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The future of lightweight fighters!

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  • The future of lightweight fighters!

    JAS 39 Gripen
    Is the need for lightweight fighters diminishing or are these planes getting overlooked for other reasons? Please feel free to state your opinion, I've used the Gripen as perfect example of what a fighterplane of this size can and should be capable off. Any other planes you want to add... please do!

    As a neutral country with a long history of providing for its own defence against all comers, Sweden also has a long tradition of building excellent high-performance fighters with a distinctive look. From the long-serving Saab-35 Draken ("Dragon," 1955-2005) to the Mach 2, canard-winged Saab-37 Viggen ("Thunderbolt," 1971-2005), Swedish fighters have stressed short-field launch from dispersed/improvised air fields, world-class performance, and leading-edge design. For a country their size, their record of project success is nothing short of amazing.

    The JAS-39 Gripen ("Griffon") is a canard-winged successor to the Viggen, built as one of the world's first 4th generation fighters. It remains the only 4th generation entry in the lightweight fighter type, its performance and operational economics are both world-class, and it has become one of the most recognized fighter aircraft on the planet. With its 4th generation competitors clustered in the $60-100+ million range vs. the Gripen's claimed $40 million, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Sweden's lightweight fighter?

    The Gripen is an excellent aircraft by all accounts, with attractive flyaway costs and performance, and very attractive lifetime operational costs. Its engine is a derivative of GE's F404, in use on the F/A-18 A-D Hornets and many other platforms as well. A wide variety of international equipment has successfully been tested and integrated with the aircraft including sensors, targeting pods (the LITENING III pod comes as a standard option) and an array of weapons, most recently the MBDA Meteor long-range ramjet air-air missile.




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    "In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason."
    Ernest Hemingway.

    Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?

  • #2
    Originally posted by achtung baby View Post
    Any other planes you want to add... please do!
    OK, the F-16A (everything up to the block 20). The F-5/F-20, too.

    It seems, though, that most countries want to turn a lightweight fighter into an all-purpose aircraft (like the modern F-16's). I'm sure they'll continue to add roles and equipment to the Grippen, too.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it adds weight, complexity and cost to the design... which means it's getting away from the whole lightweight and cheap idea.
    Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated... again...

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    • #3
      F-16 is a cool plane, but in terms of take off and landings, the Gripen is superior there, especially replenishing the aircraft before the next mission.

      "In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason."
      Ernest Hemingway.

      Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?

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      • #4
        The Grippen is a great aircraft. If not because of the heavyweight lobbying efforts of the US government, it might have done much better in the export market. There's also the little matter of Sweden not allowing exports to any countries at war or with the likelihood of going to war (selling weapons only to those who are unlikely to go to war, what an idea!) It certainly deserves better success than it had up to now.

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        • #5
          I think there will continue to be a need for Lightweight "Day Fighters". It all depends on what a country needs and what is available on the market. I would imagine in places like the Middle East they would be a great buy for most Air Forces. The main deciding factor is price and politics.

          Pruitt
          Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

          Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

          by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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          • #6
            I think a lot of countries are stuck . . .

            Originally posted by sickpup View Post
            OK, the F-16A (everything up to the block 20). The F-5/F-20, too.

            It seems, though, that most countries want to turn a lightweight fighter into an all-purpose aircraft (like the modern F-16's). I'm sure they'll continue to add roles and equipment to the Grippen, too.

            Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it adds weight, complexity and cost to the design... which means it's getting away from the whole lightweight and cheap idea.
            They can't afford to operate and maintain multiple types so they either have to buy a multirole plane they can afford or buy what they can afford and adapt it to as many roles as possible.
            Any metaphor will tear if stretched over too much reality.

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            • #7
              I recall that by the early 90s F-16s were showing signs of fuselage stress becuase they were being given more and more roles. Frankly the F-16 has lasted way longer than anyone back in the early 70s thought it would when it was being designed. (The stress was taken care of with a Mid Life Upgrade package almost all countries operating F-16s have applied).

              The light fighter is still very viable for most 3rd world countries. They are easy to operate, cheaper and simpler to maintain. India is working on what the call the Light Combat Aircraft (although thats being ongoing since 1984 with one flying model to this day) Japan has their JSX and China has their J-10 along with the FC1/J-17 co production with Pakistan.

              And several countries, including Israel, are offering comprehensive upgrades of Cold War fighters like Mig-21s. I'd say the light fighter will be here for a while.

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              • #8
                Light weight fighters like the F-16 is perfectly capable of performing a wide range of roles, and heavy weight fighters like the F-15 are increasingly hard to justify.

                This is especially so with the increasing numbers of JDAM's and other PGMs out there. It is not uncommon now to see aircraft flying with only one JDAM or one PGM - that's all that's really needed to accomplish the same mission that had taken a whole planeload of bombs.

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                • #9
                  Had a course a few years ago where they said the last live fighter pilot will be a short female with high blood pressure.
                  Went to an airshow with some engineer types, couple of them pilots, a while back.
                  They were joking about some of the high powered stuff. Said they were missles, actually. "They just put wings on 'em to keep 'em from scaring people." Interesting observation.
                  The more roles that successfully be assigned, the better.
                  Support and logistics a big deal.

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                  • #10
                    In the Netherlands in the late 70's we had this debate which plane to buy as a successor of the F 104 Starfighter. There were at that time four candidates, IIRC:

                    1/F-16
                    2/Saab Viggen
                    3/Dassault Mirage F-1
                    4/YF-17

                    Personally, but I was a teenager then, I preferred the Saab Viggen, but the Dutch eventually chose the F-16.
                    Looking back now I wonder: did we make the wrong choice back then and should we have chosen Saab Viggen?
                    Last edited by Colonel Sennef; 05 Aug 07, 08:16.
                    BoRG

                    You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in You - Leon Trotski, June 1919.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by sickpup View Post
                      It seems, though, that most countries want to turn a lightweight fighter into an all-purpose aircraft (like the modern F-16's). I'm sure they'll continue to add roles and equipment to the Grippen, too.
                      The "JAS" in JAS-39 Gripen, stands for Jakt Attack Spaning, which in earth speak can be tranlated into Interceptor, Attack and Recon. The Gripen was built and designed as a true multirole aircraft and there really arent any more roles to add to it.

                      Originally posted by Trung-si
                      They were joking about some of the high powered stuff. Said they were missles, actually. "They just put wings on 'em to keep 'em from scaring people." Interesting observation.
                      I have heard that about the F-104 Starfighter, that the wings just where there to comfort the pilot.

                      Anyway, as long as the armament and sensors are getting better you will get alot of effect out of them regardless of what airframe you put them on.
                      Last edited by Pergite; 05 Aug 07, 09:48.
                      "The secret of war lies in the communications" - Napoleon Bonaparte

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                      • #12
                        The thing to remember about "missles with wings" is they have a certain stall speed where they start trying to spin in. The F-104 had almost no glide range! That and they liked to fly them in mountains where they kept trying to land....They eventually tweaked it into providing good service, but it was difficult to fly. Just goes to show what an excellent sales team can do when it goes to the right people and leaves suitable "presents".

                        Pruitt
                        Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                        Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                        by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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