Gripen’s STOL Capabilities Originate from a Unique Air Basing System

A report by Flight Global delves deeper into some of the aspects of the Gripen that are directly correlated to the Swedish Air Force’s (SwAF) austere basing system during the Cold War. An air basing system called the Bas 90 or Flybassystem 90 was devised in order to make ground attacks more difficult for the opponent. The idea was to disperse the fighters throughout a large territory where they can use normal roads as runways. As explained in a 1986 documentary produced by the Swedish military, “Attacking aircraft on the ground is made more difficult by dispersing individual flightline positions over large areas and with long distances between each position.”

This concept was applied in the design of Gripen which can be seen in its STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) capabilities. Today, Gripen E can take off in strips of road that are only 16m wide and 500m long, and land on a 600m long road. STOL capabilities also allow Gripen to take off from small taxiways and civil airfields.


An important feature of Gripen behind its STOL capabilities are its canards. Inherited from Saab 37 Viggen, Gripen’s canard helps the fighter to increase manoeuvrability by increasing its angle of attack and have more lift at slower speeds during landing. “We use the canard and the wing rudders to create aerodynamic downforce to make the brakes more effective,” says Eddy de la Motte, head of the business unit for Saab Gripen E/F.


The dispersed airbases also mean Gripen fighters will be serviced with the help of mobile maintenance facilities. Gripen was designed for a minimal turnaround time- tasks like refuelling and rearming do not take more than 10 minutes, further increasing the operability of the fighter.


“Turnaround time is minimised by making the aircraft self-contained. For instance, we use an auxiliary power unit, which was quite unique for the military fighter aircraft of that generation. One reason why we did that was to eliminate lots of ground support equipment,” says Eddy de la Motte. “Design requirements, the requirements in terms of dispersed basing, they have stayed the same, they haven’t been relaxed or changed,” he adds.


Read the full story here.