A mock-up of the Selex Galileo sensor suite for the E/F was on display at Malmen, confirming important features of the design. The Raven ES-05 features a “repositioner”: the AESA is sharply canted and mounted on a rotating bearing, giving it a +-100-deg. field of regard, almost twice that of a fixed AESA. It has a single bearing, unlike the more complex two-bearing design planned for the Eurofighter Typhoon, reducing weight and cost.
The AESA incorporates an identification friend-or-foe (IFF) function that works in conjunction with the SIT 426 IFF. The latter features large active-array antennas on the fuselage sides, behind the radome, providing unprecedented IFF coverage in azimuth and range. Finally, the Skyward-G infrared search-and-track system is air-cooled—reducing weight.
The sensor suite design, focused on low weight, supports part of the E/F strategy, which is to provide a common upgrade path for new E/F customers and current C/D operators by making the new sensors, and the revised avionics system, retrofittable to the C/D.
This in turn supports the economic strategy behind Gripen. While the fighter's flyaway costs are not quoted, a senior Swedish officer notes that “it is not a cheap aircraft” to acquire. On the other hand, new Swedish Defense Minister Karin Enstrom said in an interview at Malmen that “the alternatives are not viable, either.” This reflects the fact that the operating costs of the Gripen are claimed to be far lower than those of any competitor.
According to Swiss air force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Marcus Gygax, the national evaluation showed that the Dassault Rafale and Typhoon would have costs per flight-hour within a few per cent of one another—but roughly twice that of the JAS 39E/F. (Gygax also confirms that leaked reports out of Swiss weapons acquisition agency Armasuisse are based on old data and do not reflect the Gripen configuration chosen by Switzerland.)
Norway, in its 2008 evaluation of Gripen against the F-35, penalized the Swedish fighter with life-cycle cost estimates based on high upgrade development costs, spread over a small number of aircraft. However, Swedish leaders point to the C/D—which includes a new cockpit, data link and electronic warfare system, developed at far lower cost than most comparable upgrades. The E/F's new central avionics system is intended to feature an unprecedented degree of partitioning between mission systems and flight-critical functions, reducing development and upgrade times and costs. According to Saab, flight-critical systems take as much time and money in verification and testing as they do in initial design, but the E/F mission systems should be verified in 10-15% of that time. Gygax points out that with a common C/D upgrade path, the E/F operators will be part of the same community as current operators of the type.