FARNBOROUGH, England — Saab showed off its developmental RBS15 Mk4 anti-ship missile dubbed the Gungnir at the Farnborough Airshow, stressing that the focus of the work is to deliver it for integration on the Swedish Air Force’s Gripen E fighter so the service can retain this capability when in-service versions become obsolete.
Sweden is still operating a 1980s version of the weapon in the form of the RBS15F, an airborne derivative of the Mk1 surface version. However, this capability is set to become obsolete on its Gripen C/D aircraft because the weapon will soon lose maintenance support, and so Saab is prioritizing the development of the airborne version of the Gungnir so Sweden can bring into service both the new aircraft and weapon as soon as possible to retain its anti-ship capability.
The development of Gungnir, or Odin’s spear, was contracted by the Swedish FMV defense procurement agency in March 2017 under a SEK3.7 billion deal — followed by a contract for further production that April — and is expected to enter service in the mid-2020s on the new Gripen E fighter.
Sweden’s incumbent RBS15Fs — the airborne versions — are coming to the end of their shelf life, Saab notes, as the weapons generally have a 15-year shelf life and a 30-year service life.
It will also equip the Swedish Navy’s Visby-class corvettes, but the primary concern is to integrate it into the Gripen E, Saab says.
“Everything is driven by the Gripen program,” said Michael Höglund, vice president and head of marketing and sales for missiles systems at Saab Dynamics.
Four generations of the missile will have been developed by the time the Gungnir is in service, although only the first and last have been designed for airborne integration, while all are suited for surface use.
Mk3 is currently being delivered and will continue to be developed and supported for a number of years, but the missile can be swapped out for the Mk4 once development of this is completed, Höglund said. Enhancements generated through Mk4 will roll into Mk3.
In 2021 the missile will be delivered for testing onboard Gripen, with first live firings intended for 2021-22.
The company will also target maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) and other fighter markets for the missile, as well as potentially even the C/D variant of Gripen, although Höglund noted that there are no ongoing requirements for this at the moment.
Eurofighter Typhoon was noted as one possible fighter that could benefit from the RBS15, as well as the company’s own Swordfish MPA.
There are emerging requirements for an anti-ship missile to be introduced on fighters, including from Malaysia, and the enhanced performance of the Mk4 in comparison to the Mk1 may help Saab expand RBS15’s aerial use outside of Sweden — and in parallel up the appeal of the Gripen E for ongoing requirements. Kuwait is additionally acquiring the MBDA Marte anti-ship missile for its Typhoon fleet, demonstrating that this type of weaponry is appealing for fighter operations.
The Mk4 will have a sea-skimming range of some 300km, and although Saab could not reveal the exact range of the Mk1, the new version is expected to be triple that.
It will also have an anti-jam capability, will be fitted for but does not come with a new data link, and is a composite design that reduces the weight of the system.
Brazil has committed to acquire the Gripen E fighter, but Höglund claimed that there is no production contract for the RBS15 from the nation yet, although it will be easy for the air force to acquire it at a later date.
The missile is designed in partnership with Diehl Defence, which joined the programme when Saab was selling the Mk3 version to the German Navy for use on the K130 corvette. The company provides 25 percent of the content, and is responsible for the final assembly.