In a Gripen Seminar held in Stockholm on March 19, 2014, Saab gave an update on the status of the Gripen program and its current development. Lars Ydreskog, Vice President, Head of Aero Operations presented on the operational capabilities and development of the Gripen program, while Richard Ljungberg, Chief Test Pilot for Gripen gave the pilot’s perspective of the new generation fighter jet. Richard Smith, Head of the Switzerland Campaign rounded off the seminar with a perspective on Gripen’s future.
Lars Ydreskog pointed out that with a multi-role, balanced design and outstanding availability, the Gripen is a very reliable fighter. It demonstrates the “noble art of compromise” in achieving the right balance between capability, performance and affordability. The compromise however, is in anything but operational capabilities. Despite the relatively lower cost of not only the aircraft but the life-cycle cost too, the Gripen remains one of the most advanced fighters in the world today.
One of the main points addressed at the seminar was how Saab is able to develop a fighter aircraft with excellent operational capabilities and still retain a low life-cycle cost. Increasing efficiency in production by 30 per cent, bringing down the cost of development by 60 per cent and tremendous increase in capability and capacity, again leading to cutting down cost to 60 per cent, have been the major factors in Saab breaking the cost curve.
Norman Augustine, CEO of Lockheed Martin had predicted in the 1980s that by the year 2054, the entire defence budget of the United States of America will be able to afford just one tactical aircraft, which in turn will have to be shared by the Air Force and the Navy! Saab on the other hand demonstrates that its operational and maintenance cost, and production and development cost are only going to go down as the company develops the new generation Gripen E, also known as Gripen NG. And the key factor responsible for this as well as to maintain an edge over competition is system integration.
Richard Smith, Head of the Switzerland Campaign gave an insight into the future plans for Gripen. Saab aims to sell 300 to 450 aircraft over the next 20 years, which represents approximately 10 per cent of the accessible market. Saab is confident of reaching this target, especially since its track record in beating competition so far has been a healthy 50 per cent. This will be supported by its marketing vision of pitching the Gripen NG as a replacement for aging Soviet aircraft and the F5, F16 and F18 operators.
The development of the Gripen E program is moving right on track and the first flight of the test aircraft will be in 2015. In 2018 Saab will make the first delivery of the Gripen E to the Swedish and Swiss Air Force.