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Gallium Nitride Gets Fighter Debut With Saab

Jul. 15, 2014 - 06:42PM   |  
By TOM KINGTON   |   Comments
Gripen NG Test aircraft
A different semiconductor material will be used with the radar on the Gripen E aircraft. A Gripen E/F test aircraft is shown here. (Stefan Kalm/ / Saab)
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FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND — Gallium nitride, the semi-conductor material long seen as the next big thing in radar, is to be used by Saab on the Gripen E aircraft, officials said Tuesday at the Farnborough International Airshow.

European and US firms have for years been plotting how to replace the gallium arsenide in their active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars with gallium nitride (GaN), which boosts power, but has been prohibitively expensive.

Now, as US firms such as Raytheon begin to use them in ground radars, Sweden’s Saab is to use GaN on the Gripen E, albeit not in a radar, but in wingtip electronic warfare systems.

The substance will be used in jammers and passive warning systems, boosting efficiency by 25 percent, said Ulf Nilsson, the head of the Gripen program.

The firm recently announced it was using GaN in its Giraffe 4A land radar, with development underway for a launch customer.

“GaN was costly but that has changed — it is now in mass production,” said a spokesman.

Lennart Sindahl, Saab’s deputy CEO, told reporters that Saab was now ahead of the curve on GaN.

“Our worst competitor said ‘you are now six years ahead of us.’”

At Farnborough, Selex ES announced it had signed to supply its Raven AESA radar, which uses Gallium Arsenide, for the Gripen Es recently ordered by the Swedish government.

Sindahl said upgrades are also being planned for the Gripen C/D, including the integration of the Meteor missile this year or next, and the integration of the Boeing Small Diameter Bomb.

Saab has talked of developing an unmanned Gripen, but Sindahl said his focus is elsewhere.

“Very few people in uniform talk to me about it. In Europe I get the feeling that people are pushing it because industries need something to do,” he said. ■


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