Revised March 26, 2014. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history
Aside from the F-16C Fighting Falcon, another aircraft that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has its sights on for the Philippines’ main combat aircraft is the JAS-39 Gripen. An informal survey by the Philippine News Agency just a couple of months ago showed that most PAF pilots preferred to have the Gripen to be the country’s next fighter aircraft.1 We’ve already seen how the F-16C could fare against the SU-30MKK Flanker in my blog, “The F-16C Block 50/52+ Viper versus the SU-30MKK/MK2 Flanker-G“, let us now take a look at how the JAS-39 could fare against the same adversary.
The JAS-39 is made by the Swedish company “Saab” and first entered service with the Swedish Air Force in 1997. It is described as a lightweight Multi Role Fighter (MRF) and 250 aircrafts have been built so far in service with six countries around the world.
The JAS-39C is the latest mass produced version of the aircraft introduced into service in 2003 with improvements like better avionics, in-flight refueling capability and an improved oxygen system for long-duration flights. The aircraft’s official name is “Gripen” which is the Swedish word for “Griffin“,2 a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an Eagle. Continue reading The Flanker-G Killer: The JAS-39C Gripen versus the SU-30MKK/MK2 Flanker-G→
One advantage the Gripen NG has over the Viper Block 50/52+ is that it has an Infra Red Search and Track (IRST) system. An IRST has become common in fighter aircraft the last couple of decades because they offer the advantage of PASSIVE detection and tracking of enemy aircraft. Unlike radar, and IRST system does not send out signals that can be detected by its enemy, hence enhancing its stealth capabilities.
It is not a perfect system, though, as certain atmospheric conditions can hinder its effectiveness, but when it does work, an aircraft could effectively sneak up on its opponents without being detected and fire its missiles. Aircrafts use it mainly as a COMPLEMENT to their radar system, using it only when the weather opportunity allows it so.
‘Manueverability and Vertical Performance’
One aspect of both these planes I wanted to take a look was their maneuvering capability. This aspect is important during Within Visual Range (WVR) combat which I think will still be important for fighter aircrafts for a long time to come. For this I wanted to take a look at their WING LOADING (WL), and THRUST-TO-WEIGHT RATIO (TTWR).
“Wing Loading” is simply the amount of the weight the wing supports during flight, and is expressed in weight per area, or in the metric system, kg/m^2. This is computed by: (Wing Area divided by Weight). This is an important indication of an aircraft’s maneuverability in the horizontal plane as the lower the wing loading, the tighter the radius of a turn an aircraft can do at any given speed, and vice versa, the higher the WL, the wider the radius of a turn an aircraft can do.
“Thrust-to-Weight Ratio” means how much power the aircraft has compared to its weight, and is expressed by a simple number. This is computed by: (The maximum thrust of the aircraft’s engine divided by weight). This is also important both in the horizontal and vertical plane as it shows an aircraft’s ability to maintain speed during vertical turning maneuvers, and also show how fast an aircraft can accelerate when it is flying vertically straight up. The higher the TTWR means the more power the aircraft has available compared to its weight, and vice versa, the lower the TTWR means the less power the aircraft has available compared to its weight. Continue reading Comparing the Viper Block 50/52+ versus the Gripen E – July 2013 Part Two→
While there are reports that the Philippine Air Force (PhAF) favors the JAS-39 Gripen as its next Multi-Role Fighter (MRF), one possible showstopper in terms of the PhAF getting it would be the fact that its latest version, the JAS-39E/F Gripen will not be available for delivery until 2018, which is a full 5 years from the time of this writing. Initially I thought that would be enough time for the PhAF to finally get its FA-50 Golden Eagle Lead In-Fighter Trainer and have operational use of that aircraft and be ready for the Gripen E, but it seems the PhAF might want to get their MRFs sooner.
The sense of urgency is understandable because of the increasing belligerence of China in terms of turning the South China Sea into its own, personal lake. Hence, rumors have been floating around that aside from the Gripen E, the PhAF might also consider the F-16 as its next MRF.
The F-16 is officially known as the “Fighting Falcon” by the United States Air Force (USAF), but it has been known to its pilots as the “Viper” because when it first came out, it reminded them of the “Colonial Viper” fighter space craft in the TV series, “Battlestar Galactica”. There are dozens of different versions of the aircraft, so many it almost boggles the mind to keep track of all of them. So my initial question if we are going to get the F-16 is which version will we be getting? Continue reading Comparing the Viper Block 50/52+ versus the Gripen E – July 2013 Part One→
‘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.
The last couple of years, there has been reports that the Philippine Air Force (PhAF) want the Saab JAS-39 Gripen as its next Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) if ever the Philippines will finally get to buy an MRF. This conclusion seems to have come from the evaluations of various PhAF pilots who have gone out and flown various aircrafts like the Gripen, Mig-29 and F-16 in the past. Nothing is final yet as of this writing, of course, as we still haven’t even finalized the purchase of the FA-50 Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT). However, I thought it was time to take a closer look at the Gripen that the PhAF is leaning towards getting.
There are basically 3 OPERATIONAL types of the Gripen, the first is the JAS-39A/B version. This were the first versions of this model introduced back in 1996. The next model type is the JAS-39C/D version introduced in 2007 with updated Aviation Electronics (Avionics), Helmet Mounted Sight, in-flight refuelling capability and other minor improvements.
The latest model type is the JAS-39E/F version introduced in 2010, and offers a SIGNIFICANT improvement over the previous models. For one it is equipped with a more powerful engine enabling it to go into “Supercruise” (cruise at supersonic speed even without using afterburners) when armed with a light load. It has 40% more fuel capacity enabling it to have significant range improvement; And most importantly it has a much more advanced avionics systems that enable it to compete with even the best aircrafts in operation today. Continue reading Assessing the Gripen for the Philippine Air Force – July 2013 Part One→