features Why Saab’s Gripen E could make perfect sense for Canada

We paid a visit to Swedish OEM, Saab, to learn if its Gripen E offering to replace Canada's aging CF-188 Hornets has the requisite muscle to give the other entrants a run for their money.
Avatar By Jamie Hunter | January 12, 2021

Estimated reading time 14 minutes, 12 seconds.

“Gripen E meets and/or exceeds all of the Canadian requirements. It’s an efficient, modern fighter, and it’s the latest development on the market.” So says Anders Håkansson, Saab’s deputy campaign director for the company’s participation in Canada’s Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP).

Canada’s protracted search for a new fighter aircraft to replace its aging McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornets has narrowed to a field of three competitors. The U.S. manufacturing giants of Boeing and Lockheed Martin are respectively offering the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the F-35A Lightning II, with Sweden completing the trio with Saab’s latest incarnation of Gripen — the single-seat E variant.

Gripen E 6002 shows off the agility and performance of the fighter. Jamie Hunter Photo

While Saab is often cited as an excellent model for cost-effectiveness — company marketing literature refers to Gripen E as “the smart fighter” — actual capability is sometimes overlooked. So, does Gripen E have the requisite muscle to give the U.S. heavyweights a run for their money in this important campaign?

The Canadian Requirement

The complex saga of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF’s) CF-188 recapitalization project includes Canada becoming a partner in the multinational F-35 program back in 1997. This enabled Canadian industry to gain a foothold in the global supply chain for the stealthy fighter, and Canada ultimately planned to purchase 65 F-35As. But the then-Prime Ministerial candidate Justin Trudeau pledged to overturn the F-35 deal — forcing a competition rather than a straight, non-competed acquisition of Lightning IIs.

Fast-forward to July 31, 2020, and formal responses to a request for proposal were submitted to Ottawa by the three remaining interested parties in the FFCP. The Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale had already withdrawn from the race, making this a three-way chase for the prized contract.

The $11 to $15 billion FFCP calls for 88 fighters to be procured through an open competition, with the aircraft required to enter service from 2025 and be sustained to around 2060. Canada will select a winner by late 2021 using a formula that assigns 20 per cent to industrial offsets, 20 per cent to cost, and the remaining 60 per cent to overall capability.

As the sole non-U.S. candidate, Sweden’s Saab appears to be an outsider — maybe even a stalking horse. However, Saab is heavily committed to Canada with a strong, but understated, offering that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Gripen E pilots can wear the Elbit Systems Targo helmet mounted display. Note the wide area display in the cockpit. Jamie Hunter Photo

While Gripen E’s moniker aligns it with the lineage and ethos of its Gripen A-D predecessors as capable but “affordable” fighters, the E is a very different beast in many ways. With seven aircraft now in various stages of flight-testing, one aircraft now at its Brazilian test centre, and initial deliveries to the Swedish Air Force planned for 2023, Gripen E’s program is gaining momentum.

Gripen E is a subtly beefed-up variant of the original Gripen in terms of airframe, but under the surface it couldn’t be more different. With 10 external hardpoints, Gripen E can carry up to seven MBDA Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missiles — a weapon that has been eyed enviously by the U.S. in comparison to its AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM).

Combined with the Leonardo ES-05 Raven radar, it gives Gripen E impressive detection and engagement ranges. On top of the nose sits a Leonardo Skyward G infrared search and track (IRST) sensor for passive tracking and targeting.

The cockpit features an 18-by-nine-inch-wide area touch screen display, and the pilot operates in an immersed world of fused data that is constantly updated via a fighter-to-fighter data link — as well as connectivity to other agencies via Link 16. Sweden has been working in this connected world for decades, reaching way back into the era of Saab’s Viggen fighter.

Meeting the Canadian Requirement

According to Håkansson, Saab’s assessment is that Gripen and its offer to Canada meets and/or exceeds all of the stated requirements, including meeting Canada’s obligations under the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) mission of providing air defence for Canada and the U.S. Though program officials cannot reveal the exact parameters, which remain classified.

The geographic scale of Canada must mean that range and endurance are two significant factors. With a 40 per cent growth in internal fuel capacity, Saab has clearly set out to address any perceived shortcomings of the earlier Gripens.

The Gripen E flies near the east coast of Sweden during a test mission. The aircraft wears a striking three-tone splinter camouflage scheme. Jamie Hunter Photo

“Part of the reason we developed Gripen E was with range and endurance in mind — plus the more powerful F414 engine and other modifications,” said Håkansson.

One of the aces up Gripen E’s sleeve is its electronic warfare system. It’s completely new and provides what Saab refers to as a “digital shield.”

“The idea was not to build a geometrically stealth aircraft that would be obsolete long before the life expectancy of the fighter, due to continuously and exponentially growing new technologies that target geometrically stealth aircraft,” explained Håkansson. “We added an EW system that solves the issue electronically, and that will continue to develop exponentially because no one knows what threats are evolving.”

The embedded system combines active and passive systems to help protect the aircraft, which is cleverly combined with a 360-degree spherical missile approach warning system. “We have an airframe that is stressed for 8,000 hours . . . and Gripen E has the most advanced sensor fusion,” he said. “You can put the aircraft into an automatic mode and it suggests almost everything to the pilot so they can concentrate on the big picture, as well as the details.”

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

“The jewel in the crown is our avionics system — and that you cannot debate. No one else has that,” declared Håkansson.

Saab’s Johan Segertoft led a team that masterminded Gripen E’s revolutionary agile avionics architecture, which is attracting huge interest from other aerospace manufacturers. Saab set out to build a system that acknowledged computer technology is advancing like never before, with a mindset of embracing exponential growth in software code.

Here, the Leonardo Skyward-G infrared search and track sensor performs a mission systems test with Gripen E serial 39-9. Jamie Hunter Photo

“Gripen E is the vessel that will bring you to the fight,” explained Segertoft. “The computer power is what will win and take the pilot home.”

He asserted Gripen E’s avionics design is truly unique, already realizing the type of agile performance desired by U.S. manufacturers. Saab’s approach has been explained as being akin to applications on a smartphone, where the operator tailors applications to their own preferences and without regard to hardware considerations that otherwise would slow the implementation. This means customers can design and develop their own software, enabling rapid introduction of new technologies and systems to deal with ever-evolving threats.

Explaining traditional avionics architecture, Segertoft said: “To solve an upgrade requirement, the operator today buys a new piece of equipment, such as a new radar, bolts it onto the aircraft and puts a new screen in the cockpit.”

To further explain this approach to upgrades, he used the analogy of buying an iPhone, but to get a new application on it you have to send it back to Apple and wait for three to five years to get it back! However, that is the legacy approach to complex integration issues in a highly regulated world. Safety in the aeronautical industry drives enormous cost.

While most modern avionics systems separate safety-critical elements from the tactical side, Gripen E has harnessed the ability to take both and run them seamlessly as onboard computers are upgraded. This allows Gripen E to immediately benefit from the exponential increase in computing capacity.

Saab said between the first flight of the prototype Gripen E (serial 39-8) on June 15, 2017, and the first flight of the second aircraft (39-9) on Nov. 26, 2018, all of the onboard computers were changed to upgraded systems providing more computer power.

The Saab aeronautics test team is working at pace as the Gripen E program develops. Jamie Hunter Photo

“Changing computers like this is typically calculated in years — we measure it in days,” explained Segertoft. “We changed hundreds of software components — 40 per cent of which were certified to the highest level — all without compromising airworthiness. Our vision has always been coding in the morning and flying it in the afternoon, and we are very pleased with where we are.”

This philosophy makes it easy to add, delete, and modify coding, or to include third-party or partner involvement. Brazil, the first export customer for Gripen E, is already developing software and feeding it back into the main development program in Sweden.

Patrick Palmer, Saab’s executive vice-president of marketing and sales in Canada, said: “The avionics are a unique feature that we have created through years of engineering work. We are now offering Canada the sovereign capability . . . to sustain, upgrade, and enhance through the whole life of the fighter.

“This is not just about aircraft performance; you also have to be able to upgrade the aircraft under specific rules and regulations. We have designed the weapons suite [offered in FFCP] to meet Canadian requirements, but there are many options we can offer in future — any weapon on the market — and our avionics make it really easy to integrate them.”

Capable and Affordable?

Not only does Gripen E offer impressive features, but Saab also said the aircraft has the lowest associated maintenance costs. “It has been designed into the aircraft from day one, it was a driving factor,” said Håkansson.

With reheat engaged, Gripen E serial 6002 accelerates away towards a target. Jamie Hunter Photo

The aircraft is designed to be serviced and turned around by a small team, even in austere locations. Referring to operations in Arctic conditions, Håkansson said Gripen was “born in the snow.”

Saab has a proven track record when it comes to local industry participation and offset agreements. It has formed a Canadian industrial team combining IMP Aerospace and Defence, CAE, Peraton Canada and GE Aviation. “To build, sustain, and upgrade in Canada is something we have solved through our avionics system and with Canadian employees,” said Håkansson. “The focus of our business is that we will bring a lot of new business through high value Canadian jobs that will further Canada in its knowledge.”

Clark Bain, senior VP of strategic development at IMP, said: “The relationship we have with Saab… they are very open to transferring genuine knowledge. For IMP, not only are we going to build Gripen in Canada, we’re also going to get the benefit of all that technology and knowledge transfer.

“This is going to be the first time in generations a fighter will have been built in Canada. Saab has a network of partners and suppliers across the country, so certain parts will be manufactured within the country, and then we will assemble the aircraft, support the integration activity, and initial flight trials. In terms of final assembly and integration tests, that’s all happening in Canada.”

The Saab Gripen E serial 6002 is the first series production aircraft for Sweden, and it made its maiden flight in December 2019. Jamie Hunter Photo

IMP will absorb this knowledge so it can manufacture and support the aircraft through their life. IMP already has a close and longstanding relationship with the RCAF, and it expects to continue this theme if Gripen is selected for Canada — spearheading the sustainment of the aircraft and the sovereign control in Canada.

“When this competition first came about, we looked at which teams we may want to join,” said Bain. “It was pretty clear to us that easily the best value for Canada was going to be Gripen, and now COVID-19 means affordability is even more important.”

While Saab cannot to go into detail, its existing relationship with Brazil as the first export customer for Gripen E is a good indicator of what it has offered to Canada. Brazil has genuine, close involvement and is spearheading development and manufacturing of the two-seat Gripen F.

For Canada, the evaluation process for its new fighter is expected to continue into 2021, with an award sometime in 2022 — in time for deliveries from 2025. Despite Canada’s obvious political pressure to buy an F-series fighter from its neighbour, Gripen offers a compelling case to meet the country’s needs and boost industrial know-how.

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36 Comments

  1. Love it..Watched many video’s.Love the fast turn around times.Hard smaller shelters in more locations are a plus.And cold weather ability is top notch!Go get em.

    1. All three have better range endurance than the CCF18. I gave an example below, the CCF18 can only enter this 2 hour CAP if it carries a full range of bags, ie three. And it’s then the first of the four to RTB (Return To Base).

  2. Meets Canada’s requirements but only one at a time.

    Load it up so it has enough range to perform an intercept and it is firmly subsonic and loses much of its manoeuvrability.

    Load only two or four missiles so it retains most of its performance and it has the range of a model aeroplane.

    The F-35 does not suffer from any of these issues and is cheaper to buy. You also don’t need to spend additional millions on external sensor pods.

    This jet is the cheap, low performance option that is not suited to the RCAF.

    1. The F-35 is considerably more expensive to buy last I heard. It is also more expensive to fly, and more expensive to maintain. It is also less adaptable to new and evolving technologies. The Gripen, while not as fast and trailing slightly in the long range engagement category, is a better short range fighter and is easily as good at air to ground engagements. It’ll take another decade before a government finally pulls the trigger on our next gen fighters anyway, but right now I’d rather we bought something with some future to it.

    2. Where did you get this info? I doubt its true. You don’t need to carry more then a couple of missiles for an intercept, just a lot of fuel. F-35 is not even supposed to be flown supersonic for extended periods as it damages the stealth coating. 2 Metor missiles will not cause huge drag.

      1. Hey Mark, what type of intercept are you talking about? You know “intercepts” are not the only thing Fighters do, right… What about BVR fights? What about visual arena? What about A/G roles?

        1. JAS-39 is built for BVR just as F-35 so not a big difference there except that the Gripen comes with meteor missiles and can carry 7 at once but it can carry 7 AIM-120 as well if that’s their preferred choice.
          For Air-to-Ground Gripen E can carry 16 GBU-39 at once.
          Gripen can carry a mix of Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground if needed and it can switch roles while in the air.
          I can’t see any problems when it comes to those questions you asked.

    3. David, your knowledge of the subject is below par. All three candidates can go supersonic with the fuel for a long-range intercept. The slowest is the Super Hornet as it’s a carrier aircraft and has, accordingly, a draggy airframe. The F-35 is the slowest when all fly clean or lightly loaded with missiles (bad fineness ratio which is what counts for wave drag), but as it carries fuel and stores internally it reverses as the three load up. But they are all supersonic capable in long-range Air to Air missions. The Gripen and Super Hornet have the advantage they drop their bags (fighter speak for extra fuel tanks) it threatened and then regain full agility. The F-35 is as is, the least agile in this situation (it got its stealth though that helps for BVR, not WVR). The range of the three is comparable when the SH has two 480 gallon bags, the Gripen one 450 gallon and the F-35 is on internal fuel. Endurance is then about 2 hours for all in a typical CAP. When it comes to cost you shoot yourself in the foot if you look at purchase price, it’s the 40-year life-cycle cost that counts. System wise (the critical avionics system agility to follow the threat evolution), the Gripen is the most advanced (the only partitioned architecture), the Hornet and the F-35 share classical = cumbersome to update, architectures. This is the main reason for the slow development of the F-35 capability, it’s software architecture is 20 years old. it requires enormous efforts in verficaton testing for all upates.

      1. Cool, Olof. I can quote numbers from wikipedia as well. Just curious, why do you think 5th gen/6th gen fighters emphasize stealth and the BVR capabilities so much?

    4. The F-35 is only stealthy with 4 missiles it may be comparable to buy but it cost $44000 an hour to fly at 8000 hours thats $ 352,000,000 instead the gripen $40.000.000

    5. False! Gripen E can supercruise at M1.2 with 6 missiles and center tank. F-35 can’t supercruise at all. Gripen E have superiour agility compared to F-35. The fly-away price is about the same. The operational cost is more than 5 times higher for F-35 ant it’s more than 70% of the total cost. The availability is more than 15 times higher for Gripe E, which now can be delivered with GaN front AESA with 200 degrees field of view that complement the GaN EW with 360 degrees of view. The EW suite make every Gripen E an electronic attack airplane. Everything is inside, except recce pod and pod for enhanced electronic attack.

    6. The F-35 Stealth can only carry 4 missiles is limited to Mach 1.3 is limited in manoeuvrability due to loosing control ALIS does not work 60% of F-35 are Grounded block 4
      software disables radar most F-35 Delivered may not get necessary Upgrades as its to expensive at $44.000 an hour to fly you could give it for free and the Gripen would still be cheaper

    7. Wrong Gripen E can be fully loaded without loses any maneuverability. You will actually feel any different load or not.
      Then range is better than F35

  3. Common sense would suggest the purchase of this airplane, from all the many different angles it could be viewed. The only impediment is politics. With the US administration’s ‘Buy American’ policy being deployed against Canadian manufacturers, we should return the favour, and have this aircraft partially built in Canada. Let’s hope the current Canadian administration makes the right choice.

  4. As we have come to realize with vaccines and ships Canada needs to be able build and support its own fighters, born in the snow, and other critical pieces. Gripen.

  5. This is the ideal weapon system for Canadian needs. If we choose anything else you can be sure that it is not a rational decision being made based on needs and capability. Period.

    1. here here…

      One of the best part of the Gripen is that it will be built in Canada.

  6. The best choice for Canada, one not on the menu of course, would be the F-16XL.
    Speed, range, load out, cost, durability, maneuverability, it’s the best.

  7. Well, as of today, January 20, 2021, according to US Defence News, the F-35 still has a long way to go in achieving fully mission capability and able to perform all of it’s assigned missions, which currently stands at 36 percent fully mission capable, and striving to be at 50 percent for the fleet. This has been attributed to the F-35′s canopy and the F135 engine’s power module. Adding those issues for Canada’s consideration of the F-35 is the F-35 supply chain which according to a quote in USDNews “does not have enough spare parts available to keep aircraft flying enough of the time necessary to meet warfighter requirements,” according to the GAO. “Several factors contributed to these parts shortages, including F-35 parts breaking more often than expected, and DOD’s limited capability to repair parts when they break.” So if Canada opts for the F-35, guess who gets first dibs on f-35 parts and quality parts when parts are needed ? The US of course. Canada gets to stand in line as with Covid 19 vaccines and definitely that would be the case in times of conflict when both the RCAF and USAF and Marines and Navy are scrambling for parts that are in short supply. But, then again Canada is used to being in that position in the US v Canada pecking order. Which leads to my elephant in the room question which is .. why 77 planes ? Is the RCAF replacing only the 77 remaining legacy CF-18’s over the next few years and then later in this decade buy 60 or 70 more of the same or something else? Canada bought 138 F-18A’s back in the 80’s during the Cold War and is now currently down to the magic number of 77 with limited pristine parts and cannibalizing other legacy F-18A’s for parts. If the rate of loss due to attrition remains the same through the term of the new contract, and why wouldn’t it, then Canada would be down to 0 air combat assets in 40 years or less and scrounging around again for parts and legacy planes for parts in order to fill in capability gaps. So what are we not being told here?

  8. Of all the three jets, there is only one that can supercruise and that is the Jas39-E. As already mentioned above, reading the GAO reports on the F-35 should scare the hell out of everyone. Survisable–barely. Avaiable for mission—barely, a nightmare–very much so. The f-35 can only carry a little internally. If you decide to put weapons on the outside, that stealth is gone. Period! As also mentioned above, this jet was designed over 20 years ago and has been flying ( barely) for about 10 years. A financial nightmare. Even if you could get this jet for free, the maintenance cost would still bankrupt Canada. We have enough trouble right now and we will not get out of this for sometime.. Also, as mentioned above, with Biden and his version of America first, we need to get out and get our own jet made in Canada. As for the Super Bug block 3, updated electronics and other stuff. Not really a big difference compared to our own “legacy” Hornets. ON top of that, remember the “C” jet now called the Airbus A220 and what Boeing tried to do to us and failed. Screw Boeing. We could end with hidden issues like the 737Max. Boeing was fully aware of the angle of attack problem and did nothing. Over 400 people died as a result. The same goes for the Polaris. That is an Airbus product.. We need to replace it with current Airbus like A330 and its derivatives. Now would be a great time to buy new as there has been a big drop in contracts for new aircraft. We could get a really great and “new” transport jet.
    I do not trust our government to do the right thing . We saw that with the F-35 and the Harper bunch. JAS39-E and”F” is the right choice. The only real choice. The other 2 are junk.

  9. This is such a no-brainer choice, especially if is built or partly assembled in Canada, that there is no way the greased ex-military brass turned lobbyists and corrupt politicians will ever go for it.

    1. Here Here, you hit is right on the head. Not only is Gripen a very capable plane, but it would give Canada and allied operations a different weapon to use. While the US has been the leader, it is time for other countries to step up. Canada could be one of those countries (with the help of our Swedish Sisters and Brothers). Canada has been too dependent on the US, it is giving off the impression that Canada just follows lead of the US.

      Canada has an ear and eye opening experience with the US over PPE and Vaccines, this caused many Canadians to rethink their relationship with the US. It is time for Canada to take a more Made in Canada approach. If this plane was built in Canada and started to gain traction, maybe some planes could be built for export. Canada has a great Aviation history and the AirBus A220 which was designed and developed in Canada, is an excellent example of what Canada is capable of. In fact the US treatment of the A220, where Boeing create a situation where Bombardier had to sell some of its interest to Airbus, just demonstrates why Canada should divest itself a little from reliance on US. The F-35 (which isn’t the greatest plane to be honest), has a very limited operational window, plus the Gripen is more inline with Canada’s fighting culture, which is: do good, robust, deep thinking and capable. With the Aviation industry being hit hard with COVID, this is a great time give Canada’s Aviation industry a boost, by making the plane in Canada.

  10. Canada plans on purchasing 88 new fighters. This amount is not enough for the future, considering the natural loss over time. Is there a reason Canada can not buy 88 Saab’s and 16 F-35’s. Heavy usage absorbed by Saab’s while holding back on hours on the F-35’s.

  11. Dollar for dollar, there is no issue, the SAAB is the best choice for Canada. This now becomes a political issue, in this arena we and Sweden are small potatoes compared to the Americans. Sadly, we will be financially stuck with the F-35, Justin just has to figure out how he can save face (considering his previous statements re. the F-35 being a bad choice for Canada).

  12. They are all fast, pull 9 G turns, and launch state of the art weapons. However one air frame allows our pilots to hone their skills in the sky, and not in a simulator, without breaking the budgetary bank, and that’s the JAS 39. As a bonus, if it’s anyone’s concern, it has a smaller carbon footprint.

  13. Canadian Air Force – Sensible SAAB Solution-Canadian Made
    Fighter Replacement
    Gripen acquisition costs substantially less than “Canadianized” F35
    The Gripen can and should be “Canadian Made”
    Canadianized F-35 includes costly modification for a Drag Chute, the F-35 Has no Tail Hook for Arrestor Equipped Runways
    At the present time Canada does not have Air to Air refueling capability for the F-35; expensive modifications to the F-35 will be required for present Probe-and-Drouge method used by the Canadian Armed Forces.
    Operating cost of the Gripen is substantially less (conservative estimated 75% Lower) this equates to more flying hours, more flying hours means happier pilots; happier pilots stay in the service longer, Canada will continue to have unsurpassed professional pilots.
    Gripen allows for more aircraft, higher sortie rates and greater availability rates. The Gripen can be refueled and re-armed in 10 minutes.
    The F 35 relinquishes it “Stealth” characteristics in the ground attack role of when carrying external weapons and fuel tanks. Technology will defeat the F 35 “clean” configuration in the next decade before the F 35 is fully operation in Canada.
    Gripen is not dependent on U.S. regulations or restrictions it is time to end the reliance on American systems, doctrine and economic strangle hold as the demonstrated with Bombardier C Series Aircraft
    The Gripen can operate from all Canadian Forces bases; the F 35 will require expensive infrastructure modifications and maintenance facilities.
    The Gripen is certified for Meteor BVRM far superior than the AIM-120 presently used on CF-18
    Gripen allows Canada open access to software architecture & development upgrades can be Canadian developed and designed as required.
    The Gripen is already serving in NATO Air Forces
    Fielding a fighter made on Canadian soil, by Canadians would be a great source of national pride
    Canada is a Tier 3 Partner in the F-35 program and will be able to compete for contracts regardless if they purchase the F-35, under the present agreement there are NO guarantees of work for Canadians

    Snowbird Replacement / Gripen Demonstration Team
    De-contented, Demilitarized no offensive or defensive systems, radar and communication systems replace with commercial off the shelf systems The cannon area converts to luggage area, re-engine with less expensive GE 404 surplus CF 18 engines. This lowers costs as were essentially buying basic airframes.
    Military wiring harnesses to be retained for quick conversion if required (First aircraft off the production line)
    10 E Models (Snowbirds)
    4 F Models (2 Snowbirds, 2 Gripen Demonstration Team)
    Alternative would be to lease 14 de contended Gripen C/D from Sweden
    Regular Air Force
    72 Gripen E
    24 Gripen F Optimized for Fast Forward Air Control, Electronic Warfare, and Conversion Training
    6 Regular Forces Squadrons 12 E & 4 F models (each Squadron)
    With Gripen’s affordability Canada could equip an additional Reserve Squadron
    CP-140 Replacement- Sooner rather than Later with cost savings realized with the acquisition of the Gripen
    10 Bombardier 6500 / Saab Swordfish MPA manufactured By Bombardier in Canada
    4 Bombardier 6500 / Saab GlobalEye AEW&C (withdraw from NATO AWAC Program) manufactured By Bombardier in Canada, Battle Field Management Platform, Air Space Command and Control, Artic Surveillance

  14. F 35 nothing but run away costs. Always issues, expensive to maintain and fly and always at the mercy of who ever becomes president of the USA. You all know what im talking about. Time for canada to put on there big boy pants and go for a little independence. Saab all the way.

  15. It’s unclear how possible it will be to maintain the F-35’s software in the field (or, at least, outside the U.S.), which is worrisome given how software-dependent the airplane is. It’s also a given that the F-35 will only be manufactured in the U.S. This may explain why SAAB puts so much emphasis on software flexibility and Canadian assembly in this article.
    According to Wikipedia, because of the presence of U.S. and U.K. parts, SAAB needs permission from both countries to sell Gripens to a third country. I guess this is meant to prevent some parts (like the GE F414G engine) from falling into Russian or Chinese hands, but in theory the U.S. could prevent a sale of Gripens to Canada.

  16. Canadians don’t have a very clear target on their national defense! The main reason that Canada dropped F-35 was because of its high maintenance and operational costs. So the Liberal Government ditched the already singed contracts and went for an alternative. After several years time being wasted, the Canadians are now left with this awkward situation: Keeping the original promise of buying F-35 and this will make the Canadian Government look like an idiot; or getting a so-called cheap aircraft like Gripen E, or F-18 E etc which definitely doesn’t meet Canadian strategic role as one of NATO’s members and also one of American main military allies. A lot of discussions on what aircraft Canada should have in replacement of CF-18s like some listed here. Some people think that the candidate aircraft should have two engines for Canada is a large country with extreme weather conditions; other people think that the new plane should be Canadian-made, etc. Every one seems to have a reason. However, most of those comments or options, including Canadian Government decision on drooping F-35, rarely touched the fundamental reason of replacing CF-18s, that is: Canada has to take more important role and activities in the NATO’s future conflicts with a strong adversary like China, Russia. Otherwise, Canada would become a “cheap” country in the developed world. Canada might survive under the big ally protections like US in these future military conflicts with China, but that would not give Canada any glory in terms of using its own ability to protect itself. Look at what Australia did on F-35 — a clear and good example for Canada. Australia is not even a NATO member and neither a G7 member and has less resources as Canada, but it made a right decision of buying F-35s in large quantities. At the same tine, Canada has to buy the retired F-18s from Australia, what a shame for Canada! Maybe Australia is alone geographically and so it feels much more strongly to defend its own country on its own abilities. Maybe Canadians think that we have a big brother down the south that can cove our ass in any situation that we can’t cope with. I believe that Canadians do have this kind of mentality for Canada has very low military expenses that doesn’t even meet the NATO’s minimum requirements — 2% of it annual GDP. Come on, Canadians!

    1. I must disagree, Gripen is more than capable to meet NATO needs. Not to mention since it is a Made in Canada jet, anything Canada wants changed is doable. To be totally honest, spending a lot of money on F35 makes no sense. Jets are not as important as they used to be, so spending a lot on F35 will be hard to justify. The Gripen works in the Artic as Sweden has a similar climate to Canada.

      Let’s all be honest, there is not likely to be a War with China and/or Russia where Jet fighting is a significant factor. When the big guys go to war, they will be playing with big toys.
      You make a great point about Canada sticking up for itself, but that has to be against the US as well. F35 draws Canada even closer to the US and it doesn’t work will in the Artic / aka cold weather.
      The Gripen is the jet for Canada, it is NATO compatible, it will be made in Canada, which will help develop Canada’s Aviation industry, plus it is a better aircraft than the F35 which will only burn a hole in Canadian Coffers.

  17. Even the USAF is having second thoughts about it F-35 plans and working on developing a fighter version of the T-7. Its not so shocking that the T-7 has a lot of Gripen tech in it. SAAB is probably the most competent defence contractor out there. They have to try 10x harder then the Americans because Sweden has no poliical clout. Gripen will do a great job for Canada and will make a much more positive impact on our economy then F-35. As for Boeing, they killed Canada’s C-Series dream. Do we want to spend any money with the enemy?

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