Saab is once again is considering marinizing the Gripen fighter for carrier use.
Technically, the airframe is already well suited to carrier use, but who is going to buy it?
The only countries that operate, or will operate, carriers with arrester gear are the US, France, China, Russia, Brazil, and India.
That’s a small market, since only Brazil and India won’t buy their own aircraft, and that is a very small production:
Based on the in-development Gripen E, the model would be capable of operating from aircraft carriers configured either for short-take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) or catapult-assisted take-off but with arrested recovery (CATOBAR) operations.
“We have a fully certified design that has been signed off by Saab management for the maritime version of Gripen,” says Tony Ogilvy, head of marketing for the Gripen M. “It’s in our portfolio, but it is only a design. We have not taken it to the next critical step, which will require a customer.”
Ogilvy’s background is carrier aviation. During a three-decade career in the UK Royal Navy he flew Blackburn Buccaneers for 12 years and British Aerospace Sea Harriers for six, including from several of the service’s carriers. He contends that Saab’s model-based systems engineering approach offers a “very high level of fidelity” that should, if a Gripen M customer is obtained, result in a concept demonstrator that works well first time.
Given that Sweden has no plans for aircraft carriers, the two potential markets for the Gripen M are Brazil and India.
The Brazilian air force has ordered 28 single-seat Gripen Es and eight two-seat F-model examples, being developed with Embraer. Its new fighters will be delivered between 2019 and 2024, including eight single-seaters and seven twin-seaters built in Brazil.
The nation’s navy is also interested in replacing its retired aircraft carrier, the Sao Paolo, although this requirement has yet to be fully defined. Should Brazil’s plans for such a new vessel gain traction, it could provide an opportunity for the Gripen M.
In India, Saab, Boeing and Dassault have responded to a request for information for 57 carrier-based fighters. India has one STOBAR-configured ship, equipped with RAC MiG-29Ks, and has plans for an additional example. Longer term, it has plans for a more potent CATOBAR carrier, potentially using General Atomics’ electromagnetic aircraft launch system, as opposed to conventional steam catapults.
There is a whole flock of ducks that need get in a row before Saab can even think about putting in a serious bid.
Not gonna happen.
Cool idea though.