Budapest is modernising its 14 Gripen C / D multi-role tactical aircraft to the MS20 Block 2 standard to introduce new modern air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. In addition, Budapest is considering a second Gripen combat squadron with the latest versions of Gripen E / F.
Gripen MS20 Block 2 standards
The Czech Gripen has already gone through the upgrades and give a good insight into MS20 Block 2 standards. The Czech JAS-39C / D underwent extensive modernisation and software upgrade to the latest edition of MS20 Block 1.2 in Sweden in 2016-18. As per the Czech Air Force portal, “the biggest change in connection with the MS20 is the expansion of Czech machines’ capabilities to perform Air-To-Ground tasks and related large-scale purchases of anti-ground weapons in the form of Mk.82 bombs and GBU-12 guidance sets, the acquisition of new NATO Standard pylons for attaching weapons and at the same time the acquisition of new Litening 4 I aiming and reconnaissance pods from the Israeli manufacturer Rafael ADS Ltd.”
Another important addition was the LINK 16 protocol to the Czech Gripens. About the MS20 Block 2 version upgrade, the portal writes, “already last year, the necessary documents for the conclusion of a contract for the modernisation of the JAS-39 Gripen aircraft were processed as part of a new software update, which will include, for example, the integration of IFF Mode 5, which will improve the ability of JAS-39 Gripen aircraft to recognise “own – foreign “. This is the latest Alliance military mode, which will send encrypted complex information corresponding to civil Mode S, which uses a comprehensive 24-bit message including GNSS (GPS) identification and position and other additional ADS-B information.”
Another aspect of the Block 2 update is the precision military GPS being reinstalled, which should clarify the GCAS system or the Ground Collision Avoidance System.
Hungarian Gripen upgrades
According to the Hungarian upgrade information, a key element of the MS20 Block II is the upgrade of the onboard radar to the new PS-05 / A Mark 4 standard.
Maróth has described the Gripen MS20 Block II as technologically superior to most fourth-generation aircraft. According to the officials, the Hungarian Gripen lag only in stealth and some advanced radar functions compared to fifth-generation fighters.
A new Squadron with newer Gripens
Maróth has announced the plan of the Hungarian Air Force to acquire another Gripen C squadron. But, the decision to purchase a second squadron has not yet been made. Hungary may possibly purchase the latest single-seat version of the Gripen E. A combat squadron consists of 12 aircraft. Maróth didn’t comment on buying two-seater Gripen Fs for training purposes.
Currently, Hungary operates 12 single-seat Gripen C and two two-seat Gripen D, which is mainly used for training.
Air to Air and Air to ground weapons
According to the Hungarian Portfolio portal, a contract has already been concluded to purchase Diehl’s IRIS-T missiles- Infra Red Imaging System Tail / Thrust Vector-Controlled. IRIS-T has a range of 20 kilometres. IRIS-T can be guided by aircraft’s radar after launch and can therefore be fired at targets outside the field of view of the infrared seeker.
Gáspár Maróth, the government’s commissioner in charge of acquisitions at the Hungarian Ministry of Defense, confirmed negotiations on the purchase of TARGO II helmet sights from Israel’s Elbit Systems. Helmet sights can take full advantage of the potential of the IRIS-T missile as the pilot can use the helmet to aim and launch IRIS-T during combat manoeuvres.
In addition, Hungary is negotiating the purchase of new Meteor long-range air-to-air missiles and GBU-49 Paveway II Enhanced laser / satellite-guided bombs.
Hungary aims to purchase sixth generation aircraft
Maróth also presented bold plans for the Hungarian Air Force and the Hungarian aviation industry for the next decade. Budapest, according to Maróth, did not currently buy fifth-generation F-35A aircraft because sixth-generation aircraft are expected in the market between 2030 and 2040. Hungary is now examining the possibility of entering the sixth generation fighter development program. Hungary can join two European projects – the German-French FCAS (Future Combat Air System) and the Tempest led by the British BAE Systems.
Hungarian aviation industry
Airbus helicopter parts factory in Gyula is scheduled to open this year. Embraer, Brazil, is expected to establish a research and development centre and manufacture small light aircraft in Hungary. The majority stake of Czech Aero Vodochody has been transferred to a Hungarian company, and Budapest will soon collaborate on research and development with Sweden’s SAAB.