Defense Issues

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Archive for October, 2012

Yugoslavia bombing: “Merciful Angel” turns child killer (with commentary)

Posted by picard578 on October 31, 2012

On March 24, 1999 the NATO launched a 78-day bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, dubbed “Merciful Angel”, which killed 2,000 civilians and wounded 7,000. As much as 30 percent of all victims were children. The bombings left many Albanian children with their sculls crashed and faces disfigured by ghastly wounds and terrible pain. Why aren’t they depicted on the monument to Bill Clinton in the Kosovo capital of Pristina, one of the Western leaders who initiated the deadly attack on Yugoslavia? The “Merciful Angel” turned out to be a child killer. The photographs in this photo gallery are from the book titled “NATO Crimes in Yugoslavia. Documentary Evidence. Volume 2.” Belgrade, 2000. Caution! The Photo gallery contains scenes of violence. It is not recommended for children, pregnant women and mentally unstable people


Photos are in the link above. Article serves as a cautionary tale against overreliance on strategic bombing, which yields few results but causes great suffering to people subject to it: after 78 days of bombing, Serbia has accepted better NATO terms than ones it has offered to NATO before beginning of bombing campaign – by all counts, NATO has suffered a defeat. Meanwhile, war in Croatia has only ended after HV (Croatian Army) has dealt a series of serious defeats to Serbian ground forces in Operation Storm. During the operation, only targets attacked were ones of military nature; “excessive shelling” of Knin has caused only one civilian casualty, a woman that was killed by a piece of debris. NATO bombing of Yugoslavia killed 1 400 civilians. So much about “precision weapons”.


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Number of Croatian soldiers in Afghanistan to be reduced

Posted by picard578 on October 30, 2012


Number of members of Armed Forces of Republic of Croatia participating in ISAF mission in Afghanistan will be reduced during next year from 350 to 300 in period from January to April, whereas in May – December period there will be 250 members of Croatian Armed Forces in Afghanistan. (…) Other NATO partners, such as United Kingdom and Germany are also reducing number of soldiers in Afghanistan, or at least thinking about it, while war there rages with same intensity as it always did.

(…) On meeting in Bruxelles, US SecDef Leon Panetta has stated that measures are being taken to prevent attacks on soldiers, which are increasingly often undertaken from inside. According to the Chief Secretary of NATO, Anders Fogh Rassmussen, forces of international coalition (…) are planning to stay in Afghanistan until Afghanistanis can take full responsibility for safety and security of their own country.


—————————————————————-END OF TRANSLATION————————————————————

I have to say that I am interested in what the measures Panetta is talking about exactly are. As long as Afghanistan remains devastated country, where people have trouble satisfying basic needs – and NATO is in good deal to blame for that – war will not cease. This looks like NATO’s try to get out of Afghanistan while simultaneously saving face.

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Posted by picard578 on October 30, 2012

PIRATE IRST is IRST sensor used by Eurofighter Typhoon. It is FLIR, which means that it can use IR radiation to assemble a video image, similar to night vision devices and infrared cameras.

Technological data is as following:

Detection range against typical subsonic fighter target: 90 km from front (head-on), 150 km from rear*

Identification range: >40 km

Maximum number of targets that can be tracked: 200

Ability to prioritize targets: yes

Field of regard: 140 ° in azimuth

Angular resolution: better than 0,05 °, some sources give 0,0143°


Against a fighter supercruising without afterburner at Mach 1,7, detection range will be 10% greater, resulting in range of 100 km from front and 165 km from rear. Comparing it to OLS-35, it should be able to detect AMRAAM launch from 173 km, and Mach 4 AMRAAM from 154 km.

*150 km is rounded figure, actual figure is 145 km

CAPTOR has angular resolution of 0,05 ° at 165 km, and PIRATE is better than that

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USAF force proposal

Posted by picard578 on October 30, 2012

Current USAF plan is to keep 187 F-22s, 254 F-15 C and 221 F-15E in service, replacing 716 A-10s and 2 154 F-16s with 1 763 F-35As.

Problem with that is multifold; first, large unit and maintenance costs. Per-unit cost of 304 million USD per aircraft, 197 million USD flyaway, and operating cost that will likely be around 48 800 USD per hour of flight,1 763 F-35s will cost 535,952 billion USD to procure. Operating costs for that fleet will be 86 034 400 USD per hour of flight.

187 F-22s in service have so far cost 79,475 billion USD to procure and upgrade (including fixes) and have total operating cost of 11 407 000 USD per hour – 61 000 USD per hour per aircraft. This means that combined F-22/F-35 fleet will cost 97 441 400 USD per hour of flight.

To compare with these costs, “ancient” F-16C that are now being replaced by F-35 have operating cost of 7 000 USD per hour of flight. F-15C costs 30 000 USD per hour of flight, F-15E costs 28 000 USD per hour of flight, A-10 costs 3 000 USD per hour of flight. Eurocanards cost 18 000 USD per hour of flight for Typhoon, 16 500 USD per hour of flight for Rafale and 4 700 USD per hour of flight for Gripen.

Maintenance downtime is 6,2 hours per hour of flight for A-10, 19 hours per hour of flight for F-16, 10 hours per hour of flight for Gripen, 9 hours of maintenance for Typhoon, 8 hours of maintenance per hour of flight for Rafale, 20 hours per hour of flight for F-15, 45 hours per hour of flight for F-22. (I wasn’t able to confirm Eurocanards’ maintenance downtime figures, however).

Thus, by using maintenance and flyaway costs, and ignoring R&D costs that have been sunk, we can break down costs of desired USAF fleet as:

187 F-22A: 46 750 000 000 USD price, 11 407 000 USD per hour of flight
254 F-15C: 10 820 400 000 USD price, 7 620 000 USD per hour of flight
221 F-15E: 9 757 592 000 USD price, 6 188 000 USD per hour of flight
1 763 F-35A: 347 311 000 000 USD price, 86 034 400 USD per hour of flight

For total of 414 638 992 000 USD, and costing 111 249 400 USD per hour of flight.

By using Desert Storm and current sortie rates (1 sortie / day for F-15, 1,2 for F-16, 0,3 for F-22, 1,4 for A-10), we see that F-22s will be able to fly 60 combat sorties per day, and F-15Es will be able to fly 221 combat sortie per day. F-15Cs will be able to fly 254 sorties per day. While I don’t know F-35’s maintenance downtime, it can be estimated that it will be able to fly 500 – 800 sorties per day. Thus above force will be able to sustain 2650 sorties per day.

Two fighters, F-22 and F-15C together cost 57 570 400 000 USD, and 19 027 000 USD per hour of flight. Strike-oriented F-15E and F-35A will together cost 357 068 592 000 USD and 92 222 400 USD per hour of flight.

Replacing F-22 and F-15C with F-15As gives 1 351 aircraft, costing 40 530 000 USD per hour of flight, and able to support around 1 400 sorties per day. Replacing F-15E and F-35A with F-16C gives 5 951 aircraft, costing 41 657 000 USD per hour of flight, and capable of supporting around 7 140 sorties per day. Better option would be 5 000 F-16C and 3 800 A-10, costing 357 billion USD to procure and 34 900 000 USD to maintain per hour of flight. 5 000 F-16C can support 6 000 sorties per day, and 3 800 A-10 can support 5 320 sorties per day.

Replacing F-22 and F-15C with Eurofighter Typhoon gives 480 aircraft, costing 8 640 000 USD per hour of flight, and able to support 1 152 sorties per day. Replacing F-15E and F-35A with Saab Gripen gives 5 951 aircraft, costing 27 969 700 USD per hour of flight, and able to support 13 092 sorties per day.

To sum up:

F-22A + F-15C + F-15E + F-35A = 2 425 aircraft and 2 650 sorties per day. Total procurement cost 415 billion USD, total maintenance cost per hour of flight 111 million USD.

F-15A + F-16C = 7 302 aircraft and 8 540 sorties per day. Total procurement cost 415 billion USD, total maintenance cost per hour of flight 82 million USD.

F-15A + F-16C + A-10: 9 851 aircraft and 12 720 sorties per day (7 400 sorties by air superiority-capable aircraft). Total procurement cost 415 billion USD, total maintenance cost per hour of flight 75 430 000 USD.

EF2000 + JAS-39C = 6 431 aircraft and 14 244 sorties per day. Total procurement cost 415 billion USD, total maintenance cost per hour of flight 37 million USD.

Thus either F-15A + F-16C or EF-2000 + JAS-39C option would be superior to an all-stealth option USAF is promoting in both cost and cost effectiveness area. Not only is large number of sorties per day required for establishing air superiority, it is also required for pilot training, which is one of most important things any air force must do; simulators are just that: simulators, and while they can simulate live training, they cannot replace it.

Meanwhile, stealth is overrated: during Kosovo War, stealth F-117s suffered greater number of casualties (1 aircraft shot down, 1 damaged and mission-killed but returned to base, never to fly again) than non-stealth F-16s (1 F-16 shot down), despite being “stealth”, and despite flying lower number of sorties – 1 300 sorties compared to 4 500 sorties for F-16. Final nail on the “stealth is required to cope with SAM’s” coffin is SAM effectiveness rate through war: 0,36 %. Even air-to-air BVR missiles have Pk in single-digit percentages against capable opponent – after lock-on is achieved, and assuming anyone even turns radar on. IRST + RWR – equipped aircraft can stay completely passive, leveling the playing field by forcing stealth aircraft to rely on IR sensors – where smaller, non-VLO aircraft will have advantage – or to radiate and give up its position; and air-to-air anti-radiation missiles, or BVR IR missiles coupled with cueing by aircraft’s defensive suite, can force everyone to rely on passive sensors only.

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F-22 fact spinning on USAF website

Posted by picard578 on October 28, 2012

I was browsing, when I have found this page. While most, possibly all, of claims there have been addressed in my F-22 Analysis, I am aware that it is very long read, and as such I will examine claims here.

First claim is that “The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected.”. Problem with that claim is that F-22 has no sensor capable of tracking and identifying target without requiring either F-22 or enemy aircraft to actively use its radar. Thus, F-22 must either rely on (jammable) uplink from another unit or on enemies being willing to give it first strike possibility by radiating themselves. However, IRST-equipped aircraft can detect subsonic fighter aircraft from large distance, without being required to radiate themselves – Su-35 can do it from 50 kilometers head-on, and Eurofighter Typhoon from 90 kilometers, also head-on. From rear, Su-35 can detect subsonic fighters from 90 kilometers, which means that Typhoon can do the same thing from over 150 kilometers.

While F-22s radar can detect 1m2 target (which is approximately same as Typhoon’s frontal RCS when in air-to-air configuration) from 200 – 240 kilometers, jammers can reduce range required for a lock-on to be achieved to less than a third of range in non-jammed environment. That can be confirmed by recent exercises, where F-22 was unable to lock on clean-configured Typhoon from front until latter was 20 miles (32 kilometers) away; as Typhoon has frontal RCS (when clean) between 0,25 and 0,75 m2, it means that F-22’s radar range has been reduced by jammers to approximately 14,4 – 22,7 % of expected range. Thus, F-22 cannot be expected to lock on combat-configured Typhoon from range larger than 45 – 54 kilometers from front. Both ranges are well inside detection range of PIRATE IRST. With Su-35, situation is somewhat better, due to its larger RCS and lower-capability IRST; however, reduction of radar range by jammer, which means that F-22 may not be able to even launch all BVR missiles (and even if it does, 6 BVR missiles combined have Pk of 36 – 48 % against capable opponent) means that far more enemy aircraft than is assumed will be able to get to visual range with F-22.

While F-22 is a capable dogfighter for its size and weight, its low production run and high maintenance downtime mean that it will likely find itself outnumbered in any war against China – which is a primary justification for continuing production. For comparasion, while Su-35 has flyaway cost of 65 million USD at most, F-22 has flyaway cost of 250 million USD, and maintenance downtime of 45 hours per hour of flight. While I was unable to find any figures for Su-35s maintenance downtime, it most likely isn’t worse than 30 hours per hour of flight as required by USAF’s ancient F-15s. Thus, F-22 will find itself outnumbered 5:1 in best case, whereas Typhoons, with flyaway cost of 120 million USD and maintenance downtime of 10-15 hours per flight hour, might even be able to slightly outnumber Su-35s.

What is worse, Russians have air-to-air anti-radiation missile (R-27P), and are very willing to sell it over the world. As internal USAF exercises have shown during the Cold War, several aircraft equipped with anti-radiation missiles can force everyone to shut down radars. That, in turn, will force aircraft to return to visual-range dogfight, with IRST-equipped aircraft having very large advantage in situational awareness – even larger than usual.

Second claim that needs examining is the value of stealth. While I have already discussed value of stealth in air-to-air scenario, I have not addressed scenario with surface-to-air threats – mostly SAMs.

While it is true that stealth aircraft have increased survivability compared to legacy aircraft when confronted by X-band radars, it is not so with lower-frequency, long-wavelength radars. Namely, aircraft RCS depends on size and shape of aircraft, its position relative to radar waves as well as wavelength radar in question is using. Stealth aircraft are designed to scatter radar waves away from (monostatic) X-band radar, with stealth coating absorbing minor part of radar signal. However, that only works when wavelength is far shorter than dimensions of the shaping features of the aircraft. Against VHF radars, with their 1-2 meters long waves, fighter aircraft such as F-22 and F-35 will see majority of their shaping features fall into either resonance or Raleigh scattering region. In these regions, shape of feature in question becomes irrelevant, and skin becomes electrically charged by radar waves, increasing RCS even further. Against such radars, stealth aircraft are forced to use same tactics as legacy aircraft against any type of radar, making stealth irrelevant and even harmful.

Third claim is that F-22’s engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. While it is true, F-22 is also heaviest fighter aircraft in existence, and these powerful engines give it thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,09 at loaded weight and 1,28 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinders and 4 AMRAAM. Later value is same as Eurofighter Typhoon, while former is inferior to Typhoon, which has TWR of 1,14 at loaded weight. Rafale has thrust to weight ratio of 1,1 at loaded weight, and 1,23 with 2 WVR, 6 BVR missiles (all MICA) and 50% fuel.

Fourth claim is that F-22 can outmaneuver all current and projected aircraft. It cannot; thrust vectoring is only useful as help with maneuvering at speeds below 150 knots; above 150 knots aircraft ends up with drifting motion – lower aircraft has TVC, upper doesn’t – which increases drag for no decrease in turn diameter. At the onset of the turn, aircraft looses lift and sinks in mid-air, with nose rotating up. Suffice to say, both of these effects are very dangerous in visual-range dogfight, especially in era of high off-bore missiles.

Fifth claim is that “The combination of stealth, integrated avionics and supercruise drastically shrinks surface-to-air missile engagement envelopes and minimizes enemy capabilities to track and engage the F-22 .” Stealth has already been addressed  as have sensors; supercruise is of interest here. While non-afterburner supercruise is useful, as it reduces fuel expenditure and heat signature of exhaust plume, it is not a game breaker. F-22 has low fuel fraction, is heavy and with large amount of drag, limiting duration of supercruise. Moreover, aircraft supercruising at Mach 1,7 can be tracked from 10% longer range than subsonic one, which means that Su-35 will detect it from 55, and Typhoon from 100 kilometers, head on. Reduction of engagement envelope can be achieved by increasing speed, supercruise or not; however, supercruise does reduce fuel expenditure, although such reduction is not very large.

Next is the claim that F-22 will have “better reliability and maintainability than any other fighter aircraft in history”. With F-22s maintenance costs and downtime being as they are (maintenance downtime of 45 hours per hour of flight, maintenance cost of 61 000 USD per hour of flight, and availability rate of 55,5%), claim is certainly false. Indeed, while Eurofighter Typhoon is a very complex aircraft, comparing it with F-22 produces shaming numbers: maintenance downtime of 10-15 hours per hour of flight, cost of 18 000 USD per hour of flight, and availability rate from 50% for Luftwaffe to 88% for RAF during Operation Elamy, RAF participation in Libya. Dassault Rafale costs 16 500 USD per hour of flight; unfortunately, I do not have figures for either maintenance downtime or availability rates.

Last is the characteristics table. While most of it seems correct – I won’t check it now – unit price is not. When debate has been held about ending F-22 production at 187 aircraft, proposal was to buy seven more F-22s for total price of 1,75 billion USD. Since it R&D expenses have already been paid, and production line was still active, sum shows an actual F-22 flyaway cost of 250 million USD per aircraft.

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Cleaning up Red Flag Alaska F-22 vs Typhoon debate

Posted by picard578 on October 20, 2012

Since Eurofighter Typhoons defeated F-22s at Red Flag Alaska in June 2012, discussion has produced many claims. I will address some of them here:

1) WVR combat is only small spectrum of air combat.

Yes, and no – it mainly depends on numbers, and who you are shooting at. As enemy numbers, as well as quality of each pilot and aircraft, increase relative to BVR-oriented force, effectiveness of BVR missiles drops – while qualitatively and quantitatively superior air force might achieve per-missile probability of kill as high as 50% for BVR missiles (against non-maneuvering enemies with no jammers), BVR missiles have never achieved more than 10% per-missile Pk against force that has been comparable in all stated factors – and it must be kept in mind that BVR-oriented aircraft are always more complex (and thus both more expensive, and flying less often) than WVR-oriented ones.

In short, BVR combat is excellent when facing enemies you don’t need it against, but doesn’t work when needed most.

2) German Typhoons had helmet-mounted sights and this allowed them to dominate more maneuverable F-22

Incorrect. Exercise was held in June 2012, and only from July on did German Typhoons start getting HMD. As such, Typhoons at Red Flag had to point their nose at the F-22s to get a lock.

That can easily be confirmed by comparing helmets of Typhoon pilots at exercise:

with HMD one:

which can be seen to be less round.

3) Typhoon’s IRST can detect F-22 from 50 kilometers

While that claim might not be incorrect – and indeed most likely isn’t – it has no relation to exercise itself, as Luftwaffe Typhoons had no IRST.

(Photo is of Typhoon from exercise, same one which “bagged” three F-22 “kills”).

4) Typhoons were slicked-off

While Typhoons did not carry any missiles or tanks in exercise, Typhoon does have a number of hard points that are permanently attacked to an airframe. In any case, heaviest – BVR – missiles would be ejected, and even some WVR missiles expended, well before Typhoons got in the merge. Neither F-22 or Typhoon had missiles.

Grune’s exact words are:

“We pulled off all the tanks to get most Alpha on it (Typhoon), and it is an animal with no tanks”.

5) F-22s were performance-limited

One of claims I have found was that F-22’s maneuver envelope has been limited due to oxygen problems. However, performance limitations to F-22 have only been enforced some time after the exercise, and pilots also had their oxygen vests, which have only been removed a week after exercise itself.

6) F-22s BVR capabilities were “overwhelming”

That claim, while not incorrect, was not about Typhoon vs F-22 exercise, but was a comment on earlier exercises where F-22s and Typhoons worked together against agressor F-16s simulating threat aircraft – most likely Cold War era Su-27 and MiG-29, as USAF has no reliable data on newest Russian types. As such, effectiveness of simulated BVR missiles in such exercises is far overstated even beyond unrealistic Pk assigned (Pk in question is around 90%, as Typhoons in that exercise got 16 kills from 18 simulated missile shots).

7) Typhoon was unable to get within 20 miles of F-22 without being targeted

That claim is result of Grumbercht’s quote that has been taken out of context:

“If I get everything right BVR, I’m not going to get closer than 20 miles.”

That quote seems to be referring to the Red Flag exercises, and not earlier Typhoon/F-22 WVR dogfight, and should probably be interpreted as “I’m not going to have to get closer than 20 miles”.

EDIT 7. 4. 2013.

This is excerpt from Jane Defense Weekly, found on Internet:

Immediately before Red Flag JG74 took part in Exercise ‘Distant Frontier’, which included eight one-on-one basic flying manoeuvre (BFM) sorties against US Air Force F-22A Raptor air superiority fighters. The aim was to help pilots of both types gain a fuller understanding of the capabilities, strengths and weaknesses of each other’s aircraft in order to allow them to operate together more effectively during Red Flag (where both types were assigned to the ‘Blue’ force) and during any subsequent ‘real world’ coalition operations.

During the process the pilots of JG74 gained a real boost to their confidence, said Col Grüne. “There were two mornings where we flew against them 1v1. We pulled off all the tanks to get the most alpha [angle of attack]; the Eurofighter really is an animal with no tanks.

“We expected to perform less with the Eurofighter but we didn’t … they were as impressed by us as we were impressed by them.”

Col Pfeiffer went into a little more detail. “In the dogfight the Eurofighter is at least as capable as the F-22, with some advantages in some aspects,” he said. “This is without the helmet. The Raptor’s unique capabilities are overwhelming, but as soon as you get to the merge, which is [admittedly] only a very small spectrum of air combat, the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22 in all aspects. We gain energy better than the F-22 when we are slow, for example.”

Red Flag demonstrated that the Typhoon had other advantages – being able to stay on station longer than the F-22, for example – but could not compete with the Raptor’s dominance in the beyond-visual-range (BVR) arena.

Both sides were coy about the relative kill:loss ratio gained during the Typhoon/F-22 BFM sorties, but Col Grüne was upbeat. “The only thing I can say is that I agreed to put out some whisky if they came back with some good performances … and I paid for quite a lot of whisky,” he said.

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F-35 cheated on performance tests

Posted by picard578 on October 18, 2012 article is here:

While F-35 has been stated to have met all performance criteria, I have been sceptical about statement – not only because performance criteria were less than impressive themselves, but because I was aware that money and reputation that went into F-35 meant that USAF and Lockheed Martin will fight tooth and nail to keep F-35s reputation untarnished, including favorite tool of all corporations: lying about their products (alternatively known as “marketing”, “promoting product” etc).

I have been proven right. As can be seen from the article, only reason F-35 has met criteria is that already-low criteria bar has been lowered even further. End result is about the same as you would expect from building a fighter with no performance requirements stated, and then writing performance requirements to be the same as said fighter actually achieved. Suffice to say, that is not how weapons are being designed.

But noone at USAF or Lockheed Martin will care as long as their pockets are full and their bribes regular.

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Why F-35 cannot replace Harrier

Posted by picard578 on October 15, 2012

This is news from 16/9/2012:


In short, 6 Harrier jets were destroyed and 2 damaged in Taliban attack. It drives home the point that air bases are bound to be attacked, and aircraft are bound to be attacked, regardless of type of war waged.

F-35 is supposed to replace Harrier. But when we compare them, F-35 costs 200 million USD per aircraft, whereas Harrier costs 30 million USD per aircraft. If these aircraft were F-35s, total damage would have exceeded 1 billion USD – not to mention health and environmental damage from toxic stealth coatings. Attack was done by 15 insurgents; what would have happened against well-trained spec ops team?

In any war, aircraft are bound to be destroyed – in air, and on the ground. Yet F-35s are simply to expensive and complicated to replace, not in small part thanks to their stealth coatings.

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Superiority (Clarke short story)

Posted by picard578 on October 15, 2012

If you want to understand dangers inherent in relying on technological superiority to win against enemy, read this story:

Story shows what happens when one tries to counter enemy’s superior numbers by focusing too much on hyper-technology weapons, and so can be understood as a warning against high-tech weapons, underlining one basic problem – there is no technological advantage that cannot be countered by superior numbers and proper planning. With F-35s focus on BVR combat, datalinks, aerial refuelling and one-size-fits-all mentality, it is almost a perfect commentary on dangers inherent to F-35 programme.

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Saab Gripen NG

Posted by picard578 on October 14, 2012

Two months ago, I have contacted SAAB about Gripen NG and changes it will have when compared to earlier versions of Gripen (A, B, C, D – Gripen NG encompasses versions E and F).

I got following answers:

1) Gripen NG will be equipped with imaging IRST (imaging IRST works similar to IR camera and can create video image from IR radiation it receives). It will be forward-looking only (FLIR).

2) Airframe will be increased in size, and wingspan will also increase. Wing area will increase, so wing loading, while slightly higher than for C/D models, will still be low.

3) Cockpit will not be changed; rearward visibility will be facilitated by mirrors.

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