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SAAB Gripen C carrying a weapon configuration including eight GBU-39 Smal Diameter Bombs, two Meteor and Two IRIS_T Air/Air missiles. The aircraft also carries a fuel tank on the centerline, Litening targeting pod and an internally mounted 27mm Mauser cannon. Photo: SAAB
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SAAB Gripen E weapons load configuration
A wide range of weapons is slated for integration with the Gripen E, providing the small fighter its big claws. For air superiority missions the MBDA METEOR extended range air/air missile (AAM) would be used. In fact, the Gripen is expected to be the first platform to carry the new weapon in operational service. Gripen E will also be able to carry the Raytheon AIM-120C7 AMRAAM and Rafael’s Derby Mk III, as well as Diehl/BGT IRIS-T, Denel Dynamics A-Darter, Rafael Python 4/5 and Raytheon AIM-9 short-range missiles. On air-to-surface missions, the Gripen will be able to carry an array of guided weapons. These include missile and unitary warheads such as Raytheon’s AGM-65 Maverick, various Paveway laser-guided bombs, Rafael Spice 1000 autonomous E/O gliding weapons, Boeing JDAM GPS guided bombs, Raytheon AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapons (JSOW), Saab RBS15 anti-ship missile and Taurus KEPD-350 or Lockheed Martin AGM-158 (JASSM) cruise missiles.

The new class of small, precision-guided bombs is also well represented within the Gripen E weapon portfolio that will also provide the Gripen-E the weapon load-out that enables a small fleet of multi-role fighters to carry out massive attacks. Each fighter will be able to carry 9-12 MBDA Brimstone laser/MM guided missiles mounted on 2-4 racks, or 12-16 smart, rack mounted guided weapons of the Raytheon SDB-II (GBU-53), MBDA SPEAR or RAFAEL Spice 250 class, along with RAFAEL Litening or Lockheed Martin Sniper targeting pods.

Reconnaissance missions that would complement the Gripen E multirole mission capability will utilize various reconnaissance pods. Systems considered for Gripen E include the Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pod (DJRP) from Thales, Terma Modular Recce Pod System (MRPS) or Rafael Reccelite reconnaissance pods, the later will be able to be configured on fully armed and maneuverable aircraft flying tactical Air/Air and Air/Surface missions.

This ambitious integration roadmap would not be feasible without the open architecture avionics with separation of critical functions, enable Other Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) to provide avionic and weapon systems and technologies that quickly interface with the aircraft, with simpler integration, cross testing and verification processes.

Gripen E has already won two orders – from the Swedish MOD and Brazil. Saab failed to secure another order from Switzerland after a popular vote rejected the acquisition despite the Swiss MOD and Air Force recommendations to buy the aircraft as a replacement for the old F-5E. Nevertheless, Saab officials are optimistic about the Swiss potential acquisition of Gripen E in the future, especially since the F/A-18 is also nearing the end of service will require the Parliament to revisit the decision. Another potential customer that could revisit its decision not to buy the Gripen E is India that decided to reconsider its procurement of 126 Rafale fighter jets. The urgent need to replace old fighters, such as MiG-21 and MiG-27 that are phased out of service, will require the Indian Air Force to buy new jets off-the-shelf. Saab is trying to convince the Indians that Gripen E could be the best prospect to fulfill this requirement.

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Saab Gripen C fighetr armed with air/air and air/ground weaponry. Photo: Saab