Saab presented a new variant of its Gripen fighter for the first time at DSEI 2017 in London today, September 12.
The Gripen Aggressor is a development of the single-seat Gripen C and is aimed squarely at the forthcoming requirements for additional high-end Red Air in the UK and US.
According to Richard Smith, head of Gripen marketing and sales: “There is a major difference in the capabilities provided by the aggressors on the market today and what the need is for the coming years. In order to train as you fight, you need to fly advanced combat tactics against peer and near peer opponents like the Gripen Aggressor. Essentially, world-class pilots need to train against world class opponents and that is the Gripen Aggressor.”
Planned to be produced as a new-build airframe, the Gripen Aggressor features various changes for its aggressor role. Unusually, it will not carry live armament and the internal cannon is deleted. However, it will retain frontline-standard sensors, including a PS-05 Mk4 radar, and data link.
The PS-05 Mk4 features a hardware configuration with a complete new radar back-end intended to improve radar performance and operational range, and offers full AMRAAM and Meteor missile integration.
Smith told reporters that Saab has been approached in the past by civilian contractors looking to operate the Gripen in an aggressor role. Until now, however, the company has turned down any such requests. Now, two major emerging Red Air requirements have encouraged development of a Gripen variant tailored to the role.
Saab currently sees potential for the Gripen Aggressor as a high-level Red Air platform for both the US Air Force’s Adversary Air (AdAir) and UK MOD’s Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) requirements.
The USAF plans to release a solicitation to industry for a massive 40,000 hours of contracted aggressor support training at 12 different bases. The multi-award contract, which is expected in January 2019, is huge and will have the existing contractor air service providers scrambling to win contracts.
Nevada’s Nellis AFB alone will take 11,250 hours of the requested flight hours from the planned total 36,231 hours annually.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the MOD’s 15-year ASDOT deal is scheduled to start on January 1, 2020 and is said to be worth around £1.2bn. ASDOT comprises a complex set of aggressor-type training requirements for all three of the UK’s armed services and has attracted much attention from industry.
Ultimately, ASDOT will take over the RAF’s aggressor training, currently provided by the Hawks of No 100 Squadron at RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire.
An MOD spokesperson told AFM: “ASDOT will seek to address the complex range of airborne threats posed by the UK’s potential adversaries. It is more than a Red Air provision as it will also need to provide Blue capabilities for Aerospace Battle Manager/Fighter Controller and JTAC training, together with a range of EW and threat simulation capabilities for training and operational assurance activities.
“In addition to the Blue Air requirements, there is a need for a range of third- and fourth-generation capabilities, including air-to-air, air-to-surface and close air support, asymmetric threat simulation, provision of airborne targets for air-to-air and surface-to-air gunnery, and the capability to electronically simulate threat systems.”
See the current issue of AFM for a detailed account of the ASDOT programme.