Interview with Lt. Brigadier Aguiar, Brazilian Air Force
To guarantee the surveillance of 22 million square kilometres and uphold the sovereignty of Brazil's airspace, the Brazilian Air Force must always be ready to defend the country. Responsible for this task is the Preparation Command (COMPREP), which coordinates the formulation of aerospace doctrine. They also define the standards of efficiency of the military and its weapons systems, in addition to planning the training of combat units and evaluating their performance.
One of the main tasks of COMPREP is the implementation of Gripen's operational support in Brazil at Wing 2, in Anapolis (GO). To talk about the progress of these operations, we invited the Commander of Preparation, Lieutenant-Brigadier Luiz Fernando de Aguiar for an interview. The Commander has received 19 national and one international awards, and has approximately 4,900 flight hours on 12 different types of aircraft.
What are the main actions being carried out by the operational implementation of Gripen in Brazil?
"We think of Gripen not only as an aircraft, but as a complete combat system, with several features that go beyond the capabilities of any other aircraft operated by FAB. In addition, its swing-role feature allows several types of missions to be carried out almost simultaneously, which is also something new for us.
We are currently doing a revision of our doctrinal concepts in order to expand our horizons and creating an environment fit for new strategies, tactics and techniques, since there is no point in implementing such a modern system if we do not innovate in the way we operate.
Another important task for COMPREP is to prepare the military who will be responsible for flying and providing flight support to the F-39. We are selecting not only pilots, but also professionals from different areas who will be responsible for operating various equipment such as the flight simulators, mission planning stations, electronic warfare programming equipment, among many other operational support equipment. We are also developing projects to raise the bar in some areas of knowledge, which is important so that the potential of Gripen and its systems are fully utilized.
How are the Brazilian pilots performing in their training in Sweden? What kind of prior preparation was done in Brazil so that they were prepared for this moment?
"Our pilots routinely undergo extensive training and, since their initial training at the Air Force Academy (AFA), they are constantly put to the test to ensure high operational performance. Even so, for those who were selected, we provided an intensive English language course as their training would be conducted fully in English. We also paid special attention to their physical fitness since they would fly an aircraft at 9G, which is quite demanding in terms of muscle strength and endurance. We also conducted tasks where the pilots had to develop tactics and techniques that they are used to getting ready. Consequently, we have received very positive reports of the training being conducted in Sweden, everything is flowing as expected.
I emphasize that the merit of these results are not only on our part. The high level of experience of the Swedish Air Force instructors, combined with their generosity demonstrated in the relationships between our forces has been a decisive factor for the great success we have experienced".
As the Commander of Preparation, what is it like to be part of this historic moment in Brazilian aviation?
"In addition to a great responsibility, it is a great pride. The history of the FAB is marked by some major changes, such as the introduction of jet fighters, followed by the incorporation of supersonic aircraft and the creation of the Brazilian Aerospace Defense System - SISDABRA, which integrates our Air Defense systems with Air Traffic Control systems.
Now we are going through another of those great moments, which puts us at the top to deliver the defence capacity that Brazil deserves. It is not every officer who has the opportunity to participate in such an important deployment, and to see the excitement in the eyes of your subordinates of a promising future.
Even so, we face major challenges for Gripen to start operating effectively in the FAB. There are a number of developments that need to be completed before the desired operational capabilities are finally delivered. As the Commander of Preparation, I feel responsible for ensuring that these challenges are made. But, as an aviator and, above all, as a Brazilian citizen, I am pleased to see that the national aviation industry, is about to achieve excellence in important sectors".
Within Aeronautics, what are the responsibilities of the Preparation Command (COMPREP)?
"The Preparation Command is responsible for keeping the Brazilian Air Force always ready to act to defend the nation. To this end, we coordinate the formulation of the aerospace doctrine, define the efficiency standards of our military and of our weapons systems, plan the training of our combat units and evaluate their performance. In other words, we keep our pilots, mechanics, flight controllers and all other mechanisms of this complex defence scenario in constant alert, to efficiently fulfil their role.
I emphasize that it is not only our military personnel who are constantly evaluated – but also our aircraft, armaments and other equipment are equally subjected to increasingly challenging scenarios. We do this so that we can be sure that the human-machine collaboration is always ready to face the threats we may face today and in the future".
How were the pilots chosen to operate Gripen in Brazil chosen?
"As it is a new aircraft, with new systems and capabilities unfamiliar to our staff, we understood that we needed our best professionals in the case so that all of Gripen's capabilities are fully exploited. This is what will define how the F-39 will change the combat concept that we employ today and, thus, will establish the initial base from which the entire doctrine of employment of this aircraft in the FAB will be built. Therefore, we were careful to select future pilots based on flight experience and operational performance.
In this initial phase, only professionals with experience in the F-5M or A-1M, which are our current fighters, were chosen. Within this group of pilots, which is already quite select, we looked for the individuals who had the best grades in the air activities, bearing in mind their overall performance since the Air Force Academy, including the theoretical and flight test scores. These are all highly trained pilots and we are sure that they will extract from Gripen all the combat capacity that it can provide. I emphasize that the maintenance team, graduates and officers selected are also all among the best, as they will also be part of the Gripen System".
With the pilots returning to Brazil, what will be your next steps?
"Once the Gripen C/D course in Sweden has ended, the pilots will return to Brazil to effectively begin the operational implementation of the Brazilian model, the Gripen E. Although they are different models, the experience in the Gripen C/D is an introduction to the performance and characteristics of an aircraft with a hang glider, canards and “fly-by-wire” type flight controls. In addition, with this initial experience, the pilots will have a clearer idea of the operating concepts that are employed by Saab in the “Gripen System”.
Thus, when the pilots arrive to Brazil, they will have enough knowledge to prepare the Air Unit for the arrival of the flight simulator as well as the equipment to support the operation, which will be installed in the 1st Air Defense Group (1st GDA), in Anápolis; and for the subsequent arrival of the aircraft. In the meantime, they will advise COMPREP on the adaptations that should be made to the operational concepts of the F-39, in addition to formulating the training plans that will be used for preparation and operational maintenance of Gripen E".
What does the inclusion of a smart fighter like Gripen in the Brazilian Air Force represent to the Brazilian fighter aviation?
"The modernization of the aerial weapons is essential for us to be able to keep up with the worldwide evolution. A world that aspires for peace and harmony between people, but that remains complex and unpredictable. For any future threats, it is essential that we provide an agile and efficient response. This is to guarantee the defense of our country, the security and freedom of our people. Incorporating a smart fighter we fulfil this obligation. Gripen will ensure first deterrence, discouraging any potential aggressors and offering a quick, efficient and accurate response, even against those most daring.
I refer to Gripen as an intelligent fighter not only for the modern systems it incorporates, which greatly favour the success of the mission, but also because it has a very promising cost-benefit ratio. Facing the needs of our citizens, we cannot in any way invest public resources badly. Having a fighter with excellent combat capacity and relatively low operating cost, combined with all the benefits arising from the transfer of technology included in the programme is also an intelligent and efficient way of achieving the common good".
In your opinion, what has been the most remarkable moment in the Gripen Programme?
"The Gripen Programme is filled with memorable moments; starting with the signing of the contract, which formalized the start of cooperation between the FAB and Saab , as well as between Brazil and Sweden, since it ensured national participation in the development and production of airplanes, transcending a simple purchase of equipment and reviving the long-awaited refit of the Force.
Since then, we have had the first flight of the Gripen E prototype, in Linköping in Sweden, which showed that cooperation was working and that project was really getting off the ground. We then had the production of the first Brazilian Gripen, the FAB 4100, which made its first flights also in Linköping, being flown by a Brazilian Air Force test pilot and then transported to Brazil.
But, of all the moments, the most striking was definitely the 4100 flight in Brasilia, on October 23, 2020, the date on which we celebrate the Day of the Aviator and of the Brazilian Air Force. I say this because this flight symbolized the presentation of Gripen to the Brazilian nation, which is our greatest asset, to whom all of our efforts are directed and the real beneficiary of this investment. That flight showed our military and our people that the long-awaited future is already here".
What legacy does the Transfer of Technology Programme leave for the Brazilian Defense industry?
"The Transfer of Technology (ToT) Programme was designed to have several objectives. At first, we sought to develop the industrial base in Brazil so that it could take part in the production of subsystems, parts and other components of the F-39, in addition to being able to support the logistics chain, to maintain the main systems and sensors and to carry out the integration of new capabilities and armaments. With this, we have managed to get our industry to participate actively in the development and production of the Brazilian Gripen and even being integrated to the global supply chain of Saab, expanding their production and support capacity in order to fulfil orders from Sweden and by other future operators.
To this end, as direct beneficiaries, we have involved more than 350 technicians and engineers in the Programme, from different companies and from the FAB itself. With this, we create business and job opportunities, direct and indirect, to Brazil, and increase our presence in several areas of innovative technologies and, in the future, we hope to have the capacity to develop our own next generation fighter".
Would you like to add any information?
"I would like to end by thanking the Swedish Air Force for the cooperation and generosity of the instructors training our pilots in the F7 Wing, concretizing a partnership that will last forever".