F-35A versus Saab Gripen NG

The F-35 compared with other modern jets.
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XanderCrews

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Unread post25 Feb 2020, 22:50

I was going to write about cost, but I think that will be saved for last.

The War of/on Public Perception:

why Saab wins, and LM loses.

You, as a public individual are not party to real performance data for the Gripen. Saab could release that, but its in the company's best interest to overstate its performance in the public sphere. its been sited already an instance in parliament where Saab representatives lied, or completely misstated the costs of operating the Gripen NG. Why? They have nothing to lose. The parliamentary testimony is not legally binding: they can't be held to account. By understating the costs they are attempting to throw doubt into the Canadian decision to purchase the F-35, and give their aircraft a chance to compete.

It is in that competition process that Gripen must provide legally binding information; that's called for in Canadian law. This is a microcosm of the situation in the broader public sphere. Saab is the master of providing misleading performance statistics for their aircraft: its not like any purchasing state will use them to make an selection. Rather, they would have a proper competition that required legally binding data in order to assess these aircraft. When actual third party authorities evaluate the Gripen they find much more humble performance figures, and much higher costs. That was the case with the Swiss, where you saw estimated CPFH significantly higher than $5,000 per hour, and performance that was pretty much in line with most other aircraft. Saab has been effective at getting people on the internet to believe this claim, yet when they show up to a binding RFP, they give the real figures, which is much more in line with other aircraft. Theres' no free lunches in operating fighters. Gripen is not it.

Generally speaking, Dassault and Gripen don't really compete with the F-35. They will join non-binding information gathering stages, but they leave when the hard RFP comes out, because most of the countries that can buy F-35s have requirements that will reflect the future of air warfare.

Nevertheless, offering highly inflated data publicly suits Saab's purposes in marketing and selling the Gripen. Its intended to push the public and perhaps less informed or rigorous public officials to make snap political decisions on aircraft. Its not accurate, but neither does it have to be. In reality it gives people like you the sense that this aircraft is a good one that isn't being fairly treated which is part of the aircraft's mystique / selling point.

The difference between Saab and the F-35 is that the latter is a DoD program: it is subject to legal requirements to provide accurate figures to oversights authorities. One such law is U.S. Code Title 10 § 2432, which forces DOD to report publicly how a project is doing against its assessed performance criteria in the form of Selected Acquisition Reports. There are other oversight bodies, like the DOT&E and others. Consequently there is little room for Lockheed Martin to oversell the aircraft in the public, because the data is all publicly available by a third party assessor (DoD, Congress, GAO.)

To bring this all together, you're looking at this from one perspective: the one of a public individual thinking that everything out there is basically accurate and fair information. A key part of this is understanding the fidelity of the information provided. Probably one of the most useless figures is ferry range: it almost never reflects anything approaching accurate or usable in the field. However I do have a grasp of aerodynamics and other aircraft performance which suggests to me and others that the stated ferry range of 4000 km is completely bogus. Does it matter? Of course not, because nobody will ever hold them to account on it. All that matters is what happens in an actual contest and the legally binding information it must provide there.

I've often seen anything positive about the F-35 dismissed as "LM PR" this is almost comical to anyone in the know. Saab on the other hand is seen as an "honest" company. its word carry more weight amongst the public that doesn't understand that indeed Saab's PR is highly effective in the sense that it is indeed lying in order to make its product appear far better and even more "sensible" than it is, and even some cursory research would show its lies in the past, but that instead people continue to take them at their word. It also helps that LM for example is seen as underhanded, sneaky, and at the very least fail to deliver on promises. throw in the 1960s starfighter deal and its an even uglier perception crafted in direct opposition to the "corrupt" F-35

Why does LM suffer such a credibility gap with the public? The first reason is US law.
United States military acquisitions is one of the most heavily scrutinized areas of government policy in the world. I would argue it is the most heavy scrutinized. It is very heavily regulated, and each program has over a half dozen bodies providing oversight. These are some I can think off right off the top of my head.

Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (operational utility)
Office of the Secretary of Defence. (overall oversight)
The House of Representatives (overall oversight)
the Senate (general oversight)
The Government Accountability Office (general oversight)
The Congressional Budget Office (Budget)
The State Department (foreign sales)
Comptroller General (mostly budget)

That doesn't include the fact that you have 10 partner nations who have their own oversight bodies, that have analyzed the purchase. As a result it would be very difficult to find ways around the law, especially on a domestic procurement program, one which is the most heavily scrutinized in the world. If there was cheating, it would come out, very quickly. Just read USC Title 10 2432 on Selected Acquisitions Reports.

Its basically a federal offence to lie about the cost of a program. LM's "PR" then is almost always on the defensive after bad news arises. And bad news will arise, thats the entire point of the reporting apparatus above. Problems are to be found and ruthlessly fixed in full view of the public, LM then scrambles to explain the host of problems that being found while its competitors lacking this kind of oversight, and certainly lacking the rules and laws to report such activity to the public in some cases as a matter of policy.

When this is all combined with the extremely competitive nature of defense acquisitions around the globe, things get very ugly, very fast. competitors have "billions" of reasons to ensure LM looks down, and stays down. Its not that LM is completely devoid of mistakes, they've made plenty as has the "customer" (IE the government side of the relationship) with the F-35, but accurate comparison is extremely elusive when one side keeps its problems hidden and quiet or simply doesn't bother to even try and find them, and the other must report every single problem for years. When this is combined with the "adversarial" nature of weapons acquisition reporting with the American press, who's template has not changed post Vietnam, and now married to "click-bait" journalism the public perception can become a near firestorm. accurate reporting is extremely hard to find anywhere now, but especially in subjects that require massive amounts of research and explanation along with the dreaded "S-word" (science) in short the media, even if not in an adversarial role, does terribly at military stories in general.

In the Mid 2000s Saab essentially flooded the internet with a "paper airplane" in the Gripen NG this was made worse when the F-35 was seen to win "unfairly" in Norway. Exacerbated by the "smoking gun" of the wikileaks papers. however the Gripen NG didn't get its first sale until the end of 2011. The F-35 program was rebaselined in 2010, and for the JSF program problem remains its "lowest point" meanwhile saab had and continues to have a series of what amounts to sales pamphlets widely distributed on the internet. The beauty of these pamphlets, slides, graphics etc, combined with highly publicized flights of a non-representative test article (The Gripen Demo) were combined along with the already aggressive cost perception marketing done on the earlier version of the Gripen to create an airplane that was seen as the antithesis of the F-35. Although the first test flight of the production representative Gripen E test article did not occur until mid 2017, every rumor or article about the Gripen NG was treated as truth. Any descent or skepticism created the circular logic of pointing to previous saab exaggeration and PR as previous "proof" of what the Gripen NG could do (often the present tense was used,as if the Gripen NG was already performing) despite having not flown a single flight and the F-35 being deeply involved in the most thorough and open test program in history.

Saab worked hard on the tried and true method of repeating the same things over and over until the public synonymously held those views with its product. The f-35 is seen as "overkill" while the Gripen is sold as a nearly perfect defensive solution. While the F-35 was seen as horrifically expensive, the Gripen line was seen as "cheap" while the F-35 was seen as almost impossibly ambitious, the Gripen was portrayed as "deliberately constrained" The JSF program was seen as constant chaos and and news, while the Gripen NG was seen as well managed and sensible with only well controlled Saab PR releases, which is very easy perception to achieve when you simply talk and "morph" an airplane that has yet to fly for 10 years into whatever mold is required that day. Those perceptions exist to this day and its nearly impossible to get accurate comparison or analysis, especially as its fans vehemently and dutifully repeat the propoganda they've been fed for years on end.

and I'll just close on the fact that in Libya 2011 Gripen got its first "combat deployment" when a small Swedish Gripen detachment used camera pods to aid the allies' efforts of killing things and breaking stuff. There is absolutely nothing more Gripen in the history of aviation than the fact that Saab's airplane went into combat, brought a CAMERA, didn't kill anything, and ruthlessly used their reconnaissance missions for even more PR as what essentially became one giant photo op, in what was literally a photographic operation. :mrgreen:
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charlielima223

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Unread post26 Feb 2020, 04:28

@ XanderCrews

Very good read, thankyou.

You are right, public perception is a heavy component/factor nowadays. Take for instance the Canadian re doing their fighter competition. After years of bad press and misleading (poorly researched) articles; I am sure it had an impact on Canada's decision to push for a fighter competition. Another thing to take into account of public perception is the internet. The internet was a thing in the 90s but really started to flourish in the 2000s. There is global instantaneous connection and information at peoples finger tips nowadays (hell... I'm doing this from my fone). Before the advent of the internet, I would assume few people in Canada would care let alone know of F-35.
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ricnunes

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Unread post26 Feb 2020, 13:10

I fully agree! Excellent article posted by Xander and very spot on :thumb:
“Active stealth” is what the ignorant nay sayers call ECM and pretend like it’s new.
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loke

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Unread post26 Feb 2020, 18:33

XanderCrews wrote:and I'll just close on the fact that in Libya 2011 Gripen got its first "combat deployment" when a small Swedish Gripen detachment used camera pods to aid the allies' efforts of killing things and breaking stuff. There is absolutely nothing more Gripen in the history of aviation than the fact that Saab's airplane went into combat, brought a CAMERA, didn't kill anything, and ruthlessly used their reconnaissance missions for even more PR as what essentially became one giant photo op, in what was literally a photographic operation. :mrgreen:

Although I agree with a lot of what you are saying, I just wanted to highlight that:

1. Politically it was impossible for the Swedish government to instruct the Swedish detachment to do anything but recon missions in Libya.

2. I think it is worth to mention that the Swedish detachment was praised by allied forces (who initally were sceptical) and their contributions were highly appreciated. This in spite of operating outside of NATO, and in spite of being the only operator of Gripen in Libya. The people from the Swedish Air Force who went to Libya executed the mission according to their orders. And they did it very well.
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Unread post26 Feb 2020, 18:51

One more thing to be wary of, is third parties that would like any given country to buy from Saab or anybody else but the F-35. Whoever these bodies may be, e.g. countries, companies, NGO's etc, they can use social media just as good, if not better than LM and partner nations, to promote fake news. We already see this in elections, so why not in weapon acquisition programs.
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XanderCrews

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Unread post26 Feb 2020, 19:24

loke wrote:
1. Politically it was impossible for the Swedish government to instruct the Swedish detachment to do anything but recon missions in Libya.


I know

2. I think it is worth to mention that the Swedish detachment was praised by allied forces (who initally were sceptical) and their contributions were highly appreciated. This in spite of operating outside of NATO, and in spite of being the only operator of Gripen in Libya. The people from the Swedish Air Force who went to Libya executed the mission according to their orders. And they did it very well.


Image

This just underscores my point about Libya being used for the reinforcement of the Gripen Mythos, the plucky underdog that proves the skeptics wrong. Have you seen this one before? I sure have. The Narrative that was crafted with Libya just so happens to align perfectly with the Saab propaganda? What an amazing coincidence. I admire their restraint in not having a mustache twirling villian who never believed in them and hoped they would fail the entire time.

Image

Saab is just so quiet and humble, I'd have no idea they were even there if they were not screaming in my ear every 5 seconds about how quiet and humble they were.

I wasn't surpised by the Gripen success in Libya. Who was? We had only been hearing for 15 years what a capable and reliable little fighter it was, and how it had been to Red flags years before (its first Red Flag was 2006, another in 2008), and took all comers and won, and allies already had experience with it first hand many times on many occasions all over already. What was there to be surprised about? The Gripen is good and reliable. Then it went to Libya where it was good and reliable. Why knock me over with a feather. how can that be?

https://www.flightglobal.com/nato-exerc ... 10.article

so theres a whole article about its expeditionary credibility. and NATO or not, they have been working with NATO and the US for years now.

from a swede publication in 2006:

The swedish ground crew in red flag did very well, the Americans were very impressed by the swedes weapon handling. The swedish commanders were very pleased by the performance of the exercise. Everything went just fine.

But the but is that they didn't write anything about the flights.... well, they did mention that the Gripens dropped some "inerts", practiced with live ammo, attacked the ground with the autocannon, had some dogfights against F-16s and F-15s, escorted transport planes, practiced CAS, was attacked by "Smokey Sams" and that not a single Gripen got "shot down".


Am I the only American that thinks Swedes aren't completely retarded or something? I really don't understand this. In the US, Swedes and Sweden have a reputation of being well educated, well organized, homogeneous, competent, and good engineers, that create good products. Why on earth would Americans be so surprised that the Swedes aren't total screw ups? I mean honestly? We have guys who have done tours with the Afghan National army. They are the opposite of all those things I just listed. but the Americans are "very impressed"? Why? was the standard that low? Are the Swedes walking AND chewing bubble gum?

In a recently published article in The Aviation Geek Club, a former Swedish Air Force Flight Engineer talks about how Gripen has the upper hand in almost any dogfight scenarios, making it a prized fighter of its Air Forces.

Stefan Englund remembers the first Gripen (Gripen A) to participate in Red Flag 2006 as part of the Red Team. With limited AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) and ground control, Gripen still performed exceptionally well without suffering any losses or getting detected at all. He also brings to light another instance at a combat exercise with the Royal Norwegian Air Force where Gripen fighters, although only 3 in number, had a successful 3-round combat against 5 F-16 fighters.

Stefan also gives the example of Gripen’s role in the Libyan mission. “Gripen is among the most underestimated fighters flying today. During the Libyan campaign, it came in as a tactical resource, but very soon was upgraded to a strategic resource,” he says.

--saab




https://saab.com/gripen/news/blog/gripe ... war-games/

(please note too that Saab officially is referencing a liar. via the blog "aviation geek club" as found on Quora. They are literally quoting internet hearsay and the official Saab site as of yesterday...) Its actually extremely hard to find bad news about Gripens because Saabs PR department actually does stuff like the above and republishes the same narrative every time. I literally have to seek out bad news on the Gripen, nearly everything on the internet is positively glowing about it. This is again playing to the fanbase. They apparently never tire of this story.

I remember when it surprised skeptics and turned head in any number of a dozen similar stories already published that follow the exact same pattern. At one point people are going to stop being surprised right? how many times can it be "underestimated" and the critics "proven wrong" yet again??

Image

Wil E Coyote can't believe people keep falling for it.

How is Gripen constantly destroying the competition, proving critics wrong time and time again and yet we see the same narrative EVERY. TIME? for YEARS. Have you not noticed an extremely distinct pattern here, Loke? And then low and behold!! Despite all the joint exercises and other practice deployments everyone has seen and read about for years. the allies are ONCE AGAIN-- Fooled!! Haha! This inferior plane wasn't inferior at all!! fooled for the 500th time!!

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loke

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Unread post26 Feb 2020, 21:20

You miss the point I was trying to make.

You focus (of course) 100% on Gripen and Saab. However the example you gave involved something else: Swedish soldiers performing their mission, and performing it very well. I just wanted to point that out.
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Unread post27 Feb 2020, 01:10

XanderCrews wrote:United States military acquisitions is one of the most heavily scrutinized areas of government policy in the world.


To put it into perspective: When I recently probed the swedes (FMV) for an update on the costs of the Gripen E program - acquisition and LCC - the reply was that it was 'confidential" and referred to the 2013 public statement.
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Unread post27 Feb 2020, 18:41

XanderCrews wrote:However I do have a grasp of aerodynamics and other aircraft performance which suggests to me and others that the stated ferry range of 4000 km is completely bogus.


What other aircraft are you comparing it to? Going back a bit, the F-16XL (F-16 modified with a cranked-arrow wing) managed a ferry range of 2245 nautical miles or 4160 km with two 600 gallon external fuel tanks.

The F-16XL had an empty weight of 19690 lbs and an internal fuel capacity of 11237 lbs which would bring its fuel fraction to 0.476 with two 600 gallon EFTs and in that configuration it would have a T/W at full dry thrust of 0.36, using the F100-PW-200 engine.

Considering an empty with of 8000 kg (17637 lbs) and an internal fuel capacity of 3400 kg (7496 lbs) the fuel fraction and T/W at full dry thrust of a Gripen E in a ferry configuration with 1200 gallons of external fuel would be around 0.444 and 0.41 respectively.

Based on those numbers it would seem far from impossible for the Gripen E to have a ferry range of 4000 km.
Last edited by alphaxraylima on 27 Feb 2020, 20:00, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post27 Feb 2020, 18:41

It may have been successful during Red Flag - but as you've pointed out, we don't get many details. I've heard about dogfights with F-15's and 16's too. When I asked how it went for Gripen, I got a similar response (we didn't lose a single Gripen). OTOH, what they didn't say was..... Gripen shot down X number of F-15's/16's.

The other thing you'll get is that Gripen has given "nasty shocks" to (among others mentioned), Typhoons. OK, what does that mean? It could mean anything from shot them down to they never saw Gripen to its vaunted E/W suite frying their sensors. You never get the implied meaning in black and white, SAAB makes you fill in the blanks.

Gripen E's export success is going to be nil IMO. Once these objective fighter competitions commence they'll see in black and white what the little fighter that could can do (or not, as may be the case). Outside of some Scandanavian countries and Brazil, I just don't see it selling anywhere. It has a brief window now with the Meteor that'll play well to some customers, but that advantage won't last long.

It is a light fighter trying to punch above its weight, but so light I can't see it doing so. The J-10 is a good example of what the Gripen E is trying to become, and probably a much better buy for any nation interested in the two...
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Unread post27 Feb 2020, 19:24

It's an ok solution for the rare country that wants to bootstrap domestic aerospace industry. Saab has some cutting edge tech to peddle away, like AESA. Unfortunately Sweden can't help in case of trouble since it itself shies away from those kind of situations and most countries don't buy these kind of systems just for show.
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Unread post28 Feb 2020, 10:17

Gripen's exports are for a niche segment of countries that don't want US planes but don't believe in Russki or Chinese products either + can't afford/don't want to pay for the other European planes e.g. Rafale/Typhoon.

Hence Brazil, South Africa, Thailand... Any ToT is probably just a bonus.
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ricnunes

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Unread post28 Feb 2020, 16:48

alphaxraylima wrote:What other aircraft are you comparing it to? Going back a bit, the F-16XL (F-16 modified with a cranked-arrow wing) managed a ferry range of 2245 nautical miles or 4160 km with two 600 gallon external fuel tanks.

The F-16XL had an empty weight of 19690 lbs and an internal fuel capacity of 11237 lbs which would bring its fuel fraction to 0.476 with two 600 gallon EFTs and in that configuration it would have a T/W at full dry thrust of 0.36, using the F100-PW-200 engine.

Considering an empty with of 8000 kg (17637 lbs) and an internal fuel capacity of 3400 kg (7496 lbs) the fuel fraction and T/W at full dry thrust of a Gripen E in a ferry configuration with 1200 gallons of external fuel would be around 0.444 and 0.41 respectively.

Based on those numbers it would seem far from impossible for the Gripen E to have a ferry range of 4000 km.


While you actually mentioned it (lightly), you seem to be forgetting that the reason that made the F-16XL to have a much longer range compared to the baseline F-16 was that it has massively redesigned wings with a much bigger wing area.
The Gripen E as opposed has the exact same wing design with basically the same or similar wing area of the Gripen C.

F-16XL:
Image

F-16:
Image

Gripen C:
Image

Gripen E:
Image
“Active stealth” is what the ignorant nay sayers call ECM and pretend like it’s new.
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Unread post28 Feb 2020, 17:59

Can I ask how much longer we are going to tie up three threads going over stuff that was done years ago?
Just Curious,
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But The Gripen is like AWESUME!!!!! (it just looks dead)
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XanderCrews

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Unread post28 Feb 2020, 18:15

alphaxraylima wrote:
XanderCrews wrote:However I do have a grasp of aerodynamics and other aircraft performance which suggests to me and others that the stated ferry range of 4000 km is completely bogus.


What other aircraft are you comparing it to? Going back a bit, the F-16XL (F-16 modified with a cranked-arrow wing) managed a ferry range of 2245 nautical miles or 4160 km with two 600 gallon external fuel tanks.

The F-16XL had an empty weight of 19690 lbs and an internal fuel capacity of 11237 lbs which would bring its fuel fraction to 0.476 with two 600 gallon EFTs and in that configuration it would have a T/W at full dry thrust of 0.36, using the F100-PW-200 engine.

Considering an empty with of 8000 kg (17637 lbs) and an internal fuel capacity of 3400 kg (7496 lbs) the fuel fraction and T/W at full dry thrust of a Gripen E in a ferry configuration with 1200 gallons of external fuel would be around 0.444 and 0.41 respectively.

Based on those numbers it would seem far from impossible for the Gripen E to have a ferry range of 4000 km.



the first alarm bell is that the original 4000 km claim dates back to the NL sales attempts where range was extremely emphasized by the Dutch and thus Gripen included massive (theoretical of course) external fuel tanks. we also lots of reports that from Norway and other people who have done exercises including those done in the US of Gripens having to stop in order to get more fuel, in the US in Red Flag for example Gripens tend to take off last to maximize their time in the exercise. again the range/loiter issue is so well known they literally incorporate it into training events.

So its not exactly a secret that Gripens suffer range problems which is what NG was trying to address. meanwhile the airplane gained 1000 kilos empty weight, and the range stayed at the magical 4000 KM just like they pitched to the Dutch back in 2007 with massive EFTs? I'm not buying it. F-16XL is a good example to bring up, and I see your point. But unless Gripen is literally punching the tanks after theyre empty I don't think theyre going to achieve that. I think at best (maybe slightly better) Gripen E is going to hopefully be pulling F-16 (not XL) numbers in terms of range. Would be nice to just be able to treat it like the F-16s at Red Flag.
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