Saab’s Gripen C/D shines in Alaska Red Flag exercise

First flight with first Gripen E for Sweden

Gripen first participated in Red Flag 2006 with the Gripen A. It was assigned to the red team. It scored ten kills on the first day, including a Typhoon. The Gripen’s performance and efficiency needed to be evaluated.

The JAS-39 Gripen is the backbone of several air forces worldwide today. It’s a modern multi-role fighter aircraft that perfectly balances excellent operational performance, high-tech solutions, cost-efficiency and industrial partnership. It is designed to meet customer needs by countering a wide range of existing and future threats, while simultaneously meeting their strict requirements for flight safety, reliability, training efficiency and low operating costs. It is also the first fighter system with full integration of the Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile. Built for full NATO interoperability, Gripen has successfully participated in NATO-led operations as well as numerous exercises and air policing assignments.

Former Swedish Air Force Flight Engineer explains how the Saab Gripen can Dogfight and Win Against (Almost) Any Dissimilar Aircraft
Gripen C in Red Flag Alaska

Gripen first participated in Red Flag 2006 with the Gripen A,’ says Stefan Englund, former Swedish Air Force Flight Engineer. ‘It was assigned to the red team. Reduced AWACS, reduced ground support.

The Gripens connected their link systems and acted themselves as AWACs, got the battlefield awareness necessary and avoided all ground defence, scored 10 kills the first day including a Typhoon. No losses were recorded on day one they remained undetected. One Gripen pilot knocked down five F-16 Block 50+ during close air combat in Red Flag Alaska. And the Gripen never lost any aerial encounter or failed their mission objectives. It was the only fighter that performed all planed starts, while others were sitting on the ground waiting for the weather to clear up.

And no disrespect to any other fighters, including Norwegian pilots, because they’re just as well trained, but during a combat exercise with the Royal Norwegian Air Force, 3 Swedish Gripens went up against 5 RNAF F-16s. The result was 5-0, 5-0, and 5-1 after having flown 3 rounds.

Englund continues: ‘During Loyal Arrow in Sweden, 3 F-15Cs from the USAF were intercepted by a Gripen acting as an aggressor. The result was that 2 F-15s were shot down, and one managed to escape due to better thrust/weight. To the F-15’s defence, it was in the Gripen’s backyard.

F-16 has a higher TWR [thrust to weight ratio], but one needs to consider drag and wing loading too. The Gripen has a much lower drag. And far lower wing loading. It can reach supersonic speeds on dry thrust while carrying a full armament of four AMRAAM’s two Sidewinders and an external fuel tank. Even though the Gripen lacked the TWR of the F-16, it can nearly match it in climb rate thanks to its low drag.

The Gripen is among the most underestimated fighters flying today, during the Libyan campaign it came in as a tactical resource but very soon was upgraded to a strategic resource. Also, no mission was cancelled here due to technical issues on the Gripen. And no, it is not invincible, just underestimated. The F-15 can stay out of a fight with a Gripen, keep it at a distance, BVR if they can see it and avoid the meteors, but it is not a wise strategy to engage.

Saab Gripen E/F: The Smart Fighter Jets

The latest JAS-39 variant is the Gripen E, a new fighter aircraft system. Developed to counter and defeat advanced future threats, according to Saab, the E-series is for customers with more pronounced threats or more expansive territories to secure. The E-series has a new and more powerful engine, improved range performance and the ability to carry greater payloads. It also has a new AESA radar, an InfraRed Search and Track system, and highly advanced electronic warfare and communication systems with superior situational awareness. The E-series redefines airpower for the 21st century by extending operational capabilities.

The only plane that Gripen E should be compared with will be the F-35, points out Englund. The F-35 is so stealthy that an adversary will not know what hit them. Gripen E looks just like a Gripen, but it is a completely new fighter, with entirely new features and capabilities more or less only comparable to the F-35 with the difference that Gripen E is not built with stealth technology even if it has a lower RCS than any other Eastern and Western fighter except F-35 and F-22 and Gripen has the lowest RCS than the Russian and Chinese fighters.

Gripen E is equipped with a GaN (gallium nitride) based EW-suite, which will probably make it a ghost.

Why is Gripen so dangerous? If you built an F-16V Block 70/72 and then added EA-18G Growler’s sensor suites and electronic attack capability into F-16V fighters, you get Gripen E. However, the Gripen is less expensive than any Western fighter jet and even cost-effective to operate Gripen E/F, only costs $4000 per hour to fly them.

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