The Gripen E is very similar to its earlier variants, Gripen C/D, except for a slight difference in length, the former being longer than the latter. However, there are many other subtle differences that make Gripen E superior to Gripen C/D.
The center of Gripen E structure is expected to be an aluminum-lithium frame which will support five integrated bodies till the bomb unit of the inner wing. At its tail, it has been re-designed to suit the General Electric F414G-39E turbo fan engine, while a new air suction port has been added for the 2nd air conditioner at the tail to cool the Selex ES Raven ES-05 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and electronic warfare equipments. The maximum take-off weight of Gripen E is 16.5 tons, while the body weight of the plane is just 20% of that.
Lennart Sindahl, Head of Aeronautics at Saab, says “Truly the best parts have been used,” and adds that it would be the best in the world when handed over to Sweden in the year 2018. Rasch Idrescog, Director of Aeronautics Business Unit also explains, “We are creating a huge benefit in the Gripen E project by using model based design technology based on CATIA software of Dassault system. We can see how an operator can work in the year 2023 without even completing the development process now.”
The new version of Gripen will be produced at a much lower cost than its earlier variants owing to reduced parts and lesser time consumption. For example, currently one machine part is being used to manufacture a radar frame, but the number of machine parts were more than 20 for the same in Gripen C. Idrescog emphasizes, “If we compare the current cost with the cost during 2009, the productivity has increased by 50 per cent.” The efficiency in production has also gone up through experiences secured in specifications changes from GRIPEN A/B type to C/D type, production of parts for Airbus and Boeing and design and production work of Neuron, the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle being developed by Dassault. It is expected that test flight frequency will also be reduced. Instead of 3000 sorties required by Gripen C, Gripen E will need only around 1200 sorties. According to Saab, Gripen – which is in operation in Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa, Sweden and Thailand – now has total recorded sorties of 203,000. Sindahl gave an insight into the future plans for Gripen. Saab aims to sell 300 to 450 aircraft over the next 20 years. “It is possible to achieve this target,” he says. He also expects the negotiation for the Brazilian contract of 36 jets to go through soon. “We have been discussing with Brazil for almost 16 years and one thing is very clear that they want Gripen.” Sindahl also expects an interest in Gripen from other customers such as Belgium, Botswana, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Indonesia, Latvia, Lithuania, Peru, Philippine, Portugal, and Slovakia.