Part of what makes Gripen a great multi-role or a swing-role modern aircraft is its flexible weapons systems coupled with its EW (Electronic Warfare) systems. Gripen’s weapon system provides the support to conduct all types of missions from offensive and defensive counter strikes to air policing and tactical air reconnaissance. These missions can be performed 24/7 in all types of weather.
Let’s talk about flexibility
From guided glide bombs for precision engagement with low collateral damage, to long-range and agile air-to-air missiles and heavy anti-ship armaments, a Gripen operator can integrate any weapon of their choice to Gripen. This is partly possible due to its hardware agnostic split avionics that lets any update or change happen without the need to re-certify the flight critical software.
Gripen also features an onboard integrated EW system that doesn’t interfere with the dynamics of the fighter or takes up space meant for weapon systems. For Gripen E, the under-carriage has been moved to the wings, creating room for more fuel and weapon load. As a result, the fighter can carry nine missiles and 16 bombs, which is an ideal number for operating in a modern war scenario. Not only that, it also features 10 pylons for additional reconnaissance pods, guided weapons, and external fuel tanks.
The Gripen E weapon ensemble
Weapons that can hit a target accurately in a complex war scenario is a must-have for a multi-role fighter aircraft. Not only do they increase the fighter’s lethality but they also minimize collateral damage. A range of Precision-guidance munition (PGM) or smart bombs can be integrated with Gripen. The advantages of guided bombs such as the Spice 1000, GBU-49 (American), Paveway III GBU-22/-24, Paveway II GBU-10/-12/-16, GBU-39 SDB I and II, among others, are plenty. With guided bombs, the pilot is able to attack a target more accurately using fewer ordnance, hence, fewer air crews are put at risk. Other air-to-surface weapons that can be integrated into Gripen include the unguided Mk82, Mk83, and Mk84 bombs.
A number of air-to-air IR (Infrared) or heat-seeking missiles such as the IRIS-T, A-Darter, Python 4/5, the AIM-9X Sidewinder, and AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) have also been tested with Gripen. A great advantage of these heat-seeking air-to-air missiles is that they can lock-on to a target from various angles and not only from behind where the heat emitted from the engines is the strongest.
Any report on Gripen weapon system would be incomplete without the mention of the latest long-rage, air-to-air MBDA Meteor Missile, a next generation BVRAAM that was first integrated into the Gripen C/D. Regarded as the most lethal radar-guided missile of today, meteor has a powerful active radar target seeker and a two-way datalink that enables the aircraft to provide mid-course target updates if required.
New and improved sensors and radars, a powerful weapon for the Gripen E.
Along with a flexible weapon system, Gripen E also boasts of sensor suites that enhance the pilot's situational awareness capability by leaps and bounds, and help them stay ahead of the enemy. The Raven ES-05 AESA radar, for example, offers a full 100 degree field of view which allows the fighter to turn away after launching a missile, without losing datalinks to the missile. The new Electronic Attack Jammer Pod (EAJP), which made its first test flight on the aircraft last November, protects Gripen against radars by sophisticated jamming functions and blocks the opponent’s ability to attack.
This kind of superior situational awareness gives the pilot a base time to take the right decision, prioritize targets, and use the right weapon, at the right time.