Slovakia and Gripens


JAS 39 Gripen (c) Guinnog
A small European country buys the lowest operating cost modern multi-role combat aircraft that's available*, in small quantity, and intends to operate them in a joint squadron with a somewhat bigger neighbouring country.
That's a lot of common sense if compared to the stuff the Western Great Powers' air forces pull off regularly.

On the other hand, Gripens will be of little use other than keeping and maintaining some air war know-how. Anything much less capable (such as a combat version of a subsonic trainer, for example) would probably not be taken seriously and might miss the opportunities associated with multinational air war exercises and pilot exchanges.

There might be 200+ PAK-FA fighters involved in a conflict sometime in the 2020's. Gripens and most pre-2000 combat aircraft in general might then be forced to wait till the PAK-FA threat has been diminished. PAK-FA's low observability and supercruise range would make combat air patrol escorts for attack aircraft unreliable, so even support by more capable fighters wouldn't suffice for Gripens then. Quite similarly, S-400 air defence regiments might keep Gripens from being useful in an early phase as well.

Argentinian Curtiss Model 75-O
Overall, the Gripen may prove to be a modern equivalent of a Curtiss Model 75 Hawk series; an affordable fine combat aircraft without the latest gold plating, but second rate and limited to ground attack under favourable conditions if to be employed in a conflict years after its procurement.


*: Except maybe the FA-50.


  1. I'm not sure, but with this I think you've condemned all "western" aircraft for sale right as lacking relevance. Certainly the Eurofighter, and the latest American Thing has gotten poor reviews.

    I don't really remeber you saying anything about the Rafale, though so I could be wrong. On the other hand you think the current air force is not going to be much use, what with all the small drones and all.

    Is there any airplane an small airforce should buy?

    1. Radar stealth of the F-22, J-20 or PAK-FA variety can be countered by long wavelength radars - which happen to have big antennas. This means that a great power will have a good chance to prevail against them at some depth, with air defences secured against most ground threats.
      A Typhoon will likely be about even with the aforementioned fighter types, if not superior (with upgrades) as long as it defends with the support of such radars.
      F-22s and PAK-FAs may rule the skies over the area of most mobile ground operations, though.

      I don't say it's necessarily a bad idea for small European air forces to buy Gripen - I say it's bound to be of very limited value in the 2020's. And it's an essentially unnecessary expense.
      The same applies to the Rafale, except that it's much more expensive and thus rather a candidate for Persian Gulf Arabs or Asians - where they might whack some old combat aircraft sometime.

  2. I have a hypothetical for you, sven: In the middle of a war, should the best planes go to the best pilots, or should they go to the rookies (so at to give them a decent chance)?

    1. I believe that's too complex for a theoretical answer.
      Historically, aces/experts rather got the best ones or the ones of their choice (see Hartmann in 109G-10) - and usually so within the standardized equipment of their unit (but best individual engine available and so on).

      According to statistics, rookies need to survive the first four combat missions first and foremost: About half of the aircraft losses happened with rookies on one of their first four contacts). They should be wingman to a good mentor and should prioritize caution over aggression.