Selex ES Advances Gripen Systems
Selex ES announced it recently carried out successful end-to-end trials of its BriteCloud expendable decoy program, launched last November in conjunction with partner Saab, which is pitching BriteCloud as an electronic warfare option for the Gripen fighter. The April 16 announcement comes days after Saab revealed it had begun flight-tests with Selex ES’s Skyward G infrared search and track (IRST) system. The Finmeccanica group company is also supplying the ES-05 Raven AESA radar for the new-generation Gripen E.
BriteCloud is an expendable, digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) jamming decoy intended for a range of fast jets, but is being offered as an option for Gripen in the first instance. It is available as a retrofit option for current Gripen versions, as well as being an option for the Gripen E.
With a form-factor that matches that of a standard 55mm flare cartridge, BriteCloud detects fire-control radars that are tracking the fighter and jams them with its embedded DRFM system. Using a “non-Gripen” testbed and a ground-based threat radar, Selex ES undertook a series of trials in the first week of February. All were successful, and in each case the jammed radar tracked the decoy all the way to the ground rather than following the launch aircraft.
Meanwhile, Saab has begun testing the Skyward G IRST on Gripen 39-7, the first flight taking place on March 31. Skyward G allows the Gripen to silently track and identify targets at long ranges. The flight-test produced good results, according to test pilot Hans Einerth. “Multiple targets were detected, tracked and identified and the system works perfectly as expected.”
Aircraft 39-7 has demonstrated and tested many of the features for the new generation of Gripen. Along with the Skyward G, it is now fitted with a production-standard Raven radar, and has had an avionics upgrade with digital head-up display. Whereas 39-7 is a heavily modified JAS 39D two-seater, Saab is currently assembling a more representative prototype of the next-generation Gripen (39-8) that is due to fly next year, with platform testing as its primary function. 39-9 is due to join the test fleet in 2016 as a primary system testbed, while 39-10 is due to fly in 2017 with the production-standard weight. It will test both platform and systems as the Gripen NG approaches its initial delivery date of 2018.
So far Sweden has signed for 60 aircraft, which will essentially be new-build machines, albeit using some components from current aircraft. Having selected the Gripen E in 2011, Switzerland is holding a referendum on May 18 over whether to proceed with a fighter acquisition. Last December Brazil selected the aircraft to fulfill a 36-aircraft requirement, and contract negotiations are ongoing. It is likely that a Brazilian order will include the short-term leasing of Gripen C/Ds, notably to provide airspace policing during the 2016 Olympic Games.