The advanced simulated war game proved that Sweden’s Gripen defeats Russia’s Su-35 almost the same rate as the F-22 Raptor.
The simulated WVR combat shows Swedish Gripen E fighter shooting down Russia’s best in class Su-35 fighter jet at almost the same rate that the F-22 does. The Gripen E is estimated to be able to shoot down 1.6 Su-35s for every Gripen E lost, the F-22 is slightly better at 2.0 Su-35s shot down per F-22 lost in WVR combat. The F-35 shoot down 2.4 Su-35 for each F-35 shot down in WVR combat. How that comes about is explained by the following graphic of instantaneous turn rate plotted against sustained turn rate in close combat.
Turning and carrying a gatling gun in WVR combat remains as important as it has ever been. Most missiles miss in combat if the fighter jet has very good instantaneous turn rate. Assuming that the pilot’s skill is equal, a 2° per second advantage in sustained turn rate will enable the more agile fighter to dominate the engagement. A high instantaneous turn rate is vital in being able to dodge the air-to-air missiles in the first place. The aircraft on the upper right quadrant of the graph will have a higher survival rate. The ones on the lower left quadrant will produce more windows to be defeated by A2A missiles.
In a BVR combat, the F-22 raptor, F-35 and Gripen have the overwhelming advantages against Russian Su-35 as these fighter jets have low radar cross section and low observable profile at the opponent’s radar. Armed with advanced BVR missile, the F-22 raptor, F-35 and Gripen are able to take first shot before Su-35 can see these aircraft.
The Gripen E has a U.S.-made engine, the GE F414, which is also the engine of the F/A-18 Super Hornet and India’s HAL Tejaz. The radar and the infrared search and track system are Italian. The sensors, avionics and armament are European origin. Much of the airframe may be built in Sweden. The Brazillian airframe will be built in Brzail. If the Royal Canadian Air Force select Gripen then the airframe will be manufactured in Canada.
The Swedish Air Force is buying its Gripen Es for $43 million per copy, less than one-third the price of the F-35. Its operating cost per hour is less than a tenth of that of the F-35’s. The export customers are buying Gripen for $85 million per aircraft. The Brazilian Air Force ordered Gripen E/F and the Philippines Air Force is in a process of procuring Gripen E/F.
The Gripen E is designed to carry more weapons further and to track multiple threats using the latest type of radar. The weapons include guided glide bombs, long-range air-to-air missiles and heavy anti-ship armaments. The Gripen also has a 27 mm Mauser BK27 gun, which can be used in air-to-surface attacks against land and sea targets. Like others in the range, the Gripen E has a delta wing and fly-by-wire flight avionics. Unlike some others in the line, it has a greater fuel capacity, 20 per cent more thrust, more pylons, in-flight refuelling capability and increased take-off weight.
Gripen has a 15.2 meter (50ft) long body has a wingspan of 8.6 metres (28ft) which allows it to manage a take-off weight of 16,500 kg (36.376lb). The Gripen can reach Mach 2 (1,522 mph, 2,450 km/h) at high altitude with a turnaround time between missions of just ten minutes. The Gripen’s combat radius is 800 km (497 mi, 432 nmi) and ferry range 3,200 km (1,983 mi) with drop tanks.
The aircraft’s sensors include an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, Infra-Red Search and Track (IRST), Electronic Warfare (EW) suite and data link technology are the best solid-state technology in the west.
The latest version of the Gripen fighter jet was unveiled in May 2016 by Swedish aircraft maker, Saab. Boeing is a partner in the aircraft. The Gripen E prototype 39-8 ‘Smart Fighter’, the aircraft is aimed at markets not yet cleared to buy the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The E fighter, the sixth variant in the Gripen family, is slightly bigger than previous versions, has a stronger engine and updated radar systems.
The story doesn’t end there. At the moment the Su-35 is the fighter to beat. Su-35 is almost as large as the F-22, with an empty weight of 18.4 tonnes and a maximum takeoff weight of 34.5 tonnes. Its fuel fraction of 38% gives it a combat range of 1,000 miles. An inevitable consequence of large 4++ generation aircraft is that higher radar cross section and visible to modern aircraft such as Gripen or the F-35.
By design and manufacturing concept, the JAS Gripen E/F put the software first then new hardware which runs Mission System 21 software, the latest roughly biennial release in the series that started with the JAS 39A/B.
Sweden has invested in state-of-the-art sensors for ISR and situational awareness, including what may be the first in-service electronic warfare system using gallium-nitride technology. It’s significant that a lot of space is devoted to the identification friend-or-foe system. Good IFF is most important in a confused situation where civilian, friendly, neutral, questionable and hostile actors are sharing the same airspace.
Sweden’s ability to develop its own state-of-the-art fighters has long depended on blending home-grown and imported technology. Harvesting technology rather than inventing it becomes more important as commercial technology takes a leading role and becomes more global.
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