially when compared to the Sukhoi Superfighters like the SU-30MK. But one advantage of its small size combined with its delta-wing configuration and smooth lines is that it has a very small Radar Cross Section (RCS). RCS means the measure of how detectable an object is to radar, and is expressed in terms of area in square meters (m^2). The higher the number, the easier to detect by radar, and vice versa, the lower the number, the harder it is to detect by radar. The available data for the JAS-39A version of the Gripen is 0.1m^2.

This is particularly small, especially when you compare it with large fighters like China’s SU-30MKK or Chengdu J-11. The RCS for those fighters are not available, but the RCS for the SU-27 from which those aircrafts were based on is between 10-15m^2. This means that the RCS of the Gripen is approximately 100 times LESS than that of China’s main frontline fighters. Of course when missiles are added the RCS for all these aircrafts will rise, but since the Gripen has a lower RCS to begin with, it will always have a lower RCS than the SU-30MKK/J-11.

This is important in combat because it means that the Gripen will always be harder to detect by radar because of its low RCS, and vice versa the SU-30MKK/J-11 will always be easier to detect by radar because of its much bigger RCS. This gives the Gripen even the advantage in terms of detecting its opponents first and firing off the first shot.

‘Air to Air Missiles’
I think it is important for the PhAF to remember that the Gripen is just a WEAPONS PLATFORM, and that without the proper WEAPONS itself, it will not be very useful. AT THE VERY LEAST, such an expensive and advanced aircraft should be paired with an equally advanced (and expensive) Air to Air Missile (AAM) also to be able to defend itself well, or else it will just be an expensive target practice for its opponents. I see these AAMs to be an ESSENTIAL PART of the aircraft, without which the Gripen would be INCOMPLETE.

First, it should be armed with a medium range air to air missile to enable it to shoot down its opponents Beyond Visual Range (BVR), especially since China’s fighter aircraft has lots of these also. The best medium range AAM for me right now available from western countries is the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missiles (AMRAAM). There are other good alternatives out there also in this class, like Israel’s Derby AAM, or Germany’s Infra Red Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled (IRIS-T), but I feel the AMRAAM is the best because of its range. The “C” versions of the AMRAAM has a range of over 100km, while the newer “D” version has at least 150km range. This long reach is again important as China’s AAMs have long ranges also, particularly the PL-12 which rivals the AIM-120C’s range.

Lastly, the Gripens should also be armed with advanced short range AAMs with Infra-Red (IR) Guidance, as these will serve as INSURANCE against future technology that MIGHT be able to defeat the active-homing radar of missiles like the AMRAAM, like the emerging Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM, which basically tries to deceive active-homing radar with false signals). Modern IR missiles are much more difficult to deceive or counter, making them inherrently more reliable. There are a couple of excellen choices out there for IR AAMs, ranging from Israel’s Python to the United States’ AIM-9X Sidewinder.

The Gripen should have BOTH of these types of missiles to ensure good survivability in any shooting war with China.

‘Parting Shot’
The combination of its advanced AESA Radar and its stealth characteristics, plus its Weapons Data Link capability allowing only aircrafts to share information with its other, its low RCS and (if equipped with) advanced AAMs means the Gripen will have pretty good capability even against China’s most advanced frontline fighters, at least for the next 10-15 years.

Overall, it is a pretty good aircraft to have, for defensive purposes such as ours. There are better aircrafts our there for offensive purposes, like the Sukhoi Superfighters from Russia, but if you factor in other stuff like MAINTAINABILITY and RELIABILITY, COST and the fact that it will be used for mainly defensive purposes, then it could well be the best aircraft available for the Philippines right now. I hope that plans to acquire these aircrafts will push thru in the near future.

(End of 2-Part Series)

– Gripen Radar Cross Section,
– Radar Cross Section (RCS),
– Raytheon (Hughes) AIM-120 AMRAAM,
– Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM,

14 thoughts on “Assessing the Gripen for the Philippine Air Force – July 2013 Part Two”

  1. You have just only talk about the weapon systems of the fighter aircraft. I think the other fighter aircraft specifically multirole fighter jet has an ECM or ECCM capability as part of electromagnetic battle space in air warfare. This is also very vital components of fighter aircraft to deceive or jam the sensor.

    1. Unfortunately, much of the capabilities of Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) equipment are highly classified, no decent data is available for them right now, and understandably so because the nature of ECM combat is quite fluid where the advantage can switch back and forth quickly …

  2. I mean using electromagnetic spectrum to deceive or jam the radar sensors of the fighter aircraft. And remember, the opponent have their sensor surveillence in space and air radar surveillance supported with Electronic Warfare capability for intelligent surveillance and identification. So is about tactics and strategy to deploy your surveillance on ground, sea and air which is knowing your target first with positive results infornation from your forward vantage point surveillance.

    1. If PNoy’s bet wins in the 2016 elections, you can bet we will buy a better main combat aircraft, and it would likely be down to the F-16 and the Gripen. The Gripen is newer and I feel better, but the F-16 has the US’ political clout behind it. Already the US is telling us to get the US-made TPS-77 instead of the ELM-2088, they “might” voice a similar opinion if and when we buy a new combat aircraft …

  3. The PAF pilots together with the higher echelons of AFP appear to be dead set on the Gripens already. If the US will insist on selling us the F-16’s, they should introduce some major upgrades to match the Gripen’s capability and satisfy the tactical requirements set by the DnD (is there any?). STOL capability for starters, together with a transport/servicing truck so they won’t be restricted on the airstrip for takeoff and landing. It must trump the Gripen on RCS, maneuverability, and operational cost too but I guess that would be asking too much in effect, like telling them to build a totally new and different plane for us.

    1. I think in order for the F-16 to somewhat match the Gripen E, it will have to be an advanced version, at least Block 50/52+, perhaps even more. But clearly I think the Gripen E is too far ahead of the curve for the old F-16 design to catch up. The F-16V, maybe? But how much will it cost, probably more than the Gripen E.

  4. if the US would give us a discount on any of their f-16 blocks then that would be ideal. but if not, we shouldn’t be goaded into getting an older block which would be a target practice for the chinese fighters and would cost us more in terms of maintenance. I do hope the US won’t block as with our future gripen purchase. the gripen is the ideal MRF for the resurrected AFP.

    1. The DND reportedly already has started the paperwork for the Gripen, but this is all dependent on the next President and DND Secretary. Hopefully whoever wins, he or she will support it. These are the kind of news that makes me wish PNoy had will have at least one more term …

  5. I think we should already order the Gripens while our pilots train in the FA-50’s para saktong pag handa na sila lumipad ng MRF, andito na rin Gripens natin because it takes years to build brand new MRF’s

  6. Minor mistake for the missiles.

    The Derby and the Iris-T fall into the short ranged dogfight missile category, along with the Python 5, Aim-9X, ASRAAM, A-DARTER, and the MICA-IR, in which the Iris-T and the Python are the better ones.

    The AMRAAM falls into the beyond visual range category. Peers here in are much less, as the AMRAAM is the most common in NATO. Others are the AIM-7 sparrow which is old, the retired AIM-54 phoenix, R-77 for soviet designs, and the incoming METEOR, made by mbda, which is considered to be the next big thing in BVR. It offers 3 times better no escape zone, which is the important determinant of a long range missile. Max range helps, but is not the most important determinant of missile hit probability performance. The Gripen is the only plane to fully integrate METEOR into its systems, which will come in to the MS20 standard for the on service Gripen a-c models.

  7. the strategic value is the best thing in ordering weapon system. it maybe f-16 or gripen or AMRAAM or METEOR. the strategic value will also look into the budget we have to purchase advance weapon system. remember, if there is war or limited war we have to consider all areas of concern what is best for us. it might be an f-16V or block 50 and AMRAAM is already good for us because is within our budget. but if we have so much budget then a Gripen and METEOR is a better option. with a limited budget buying Gripen and METEOR might cost as more in maintenance. Gripen might be new but if budget is scarce it is the same, we will have a hard time flying this aircraft.

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