JAS 39 Gripen Actually Battled China's Air Force in a Simulation and Won

JAS 39 Gripen
January 24, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: JAS 39Jas 39 GripenChinaChinese Air ForceFighter

JAS 39 Gripen Actually Battled China's Air Force in a Simulation and Won

In the war game, Thailand's JAS 39 Gripen fighters outperformed China's Su-27s in beyond-visual range (BVR) combat. You can bet the U.S. Air Force took note. 

Sweden's JAS 39 Gripen takes on China in a War Game - As tensions brew in the Indo-Pacific, the US can take comfort in the results of a war game simulation conducted between the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) and China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

In the war game, RTAF JAS 39 Gripen fighters outperformed PLAAF Su-27s in beyond-visual range (BVR) combat.

The results were encouraging; the Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripens earned 88 percent of their victories at a range of 19 miles or more. The final tally included 41 downed Su-27s for the RTAF at a loss of just nine JAS 39 Gripens – a ratio exceeding four-to-one.

“The outcome underscored the Gripen’s capabilities and revealed the PLAAF’s learning curve in missile avoidance strategies,” Peter Suciu wrote.

JAS 39 Gripen vs. China

Thailand and the US are technically allies. But the alliance has been strained since 2014, when a military coup established a new regime in Thailand, which then worked to improve relations with China.

Then, “beginning in August 2015,” Suciu reported, “Thailand further held the “Falcon Strike” joint exercises with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) – with the Falcon Strike-2023 joint exercise between Chinese and Thai air forces lasting 21 days in Thailand, where participating troops from both countries carried out training subjects including air support, land assault, joint air defense, and large-scale deployment, which effectively enhanced their combat and joint operational capabilities.”

The big winner from the Falcon Strike war game was the JAS 39 Gripen.

Saab, while best known in America for their automobiles like the 900, 9-3, 9-5, is an aerospace and defense manufacturer, responsible for the JAS 39 Gripen – which was developed to replace older Saab fighter jets like the Draken and the Viggen.

Meet the JAS 39 

In developing the JAS 39 Gripen, the Swedes wanted to develop something that could achieve Mach 2 speeds, take-off from short runways, would be smaller than the Viggen, and could carry higher payloads than the Viggen. The Swedes even considered importing foreign aircraft as a solution, taking a good look at the F-16, F/A-18, F-20, and the Mirage 2000. Ultimately, however, the Swedes decided to build their own fighter domestically.

JAS 39

The resulting aircraft, the JAS 39 Gripen, is light and maneuverable with one seat and one engine. The jet was built with canards and delta wings, allowing for relaxed stability – meaning that the aircraft cannot be trimmed to maintain a certain attitude. Instead, if the jet rolls or pitches, it will continue to roll or pitch in that direction, at an increasing rate, until the pilot intervenes. The result is a highly maneuverable (and unstable) aircraft. And as the Chinese discovered in 2015, the JAS 39 Gripen is entirely capable.

JAS 39 Gripen

“According to a report from Aviation International News,” Suciu reported, “an early December 2019 report from inside China revealed previously unreleased technical details of PLAAF’s Russian-built Su-27s losing a majority of engagements in a November 2015 joint exercise with the 701 Fighter Squadron of the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), which operates eight Saab JAS-39C and four JAS-39D Gripens.”

JAS 39 Gripen

The Americans, watching keenly for any gaps in Chinese military ability, will likely take solace in watching the JAS 39 Gripen perform so well against Chinese counterparts; the Americans have aircraft significantly more advanced than anything Saab has ever made.

Granted, the Chinese do, too – the fifth-generation Chengdu J-20.

About the Author: Harrison Kass 

Harrison Kass is a defense and national security writer with over 1,000 total pieces on issues involving global affairs. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

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