THE GREAT FIGHTER GAME :Gripen E VS F 16 block 70

As India looks to replace its ageing Soviet-era lightweight combat aircraft fleet, two players have emerged as possible contenders, American defence major Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70 and Swedish defence major Saab’s Gripen E fighter aircraft.

Indian Air Force (IAF) has requirement of over 400 fighter aircraft, which is far higher than the 126 aircraft that were supposed to be made by the now junked Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition, IANS reported.

There is a battle royal underway between American Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70 and Swedish SAAB’s Gripen E fighter for the lucrative deal to supply single engine fighters for the Indian Air Force. The winner of this battle will get to become a part of Indian Air Force that requires more than 400 jets.

In his report on the F-16, Arindam De reported, “In less than a decade, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is going to run seriously short of fighter aircraft. The venerable MiG-21s and MiG-23s would be retiring. These have given us stellar air backup – but airframe life is a reality. Probably by then, the IAF will have 36 Dassault Rafales but they would be too few to be considered as true replacements of the workhorse MiGs.”

The replacement for MiG-21s would ideally be single engine workhorses which can be pushed to the limit and which would have known abilities. The MiG-21 was really an interceptor, and it is not good economics to replace interceptors with multi-role capable and vastly costly Rafales. Fighter planes are there to serve a purpose, they have exact roles and the money spent should be commensurate with that role.

 Both the F-16 & SAAB Gripen-E are single engine fighter aircraft and made a great impression at the Aero India show in February 2017. The inclusion of any of them in the IAF will be an excellent addition to the country’s Airborne dominance vis-à-vis Pakistan.

Here we are bringing to you the full spectrum of EW capabilities, Weapons and Other warfare capabilities plus potential weaknesses. So that we can make a proper choice as to which one could be better.

Number 1 :- Block 70 F-16

This came up as a Surprise as nobody thought Lockheed Martin would make any further advancement to the system after making Block 60 for the Arabs. The F 16 IN Super Viper a contender in MMRCA competition is considered to be quite close to Block 70. But still Block 70 packs much masala in it to be an attractive choice for the EW dominated battlefield of the future and today. The strategic advantage as what being talked in defence circles is that Last Production line of F 16 will be shifted in India.

The Block 70 is the most advanced of all F-16s. There are 27 countries in the world who fly these planes, with the latest to join in two months time will be Romania.

The Block 70 F-16 will have the 5th generation fighter radar capabilities, some of which are greater detection and tracking ranges, multiple target track, high resolution synthetic aperture radar, auto target classification and cueing, advanced growth modes.

Lockheed martin has been in talks with the Indian Govt since April to bring the Texas production line to India, and 2017 is the timeframe they are looking at. About jobs being impacted back home in the US, Howard said that the F-35 fighter jet facility will be ramped up, meaning the F-16 workers will be absorbed there.

“The F-16 is by far the easiest fighter amongst its rivals…The new fighters, like Gripen, have a lot of composite materials, and lack a lot of generational changes and modifications over its lifetime.”The F-16 would be a great choice for India. Combat proven time and again. Upgradable with a high survivability portfolio.

Within the IAF, which has for the last four decades, focused its training and tactics on fighting Pakistan F-16s, there is entrenched resistance to buying that fighter. Further, the air marshals are certain Washington would never allow Lockheed Martin to offer the kind of holistic proposal and technology transfer that Saab has offered.

Assuaging these concerns, Ben Schwartz, who heads aerospace and defence for the US-India Business Council says: “The F-16 offers would come in as FMS deals with unprecedented technology transfer and Make-in-India characteristics.  A lot of work has gone into evaluating the level of indigenization – more so than in any other case that people can recall.” Backing him up, a senior Pentagon official says: “In US-India negotiations today, you have to throw away all the assumptions of the past about what Washington will allow and what it will deny. Don’t assume anything is off the table.”

Radar and Sensor Suite :~

It is equipped with AN/ APG 83 AESA radar. Described as Agile beam it can perform Air to Air and Air to Ground Search and Track simultaneously. The noise reduction features of this one has made its range improved to almost 70 miles almost 84 km for engagement. The image quality in air to ground mode is described as imagery-class. Just the same that is acquired from satellites. They can be acquired from long distances for air to ground targets and using its synthetic aperture radar mode pilots can locate and recognise the ground targets. Prioritise them and engage.
The new MMC modules of it’s computers are said to be 30 % faster than previous ones. Which allows sensor data fusion from the EW sensors for better situational awareness , here notably the data transfer network is quite faster than previous systems like Link 16. It is also equipped with Off boresight aiming sensor which allows pilot to sense and target something out of his field of view.

It also features a pilot friendly automatic ground collision avoidance system. Which continuously tracks pilot’s awareness with respect to decreasing altitude. It makes pilot aware and turns up the aircraft automatically if it goes too close to ground. Because while manoeuvring the aircraft to follow an enemy aircraft. The enemy may try to run wmaway by staying low and outmatching F 16 whike taking ups and downs. The F 16 may then be hitting a Mountain or be directed towards the ground then this system becomes ‘Tactically Important’.

F-16 Block 70 is equipped with the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) – it’s a targeting pod that fulfils the most challenging precision targeting and non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (NTISR) missions.Battle Proven platform and sold to many NATO countries and others worldwide. India has the option of selling F-16 spare parts to current operators of the jet.Lockheed is offering missiles, advanced avionics and armaments for the ‘Make In India’ F-16’s, this reduces the hassle of scouting for key equipment.

Reasons for India to select F16

1 Single Supply Chain. More availability of parts. Faster Availability in wartime.
2 Battle Proven platform and sold to many NATO countries and various countries worldwide. So India can sell F 16 spare parts.
3 One of the most advanced Variant of F 16. With almost Medium Weight Category like capabilties.
4 Strategic advantage of grounding F 16s of Pakistan Air Force.

Reasons for not selecting F 16

1 High Operating and Life cycle costs as compared to Gripen.
2 Less Sensor packed than Gripen.
3 Adversary Air Forces know F 16 better so they can formulate Strategies to counter it.
4 No sepecific advantage to Other Indian Indegeneous products like LCA.

Seeing the requirement of IAF , the track record of F 16. This could be a better choice. Many people feel that Usage of F 119 engine could be a deal breaker but maintenance of that is quite expensive. It is unconfirmed yet. Even the USAF finds it hectic to maintain it. The F 16 has been used in wargames all around the world and therefore it wouldn’t be a formidable challenge for IAF’s enemies to develop counter strategies. The 16000m service cieling allows it to fly over himalayas comfortably.

Number 2 :~ Saab JAS 39 Gripen E.

The Gripen makers since the days of MMRCA competition are quite desperate to make sale to IAF. So much that we all know they even gave an advertisement on a Bus Stop in New Delhi. Be it Draken Viggen or Gripen the Swedes have always impressed the world with thier designs. Now Gripen is something truely solid and comes with an proven combat service. The Canarded Delta Wing design is better in manoeuvrability as we all know. But what the Gripen E offers here is a Contemporary Electronic Warfare abilities that is what truly matters in Next Gen. warfare. The price is high but that is because Gripen has got so much to offer.

Gripen NG is the most advanced multi-role fighter in the world. Gripen is, by design, a true multi-role fighter aircraft, capable of performing an extensive range of air-to-air, air-to-surface and reconnaissance missions under all conditions in any environment.

Saab has also set out a comprehensive plan within India’s Make in India initiative, which will include transfer of state-of-the-art technology; setting up of an aerospace eco-system in India, including a manufacturing facility; creation of a local supplier base; employment of a well-trained Indian workforce in engineering and manufacturing

Gripen offers operational dominance and flexibility with superior mission survivability. Air-to-air superiority is guaranteed with METEOR, AMRAAM, IRIS-T, AIM-9 missile capability and supercruise. Air-to-surface capability is assured through the use of the latest generation precision weapons and targeting sensors. Gripen’s superior situation awareness is ensured through an AESA radar, IRST passive sensor, HMD, cutting-edge avionics, next generation data processing and a state-of-the-art cockpit.

While the IAF apparently likes the Gripen NG While it’s not a Gen-5 fighter, the Gripen NG’s data link — a key element in modern air combat — is reputedly the world’s most advanced. Its avionics are built of Gallium Nitride, which delivers superior performance over conventional Gallium Arsenide avionics. The Gripen NG carries diverse weaponry from various countries, including the French Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM), reputedly the world’s most advanced, with an estimated range of about 150 kilometres. Independent researcher IHS Jane’s, finds the Gripen the cheapest contemporary fighter to operate.

Sensor Suite :~

This one is quite impressive amongst all the 4Gs.

Selex Galileo-Raven ES-05 AESA. This radar offers a 200° Coverage owing to its swashplate technique it sees where others are blind. This becomes quite important while on a CAS mission.

IRST (Infra-Red Seach and Track) passive sensor system / Skyward G-infrared active product by Selex-ES is synchronized (acquisition data transmission between devices) and also provides the ability to hang missiles reconciliation to fight.

Gripen E has a new electronic architecture (Net Centric Warfare – NCW). Judged ten times faster than its competitors. The new central system PPLI (Participant Precise Location and Identification) and connects all the slopes internal and external sensors (RAVEN, IRST, EW39, ATFLIR pod) and then offer the best responses to threats. This is right now best thing in Gripen as per me and after F 35 it is the only fighter to be able of that.

The Gripen E is driven by General Electric’s (GE) F414G turbofan engine rated at 22,000lb (98kN). It features a new high-pressure turbine and a new six-stage, high-pressure compressor.

“The aircraft’s engine and design enable it to fly at supersonic speed without using an afterburner.”

The Gripen E features a digital cockpit with three large multi-functional displays (MFD) including a few 3D screens. The cockpit also features a hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) which provides superior situational awareness for the pilot.

Reasons for India to select Gripen.

1 Gripen has lowest per unit life cycle and operating costs almost USD 4000.
2 Gripen is the most sensor packed and smartest fighter amongst the Fourth Generation Fighter Aircraft.
3 Gripen makers. The Saab has offered to help India manufacture LCA Tejas and Offer Naval Version of Gripen to Indian Navy IAC and IAC 2.

Reasons for not selecting Gripen.

1 Gripen uses American Engine so it will be difficult to manage supply chain.
2 Gripen’s per unit manufacturing cost is higher than that of LM F 16 blk 70.
3 Relatively less battle proven than F 16.

Conclusion :~

Seeing the requirement of IAF , the track record of F 16. This could be a better choice. Many people feel that Usage of F 119 engine could be a deal breaker but maintenance of that is quite expensive. It is unconfirmed yet.Even the USAF finds it hectic to maintain it. The F 16 has been used in wargames all around the world and therefore it wouldn’t be a formidable challenge for IAF’s enemies to develop counter strategies. The 16000m service cieling allows it to fly over himalayas comfortably.

nother bristling issue that is of concern is the future of the Tejas fighter if India goes in for either of these aircraft. The IAF has ordered more than 123 Tejas aircraft in a mix of two variants, this is indeed a valid concern as the Tejas is only limping towards it FOC with several “deadlines” countermanded. While this is a serious impediment to backup the force structure of IAF’s squadrons, MoD is however of the belief that the single-engine fighter production by either of the defence sectors in the long haul would benefit both the Tejas and the AMCA programs.

Saurabh Joshi of Stratpost reported that “The operational cost of the Swedish SAAB Gripen aircraft is the lowest among a flightline of modern fighters, confirmed a White Paper submitted by the respected international defence publishing group IHS Jane’s, in response to a study commissioned by SAAB.

The paper says that in terms of ‘fuel used, pre-flight preparation and repair, and scheduled airfield-level maintenance together with associated personnel costs’, “The SAAB Gripen is the least expensive of the aircraft under study in terms of cost per flight hour (CPFH).” At an estimated $4,700 per hour (2012 USD), the Gripen compares very favourably with the Block 40/50 F-16s which are its closest competitor at an estimated $7,000 per hour, says the report. The cost of ownership results of the Gripen are of considerable merit given the context in which India operates its airborne assets, however the data assessed by the agency is relative in nature.

The F-16 is a sophisticated and versatile fighting machine and it comes with a strategic advantage since the jets are made by the US. India stands to gain next to nothing by way of strategic leverage in international affairs if it opts for the Gripen. The US will see this move as more of a captious affront to its relationship with India. Contrary to the above, in 2011 India picked U.S.-made engines for its Tejas light combat aircraft over European competitors; its strategic relationship with Europe did not fall apart as a consequence. Nor will India and Russia end their enduring military relationship because the F-16 is being picked up in the combat-jet dogfight.

So these were the awesomest 4Gs we have got as a choice for replacing the MiG 21s of Indian air force. Seeing the depleting squadron strength it is critical that the decision be taken fast. The F 16 is experienced, comes with a strategic advantage and is versatile. It is relatively cheaper. While the Gripen is costlier is tactically more dominant and has got much greater amount of smart functions and sensors but have the lowest per unit operating cost.

 

 

 Source:- Full After Burner && IndianDefenseNews.in

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