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Training the Fighter Pilots of Tomorrow

4 min read + Video

Flying a fighter aircraft like Gripen is a dream for many pilots. But behind the realisation of this dream is an intense training process that encompasses everything from preparing the body for challenging scenarios to understanding the fighter inside out. In action are instructor pilots with decades of flying experience, simulators that create realistic battle scenarios, and a process that keeps expanding to include new trends in defence technology.

Gripen E Pilots

"The intensive training is there for a reason. These pilots are responsible for flying an advanced fighter that has been integrated with the latest technologies. Once a Gripen is released for operational deployment, the pilots need to be at the ready 24/7. Upon being scrambled, the Gripen pilots can be up in the air within 15 minutes, day or night, in all weather conditions. The training prepares the pilots for that," says Mats Palmberg, Head of Gripen India Campaign.

Saab recently released a video on the training of the operational pilots at the Gripen Center, F7 Wing in Sweden. The video takes its viewers through a typical training day for the Brazilian Air Force, from morning briefings to simulator sessions and actual flights.

The entire training program of Gripen pilots is divided in several parts. First, the pilots undergo physical preparatory training including the centrifuge and water survival training at the Qinetics Physiological Flight Center in Malmslätt, Linköping.

Then begins the theoretical training with experts where the pilots gain an understanding of the fighter aircraft, its technical subsystems etc. Next, the pilots undergo several sorties in the Gripen simulator which provides training in authentic environments and challenges, both individually and in groups, even acting against other aircraft. The actual flight training is tailored based on individual training needs analysis and learning from previous experiences. It starts with conversion training, followed by combat readiness training and is usually concluded within around 40 sorties with an addition of approximately 30 sorties for selected instructor pilots.

Gripen, due to its design, provides a very high training efficiency as compared to other platforms. The advanced flight control enables carefree handling that makes the aircraft very easy to fly, and together with the evolved pilot-friendly HMI design, enables the pilot to be off-loaded, which means that a lot more focus can be given on the tactical aspects of the combat mission.

“We don’t just take the pilots to Sweden to acquaint them with Gripen development process, we introduce them to our ways of working. There is a cultural shift involved. This is the beginning of a process that ends with these pilots leading the Gripen programme in their country,” Mats says.

By the time the 36 Gripen fighters are delivered to the Brazilian Air Force by 2024, about 350 Brazilian professionals would have experienced an immersion process that would add new dimensions to their professional lives.

“Much like Brazil, where Saab has already trained more than 200 Brazilian professionals on Gripen development, manufacturing, and operations, Saab proposes to take Indian professionals on a complete training program as a part of its Gripen package. If India chooses Gripen, Saab will train the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots in a similar process,” Mats says.

Saab will, as a part of its offer to India, provide all prerequisites for an efficient and self-reliant pilot training program in India. Extensive networked simulator environment will be set up concurrent with initial pilot and instructor pilot training. LVC (Live, Virtual & Constructive) training capability, where real assets and simulators operate in the same environment, will create even more complex and efficient training scenarios. The aim of Saab’s offer is not just to train to fly, but to provide an understanding of how to fully use the Gripen system and maximize its combat effectiveness in the Air force.