First: I do not have ANY knowledge of the “official” scenarios of the HX program, but I have tried to make educated guess what kind of situations these might be. DCA scenario is definately there as defensive and offensive counter air is the core mission of HX fighter.
Second: I have run these simulations on “Command Modern Operations”, so the simulation is as accurate as it can be on commercial software. So don’t take this as Word of God, but it will still be around 60-70% accurate.
However, I’m looking to get the professional version, if economics are there. If you wish to chip in, feel free to throw me a dime.
Gripen’s in Arctic
As SAAB has previously said: “We have black belt in fighting Suhois” the JAS-39 E Gripens give a good accounting of themselves in this scenario. In fact I used Brasilian Gripens, because they were a bit more modern that was offered for Sweden in Command Modern Operations.
In HX-hopefulls SAAB offers “light fighter” concept along with Lockheed Martin, in a way that both are single engine affairs. Well, as empty weight goes, F-35 is the second heaviest 13000kg after F/A-18 E’s 14552kg. So Gripens empty weight of 8000kgs, is indeed “light”. In essence “weight” is nowadays a pretty obscure yardstick to measure fighters by, but here it does highlight the fact how sleek and small Gripen E is. In case you wonder: second engine weights about 1100kg in F/A-18 E that uses the same engine. The size then affects the relative stealthiness of the platform in visual domain.
Other big thing, maybe the bigger thing, is SAABs inclusion of GlobalEye mini AWACS into the bid. This would indeed bring more value to the pack and would take Finnish Air Forces battle management away from Warsaw Packt years to current times. Global eye is eye in the sky: It can see all of the aerospace from ground up to the skies with same ease. Targets cannot really hope to hide behind terrain or sneak into your aerospace low. All can be seen. This is really really important in scheme of things!
This leads to one of the SAAB’s strenghts in HX-competition: One engine guzzles about half of the avgas two engines use. Thus flight hour is about half of what it is with other HX competitors. This would mean that you can fly about twice as much what you can fly with other HX fighters, which leads to better trained Air Force. (Yes there are simulators, but that is hardly the same as training in meat)
But same time single engine saves costs it produces half the electricity two engine fighter produces. This is not catastrofic in it self in 2020’ies, but will limit the amount of electricity is available for direct energy weapons in future. (Direct energy weapons mean for example microwave and laser weapons that use electricity to get energy into target.) This is exemplified by Future Air dominance concept of BAE (and SAAB) Tempest where her Rolls-Royce engines are very much optimized to conjure electricity for direct energy and other applications.
SAAB had exellent press conference about week ago: SAABs directors and their guests from Swedish Government and Air Force did paint a very compelling picture about JAS Gripen E as HX. Which would not of course be “bad”, but is it “the bestest” is another question. SAABs guests really made the effort to emphasis that “Finland does its own decisions” but painted a picture about common Air Force with two commanders. This sort of would make sence because that common air force would have 120 JAS-39 Gripen E fighters (Plus quite a few C/Ds to run along) and it would free Swedish component to South eastern theatre, Baltic Sea and Baltic islands, and the other component, Finnish, to deal with everything that is happening north of say Pori (Björneborg)-Tampere (Tammerfors)-Mikkeli (St. Michael) Line. This would of course help out with DCA greatly in both operational directions.
Also, Swedes flashed oppourtunity to use Swedish basing as back area for Finnish Air Force in war. This would of course mean that Finns and Swedes need to be allied to some extend. Would being members of EU be enough? Or would this mean F and Sw being NATO allies? Alliance between? Or Personal Union with Queen Victoria of Sweden as the Monark?
As Fighters go, JAS Gripen is exellent prospect: It is just beginning production, it will have widening userbase (Many South American AF is eyeing Gripen E/F as a step up from American legacy aircraft.) So Gripen E will be relevant untill 2060. Yes there is the Tempest. Tempest will not be flying for quite a long time yet. But stuff they are developing for the said Tempest will first fly in both Gripen and Typhoon. developement of new fighter craft does take decades!
This is about after 18 minutes run. VVS has no idea where the threat is coming from. What is surprising in Command Modern Operations simulation is that Gripen E’s identification range with its sensors. Gripes has hard time identifying targets before they are 2/3rds in her radar coverage. I do not know if this is supposed to be threat library thing or what. If it was radar thing Gripen would not be very successful in guiding missiles to targets,
As you can see from the scorecard, Gripen did not lose as many radars, as others did, but still lost them. Other was that SAAB’s HX-hopefull did manage to get pretty decent run: it got 97 to 3,5 drop ratio, there was some hits on Air force bases, but nothing too serious. All together it got the job done and mostly kicked ass.
Next lets analyse the scorecards.