5th generation……. fighters? theory or practice?

Bill Sweetman wrote a very interesting article about the (future) capabilities of the Saab Gripen E sensor suite… the most important are three Selex-ES sensors. Please read his article thoroughly: “Gripen Sensors Claim Counter-Stealth Performance

First there is the Raven ES-05 active, electronically scanned array radar (AESA) mounted on a “repositioner,” a rotating mount that gives the radar a ±100-deg. field of view around the nose. The second sensor is a Skyward-G infrared search and track (IRST) system. The third sensor is a new identification friend-or-foe (IFF) system with three electronically steerable antenna arrays, which matches the radar’s range and field of view.


A lot of this information, which was available on the internet for some time now, should have found its way to e.g. the Dutch ministry of Defence which held an F16 Fighter Replacement program “update” based on Public domain info only. This document: “Report Actualisation Program F16 Replacement (rapport actualisatie Vervanging F16) was the basis for the government coalition of Labour(PvdA) and Liberals (VVD). In their coalition accord they did mention that they wanted to decide about the Fighter Replacement by the end of 2013… (while there is no practical reason for this… the RNLAF follows the same path like ” JSF partnercountry Denmark” which also will decide in 2015… thats the real decision point.. but hey, the discussions and rumors about this “Hot Iron” are from the polticial discussion table,,. verry handy if you consider the comming local council elections (tommorow 19th March) and the European Parliament Elections (22th of May). So this decission is “understandable”. But….. they based their decision on…. Poorly or selectively googled Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)… and their (overestimated) “factual” knowledge of the Joint Strike Fighter program….  I wrote about that several times before…

The strange thing is that there was no one in Dutch Parliament who asked the relevant questions and raised awareness about the “authority” of this document, namely rubbish!

How on earth is it possible that a Democratic elected government based its total future Defence policy (yes; total policy because with every defence cut and abolishment of defence capabilities the steadfast answer is: Airpower will fix that loss….)  completely on a document selectively or poorly googled… And nobody in or outside the coalition did question the “weight of this document…. Nobody asked how come the other contenders had there “conversation” with the MoD but didn’t get the possibility to deliver the latest official technical status reports of their respective fighter aircraft.


Operational aspects F-35
With the F-35A Defence expects that that a responsible operational task performance is possible. The F-35 provides the most military operationally  and is the only aircraft able to perform all mission types. From fighting and maintain air superiority, suppress or disable enemy (mobile) air defence systems to  close air support of troops. The F-35 has also strongly enhanced detection capabilities in all mission types of great value, especially for the collection of intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance. 

The text above is a translation by myself.

Only aircraft to perform all mission types?

  • Air superiority fighter?  “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22,” says Hostage to Air Force Times.
  • Suppression Enemy Air Defences – SEAD/DEAD: This could be possible… but until when? What about IRST, What about operational effectiveness of STEALTH  in coming 15 – 20 -25 – 30 years? Can they assure that the current Stealth will be relevant?
  • Close Air Support  – CAS: Well it is already known that for this task the JSF will be way to heavy, vulnerable for enemy fire and especialy way to expensive… Cost vs Risk
  • And finally the flying intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance platform… the only one able to do that? Right… back to Sweetmans article…

The three main sensors will cue one another automatically to display to pilots a fused picture of airspace around the fighter; it will also be fused with the JAS’s new electronic-warfare system. Finally, sensor data can be shared between Gripens in a flight via data link.

Wow, this is info about the GripenE development…. and what do you think Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon will be able?

The statement of the Dutch MoD continues about their beloved JSF.

The aircraft has also the most potential for further development in collaboration with partners. Also important are the opportunities for international cooperation in areas such as training, maintenance and deployment. By choosing the F-35A the  Netherlands contributes to solving the military shortcomings NATO and the EU have established.

Thus, the report update F-16 . ( This PDF contains tags with comments and find links to info unfortunately it’s in Dutch.)

Further development? How, where wil they put the extra weight? Where will they put new objects outside the STEALTH hull? Where will they find budget to do so?

How can they say they contribute to solving military shortcomings to NATO and EU with only 37 Fighters in total and deliberately abolish many other previous capabilities of the Dutch Armed forces which negatively influenced several NATO and EU capabilities and lets not ignore NUMBERS. (Maritime Patrol aircraft, Tanks, Tactical transport helicopters, maritime helicopters, Fast frigates, Mine countermeasure vessels, Replenishment ships…)

And the funny thing is…  Sweetmans article points out… what many of us already knew… just by google… and real OSINT.

Just some fragments from Bill Sweetman’s article:

The IRST is capable of detecting low-RCS targets at distances compatible with a beyond-visual-range missile launch, Mason says. “We have seen them,” he responds when asked if Selex IRSTs have tracked low-RCS targets. “We are looking at very small delta-Ts [temperature differences between the target and the background]. Some infrared absorbent paints cause more friction than standard surfaces, and that causes kinetic heating that the IRST will pick up.” Skyward-G does not depend on a supersonic target—“skin heating at 300-400 knots is significant”—and detects heat radiating through the aircraft’s skin from the engine, as well as skin friction and the exhaust plume.

IRST hardware—the optics, detector and processor—has been improved since the development of Pirate started, but (according to Mason and other industry sources) the most important change has been the development of algorithms, based on operational experience and the analysis of real-world imagery, that look at IR signatures in detail, including variations of color and brightness within the target, in order to filter out false alarms caused by everything from birds to barbecue grills.

The IRST can give the radar a very accurate azimuth and elevation to the target, which allows it to focus its energy and increase the probability of achieving detection and track on a low-RCS target, Mason says. The AESA provides virtually instantaneous beam-steering within its ±70-deg. scan, but the repositioner is slower. One concept to be demonstrated will be the use of two Gripen radars and the TAU-Link to provide a wide-angle picture to both targets.

Howe come, Dutch minister of Defence Hennis-Plasschaert and the “controlling “ parliamentarians didn’t know this? Howecome marketeers of Lockheed Martin where able to sell them a “5th generation”saga which eventualy will not have “more” or even “better” capabilties… only more profit for some…


Lets be honest now.. of the whole JSF saga the only “operational”(to be proven) unique selling point of the JSF vs “4th/4.5th generation” fighters is its VLO design. nothing more – nothing less.



  1. In de periode vanaf 2020 tot ? zijn alleen (zoals het er nu uit ziet) de Gripen E en de F35A/B/C in productie. De Gripen gaat het nu dus wel redden, maar of dat het geval is tegen het aanstormende oosterse geweld, dat is maar net de vraag. (wat ook geldt voor de F35)

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