First Red Flag exercise for Gripen
by Gripen International – Gripen.com Photos by Richard
The ability to ‘scramble’ fighter aircraft swiftly is
critical when a threat appears, and the ability to get as
many fighters as possible airborne is crucial.
2006/11/16 | A fighter turn around in less than 10 minutes,
with the engines running, and an unparalleled availability
rate are two of the main features of the Gripen fighter.
This was proven once again during the Red Flag Alaska
exercise staged this summer.
Seven Gripen new generation, multi role fighters from the
Swedish Air Force, all of them delivered during 2006, flew
half-way around the world to take part in Red Flag Alaska;
that is a one way trip of more than 10 000 kilometers. At
the Eilson Air Force Base in Alaska they meet up with combat
aircraft from the US, Canadian and Japanese Air Forces.
During the eleven day exercise, Gripen flew 2 sorties a day
with 4 aircraft. A total of 340 flight hours were logged,
150 of them ´on mission´. “We did all that with just 12
pilots and 35 maintenance technicians”, says Lt Colonel Ken
Lindberg who was the Detachment Commander for the Swedish
Due to Gripen’s multi-role capability, a mix of Offensive
Counter Air/Close Air Support and Offensive Counter air/Air
Interdiction missions were performed. In the air to ground
attacks a total of 16 GBU-12 Laser Guided Bombs were
dropped, together with 1000 rounds of ammunition fired from
the Gripen’s internal Mauser 27 mm gun. Air-to air missiles
were simulated, but more then 1 100 flares were launched as
part of the whole Gripen EWS for missile defense.
Of the planned 225 missions for Gripen, four were cancelled
because of bad weather and only one due to an equipment
problem, an external pod. However, Colonel Lindberg
confirmed that Gripen has the ability to drop Laser Guided
Bombs carried on one Gripen aircraft, using laser designator
pods fitted to another Gripen aircraft - this tactic was
used to successfully confuse the “red team”. Forward Air
Controllers (FAC) from both the Swedish and US Special
Forces were also used to guide the LGB´s.
The very small radar cross section of Gripen was another
problem for the ‘red team’ that included both air-to-air and
surface-to-air threats. “We also confirmed that our warning
and electronic warfare systems (EWS) are really, really good
- it was almost impossible for the Red air force to get
through our EW systems. We always knew where the air defense
was, could avoid them and still do our work, even in very
dynamic situations, with the threat getting more complex
each day” said Colonel Lindberg.