The USAF really wants to replace its ageing F-16s and A-10s with a SAAB Gripen like a bird, rather than the F-35A. The USAF is looking at the T-7A program which was developed using SAABs Model-Based design methodology. The T-7A Redhawk is a joint venture project by Boeing Company and Saab Group. Although a high-tech VR oriented training aircraft, the T-7A has been priced at $19 million per aircraft.
The development cost for Gripen E is about $2 billion or $20 million per aircraft (100 aircraft) which is cheap considering design and development cost of F-35 and F-15EX. The development cost of the F-35 is $50B which is mostly paid by the US taxpayers.
The US Air Force planned to acquire 2400 T-7A aircraft, so this would also have a development cost of $20M per aircraft. The touted $80M for the F-35 does not include the development cost, so in reality the US is paying ($80 million +$20 million ) $100 million per aircraft.
Some in the USAF has come to the conclusion that turnaround times of hours for new software versions for the T-7A result in cheaper and faster development than the 4–6 months development cycles than the trillion dollars F-35 releases.
The T-7A is designed using the methodology used for Gripen E. Gripen E is developed at a fixed price of 35,6B SEK or $4,2 billion for the development and 60 Aircraft to the Swedish Air Force. In addition 36 are ordered by Brazil for 39,6B SEK. The order includes a lot of other things like development of the Gripen F and charges for transfer of technology.
As SAAB has shown, fighter development can be much cheaper, the US is considering reducing the F-35 orders by 700–800 and induct a new fighter using the SAAB approach.
This will significantly affect the cost of the remaining F-35s. The development cost needs to be split up on fewer aircraft, so the real development cost will be closer to $30M. The Block 4 upgrade is estimated to cost $12.1 billion, which split up on 1600 aircraft will be $7,5 million per aircraft. The cost of the F-35 aircraft will be close to $120M. Spares and ammunition typically included in a deal might add $30–40 million.
The complexity of a software system is often measured in lines of code, and both the Gripen project and the F-35 has 20–30 million lines of code so the job is similar. SAABs methodology allows both cheaper development, and cheaper maintenance as well as faster development which is desirable.
So the US is looking for the SAAB methodology, but the resulting aircraft can be very different from the Gripen currently military enthusiast dubbed the aircraft as F-36 Kingsnake.
It would make a lot of financial sense to go for a lower cost missile and bomb truck AKA F015EX that the US Air Force would only deploy once air supremacy has been achieved (by stealth assets such as F-22 Raptor or F-35 JSF) if all you are going to do once an enemy’s air force has been neutered is sit at medium level launching Precision Guided Munitions or MALD-J at preselected targets such as S-400 like ground assets or in support of ground troops.
The F-36 Kingsnake can take care of the rest of the war businesses such as close air support, and neutralizing any remaining radar station, airfield, destruction of mobile artillery batteries, air interdiction, anti-shipping and neutralizing drones.
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