It all started back in 1937 when it was clear that Europe was on the brink of a major conflict. In Sweden, a small neutral country with peace for more than a century, government and industry decided to prepare for the worst. Saab was founded with the mission to secure the nation’s supply of military aircraft as part of its drive to maintain national security and sovereignty.
Being a country with small and very limited resources, but at the same time located in a strategic place and hence vulnerable, it soon became apparent that something very special was required to mitigate the threats within available resource limits. The Swedish Government, defence forces and Saab managed to agree on some basic requirements that would apply to all aircraft designed and produced; requirements that are as valid today as it was in 1937.
In short, the agreement included the following:
1. The aircraft should be possible to operate from a regular Swedish road with a straight of at least 1 km, at secret road bases. This meant that, in case of war, it was possible to spread the operations to a large number of places all over the country, rather than being stuck in the official military air bases. This spread made it almost impossible for any enemy to take the air force out of the equation.
2. The aircraft must also be so easy to maintain that maintenance could be done by a small amount of conscript mechanics and only one certified technician.
3. The aircraft should allow for a very fast air-to-air turn-around on a road base as well as a very quick engine replacement if necessary.
After the final decision to implement the road base system in the 1950’s, the road network in Sweden was adapted to meet the requiremen.
Efficient support solution
During the cold war, Sweden felt threatened by the Warsaw Pact countries. The country needed an aircraft that could outperform and outmaneuver a larger force of advanced fighters.
The north of Sweden is an unforgiving land with long, freezing winters and largely unpopulated areas. It presents a harsh environment in which to operate an aircraft – yet it was this place that gave birth to Gripen. Defending these vast areas required a fighter that could perform air-to-air, air-to-surface and reconnaissance missions.
Sweden’s relatively small defence budget and the tough conditions under which Gripen was designed, led Saab to make the fighter as efficient as possible. A fundamental aspect of this approach is Gripen’s modular and open avionics architecture and efficient maintainability, which enables the integration of off-the-shelf products wherever possible, as well as continuous development of new functions to meet future needs.
The decision to develop Gripen was taken in 1982, and the first flight was performed in 1988. Unstable design and equipped with a fly-by wire system, a lot of composites and other state of the art technology, it was a completely different bird compared to its predecessors. The basic maintainability and road base requirements were however the same, and the unique support solution was hence woven into the design from the very beginning and it eventually became inherent with the system.
Gripen requires a minimum of resources
Gripen’s support system allows for a very low logistic footprint. It comes with extremely efficient special to type multi-functional tools and other smart equipment to make sure that availability is maximized at all times. All equipment is also deployable.
• An air-to air turnaround, including refueling and rearming, is done in less than ten minutes using only one technician and five conscript mechanics (only ten weeks of training necessary).
• Two Gripen aircraft on a two week mission requires only what fits in a standard 20 feet container.
• Complex avionic equipment (e.g. the radar) or engine replacement can be accomplished within one hour.
• No fixed installations are needed.
• The auxiliary power unit makes Gripen self-sufficient on power.
• Can land or take-off using a road strip 800x16 m rather than a typical runway 2,400x45 m.
• Fully NATO compatible.
Gripen’s high AVAILABILITY leads to greater operational effect
Gripen’s reduced logistic footprint makes it extremely suitable for DEPLOYED operations
Gripen’s support solution is efficient, cost effective and TAILORED to customer operational requirements
Gripen’s LIFE CYCLE COST is the lowest of all comparable fighters