Saab is to continue development of the maritime variant of its Gripen E combat aircraft, with attention now being focused on a sale to India following Brazil’s recent decision to axe its Sao Paulo aircraft carrier.
Speaking on 15 March during the company’s annual Gripen seminar in Stockholm, Jerker Ahlqvist, head of the Gripen business unit, said that Saab will respond to an Indian Navy request for information (RFI) with the Gripen M (Maritime) that is it has been developing with UK and Brazilian engineers.
“There is an RFI from India for a carrier aircraft, and we are responding with the Gripen [M]. We see potential for the Gripen [M] and hopefully it will become a full development programme,” Ahlqvist said.
The Gripen M (also known as the Sea Gripen) is still in its concept stage and is not yet a full development programme. “We are still in the phase of concept studies at the moment, and we are evaluating the market needs. We have used UK engineers with Harrier experience in the past, and now we have Brazilian engineers working on the project,” Ahlqvist added.
First revealed by Saab in 2010, the Gripen M concept features a number of navalised enhancements to the baseline Gripen E fighter to make it suitable for carrier operations. These include a strengthened undercarriage, bigger brakes, and a beefed-up tail hook. The standard Gripen already has a large number of the attributes for carrier operations, such as a high precision landing capability, a high pitch and roll rate authority and precision glide slope control, a reinforced airframe, and enhanced anti-corrosion protection. Its undercarriage and airframe is already capable of a sink rate of 15 ft/s, although this would need to be increased to about 25 ft/s for carrier operations. “The Gripen is designed for narrow roads, and so would be perfect for carrier operations,” Ahlqvist said.