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The plane and the pilot

3 min read + Video

Being a test pilot for Gripen means playing a vital role in the making of a future proof fighter jet. It’s the test pilot’s job to master the challenges of a rapidly changing combat environment, and do so while dealing with the intense pressure of accelerating g-forces.

Man and the machine

Gripen test pilots play an important role in evaluating the technology enhancements and upgrades in the fighter’s air combat weapon systems. They must be critical thinkers who are able to adapt to different situations, to lead and conduct testing and to evaluate new and existing aerospace weapon systems. “As a Gripen test pilot my main task is to perform test flights where I evaluate the Gripen’s performance and capabilities up in the sky,” says Mikael Olsson, Test Pilot, Saab.

Test pilots must know and be thinking of how the aircraft will be used. One way of ensuring that is to stay in close contact with the air force.
Marcus Wandt, test pilot.

Before the test flights are conducted, Gripen test pilots spend many hours in the flight simulator evaluating the systems. Additional hours are spent at design meetings, where test pilots assist Saab engineers and offer pilot opinions on design solutions and decisions.

The G-suit

The G-suit is a vital piece of equipment for every Gripen pilot. Without it, the pilot would not be able to adjust to the accelerating G-forces that are part and parcel of the extreme conditions of combat. Here's how it works:

“Test pilots must know and be thinking of how the aircraft will be used. One way of ensuring that is to stay in close contact with the air force. In my case I go back to the Swedish Air Force and fly every year with my old squadron”, says Marcus Wandt, Test Pilot at Saab.

Modern warfare has seen the evolution of the battlespace. Today fighter pilots need to be able to handle much more than before, and at a higher pace. Gripen achieves the optimal balance between the pilot and the fighter, by letting fighter intelligence take on a larger role in working autonomously on several areas simultaneously. The systems provides the pilot with cueing and suggestions ranging from weapon selection to full manoeuvring of the fighter in an emergency.

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Marcus Wandt, Test Pilot at Saab.

Test pilots have presentations on the system, the aircraft and the methodology used by Saab, in order to not only evaluate the fighter, but to instruct other pilots that will be flying the fighter. Part of their work includes observing and analysing how the aircraft operates as well as understanding the engineering that is behind the functionality. For test pilots this can mean understanding where any discrepancies lie in the functionality and offering suggestions on how to address these issues.

“I am honoured that I was on the first flight of the Gripen E. All the work and effort that has been put into this project, and the level of complexity a system like this has, as well as being able to take this fighter for its first flight and see that it works so nicely, that was just fantastic,” says Wandt.