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Gripen C

Former Gripen pilot interviewed in Fighter pilot podcast

In an episode of the Fighter Pilot Podcast, former lieutenant in the Swedish Air Force, Mikael “Duke” Grev, talks about his first impression of Gripen, most memorable mission, favorite thing about the fighter and more.

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Grev's first impression of Gripen was all about how easy it was to manoeuvre it, something every Gripen pilot has pointed out so far. With Viggen, Lieutenant Mikael says that he had to pull off a 'Marty Feldman' which means keeping an eye on two different things simultaneously. For example, keeping one eye on the Angle-of-Attack meter and the other one on the G-meter while simultaneously keeping a watch on the opponent's aircraft during a dogfight. This was not the case with Gripen as its care-free manoeuvrability does not require the pilot to split his attention while flying.

"At first I thought it would be boring to just pull the stick and not do anything else," he admits. "But it quickly became obvious to me that not having to bother with the details of your aircraft's limits frees up mental capacity that can be better used to jam or do other things to the opponent's aircraft," he adds.

When asked what his favorite thing about Gripen was, he says it’s the large display real-estate. Gripen C/D's large Head-Up-Display, otherwise known as HUD and the three large Head-Down Displays or HDDs, give the pilot the most interactive user interface. "The HUD is great for dog-fighting and HDDs are for Beyond Visual Range air-to-air combat and basically all other mission types that are the chess-playing of today’s air operations," he says.

According to Grev, a good pilot user interface and decision support system is still an underdeveloped area in fighter aircraft development. And next-gen systems like Gripen can make a huge difference in decision making for the pilot and in bridging that gap between the machine and the pilot.

“The pilot is still in-the-loop with our AI though, and makes the tactical decisions, but is being presented with information that is richer and more pre-calculated to how the pilot is thinking. All this wouldn’t be possible without the larger screens that can convey the information. This is why it’s my favourite feature, it makes the aircraft more software upgradable," he says.

Grev is also of the opinion that Gripen C/D has the best missiles in the world referring to Meteor and IRIS-T. If there are scenarios where he has to go against fighters such as Flankers, he is confident that Gripen will do great. He has also flown against fighters like the F-16 and F-18. "Gripen ‘carves’ through the air better than both and you will not lose as much speed when turning. The IRIS-T missile is so good that everything you can see with your eyes is basically within your Weapon Employment Zone," he says. "I know the guys in the Swedish Air Force are very keen to fly their Gripens in air combat manoeuvres against Denmark’s and Norway’s F-35s. I think you can guess why,” he adds.

Grev rates Gripen very high in terms of pilot comfort, turn rates, climb rate, combat performance and effectiveness, and reliability. And lastly, he recalls the time SwAF was abroad for a conflict for the first time in 50 years. The first mission of the Operation Protector over Libya was led by him and that was his most memorable mission for him.

Read the full interview here. The interview starts 19 minutes into the programme.