Gripen E The Cost Edge

The challenge of every Air Force, from acquisition to boneyard, is that of cost. Fighter aircraft need to be at the cutting edge of technology. At the same time, they need to fit into national budgets and be frugal in operations and maintenance. Countries like India, with a very large expanse of sea and land boundaries which are vulnerable from many sides, need that many more aircraft in the air. All this thinking went into Gripen from its very inception.

From the first stages of the Gripen design, key support cost parameters such as aircraft reliability, maintainability and testability received equal priority with the operational and technical design goals. The overall design requirement from the Swedish Air Force was for the complete Gripen Weapon System to break the trend of increasing operating and support cost that historically accompanied operational capability improvements.

As a result, each Gripen operator will experience fewer failures, lower maintenance downtimes and an exceptionally low life support cost.

The support system design of Gripen optimises all key functions such as maintenance, training, supply and support resources. It is extremely flexible and can easily meet each specific customer's individual requirements and priorities.

The Next Generation Gripen E is designed by Saab to meet the demands of current and future threat scenarios, while at the same time meeting stringent peace time requirements for flight safety, reliability, training efficiency and low operating costs. This is achieved through the cost-effective application of state-of-the-art technology, materials, integrated computer systems and advanced aerodynamics and sensors. The result is a fighter with the highest levels of integration effectiveness and interoperability in a wide range of roles, low acquisition costs, minimal support requirements and low operating and through-life costs.

Gripen is substantially lower in its Life Cycle Cost (LCC) than other fighters, including singe engine fighters. A study by IHS Jane estimates the flight hour cost of Gripen at $4,700 per hour (2012 USD), with its closest competitor being the Block 40/50 F-16s at an estimated $7,000 per hour.

Delivering the highest operational availability

While minimum cost is one priority, of equal importance is fighter availability.  Gripen is designed for combat effectiveness with a very high sortie generation rate. The advanced mission support system has been conceived to ensure that Gripen can meet and sustain extremely high operational availability requirements. Combined with the multirole capabilities of the fighter, and its top-class mission effectiveness, Gripen’s outstanding availability performance represents a true force multiplier.

In summation

To sum up, Gripen was designed to break the ever increasing operational cost curve. This requirement was given equal priority with the operational and technical design goals. To be able to meet the requirement, Saab has designed the following features into Gripen: 

  • Modern diagnostics and tests systems like “Built in Tests” and “Fault Localisation Systems” that automatically tell the technician what part of the system that is faulty
  • High Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF)
  • Low Mean Time To Repair (MTTR)
  • Software driven upgrades
  • Easy access to the equipment bays to minimize time to replace equipment
  • Fuel-efficient single engine design, as engine maintenance cost is a large part of the total maintenance
  • Minimised, multipurpose Ground Support Equipment
  • Low man power requirement

The documented $4,700 cost per flight hour proves that this requirement has been successfully met.