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Great collaboration makes great aircraft

The first Swedish Gripen E aircraft flies side by side with the first Brazilian Gripen. It’s much more than a beautiful image, it’s a sign of a great collaboration between the countries and between the air forces and industry. Here the Commander of the Swedish Air Force Major General Carl-Johan Edström gives his view of the collaboration and the importance of a fighter that not only beats the opponents of today but also remains operational for decades.

Gripen E_SWE_BRA

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“I am incredibly proud to be Commander of the Swedish Air Force in a nation that manufactures its own fighter aircraft. It is not only something remarkable amongst nations but it also means that I can safely say that we are tactically superior already with the system we have today, Gripen C/D.

I want to ensure that we are in the same situation in 10, 15 years' time. I want my successors to be able to say with the same confidence that they are tactically superior in any given situation and time. We will be that with Gripen E, but we can not do this alone. That is where the collaboration comes in. We wanted a partner, and we have that in Brazil. These beautiful pictures show just that.

Brazil is the perfect partner. Not only that they have the operational knowledge and an experienced aviation industry. They are also part of Gripen's development. They are a partner who, just like us, is long-term in their outlook and commitment. And just like us, they want to build their capacity for the next 20 years and longer. I am very positive as to the future,” concludes Carl-Johan Edström, Commander of the Swedish Air Force.

When it comes to the future the Major General refers to, you could say it is just around the corner. The Gripen E/F programme continues to deliver with very good progress while its full speed at the flight test department at Saab. Currently there are seven Gripen E in the air, which are soon accompanied by more. The flight critical part of the programme is more or less completed and Saab is now focusing on the tactical issues, meaning integration and testing of weapons, sensors etc. Joint verification and validation of the first serial production aircraft to the Swedish customer started in 2019. Serial production deliveries will continue this year. The first aircraft to Brazil has been delivered, having started its flight testing in Linköping, and will later this year continue with flight test operations in Brazil.

Brazil is not the only new test site at which Saab is expanding its flight operation this year. Saab will also transfer a Gripen E aircraft to Malmen airbase in Linköping as part of its joint testing strategy together with the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) and the Swedish Armed Forces, as Saab begins to introduce Gripen E to the Swedish customer.

In parallel with these flight test operations, other Gripen E production-related activities are at full speed including structural assembly, installation and final assembly. This work employs about 1200 employees within Saab Aeronautics and a steady-state production rate of 24 aircraft per year will be achieved in 2020.

The Brazilian Gripen programme is driving the development of the national defence industry in Brazil. They are involved in the development of structures, systems, avionics, production, flight testing and training to support, maintain and modernise the Gripen fleet for decades to come. Some of these companies have been included in Saab’s global supply chain for Gripen E/F. This whole process generated one of the largest technology transfer programmes ever carried out for the Brazilian Air Force, and the largest ever done by Saab to another country.

Brazil and its defence industry have a large participation in the development of Gripen F. In all, 400 engineers are working on the development of Gripen F (the two-seat aircraft), most of who are located at the Gripen Design and Development Network (GDDN) at the Embraer plant in Gavião Peixoto, São Paulo. At the same plant, the Gripen Flight Test Centre will start to operate later this year and the first aircraft should leave Embraer’s production line in 2023.