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Training to be a Gripen Pilot

3 min read

Training a Gripen pilot is a multi-stage, intense process focused not just on familiarization with the fighter, but also on providing skills needed to use it to its full potential.

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The high seas. Gravity pressure. Decreased oxygen. This is not some science fiction novel outline but simulated events that a Gripen pilot trains for. Currently, Brazilian Air Force pilots are undergoing such training at the Saab facility in Sweden following the contract with the Brazilian government to develop and produce 36 Gripen aircraft. If India were to select Gripen for its MRFA program, Saab can offer a similar training package for the IAF pilots. From theoretical training to their first solo Gripen flight, every part of the fighter training will take place in Sweden. Once the pilots understand the day-to-day Gripen operations, they can come back and take a lead on training the on-ground teams and future pilots at a later stage.

The Gripen Training Academy uses the infrastructures and simulator tools of the Swedish Air Force F7 Wing in Satenas, while Saab adds mission support systems and a limited number of ground support equipment. The Academy is manned by pilots/instructors from both the Air Force and Saab. The latter personnel have a background within the Air Force, being all “ex-military” pilots.

Many people dream about flying a Gripen, but only few know how intense the training required before getting in the cockpit truly is. The entire program includes conversion training as well as combat readiness training.

The conversion training is designed to verify the physiological condition of the pilot through specific qualifications for survival at sea and resistance to the high load factor “G” (of gravity). In addition, crew members participate in classes and carry out theoretical tests on the entire technical part of the aircraft, in addition to standardization procedures.

Training is also provided on how to prepare for, and control, the symptoms of oxygen deficiency –hypoxia symptom recognition training where the pilot learns to handle decreased oxygen pressure at altitude.

There will then be theoretical classes covering the systems and the characteristics of Gripen. The pilots carry out missions with Swedish instructors focused on aircraft operation. The basic flights aim to acclimate the crew to the characteristics of the vector. These include acrobatics, simulated emergencies, instrument flight, navigation and management of the various embedded systems.

The Gripen training also includes embedded synthetic training scenarios. So a single ship can go out and fight a simulated bandit in a Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air fight, for example.

Taking the Gripen pilot training to the next level, Saab, in collaboration with Finnish company Varjo has now introduced a human eye resolution mixed reality (XR) technology to their simulators. This means more resolution and a wider field of view for the pilots during their simulator training. The virtual headsets will also eliminate the need for expensive cave or dome shaped simulators to create an immersive virtual reality experience for the pilot, bringing down the cost of training as well.