Le Gripen, cet avion qui multiplie les risques

Bernard Wuthrich berne

22 août 2012

La sous-commission estime que l’évaluation a été correcte. Elle énumère cependant des risques techniques, financiers et temporels. Des reproches sont adressés à Ueli Maurer

Gripen, nous ne suspendons pas ton vol, mais cela ne signifie pas que nous n’allons pas te clouer au sol plus tard. Tel est le message délivré hier par la Commission de la politique de sécurité du Conseil national (CPS), qui a publié le très attendu rapport de sa sous-commission sur le remplacement des Tiger.

Par 24 voix sans opposition, la CPS a décidé de transmettre ce rapport à l’ensemble du Conseil fédéral, dont il attend une prise de position d’ici à fin octobre. C’est la date prévue pour la présentation du programme d’armement 2012, dans lequel l’achat des avions de combat sera inclus. Par 16 voix (de droite) contre 9 (de gauche), la commission a renoncé à suspendre le processus d’acquisition jusqu’à ce que les risques identifiés dans le rapport aient été écartés.

Présidée par le conseiller national et pilote Thomas Hurter (UDC/SH), la sous-commission constate en premier lieu que «le processus d’évaluation technique du Gripen a été effectué correctement». Voilà qui écarte d’un coup d’aile les reproches formulés dans une lettre anonyme, dont les auteurs ont été soupçonnés de voler pour le Rafale français concurrent. Le rapport de 36 pages rappelle cependant que le Gripen a été évalué comme le moins performant des trois appareils en compétition, et a obtenu la mention «juste satisfaisant». Le Rafale et l’Eurofighter avaient été mieux notés.

Pour le reste, le document énumère une «liste de risques financiers et techniques et de problèmes de calendrier que le Conseil fédéral devra clarifier d’ici à la publication du programme d’armement», résume Thomas Hurter. Il précise que c’est bien le Conseil fédéral dans son ensemble et pas uniquement le chef du Département de la défense, Ueli Maurer, qui devra prendre position. Un geste de défiance envers le ministre UDC? Ni la présidente de la CPS, Chantal Galladé (PS/ZH), ni Thomas Hurter ne répondent à cette question. Le rapport montre cependant que des défauts de communication sont mis au passif du conseiller fédéral et de son entourage. Ainsi, la sous-commission n’a appris que ce printemps – alors que les responsables le savaient depuis 2009 – que l’appareil que la Suisse comptait acheter était de type E/F et non le modèle précédent C/D. «On nous avait pourtant certifié que le modèle E/F n’entrait pas en ligne de compte», se souvient Thomas Hurter.

Autre reproche adressé à Ueli Maurer: la manière dont la communication s’est faite a laissé penser aux concurrents de Saab Gripen, que c’est «l’avion doté des meilleures qualités techniques qui serait sélectionné» alors qu’on savait déjà que «le prix jouerait un rôle aussi important dans l’offre». La sous-commission reproche encore au conseiller fédéral d’avoir laissé croire aux constructeurs du Rafale et de l’Eurofighter qu’ils pourraient faire une nouvelle offre lors d’une conférence de presse en février. «La communication du Conseil fédéral a péché par manque de clarté et donné lieu à des malentendus», condamne le rapport. Ueli Maurer rejette ce reproche (lire ci-dessous).

La CPS ne recommandant pas l’interruption de l’exercice, elle attend désormais des réponses à ses questions, car le Gripen est l’appareil qui comporte le plus de risques. Ils sont de trois natures. Premièrement, la technique. Des doutes sont émis sur la «capacité opérationnelle» du Gripen E/F, qui n’a pas pu être testé en vol. 98 améliorations techniques ont été demandées et le développement de l’appareil flotte dans un nuage d’incertitudes.

Deuxièmement, le risque financier. Le prix d’achat des 22 appareils a été fixé à 3,126 milliards de francs. Ueli Maurer jure que le budget sera respecté. Thomas Hurter fait cependant remarquer que «les frais de développement du Gripen n’ont fait l’objet d’aucun examen».

Il s’agit notamment de s’assurer que, pour respecter le coût de production prévu, la Suède se dotera de son côté de 60 à 80 avions du même type. Les coûts d’exploitation n’ont pas pu être estimés, souligne-t-il. Et la décision suédoise n’est pas prise.

Or, les deux pays s’observent. Les deux parlements doivent avaliser la décision d’achat des Gripen E/F. Mais la sous-commission n’est pas au clair: elle n’a pas pu déterminer «si c’est la Suisse qui attend un signal de la Suède pour procéder à l’acquisition ou le contraire». Ce doute devra être levé. La première Chambre du parlement suédois doit se prononcer le 20 septembre, l’autre en décembre. La CPS attend par ailleurs de la Suède qu’elle accorde une garantie d’Etat concernant le développement, le coût et la livraison du nouvel appareil.

Il y a enfin les risques du calendrier. La Suisse espérait recevoir son premier engin en 2016. On parle désormais de 2018. Mais la Suède prévoit de son côté 2020 ou 2022. Or, relève Thomas Hurter, on se rapproche doucement du calendrier de remplacement des F/A-18, qui datent des années 90. Ce qui ne serait pas forcément problématique dans la mesure où cela permettrait de rediscuter globalement des besoins réels de l’aviation militaire suisse.

La sous-commission s’est aussi penchée sur les commandes compensatoires que les trois avionneurs se sont engagés à négocier avec les entreprises suisses. Elle constate que le programme de 2,2 milliards de Saab Gripen ne satisfait pas complètement le critère de la répartition régionale. Parce que Ruag et Pilatus se taillent la part du lion: le premier réalisera le montage final du Gripen (un milliard) et le second vendra des avions d’entraînement PC-21 pour 600 millions. De quoi faire grincer dans les PME, notamment romandes.

Les décisions de la CPS ont été accueillies diversement. Le président de la Société suisse des officiers, Denis Froidevaux, se réjouit de voir que «les procédures ont été respectées», contrairement à ce que disaient les dénonciations anonymes. Mais «le Conseil fédéral doit mettre en place une politique de gestion des risques et de communication cohérente», commente-t-il.

Devant le parlement, la partie s’annonce difficile. Le PS et les Verts ont confirmé mardi qu’ils s’opposaient à cet achat, qui menace d’autres investissements dans l’énergie, la formation ou des transports. Les partis de droite soutiennent le remplacement des Tiger, mais pas à n’importe quel prix. Les risques sont qualifiés de «considérables» par le PLR et par le PDC, qui attendent des précisions sur la prise en charge des frais de développement par la Suède. Les critiques du rapport à l’égard d’Ueli Maurer mettent l’UDC dans l’embarras.

Source: Le Temps

Publicités

Swiss Fighter Jet Purchase to Go Ahead Despite Criticism

Aug. 21, 2012
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GENEVA, Switzerland — Switzerland is to press ahead with its controversial purchase of 22 Saab Gripen fighter jets despite a highly critical parliamentary report into the deal released on Aug. 21.

The parliamentary security commission found that the “choice of jet made by the Federal Council carries the most risks: technically, commercially, financially and in respect of the delivery date”, Swiss news agency ATS reported.

The members of the commission — appointed by the Swiss parliament’s National Council of representatives — nonetheless voted 16 to 9 against demanding that ministers put a halt to the deal.

Defense minister Ueli Maurer, who is in charge of the dossier, said that negotiations with Sweden were “reaching their conclusion (and) will allow us to resolve any outstanding issues.”

The purchase price — 3.126 billion francs (2.6 million euros, $3.25 billion) — was guaranteed not to change, he said, adding that the Gripen “was the cheapest” option compared with the French Dassault Rafale and the EADS Eurofighter.

Opponents of the Gripen purchase announced that they would seek to hold a national referendum on the deal.

Brazil Delays Fighter Buys

By LUCIANA MAGALHAES

09/08/2012

BRASILIA—Brazil’s defense minister said the economic slowdown has delayed the country’s long-awaited decision to purchase a new generation of fighter jets.

« The project is not being abandoned. There will be a decision in the right time. But, today, I would prefer not to give a date, » Defense Minister Celso Amorim said in an interview. « The economic situation has taken a less-favorable turn than expected and it naturally requires caution. »

The process, which has lasted more than a decade, involves three international contenders: the Gripen NG made by Saab AB of Sweden; the F/A-18 Super Hornet from Boeing Co. of the U.S.; and the Rafale warplane manufactured by Dassault Aviation SA of France.

Brazil’s government sent a letter to the three companies in June asking them to extend their jet proposals until December. According to the government, this is a common practice that typically happens every six months if a decision isn’t reached.

« I am not in conversations with any companies at the moment, which doesn’t exclude the possibility that I might receive somebody here, » Mr. Amorim said.

In 2010, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Nicolas Sarkozy, then presidents of Brazil and France, respectively, issued a joint statement saying Brazil entered into exclusive negotiations involving the Rafales. But the Brazilian government backtracked not long after and said the competition was still wide open. In the end, Mr. da Silva left the decision to his successor, Dilma Rousseff.

« Today, I wouldn’t say any company is [the] favorite, » Mr. Amorim said. « The important question is when we will do it and, then, we will again look into the proposals. There’s a need to re-equip, but it needs to be resolved accordingly with the country’s possibilities. »

Brazil will base its decision on price, quality and access to a jet maker’s technology, but « the specific weight that will be given to each one of these is something that I haven’t had the chance to discuss profoundly, » Mr. Amorim said. « There is no decision, » he added.

The defense minister said a decision earlier this year by the U.S. government to cancel an order of Brazilian-made military training planes wouldn’t weigh against Boeing. In February, the U.S. Air Force canceled an order for Super Tucanos manufactured by Embraer SA of Brazil and reopened the contest, saying top procurement officials weren’t satisfied with the documentation in the bidding.

Donna Hrinak, Boeing’s president in Brazil, said the company is « prepared to wait for the decision of the Brazilian government. » Representatives for Saab and Dassault couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

Other defense programs in Brazil are moving ahead, meanwhile, including one to build a nuclear-powered submarine in a joint project with France. Brazil also has purchased 50 new helicopters made locally.

Mr. Amorim is keen to see Brazil invest more in defense.

The ministry’s budget is about 1.5% of gross domestic product, or about 61.76 billion reais ($30.54 billion) in 2011. Ten years ago, spending was far lower, at 25.5 billion reais, but accounted for about 2% of GDP. Mr. Amorim said he wants to return to those levels, which would bring Brazil closer in line with spending in countries such as China, Russia and India.

« This is my goal. It’s not an approved government program. It’s something I consider reasonable to be attained, » he said.

Brazil—which fought the Paraguayan War in the 1860s and was involved in the First and Second World Wars—hasn’t become embroiled in a war in decades. But Mr. Amorim said the country needs a defense system capable of protecting its vast natural resources, which include recent discoveries of huge oil reserves off the country’s southeastern coast. Moreover, water has become a significant asset, he said.

« Today, besides the energy, the oil, or the capacity of producing food, we have a resource that is likely the most sought-after in this 21st century, which is the fresh water, » he said.

The minister said defense spending also can be a powerful way to create and keep jobs during the continuing economic slowdown, and can provide incentives for technological advances.

Source: online.wsj.com (The Wall Street Journal)

Le choix du Gripen continue à semer la zizanie en Suisse

29/05/2012 – Michel Cabirol

L’avion de combat suédois provoque un débat sans précédent dans le pays. Le président du parti libéral-radical suisse demande au conseil fédéral « de renoncer au Gripen » et de relancer le Rafale (Dassault Aviation) et l’Eurofighter (EADS, BAE Systems et l’italien Finmeccanica).

Décidément, le choix suisse de l’avion de combat suédois Gripen, défendu bec et ongle par le conseiller fédéral en charge de la défense, Ueli Maurer, reste un sujet à polémiques. Et tourne même au pugilat politique. Le président du parti libéral-radical suisse, Philipp Müller, estime qu’il faudrait « réfléchir à renoncer au Gripen », a-t-il déclaré dans le journal dominical suisse « Sonntag ». « Militairement, l’appareil est contesté », a-t-il rappelé. A la place, il souhaite relancer l’Eurofighter (EADS, BAE Systems et l’italien Finmeccanica) ou le Rafale de Dassault Aviation.

Pour Philipp Müller, autant profiter de cette acquisition pour régler des problèmes avec nos voisins. Les Allemands seraient peut-être prêts à un « deal » sur la question des nuisances sonores de l’aéroport de Zurich si la Suisse choisit l’Eurofighter. Le Rafale, préféré par une majorité de hauts gradés de l’armée suisse, permettrait d’aborder l’accord de double imposition avec les Français. Selon le « Sonntag », les deux conseillers fédéraux libéraux-radicaux Didier Burckhalter et Johann Schneider-Ammann seraient disposés à soutenir cette stratégie. Ambiance.

Un Gripen incapable de protéger l’espace aérien suisse

Mi-mai, le quotidien « Le Matin » révélait à l’issue des premiers tests réalisés entre le 2 et 4 mai e Suède, que sur les 98 améliorations exigées par la Suisse, seules sept avaient pu être installées sur le prototype du futur Gripen, le Gripen F Demonstrator, lors de ces essais. Le quotidien de langue française estimait que « l’avion pourrait ne pas être livré avant 2023 et ses faiblesses resteront telles qu’elles remettent en question les procédures pour protéger l’espace aérien » suisse. Ce qui a d’ailleurs provoqué une chasse aux fuites dans la presse, la commission de la politique de sécurité nationale a déposé une plainte contre X pour violation du secret en fonction.

Ces informations ont été démenties dans la foulée par Ueli Maurer, qui a une nouvelle fois défendu le Gripen « le meilleur avion pour la Suisse », dans une interview… au « Matin ». Il a également estimé que la procédure était « close » quand bien même de nouvelles offres d’autres avionneurs arriveraient sur son bureau. « Ce n’est plus le moment », a-t-il averti. Et de se lancer dans un plaidoyer quelque peu ambigu sur le Gripen. « Je n’ai pas d’autres possibilités que le Gripen. Parce que je n’ai pas davantage d’argent. Et de plus, je suis persuadé que le Gripen est un bon avion. Il présente le meilleur rapport coût-performance ».

Un achat de vélos par l’armée dans la tourmente

En attendant les conclusions de la sous-commission qui enquête sur la procédure ayant abouti au choix du Gripen, Ueli Maurer maintient le calendrier de projet d’acquisition de l’appareil suédois, qui sera présenté cet automne au Conseil fédéral, puis sera examiné par les deux chambres. La votation populaire, un référendum demandé par des citoyens et organisations suisses, est programmée dans le courant de la première moitié de 2014, selon « Le Matin ». Et dire qu’Armasuisse, la Direction générale de l’armement suisse, est également dans la tourmente… pour l’achat de 2.800 vélos à Simpel, qui provoque remous et plaintes.

Source: La Tribune

Canada – Check out other jets

By Peter E. Greene, The Windsor Star

May 28, 2012

As someone who has worked in production and overhaul of military aircraft, I have been avidly reading the various letters and opinion/guest columns that have appeared in your paper, for and against the Canadian government’s decision to buy the F-35 aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The latest salvo condemning the F-35 program comes from retired colonel Paul Maillet, an aerospace engineer and former fleet manager for Canada’s CF18 fleet.

Paul Maillet called the F-35 a « serious strategic mismatch » to Canada’s military needs.

The drawbacks mentioned were the F-35’s single engine, low range, low payload and low manoeuvrability .

The F-35 has been shrouded in controversy, cost overruns and delays, yet the Canadian government and Department of National Defence are adamant to go ahead with this aircraft deal.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson gave a highly critical report of the Defence Department’s handling of the F-35 project. Why doesn’t the Canadian government follow a tendering and evaluation process for new aircraft that it wants to purchase?

No doubt the military industrial complex in North America has a powerful lobby which will bring pressure on our government and DND to buy this aircraft. Canada should be looking at other aircraft that several countries have to offer.

It is interesting to note that rising superpower India, which was looking to buy a medium multi-role combat aircraft for the Indian air force, started a tendering process and evaluated six aircraft from different countries over a period of five years.

They evaluated the U.S.-made F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-16 Super Viper jets, the Rafale made by Dassault Aviation of France, The Eurofighter Typhoon made by a European consortium, the Russian MiG-35 aircraft and the Saab Gripen made by Sweden.

U.S. President Barack Obama made a special visit to India to lobby its government to buy the F/A-18 Super Hornet. It was a hotly contested race of strict technical and commercial evaluation and the two finalists were the Rafale of Dassault Aviation and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The final clincher was the cost evaluation and the Rafale aircraft was selected. President Obama was disappointed and offered the F-35 aircraft to India.

The Indians rejected the F-35 and went ahead with their deal to buy 126 MMRCA Rafale fighters from France for $20 billion. Dassault will supply the first 18 aircraft by 2015 and the rest will be manufactured under licence by India.

This will be the longest opentender military aviation deal in the world.

Rafale is a twin-jet, semi stealth combat aircraft capable of carrying out a wide range of short-and long-range missions, including ground and sea attacks, reconnaissance, high-accuracy strikes and nuclear strike deterrence. Rafale can carry payloads of more than 9t on 14 hardpoints for the air force version, with 13 for the naval version.

The range of weapons includes: Mica, Magic, Sidewinder, ASRAAM and AMRAAM air-to-air missiles; Apache, AS30L, ALARM, HARM, Maverick and PGM100 air-toground missiles and Exocet/ AM39, Penguin 3 and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. The Rafale is a NATO-compatible aircraft and has flown in NATO operations over Tajikstan, Afghanistan and Libya.

Canada should evaluate more aircraft under a tendering process rather than making a hasty and costly mistake by going for the overpriced and untested F-35 aircraft. The Rafale aircraft offers high value for money.

It is high time that our defence department jettisoned the canopy, ejected and bailed out of the F-35 project.

Peter E. Greene lives in Windsor.

Saab revoit le prix de ses Gripen à la baisse

Le 08 février 2012 par Barbara Leblanc

Pour contrer une réévaluation de son offre par Dassault, le groupe suédois estime qu’il peut réviser à la baisse le prix de ses avions de combat qu’il doit livrer à la Suisse.

Le prix sera inférieur à 2,6 milliards d’euros, assure le directeur de Saab pour la Suisse, Anders Carp, cité mercredi par le journal Tages-Anzeiger.
Une manière pour le groupe suédois de répondre à la proposition similaire de l’avionneur français Dassault, grand perdant de l’appel d’offres en décembre dernier. Il porte sur la livraison à la Suisse de 22 exemplaires de l’avion de combat Gripen.

En effet, Dassault avait envoyé un courrier aux députés suisses leur proposant l’acquisition de 18 Rafale pour 2,7 milliards de francs suisses (2,2 milliards d’euros), espérant ainsi faire changer Berne d’avis.

Mais le constructeur suédois propose aussi à la Confédération suisse de signer le contrat pour l’achat de Gripen directement avec le gouvernement suédois, ce qui équivaut à une garantie d’Etat sur le contrat. C’est ce que précise le numéro deux du ministère suédoise de la Défense, Hakan Jevrell, cité par le journal. Ainsi, en cas de problème, les autorités suédoises pourraient venir au secours de Saab et garantir la livraison des appareils.

Le groupe Saab intervient ce jour car la commission parlementaire suisse chargée des questions de défense doit se pencher sur le dossier au plus tôt le 13 février. Le gouvernement suisse doit formellement avaliser l’achat des Gripen en février, avant de transférer le dossier au Parlement qui décidera définitivement à l’été ou l’automne.

Si une contre-offre plus avantageuse venait à se présenter, les députés pourraient néanmoins décider de renvoyer le projet d’acquisition à son début.

Trois candidats étaient en lice pour le nouvel avion de combat de la Suisse: le Rafale du français Dassault, l’Eurofighter du consortium européen EADS et le Gripen du suédois Saab.

Source: L’Usine Nouvelle

Duels In The Sky

Jun 6, 2011

By Bill Sweetman
Washington

The European fighter development community’s views on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) have become more negative since 2005-06, and this is not, primarily, the result of marketing. The commentary expressed in offline meetings at conferences and shows is much more negative than on-the-record statements suggest.

People at Saab, Eurofighter and Dassault are of one voice on JSF and do not believe it will deliver its promised affordability, whether in acquisition, upgrades or operational cost, or that it will deliver capability on its present schedule. They expect that when JSF emerges from development, its stealth technology will be less valuable than expected, and that it will be inferior in other respects to European products.

The non-competitive selections of the JSF by the Netherlands, Norway and Canada are attributed to three main factors: political pressure by the U.S. (suspected for years but confirmed in 2010 by WikiLeaks), U.S.-oriented air forces, and political vacillation enabled by the fact that full-rate production JSFs are not available for order.

This worldview underpins the Europeans’ determination to keep their programs alive until the JSF program runs its course, or unravels, as they expect it to.

India’s decision to eliminate all but two contenders for its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) requirement was a blow to Boeing and Saab, the companies in the losing group who had reason to hold out most hope in the competition (see p. 21). For the survivors, Eurofighter (Typhoon) and Dassault (Rafale), it means a bruising duel to win the contract and—for the winner—a major challenge to fulfill it.

Indian officials say the winners scored highest on technical grounds, which is not surprising. Typhoon and Rafale are larger and more powerful than Saab’s Gripen. The former is better at high altitude and the latter excels in payload and range. The European fighters also have a more contemporary aerodynamic design than Boeing’s Super Hornet.

But a word of caution—what is being offered in both cases is not what is coming off the production line today. Boeing’s Super Hornet proposal seems to have been close to the in-production F/A-18E/F Block 2, with the exception of General Electric’s Enhanced Performance Engine (EPE) version of the F414. Gripen NG rests on a development program that is well underway.

Whether Rafale or Typhoon is selected, the program will aim to achieve several things simultaneously, including co-developing improvements such as an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and Meteor air-to-air missile (AAM) integration; dealing with obsolescence issues that are inevitable in long development cycles; transfering technology and launching joint indigenous production; and transplanting a complex all-digital aircraft into the Indian air force, all on a tight timescale.

If Rafale wins, and is also successful in Brazil, Dassault and its partners—Safran and Thales—will be doing much the same thing, 9,000 mi. from India.

Good luck with that. The Indian customer, however, may take the view that the burden of risk will fall on the contractor—and ultimately its domestic government stakeholder, which is unlikely to want to see problems erupt into public finger-pointing.

Boeing and Saab, meanwhile, can take comfort in depicting the Indian decision as something less than an outright repudiation of their approach to fighter design and the market. Boeing can present it as a choice to not rely on the U.S. for a principal weapon system, and Saab can point out that either finalist represents a move to closer ties with the major powers of Europe.

The current competitive situation of the three “Euro-canard” fighters, however, is shaped by economic, operational, technical and historic factors, and whether one or all survive into the 2020s as viable programs depends on all of them.

The historic factor dates to the mid-1980s, when France and the Eurofighter partners went their separate ways. Germany and the U.K. argued that one-nation programs no longer had the critical mass to compete with those from the U.S. France believed multinational programs without a clear leadership structure were impossibly cumbersome.

Both arguments were right.

Rafale works, but is being built at such slow rates that costs are high. To increase rates would be to starve other national programs of resources. Typhoon’s production and upgrade program has been successively delayed and restructured as the sponsoring nations have wrangled over how much should be spent on each step, and when.

Sweden escaped these outcomes because it had always structured its fighter programs differently. Design, integration and most manufacturing remained in Sweden, but subsystems such as the engine, radar and weapons were co-developed with foreign partners or imported. Combined with a uniquely authoritative and highly skilled government arms-development agency, Gripen’s development has been affordable on a national basis.

Technically and operationally, Rafale and Typhoon are more different than the distant view suggests. At its conception, Typhoon was expected to enter service at a point where Tornado, developed by three of its four partners, would be at its mid-life point. Combined with the emerging threat of the MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27, this drove the design toward air-combat performance, with a configuration that accommodated large radar and a standard, low-drag, six-missile load-out, and aerodynamics and propulsion optimized for agility (including supersonic maneuver) and acceleration.

The RAF considers the Typhoon second only to the Lockheed Martin F-22 in the air-to-air regime. Armed with Meteor ramjet-powered AAMs and equipped with a high-end infrared search-and-track (IRST) system, it will be more formidable yet. The problem is that few customers face adversaries with large or modern fighter forces.

Also, there is a difference of approach among the four Typhoon nations. The U.K. has recognized since the early 2000s that the Typhoon will have to take over some or all Tornado missions and developed an interim air-to-ground precision-strike capability. But the other partners have not seen this as an urgent need (and are less involved with air operations in Iraq and Afghanistan), so funding for definitive solutions has been slow to materialize.

Nonetheless, the Typhoon team continues to promote future variants, including evolved designs with thrust vector control (TVC)—which, among other things, improves handling with heavy external loads—and even a carrier-based version, which is of interest to India (and to the U.K. if JSF has problems). TVC is linked to carrier landing capability, as it permits a trimmed approach at a lower angle of attack and overcomes a problem with earlier “Seaphoon” studies—the big radome that interposed itself between the pilot’s eyes and the ship.

Rafale, by contrast, was designed to permit a one-type air force for France, including the navy, with missions ranging from close air support to nuclear strike. The result was a small aircraft with the ability to carry a large external load and lower top-end performance than Typhoon. Another tradeoff was to accept less radar range in return for flexibility and light weight, with the relatively small passive phased array of the RBE2.

The Rafale has impressive capabilities, including discretion, which the French prefer to the term “stealth.” Rafale visibly shows more marks of low-observables technology than its contemporaries, and there is evidence that its Thales Spectra electronic warfare system has an active cancellation mode.

The Rafale team has, since the mid-2000s, done reasonably well at keeping its plans to mature and upgrade the aircraft on schedule. It can self-designate with the GBU-12 laser-guided bomb and carries the Sagem AASM extended-range, precision-guided weapon family. For the destruction of enemy air defenses mission, presentations show one Rafale targeting with radar from outside lethal range, while another approaches in terrain cover and delivers a pop-up AASM. The latest version to be tested is the imaging-IR model. Rafale is also operational with the Thales Areos multiband, long-range oblique reconnaissance pod.

Stealth, meanwhile, appears to be the hallmark of Gripen development, in that it is moving forward under a shroud of non-publicity. Sweden has taken the strategic decision to retain a small but capable air force, which will be based on Gripen until at least 2040. The only currently planned route to that goal is through the JAS 39E/F Gripen NG.

The next milestone is the return to flight of the Gripen Demo prototype, equipped with the E/F’s new avionics system, designed to reduce the cost of upgrades by partitioning mission systems from flight-critical functions. Selex Galileo is pushing forward with the Skywards-G IRST—the first system of its type to operate in dual IR bands—and the Raven ES-05, the first wide-angle AESA.

The first new-build Gripen NG is due to fly in 2012. Reports describe stealth enhancements including diverterless inlets. The enhanced performance (EPE) engine would be a useful addition—at its highest reported rating, its non-afterburning output would be over 90% of the maximum thrust of the C/D’s RM12 engine, although Saab may elect to take a smaller thrust boost combined with longer engine life to reduce ownership cost. GE claims that the EPE is relatively low-risk.

There’s a lot of work to be done if European programs are to remain viable, but so far, industry considers it worthwhile.

Source: Defense Technology International (DTI)

SAAB Prepares for UK Expansion

24 May 2011, in News

Global defence and security company, Saab AB will open new UK headquarters and draw on British engineering expertise in a new Saab Design Centre in London.

With 200 employees already based throughout the UK, Saab is preparing to expand its reach into the British defence industry by opening a central London office to co-ordinate all in-country operations.

The opening of the company’s new UK headquarters will be followed by the opening of an engineering design centre. The facility will capitalise on the UK’s maritime jet engineering expertise and is scheduled to open in the late Summer.

Initially staffed by approximately 10 British employees, its first project will be to design the carrier-based version of the Gripen new generation multi-role fighter aircraft based on studies completed by Saab in Sweden.

Additionally, Saab is also to centralise its underwater vehicle development and production in the UK. Saab is in the process of merging its military underwater vehicles operations in Sweden with Saab Seaeye, a UK subsidiary based in Fareham, Hampshire, which is the market leader in the design and manufacture of electric remotely operated underwater vehicles for the civilian market.  The move to Fareham integrates all operations to benefit the company’s significant global customer base in the civilian and defence markets.

Saab President & CEO Håkan Buskhe, said: “Saab has a long and successful relationship with the UK, and I believe our expansion will create the conditions for a wider, strategic partnership that will benefit both nations. Today cooperation is vital in the global defence sector and the UK’s requirements and expertise firmly complements our own ambitions and vision.”

Note to Editor

Saab has around 12,500 employees globally with some 200 employees across the United Kingdom, Saab has a long history of providing defence products and services to the UK Armed Forces, including soldiers Combat and Counter-IED training, infantry weapons and the Arthur and Giraffe AMB ground-based radars which help secure the lives of UK troops deployed overseas.

F-35 deal isn’t perfect but it’s the only one in town

May 8, 2011

By ALEX WILNER and MARCO WYSS

ZURICH — Canadians are missing something in the debate over the purchase of the Joint Strike Fighter, also known as the F-35.

Two unprecedented shifts are rocking the global arms market for fighter jets.

First, there’s a quasi-revolution taking place in fighter jet technology. We are now entering a period dominated by “fifth generation” aircraft, fighters which will have “allaspect” stealth abilities with internal weapons systems, integrated avionics at the pilot’s fingertips, and “supercruise” capabilities that greatly enhance performance.

When it becomes operative, the F-35 will be the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world.

While opponents of the F-35 argue that Canada’s aging CF-18 Hornets can be replaced with fourth (and “fourth-plus”) generation aircraft, they’re missing the broader point. Upgraded fourth generation aircraft —like the F-18 Super Hornet — will be able to fly future combat missions, but that won’t stop them from becoming increasingly obsolete.

It won’t happen overnight, but eventually fourth generation aircraft will go the way of third and second generation aircraft: To the dump.

The F-35 will have a qualitative edge over older aircraft models no matter what the upgrade. The only comparable fighter is the F-22 Raptor, flown by the U.S. Air Force.

But Washington has already phased out the Raptor’s production, having placed all its bets on the F-35. Our allies have gotten the message: Britain, Australia, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and Norway will all be flying F-35s by 2020. Israel, Japan and others are likely to follow.

If Canadians want to equip their air force with the best available tools, they need to focus on next generation technology.

There’s little point in looking back. The future rests with fifth, not fourth, generation technology. The risk in spending less today on a souped-up version of the CF-18 is Canada will find itself replacing outdated hardware before long — an expensive proposition.

Second, the fighter-jet industry has become increasingly polarized. The Americans, Russians, and Chinese are tomorrow’s heavyweights. While some Canadians find it suspicious no alternative bids were entertained when selecting the F-35, in reality, there are virtually no competitors.

When a government decides to purchase military hardware from another country, it isn’t only thinking about improving the quality of its armed forces. It’s also thinking about the political and strategic signals it’s sending to others.

The arms trade can be a political minefield. Ideally, Canada will buy its fighters from an ally.

In doing so, we’ll avoid sending an unintended message with our purchase and pre-emptively grease the wheels in the event spare parts are needed during periods of crisis. It’s important, too, that Canada signs off with a manufacturer that will survive over the long haul. That will ease maintenance, upgrades, and future developments. Buy Russian? Chinese? Where does that leave Canada? We could approach the French or the Swedes. Both have sophisticated options in the Rafale and Gripen but, like the Super Hornet, these rely on older technology.

Given the huge investment needed to leap into the next generation, both countries are likely to eventually close shop. It’s possible a European consortium, like the one behind the Eurofighter Typhoon, will emerge in the future, but it’s a long shot.

Several European partners have already invested in the F-35 project, so they won’t be inclined to support another risky venture. Like it or not, the era of the European fighter jet is coming to a close.

That leaves Russia and China. Both countries are developing next generation fighters to rival the F-35. Russia began testing the PAK-FA a year ago, while China unveiled its J-20 in January.

But are Canadians really prepared to fly Russian or Chinese jets into battle?

The political and strategic ramification would be monumental. What would our allies think? What would Moscow and Beijing think? Neither option will do. While the F-35 deal isn’t perfect, it’s the only one in town.

Source : Calgary Sun

Global Fighter Jets: Asia, The New Centre Of Gravity?

By Richard A. Bitzinger

April 20, 2011

Some of Asia’s aerospace industries are starting work on fifth-generation fighter aircraft. Despite huge technological hurdles, these countries could displace Western Europe as a leading centre of fighter jet development, and possibly one day give the United States some real competition in global markets.

FOR CENTURIES, North America and Europe have dominated the state-of-the-art when it comes to military technology. Nearly all the great breakthroughs in weaponry – from muskets to missiles – have originated there. And perhaps no field of military technology has been more consistently and overwhelmingly the purview of the occidental West than fighter jets.

Since the end of World War II, a handful of countries in the West – basically, the United States, the USSR/Russia, Britain, France, and Sweden – have controlled the global fighter jet industry. Many countries have tried to break into this business: Argentina in the 1950s, Egypt and India in the 1960s, Israel and South Africa in the 1980s; none were particularly successful, and some – such as the Indian HF-24 Marut – were spectacular failures. Even today, perhaps 90 percent of all fighter jets flown by all the world’s air forces are produced by these five countries, or are based on copies of their planes (such as the Chinese J-7 fighter, a virtual clone of the venerable Soviet MiG-21).

This Western dominance could begin to crumble, however, as Asia ramps up several new fighter jet programmes, all of which are intended to come into service over the next 10 to 20 years. Consequently, the centre of gravity in the fighter jet industry could gradually begin to shift from the North Atlantic closer to the Asia – a development that could have particularly grave consequences for Western Europe’s military aerospace sector and could eventually even challenge the US’s predominance in this sector.

Asia’s Fighter Jet Programmes: Who’s Up, Who’s Down?

Combat aircraft development in Asia is a decidedly uneven affair. Southeast Asia, for example, has hardly a player in this sector, despite the vainglorious efforts of B.J. Habibie to turn Indonesia into an aerospace powerhouse, or Singapore Technologies’ success as an aircraft maintenance and upgrade shop. In addition, Taiwan’s indigenous aerospace industry – which developed both an advanced trainer jet (the AT-3) and a frontline fighter (the Ching-kuo) – is for all practical purposes dead in the water, having not produced a new aircraft in over a decade.

Even Japan, Asia’s aerospace leader for decades (and the only country in the region to possess a military aircraft industry before World War II), is in a state of uncertain decline. Its current indigenous fighter jet, the F-2, has been a technological and programmatic dead-end: its all-composite wing is prone to cracks, and it is so outrageously expensive (three times the cost of the F-16 upon which it is based) that procurement was cut from 130 to only 98 planes. When the last F-2 is delivered this year, Japan will have no fighter aircraft in production – and no new programme to replace it.

Rising Centres: China, India, and South Korea

On the other hand, some Asian fighter aircraft producers are obviously on the rise, despite all odds. China startled the world in January with the first flight of its J-20 fighter. Not much is known about this aircraft, which in some ways resembles the US “fifth-generation” F-22, and one should be careful not to read too much into this programme. Nevertheless, the J-20 certainly demonstrates China’s ambitions – and the aggressive steps it is prepared to take – to claw its way up into the vanguard of fighter-jet producers.

India is also attempting to develop a fifth-generation fighter, in collaboration with Russia, based on the Sukhoi PAK FA (T-50) prototype. If this programme is successful, it would constitute a generational leap in India’s fighter jet technology, as well as atoning for its long-delayed and over-budget Tejas fighter.

Finally, South Korea is pressing ahead with not one but two designs for an indigenous fifth-generation “KF-X” fighter – a twin-engine, canard-type fighter, and a single-engine aircraft resembling the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Interestingly, both Indonesia and Turkey are keen to partner with Korea in developing and manufacturing one of these fighters.

What About Europe?

All of these fighter jets are intended to fly or even be fielded within a decade. Of course, these countries face tremendous challenges translating these programmes – some which are literally paper aircraft – into actual frontline fighters. India is heavily dependent upon Russian know-how and systems, while it is highly uncertain that South Korea possesses the technological base to indigenously develop a state-of-the-art fighter. If these countries should succeed, however, this would constitute a tectonic shift in the centre of gravity in the global fighter jet industry.

Europe is the most at risk for losing its place to Asia in the global fighter jet hierarchy. Western Europe has basically not developed a new fighter in nearly 30 years. At present there is no money in the European aerospace sector to fund a fifth-generation follow-on to the Eurofighter Typhoon, the French Rafale, or the Swedish Gripen. Moreover, talk about a European UCAV (an unmanned combat aerial vehicle), which could constitute the region’s next-generation fighter programme, remains just that – talk.

Consequently, the future global fighter aircraft business could in time become a US-Asian duopoly. And while the US, with the F-35 JSF, is likely to dominate this sector for the next two decades – especially when it comes to international arms sales – some upstart Asian aircraft producers could eventually give it a real run for its money.

Richard A. Bitzinger is a Senior Fellow with the Military Transformations Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. Formerly with the RAND Corp. and the Defence Budget Project, he has been writing on aerospace and defence issues for more than 20 years.

Source : Eurasiareview.com