Gripen E delivery phase starts
Ramping up for full production
The delivery phase of serial Gripen E aircraft will commence before the end of the year, with delivery of four aircraft to Brazil and additional aircraft to Sweden. This important milestone for the program has been made possible due to smart ways of working, innovative production technologies and a close cooperation with the customers.
The Gripen E programme continues to deliver very good progress and is on track to deliver in line with our customer agreements. In November this year, the delivery phase to both the Swedish and the Brazilian customer will begin. Last year the deliveries to the joint Gripen E test and verification programme with the customers started. One aircraft is stationed at Malmen Air Force base in Linköping, Sweden and another one at the Gripen Flight Test Centre (GFTC), located at the Embraer plant in Gavião Peixoto, Brazil. With that, together with Saab’s main facilities in Linköping, there are now in total three test sites in two countries.
“In total, nine Gripen E are ready and flying, with several more coming later this year. The flight critical part of the programme is more or less completed and we are now focusing on verification and declaration in order to reach Military Type Certificate, continued tactical development and activities in order to enable delivery of the complete weapon system,” says Mikael Olsson, Head of Flight Test and Verification.
Full production rate
The speed is not only increasing within Gripen E flight testing, the same goes with the production facilities where the capacity continuously increases and is ramping up for full production rate in Linköping during next year. Production of around 30 Gripen E aircraft are currently underway, which means that Saab has started manufacturing of close to one third of the fighters currently in the order backlog.
“We have come a long way and have established a mature production process in a very short time. All of our earlier experiences, use of innovative production technology, streamlined processes and methods including our professional personnel, will result in a full production rate next year,” says Matti Olsson, Head of Production.
In the production facilities in Linköping, Brazilians and Swedes are working side by side. Structural assembly, installation, final assembly and other production-related activities currently employ more than 1000 employees. Prior to the above-mentioned stages of production, there is also a substantial involvement of both external suppliers and in-house detail manufacturing workshops relating to parts production and structural manufacturing.
During the development and manufacturing of Gripen E, world leading production technologies and techniques are used to save time and cost, such as additive manufacturing (AM), 5-axis high speed machining, a new method shaping metal and parts under water with explosives, and Model Based Definition (MBD).
No more blueprints
Thanks to MBD and new technologies in the production, the lead-time is reduced and development and manufacturing costs are cut by 50 percent. With MBD, a 3D model of a product contains all the necessary information such as dimensions, tolerances, manufacturing methods plus assembly information, materials and more. Instead of having a 3D model in the computer and a number of additional paper documents and drawings, Saab has all the information in one place – presented on a computer screen. This has a major impact throughout the development and manufacturing chain.
“Using MBD means that all the traditional blue prints are brought together into one single 3D model. The result is faster construction and a much higher quality of the final product. All the parts fit without any grinding or corrections. We can verify the solidity, function and availability before entering the production line. All traditional issues, challenges and problems can be evaluated at an early stage, and unexpected potential problems avoided,” says Matti Olsson.
Extensive transfer of technology
In Brazil, development, flight test and production of Gripen E are taking place as a part of the extensive transfer of technology package to the country. So far, more than 260 engineers and technicians, of a total of more than 350 Brazilian professionals, have been trained in Sweden.
The Gripen Design and Development Network (GDDN), located at Embraer, in Gavião Peixoto, is the hub for technology transfer and development of Gripen fighters in Brazil since 2016. At the site, Brazilians and Swedes are working in areas such as vehicle systems, aeronautical engineering, airframe design, systems installation, system integration, avionics, human-machine interface and communications.
The first Gripen fighter arrived in Brazil in September 2020 and, since then, is undergoing test flights at the Gripen Flight Test Centre (GFTC), which is part of the GDDN. The GFTC is fully integrated into the test programme running at Saab in Linköping since 2017. It collects, in real time, the telemetry information of the flights, in encrypted form, which are later analysed by the pilots, technicians and engineers involved in the test flight campaign, carried out by Brazil and Sweden.
Saab is already producing four aerostructures segments at the plant in São Bernardo do Campo. In parallel, investments in the infrastructure and preparation of the production line at Embraer in Gavião Peixoto is progressing. Production technicians from Embraer are now in Sweden doing their on-the-job training. They have worked directly on the production of the first four serial aircraft to the Brazilian Air Force.
Brazil is not the only customer that gets this excellent opportunity. Saab offers all Gripen customers substantial Transfer of Technology programmes, which brings mutual benefits for all. Finland takes a decision by the end of the year regarding new fighters. To meet their requirements Saab, besides Gripen and GlobalEye, offers an extensive partnership.
“In order to build Security of Supply, maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities in Finland, we are proposing local production and assembly of Gripen aircraft in country. Saab sees this as beneficial to the overall strategy for global production, and would naturally also envisage Finland being integrated seamlessly into Saab’s global assembly, production and MRO capability,” says Magnus Skogberg, Campaign Director Gripen for Finland.
“Finland is also offered an establishment of a local Gripen and GlobalEye system center that will form a hub for in-country sustainment and further development capabilities,” Magnus Skogberg continues.