The Finnish main aviation event was again in last weekend. All Hornet replacement program (HX-program) hopefuls were in attendance some with mock ups and all with pavillions. All HX fighters were in air and Gripen E made first appearance in air manouvering (this is because of state of flight testing and proving program.) I had the good fortune to be invited for the pressday, so I got to listen and see the latest slideshows manufactures had to offer.
The real winner in HX race seems to be the MBDA: unless Boeing’s bid is succesful, MBDA will look to sell another 600+ Meteors!
SAAB JAS-39 E/F Gripen. Sweden will make the fighter YOU want!
SAAB is another of the forerunners in HX race: Gripen E has everything a fighter needs speed, manouverability and a great primary Air to Air missile in MBDA Meteor. The “Dinge an Sich” of the offer is the two GlobalEye AWACS planes. This cannot be overstated: FAF has so far been in “Warsaw Pact” air control mode, with fortificated air defense commands without airborne radar and controll assets. Global Eye would change all this and bring the Finnish air defense to current millenium.
Global Eye’s S-band ERIEYE radar can see virtually everything in 450km radius thoug the instrumental range is 550km. ERIYE radar is housed in a skibox over the fuselage of the Bombadier 6000 platform, and provides about 150 degree coverage both sides of the aeroplane.
The S-band means 2-4GHz frequency range, and wave lenght of about 7,5 to 15 centimeters. Because of nature of electromagnetic waves, this area brings boons of rain and general weather penetration and stealth fighter detection (Stealth bombers, however, are sufficiently large to still remain stealthy). Banes are required high pulse strenght and quite large antennas. This is due to T/R module sizes required to be able to operate on desired wave lenght. This also affects the radar resolution.
The Gripen E is as of this writing (08/2021) still in flight testing and verification process which are going according to plan according to Magnus Skogberg of SAAB. Newer and bigger Gripen has all it takes to be successful fighter in Finnish Air Force in 2020’ies and beyond: good A2A missile, nifty electronics and small logistical footprint. On the other hand Gripen is small and single engine. This translates into Gripen E still being quite stealthy in visible domain, and low emitting in NIR and MIR wavelengths. On trade-off Gripen E’s Leonardo’s Raven 05 AESA radar has to fit in quite small nosecone of Gripen E, and is thus limited in number of T/R elements it can carry. This translates into radar being less powerful than her counterparts in other HX hopefuls.
Having single engine means obviously that there is no redundancy in case of engine failure, and that there is about half the electrical power available (depending of make and manufacture obviously) than to twin engined HX-hopefulls. Future will show just how this deficiency might turn out to be, but as an direct energy weapons are making their way into fighter sized platforms, the loading time for Lasers or power output for other electrical doohickeys will be less than twin engined fighters. This might be devastating in 2050ies, but might not be, depending on evolution battery and direct energy technology, a showstopper even then.
Swedish gov’t has expressed their commitment to build Gripen’s EW capabilities to standard Finland wants, So that in essence Sweden would be getting the fighter Finland deemed sufficient. Further the current government is left leaning and in their view Sweden can do no wrong so politically SAABs offer is also quite strong. ALso even the most pidgeonish members of publick see aligning with Sweden as sort of NATO light, which might not arouse political suspicions in Kremlin.
One interesting sidetrack here is the Borderguards MVX-program. IF SAAB gets the nod, the Global eyes will, as per data sharing and requirements of defense of realm, be a part of maritime border guarding of Finland. BUT as Finland is long country, 1500km north to south and 500km east to west, it is quite clear that Global eye doing air surveillance in Sodankylä area cannot at the same time have a peek of what is coming closer to Åland islands. Thus two more Global eyes with Border guards colours and crews would remedy this kind of situation. However people in charge of MVX program stressed that SAAB has answered to RFI, but HX-program is not in any way tied to Borderguards MVX program. Still, IMHO, having same platform in Borderguards surveillance squadron and the FAFs AWACS squadron would not be a bad thing.
Eurofighter Typhoon: Industry and intelligence co-operation.
Typhoon is a bit of a hard to term participant in HX competition: Definately it is the clearest air dominance fighter of the bunch, and if Finland was simply looking for Air defense fighter without groundpounding requirements we would have no competition at all. Eurofighter is the fastest, flies highest and maybe even longest of the hopefulls. What is the other selling point besides the fighter is the question with BAE bid. There was talk about giving Finns access to intelligense assets (satellite imaginery) in the deal and now participation in developement of next generation radar and engine works are given as sweeteners for the deal.
Great Britain is important defense ally for the Finnish Defence forces and IS still militarily most powerfull country in Europe. Further EUROfighter really is an european project so the can be pressure from EU partners to give to nod to Common European fighter developement.
AS said Typhoon as Air dominance machine has all doctor orderedIt flies high and fast, is manouvarable, has all kinds of armament to effect all kinds of targets. BAE test pilot mentioned the the electrical power coming out of EJ-2000 . I did as if there is some kind of Direct energy weapon in pipelines for the Typhoon, and genteman in question stated “No”. So.. THAT would mean that CAPTOR AESA radar cannot do direct energy, in other words fry approaching missiles as the come in range, nor there seem to be a laser weaponry in the paperwork either. Suprising!
Industrial co-operation and sovereighn use were quite prominently iterated for listeners in sunny South helsinki by the Typhoon mockup.
Dassault Rafale Strategic partnership in EU.
The french had brought in the honourable mrs Agnès Cukierman to tell about the French offer. This fact sort of underlines the French selling point of the Dassault Rafale fighter: “Strategic partnership in EU”. Don’t get me wrong: Rafale is very capable fighter and has seen combat all over Africa and Middle-East and I’m sure when used right well capable of killing Suhois with good drop ratio. So there is no problems with the plane!
Only thing I have questioned in my mind is the Rafales EW capability up to par with S-400/450/500 systems? Can Rafale be effectively be deployed with SPECTRE system and expect them to full fill their missions. Not to worry said General (ret) Joel Rode because Rafale is the pre strategic nuclear weapon carrier in Armée de l’air et de l’espace it will be required to perform deep penetration. Also you can significantly enhance your chances with good mission planning. go in rain, in night and low and fast, and you have good chances of pulling trough a success. Good enough I guess. Still this leaves the question of anti radiation missile a bit open: Will it be JSM (originally Norwegian weapon) or AGM-88 ER. The picture here shows JSM, but it is a tad unsuited for the role.
Dassault Rafale has the capability to carry the BVR Meteor and MICA will be the other, WVR, missile in package. MICA IR is usefull as a sensor as well, as you can get IR picture from the missile back to the fighter, and use basic triangulation to do nifty 9th grade maths and get firing solutions and other data passively. Other than that HAMMER/AASM is good guidance package for iron bombs, Stand off weapon would be MBDA Storm Shadow
MICA would also have a very respective range for a “secondary” missile as 80km (ASRAAM +25km, and IRIS T 25km) which is more or less the same as offered by the current FAF AMRAAM C-7. So in max OCA/DCA Rafale in a sence has “mostest missiles”.
Lockheed F-35A Lightning It’s not as expensive as your think!
Lockheed Martins presser was for the grownups in HX-press community. The message was really “F-35 is a lot cheaper that you have been led to believe!” One has to concur, the price is trickling down and synergy is kicking in which is fine and good.
There will be “robust” weapons package included in HX bid but what is there in it is everybody’s educated guess. BVR missile: AMRAAM D or METEOR? WVR: ASRAAM or Sidewinder? Ground attack missile: SPEAR 3 or JAGM? Anti Radiation AAMRG-ER or JSM? Stand off/cruise missile AGM-158 JASSM?
Lockheed Martin’s offer lives and dies by the stealth: F-35 has not been designed as a maneuvering platform: it is not a fighter it is an assassin. It will kill you when/if you have no clue it is there, but if you can get a kill-chain on it, F-35 is in dire straits. And no I don’t think F-35 is incapable of maneuvering, it just is not her forte. It is one thing to get into advantageous position and stick a needle in enemy’s posterior than to try to be victorious in within visual range maneuvering fight with Suhois or MiGs
So I’m a bit skeptical about continued value of the (X-band or microwave length) stealth for the future decades, but it IS important right now. No manufacturer has overlooked the effect of microwave stealth in their designs and future platforms like Tempest are stealthy in X-band, so there is that. Still S-band radars have no such limitations, so that eats into the effectiveness of X-band stealth.
Boeing F/A-18 E/F/G and the Loyal Wing man: it has been so good, why not continue?
Boeing was responssible of the news bomb this time. Last year I asked is Loyan wingman part of HX deal and they denied it, but now they owned up and said “it is part of the options”. So Airpower Teaming System ATS or Loyal Wingman is on the table.
Finlands air warfare domain is the most challenging in the world. country is without great changes of terrain and lies pretty flat. All the AFBs are (somewhat) within radar range of the only potential adversary. So while F/A-18E is not that stealthy the ATS is, so Loyal wing man can go and have a peek and networking capabilities will take care of what the jockey in F/A-18 E sees. Thus you only risk losing relatively inexpensive platform and not a full blown fighter. In basic OCA/DCA scenario the ATSes would fly 50-80km forward of F-18s and when they pick up enemies, thay would act like forward observers do in artillery concept. They would help to guide in the missiles that the shooters/arsenal fighters, fired. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
The ATS concept is applicable to most scenarios HX-fighters are expected to perform. Other than that Boeing plays to its strenght, It has been good, you guys know us from 90’ies onwards, you know the consept and you know the plane. All fair and good points. Also the armaments are on known quality. the finns would stay with AMRAAM and eventually move to D-model, other armaments from legacy hornets era could be used at first and new ones brought online as they surface. so no great thrills there.
Then there is the Growler. Growler can deny the enemy the whole killchain. Let me elaborate. When Growler is in air with New Generation Jammer pods and protecting say a strike package, There might be a S-band search radar, Growler jams it with low band jammer, then it can also jam the microwave links that help command posts to control missile batteries. After that if air defense battery gets the strike package, the Growler can jam their X-band fire control radars. Ditto for fighter assets. So Boeing claim they can make pigs breakfast from the whole kill chain. Not just the last part that involves the X-band fire control radars. This is another strength of Rhino bid.
Concerns rise from the continued use of F/A-18 E/F/G by the primary user: United States Navy. Even though Germany picked F/A-18E and Growler earlier this year, 120 + fighters in Europe might not be enough to drive development further. This still is the mountain Boeing has to climb.
Other things of note in Kaivari21 are: cool aviators given by Prat and Whitney and Lockheed. SAAB had really neat Global EYE caps for us lemmings. Also the coffee cup was in same camo! It is nice to see leftie crap has not surfaced in France, cos we could still see cute girls in orange and black in Dassault Pavillion. Also they had their own winery produts. Being had maybe the coolest cap in Growler and in blue and white. Typhoon sales team made us laugh oftenest.