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Saab Global
Hungarian air force Gripen fighters in two ship formation.

Gripen roars over Hungary for 15 years

3 min read + Video

It has been 15 years now since Gripen first landed in Hungary, at Kecskemét Air Base, home of the Hungarian Gripen fleet. Hungary was the third nation, after Sweden and the Czech Republic, to start operating Gripen C/D.

At the end of 2001, the Hungarian government signed a contract on the leasing of 14 Gripen fighters (12 single-seaters and two two-seaters), enabling the country to become a modern, western-type air force. In January 2005, the retraining of the first Hungarian pilots and the selected ground crew began at the Swedish Air Force’s F 7 Wing at Såtenäs. At the same time, the first Hungarian Gripen rolled off the production line in Linköping, Sweden. The first five Gripen fighters landed on the runway of Kecskemét Air Base on the 21st March 2006. The Gripen aircraft then underwent inspection by the Hungarian Ministry of Defence before they were formally handed over to the customer at a ceremony held on 30 March 2006.

Hungarian air force Gripen fighters from the Puma squadron, Kecskemét Air Base.
Hungarian air force Gripen fighters from the Puma squadron, Kecskemét Air Base.

The primary mission of the Puma squadron is the protection and defence of Hungarian airspace. Since 2014, the Hungarian Air Force’s Gripen fighters are also responsible for protection of Slovenian airspace.

The name of the squadron comes from the Royal Hungarian “Puma” Fighter Wing, established in October 1935. It was one of the famous units during World War II. The symbol of the unit was the head of a roaring puma with the motto “Courage leads, luck escorts us”. This motto is that of the Hungarian Gripen pilots today. 

“It is an important anniversary that both the Hungarian Air Force and Saab are celebrating together. I am very impressed with the many achievements that the Hungarian Air Force have reached flying Gripen. Hungarian pilots and the whole crew of the Kecskemét Air Base are deploying Gripen on NATO operations, continuously demonstrating how capable and potent a fighter Gripen is,” says Jonas Hjelm, Saab Senior Vice President and head of business area Aeronautics. 

The Hungarian Air Force participates regularly in international exercises like Lion Effort or Tiger Meet. In 2015 and then again in 2019, the Hungarian Air Force was deployed with Gripen fighters for the NATO Baltic Air Policing missions.  

Watch the video below to see more of these Knights of the Airspace. And why are they called the Knights of the Airspace? Because they are! There is a tradition of ’The Order of the Gripen Knights’. We would love to tell you more, but first you must become a Gripen pilot!