The Saab Gripen Demo, a two-seat technology demonstrator, is one month into its latest phase of a trials campaign aimed at showing off technologies and modifications, which could be applied to the basic design in upgrades and new-build machines. The aircraft is on display in the Paris Air Show static area (Stand 132).
The mods include AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar, redesigned main undercarriage for greater internal fuel and a more powerful GE F414 engine. The Gripen Demo is approaching 200 flights since launching Phase 1 trials in May 2008.
Having been laid up for several months for modification, the technology demonstrator flew again on May 19 to embark on the Phase 3 campaign. The latest configuration has a new open-architecture avionics suite, which allows the segregation of functions that are critical and non-critical to flight safety. Using an Ethernet-based architecture, new elements that are mission-critical, rather than flight-critical, can be inserted and tested without having to revalidate the system as a whole.
Another change is in the rear cockpit, which now sports two large Rockwell Collins displays. The Gripen Demo can be operated with decoupled cockpits, so that the back-seater can call up different displays and perform different tasks to the pilot in the front cockpit, which retains the original displays for the time being. This functionality is an increasingly important capability for two-seaters in operational scenarios.
The Gripen has recently entered service in Thailand, and last month integration of the Denel A-Darter, an imaging, infrared air-to-air missile, was completed in South Africa. Another weapon shortly to join the Gripen portfolio is the small diameter bomb, with integration trials currently being undertaken for the Swedish fleet.
In the meantime, the JAS 39C Gripen has earned its “combat-proven” tag through operations over Libya by the Swedish air force. Flying from Sigonella in Sicily since April 22, eight Swedish Gripens have undertaken air-supremacy missions, and reconnaissance sorties using the Saab SPK 39 modular reconnaissance pod system. Over 300 reconnaissance sorties have been flown to date.