Cross-posting from Keypubs forum. This article appeared in a Swiss newspaper and highlights the issues with the Gripen NG demo program. Looks like just modifying a Gripen D into a Gripen NG is not possible, since it requires a new inlet, and an extension of 37 cm to the nose to accommodate the new ES-05A Raven swashplate radar. This program is by no means anywhere near being ready. It also clearly validates the IAF's choice of the Rafale and the Typhoon as the finalists with the Rafale being the preferred choice.link
COMBAT AIRCRAFT - Of the 98 improvements required by Switzerland, only 7 have been installed on the prototype of the future Gripen tested last week. The plane could not be delivered until 2023 and its weaknesses will remain as they are challenging the procedures to protect airspace.
The mission of Wednesday, August 13, 2008, however, promised to be simple. A plane flies north towards the Alps of Ticino and is the intercept. To do this, the evaluation team placed the Gripen D 39-822 registered on alert on the military base of Zion. The tarmac is dry, it's beautiful weather. At the controls of the fighter, the Swiss test pilot Peter Merz, aka "Pablo" behind him, the Saab Gripen manufacturer, to ensure that everything goes smoothly. After taking off as planned at 15 h 32, the plane goes into Swedish supersonic speed to stabilize at Mach 1.42. But suddenly, in the middle of his approach: "Bingo Fuel"! The LED Alarm fuel placed on the left of the cockpit shows the need to abort the mission and return to base.
Gripen arrived barely in contact with the F/A-18 to intercept, but was unable to intervene and had to land in Emmen (LU). Ground, the head of the Swiss Air Force Markus Gygax is stunned: excluded to buy such a flying pan. In comparison, the French Rafale, tested under the same conditions two months later, has made the interception, returned to Zion, and has been able to achieve another successful missions. On the twenty-six test flights at the time by the Gripen, the plane landed with four times the reserves of fuel below the minimum security.
Fortunately, the Defence Minister Ueli Maurer swears he will not buy the Gripen then but an improved version: Gripen E / F. Its engine is 33% more powerful, it has a completely redesigned car electronics, can carry more weapons and above all ... 46% more fuel. For Federal Councillor, there is no problem: it's a bit "like one of tuning a car," he likes to repeat.
Tests for the gallery Unfortunately, all is not so simple. "Sunday Morning" has obtained a list of 98 improvements. She was provided by a whistleblower, federal employees, and we have it validated by three reliable sources. Contacted the Department of Defense did not wish to share its position on that list confidential.
At this stage, as shown in our graphic, only six of these upgrades have been tested in flight (green). The rest is either in the prototype stage (orange), or on planes (red). The Gripen NG Demonstrator - the plane is supposed to prove the feasibility of future product enhancements - is certainly equipped with the new General Electric F414G engine, but it lacks the new wings. Redesigned the computer, a few inches thicker, they will accommodate a few percent of additional fuel, in addition to three large drop tanks of 450 gallons (1700 liters). During the flight tests conducted May 2 to 4 in Linköping, Sweden, the Swiss delegation would just wanted to test at least those famous tanks. Because they are essential to achieve sufficient autonomy to the surveillance of an area, a task that the military assumes for example during the Davos Forum. But ultimately, "people Saab refused," says one source. With three external tanks, the aircraft would have been too constrained. "It was not necessary to have tanks of 450 gallons for missions," retorted the spokesman Armasuisse Kaj-Gunnar Sievert.
Despite this weight off, the pilot test Armasuisse Bernhard Berset failed to exceed Mach 1.34, according to our informant. It must be said that the reactor, which should enable the aircraft to reach Mach 2.0, could be pushed only three-quarters of its ability, the air inlets of the Gripen NG has not yet been enlarged. The constraints that Swiss pilots were able to subject the aircraft were limited on many other points. And new AMRAAM and IRST installed on the aircraft were really only jokes. The real missiles themselves are far from being operational.
"It's like trying a new car but the mechanic told you that you do not have the right to exceed 80 km / h, or take turns too tight ... and as for the new radio with GPS you need iron in six years, "laments one of our sources. But mainly in Linköping was not to test the plane. Rather it was to do well in the media: some tests that were to be conducted during the fourth flight has even been sacrificed for a new photo shoot. Images taken during the previous flight, blowing our informant, were not beautiful enough.
Overwhelming evidence of Gripen NG does not the new radar, which would increase from 200 kilos in front of the camera and would take a nosedive. "To welcome him, it will lengthen the future Gripen E / F of 37 centimeters," says Björn Danielsson, Swedish former military pilot, now a consultant at Saab. Clearly, we must build a new plane. So, the exercise has nothing to do with tuning announced by Maurer. "Rather than modifying old Gripen C / D, it is much more rational to build any new devices," and admitted Jürg Weber, head of the replacement project of Tigers (TTE) in Armasuisse. It was Feb. 21, before the Subcommittee of the security policy to investigate the subject. Fifteen managers of the Department of Defence (DDPS) will have already cast. The minutes of these hearings have been circulating within the administration and "Sunday Morning" has been able to consult.
They highlight the inaccuracies of the Defence Minister, since the publication of our paper by two confidential reports of the Air Force on February 12, which revealed the poor performance of the Gripen, even with 98 upgrades. At a press conference February 14, Ueli Maurer, for example, had claimed that these documents were "completely dated." Since then, several officials have countered this statement to ensure before the House Subcommittee that "these reports remain the only valid". And that the qualities of the future Gripen are still to be demonstrated. "We find nothing in these reports that will support the decision," for example, stated at the hearing of April 3, Gerald Levrat, chief engineer of the evaluation team operational Air Force. Air Force who, as we know, have recommended the Rafale, the Eurofighter with an alternative. Hearings before the Subcommittee have established that the planning staff of the army, as the project manager at TTE Armasuisse, also proposed the Rafale and the Eurofighter. In fact, this is obviously after intense discussions with his subordinates that Jürg Weber finally "decided to accept the Gripen," in his own words. To claim, as did Ueli Maurer, the entire army is united behind this third choice is simply not accurate.
Worse than the F/A-18 performance of the Gripen, "including in the new website E / F" will remain in effect very "average", according to statements by Gerald Levrat to parliamentarians: "Like a knife that does not cut well. You can cut a string, but if it's harder, we'll make it harder. "In his fourth appearance before the Subcommittee, April 24, 2012, the project manager TTE Jürg Weber, meanwhile, has eventually accepted that the weaknesses of the Gripen would require "perhaps a change in doctrine of engagement".
When, today, an F/A-18 taking off from Payerne and flies to Davos at full power, it still has enough fuel to intervene on the spot. "With the Gripen, it can get tight, admitted Jürg Weber [...] And it may be necessary to patrol continuously over Davos to be able to intervene." But, he says, we'll certainly find solutions in order to fulfill reasonable that air policing mission, "even though it will not as effectively as with other aircraft or the F/A-18."
In addition to significant risks of performance below the F/A-18 - fifteen years old - the Gripen E / F has a very important industrial hazard. The chief engineer Gerald Levrat, thirty years of experience in the testing of aircraft equipment, explained so clear: "In general, the seller guarantees that he will deliver the best possible equipment. But there is always a gap between what we wanted and what we receive. "
On the Gripen E / F, he confirmed, 70% of components are new. During development, problems can arise. Requirements may have been misunderstood, may be a bug accidentally introduced by a programmer, the manufacturer may refuse certain modifications to avoid cost overruns.
"Saab has offered a fixed price" say in chorus DDPS officials, asserting that the financial risk does not exist. Unfortunately, this guarantee is not comprehensive insurance. For the record, the military transport plane A400M European had also been sold at a fixed rate. But quickly, developmental problems appeared. After the renegotiation of contracts, the additional cost has now reached 38% and delayed the original schedule is four years.
Delays, precisely, are virtually assured with the Gripen. According to current planning, which has just been postponed for two years, twenty-two jets scheduled for delivery starting in 2018. But at the rate things are going, Saab may delay the delivery of the first Gripen E / F "in line with what was asked, in 2020 or 2023," said Gerald Levrat before the House Subcommittee.
Start from scratch According Fallscheer Frieder, system support to Air Force Staff planning, if the undertakings were not to be required, "the whole process of selecting a fighter could start from scratch" he let go before the subcommittee.
But we certainly do not happen here. Of the eight members of the Subcommittee, there is no more than Hans Fehr - a friend of Ueli Maurer - who is still convinced by the choice of the Gripen. After the surrender of their report in late June, the other proposing a new offer should be requested at the three airframe manufacturers, for a fixed amount. Leaves to fall below the number of twenty-two aircraft. The assessment should then take into account the operational efficiency of all three types of aircraft. The difference is in effect between such devices must be significantly less than Rafale or Eurofighter to ensure the same job with the Gripen E / F. About fifteen for twenty-two, according to calculations made by the army in 2009. In air policing mission, for example, the first two devices are able to stay 180 minutes in flight, against 120 minutes for the future Gripen. Provided that the Swedes manage to keep their promises.