The F-35 was labelled as a “fifth generation” fighter by manufacturer Lockheed Martin in 2005. The ironic part is that the term “fifth generation” was borrowed from Russia, used to describe the F-22. But contrary to what many people believe, the F-35 is not the greatest stealth fighter in the world.
The sixth generation stealth fighter has been created by Swedish company Saab (yes, the automaker). It is called the JAS 39E Gripen and it could very well be the future of air combat. In recent years, there have been many factors, which have limited the number of jet fighters produced and how many an army can afford.
The Gripen has been designed with these issues in mind, which will make it worthy of the sixth-gen tag. The new hardware runs the latest version of the Mission System software, which was started with the earlier A and B models of the JAS 39. In terms of durability, a fighter plane has to last many missions for many years and will have to serve for decades. The Gripen was designed as a small plane that could carry a large payload. By porting software to the E model, the capabilities and weapons of the C and D models could easily be transferred to the latest model.
Besides this, the manufacturers have installed state-of-the-art sensors as well as the first in-service electronic warfare system that uses gallium nitride technology.This system will help the pilot differentiate between friendly and hostile aircraft. Such a system is very important in a confusing situation that involves different aircraft in the same airspace.
The plane is built internationally with the company harvesting technology from all around the world instead of inventing it as local commercial product. The engine for the JAS 39E is from the U.S., the radar from Britain, the infra-red search and track system from Italy, while the majority of the airframe is built in Brazil.
The JAS 39E is not the fastest, stealthiest or most agile fighter, and it is these very limitations that make it a sixth generation fighter. The plane’s requirements were deliberately constrained to make the plane more economical to develop, build and operate than its predecessor, the JAS 39C, while still being able to do everything better.
The project is very ambitious and it is the first time that Sweden has collaborated internationally on such a large scale. But if everything works out and the plane turns out the way the designers planned, the JAS 39E Gripen will surely be a capable fighter jet.