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Unique tests of the oxygen and anti-g system enables testing of Gripen F in extreme conditions

3 min read

The development of Gripen F is currently in full swing at various locations, both in Sweden and Brazil. In the Life Support rig, installed in a unique high-altitude chamber at Saab in Linköping, the aircraft's systems are pushed to their limits. Everything to deliver the safest possible aircraft to the customer.

At this stage of the two-seater aircraft's development, the oxygen and anti g-systems are being tested, among other things. The purpose of the tests is to identify potential deficiencies early on ahead of upcoming flight tests and to verify reliable and safe system function even in the most demanding situations. This, in turn, should lead to a well-functioning system for supplying, among other things, breathing air and anti-g protection to the pilot.

The tests are primarily carried out on a ground aircraft rig, known as Life Support rig, using test dummies that are connected to respiratory simulators and other systems. The oxygen and anti-g system used are the same as in the real aircraft.

The high altitude chamber that was installed already in the 50s, then called the stratosphere chamber, is unique in that it is the only one in Sweden and one of a few in Europe that can handle samples with a combination of both cold and pressure. Several Swedish and foreign companies periodically borrow Saab's facilities to be able to carry out testing of their systems and products.

The Life Support rig is very similar to the real aircraft and as close to reality as you can get without full integration. So, in theory, Saab has been up and flying Gripen F already, but without an actual aircraft.

“Yet again I am impressed by our talented engineers and the fantastic collaboration with our Brazilian partners, Gripen F is very important for the program and our customer,” says Johan Segertoft, Head of Gripen Design.
The Life Support rig where the tests are carried out was already inaugurated in 2018 for testing the Gripen E. As the development of the Gripen E begins to be completed, this rig has instead been modified and developed to also enable current testing with the Gripen F.

The installation in the chamber has been a real teamwork of several departments and professions within Aeronautics. Here Christer Berglund, Mattias Larsson and Fredrik Engström in a discussion.

This is the first time that the Life Support rig is installed in Saab's own high-altitude chamber, creating a unique configuration that allows the engineers to test the system a simulated high altitude with extremely low pressure.
“In some cases, we have tested things that are beyond what is actually physically possible. All to really expose and push the system to the limit. For example, we push the system up into a flight envelope we would never otherwise encounter in reality, for example a total loss of cabin pressure at a very high altitude," says Mattias Larsson, test engineer and responsible for the rig.

In addition to the tests of the oxygen and anti-g system, the development of the Gripen F is ongoing in many different areas and at different locations. Both Swedish and Brazilian test engineers, especially from Embraer, are involved in the work. Delivery of the Gripen F to the Brazilian customer is planned for 2025.

The respiratory simulator is a Saab design which began as a thesis project resulted in a compact, simple design in comparison to the alternatives available on the market.