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JAS 39 Gripen
Swedish Air Force JAS 39 Gripen
Role Multirole fighter
Manufacturer Saab AB/Saab Group
First flight 9 December 1988
Introduction 1 November 1997
Status In service
Primary users Swedish Air Force
South African Air Force
Czech Air Force
Hungarian Air Force
Produced 1987–present
Number built 235[1]
Unit cost
US$ 40–60 million[2][3]

The Saab JAS 39 Gripen (griffin) is a lightweight single-engine multirole fighter manufactured by the Swedish aerospace company Saab. It was designed to replace the Saab 35 Draken and 37 Viggen in the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet). The Gripen has a delta wing and canard configuration with relaxed stability design and fly-by-wire technology. It is powered by the Volvo-Flygmotor RM12 engine, a derivative of the General Electric F404, and has a top speed of Mach 2. Later aircraft are equipped for in-flight refuelling; most of the export aircraft have been designed to be compatible with NATO interoperability standards.

In 1979, the Swedish government began development studies for an aircraft capable of fighter, attack and reconnaissance missions to replace the Saab 35 Draken and 37 Viggen. A new design from Saab was selected and developed as the JAS 39, first flying in 1988. Following two crashes during flight development and subsequent alterations to the aircraft's flight control software, the Gripen entered service with the Swedish Air Force in 1997. Upgraded variants, featuring more advanced avionics and adaptions for longer mission times, began entering service from 2003 onwards.

In order to market the aircraft to export customers, Saab has formed several partnerships and collaborative efforts with multiple overseas aerospace companies; examples of such efforts include Gripen International, an joint partnership between Saab and BAE Systems formed in 2001. Gripen International was responsible for marketing the aircraft, and was heavily involved the successful export of the type to South Africa; the organization was later dissolved amidst allegations of bribery being employed to secure foreign interest and sales. On the export market, the Gripen has achieved moderate success in sales to nations in Central Europe, South Africa and Southeast Asia. As of 2012, more than 240 Gripens have been delivered or ordered.[4]

A further development of the Gripen, often referred to as Gripen NG or Super Gripen, is in development as of 2013. Amongst the changes includes the adoption of a new powerplant, the General Electric F414G, an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, and significantly increased onboard fuel capacity. Other derivatives, including a navalised Sea Gripen for carrier operations and an optionally-manned aircraft capable of unmanned operations, have also been proposed by Saab.



By the late 1970s, a replacement for Sweden's ageing Saab 35 Draken and Saab 37 Viggen was needed.[5] Sweden required good short-field performance for a defensive dispersed basing plan in the event of invasion; Mach 2 speed was also desired and the aircraft had to be affordable. One ambition was for the aircraft to be smaller than the Viggen while either improving or equalling its payload-range characteristics.[6] Early proposals included the Saab 38, also called B3LA, intended as an attack aircraft and trainer,[7] and the Saab A 20, a development of the Viggen that would have capabilities as a fighter, attack aircraft and sea reconnaissance aircraft.[8] Several foreign designs were also studied, including General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet,[9] the Northrop F-20 Tigershark and the Dassault Mirage 2000.[10] Ultimately, the Swedish government opted for a new fighter to be developed by Saab (Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolag).[9]

In late 1979, the government commenced a study calling for a versatile platform capable of "JAS", which stands for Jakt (air-to-air), Attack (air-to-surface), and Spaning (reconnaissance), indicating a multirole, or swingrole, fighter aircraft that can fulfill multiple roles during the same mission.[9] A number of Saab designs were accordingly reviewed, with the most promising being "Project 2105" (redesignated "Project 2108" and later, "Project 2110"), which was recommended to the government by the Defence Materiel Administration (Försvarets Materielverk, or FMV).[9] In 1980, Industrigruppen JAS (IG JAS, "JAS Industry Group") was established as a joint venture by SAAB-Scania, LM Ericsson, Svenska Radioaktiebolaget (later a subsidiary of Ericsson), Volvo Flygmotor and Försvarets Fabriksverk, the industrial wing of the Swedish armed forces.[11]

The preferred aircraft was a single-engine, lightweight single-seater, which embraced fly-by-wire technology, canards, and an aerodynamically unstable design.[12] The powerplant selected would be the Volvo-Flygmotor RM12, a licensed-built derivative of the General Electric F404-400; engine development priorities were weight reduction and lowering component-count.[12][13] On 30 June 1982, with approval from the Riksdag,[14] the FMV issued contracts to prime contractor Saab covering five prototypes and an initial batch of 30 production aircraft.[12] To test several avionics intended for the JAS 39, such as the fly-by-wire controls, a Viggen was rapidly converted to operate as a test aircraft, flying by January 1983.[15] The JAS 39 received the name Gripen[Nb 1] through a public competition, which was announced in 1982;[16] the griffin is the heraldry on Saab's logo.[Nb 2]

Testing and production

External video
Ground footage of the 1989 Gripen crash

Sweden first ordered the JAS 39 in 1982; this first order was named Batch One and consisted of 30 JAS 39A single-seaters.[18] The first Gripen was rolled out on 26 April 1987, marking Saab's 50th anniversary.[19] Originally planned to fly in 1987,[13] the first prototype (serial number 39-1) took its maiden flight on 9 December 1988 with pilot Stig Holmström at the controls.[12] During the test programme, concern surfaced about the aircraft's avionics, specifically the fly-by-wire flight control system (FCS), and the relaxed stability design configuration. On 2 February 1989, this issue was dramatically highlighted with the crash of the prototype during an attempted landing at Linköping;[12] test pilot Lars Rådeström was able to walk away with only a broken arm. The cause of the crash was identified as pilot-induced oscillation (PIO), caused by problems to the FCS's pitch-control routine.[12]

To rectify the problem, Saab and US firm Calspan introduced major software improvements to the aircraft. A modified Lockheed NT-33A was used in testing; flight testing resumed within 15 months following the accident. The programme was again hindered when, on 8 August 1993, production aircraft 39102 was destroyed in an accident during an aerial display in Stockholm. Test pilot Rådeström lost control of the aircraft during a roll at low altitude, and the aircraft rapidly stalled, forcing him to eject. Saab later found the problem to be high amplification of the pilot's quick and significant stick command inputs. The ensuing investigations and rectification of the flaws delayed test flying by several months, resuming in December 1993.[12]

The first order also included an option for another 110, which became a firm order in June 1992.[18][20] Batch Two consisted of up to 96 one-seat JAS 39As and 14 two-seat JAS 39Bs.[18] The JAS 39B variant is 66 cm (26 in) longer than the JAS 39A to accommodate a second seat; this also necessitated the deletion of the built-in cannon and a reduced internal fuel capacity.[18] By April 1994, five prototype Gripens and two series-production aircraft had been completed; the only major decision remaining was to select a beyond-visual-range missile (BVR).[21]

A third batch of Gripens was ordered in June 1997. This batch called for 50 upgraded single-seat JAS 39Cs and 14 JAS 39D two-seaters.[18] Batch Three aircraft possess more powerful and updated avionics, in-flight refuelling capability with the provisions of retractable probes on the aircraft's starboard side, and an on-board oxygen-generating system for longer missions.[18] To test the viability of in-flight refuelling, Flight Refuelling Ltd outfitted a prototype (39–4), which was successfully tested with a Royal Air Force VC10 in 1988.[18] Deliveries of this batch ran from 2003 to 2008.[18][22]

Teaming agreements

During the 1995 Paris Air Show, Saab Military Aircraft and British Aerospace (BAe, now BAE Systems) formed the joint-venture company, Saab-BAe Gripen AB with the goal of adapting, manufacturing, marketing and supporting Gripen worldwide.[18][23] The deal involved the conversion of the A and B series aircraft to the "export" C and D series, which developed the Gripen for compatibility with NATO standards.[24] This cooperation was extended in 2001 with the formation of Gripen International to promote export sales.[25] In December 2004, Saab and BAE Systems announced that BAE was to sell a large portion of its stake in Saab, and that Saab would take full responsibility for marketing and export orders of the Gripen.[26] In June 2011, Saab announced that an internal investigation had revealed evidence of acts of corruption, including money laundering, that had been performed by former partner BAE Systems in South Africa, a customer of the Gripen.[27]

On 26 April 2007, Norway signed a NOK 150 million joint-development agreement with Saab to cooperate in the development programme of the Gripen, including the integration of Norwegian industries in the development of future versions of the aircraft.[28] In June of the same year, Saab also entered an agreement with Thales Norway A/S concerning the development of communications systems for the Gripen fighter; this order was the first to be awarded under the provisions of the Letter of Agreement signed by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence and Gripen International in April 2007.[28] As a result of the United States diplomatic cables leak in 2010, it was revealed that US diplomats had become concerned by cooperation between Norway and Sweden on the topic of the Gripen, and had sought to exert pressure against a Norwegian purchase of the aircraft.[29]

In December 2007, as part of Gripen International's marketing efforts in Denmark, a deal was signed with Danish technology supplier Terma A/S which allows them to participate in an industrial cooperation programme over the next 10–15 years. The total value of the programme is estimated at over 10 billion Danish krone, and is partly dependent on a procurement of the Gripen by Denmark.[30]

Controversies, scandals, and costs

The decision to develop an advanced multi-role fighter was a major undertaking for a relatively small country like Sweden. The predecessor Viggen, despite being less advanced and less expensive, had been criticized for using up too much of the Swedish military budget and was branded "a cuckoo in the military nest" by critics as early as 1971. At the 1972 party congress of the Social Democrats, the dominant party in Swedish politics since the 1950s, a motion was passed to stop any future projects to develop advanced military aircraft.[31] The decision to approve the project in 1982 passed by a narrow of margin of 176 for and 167 against in the Riksdag with the entire Social Democratic voting against the proposal due to demands for more studies. A new bill was introduced in 1983[32] and a final approval was given in April 1983 with the condition that the project was to have a predetermined fixed-price contract,[33] a decision that would later be criticized as unrealistic due to later cost overruns.[31]

According to Annika Brändström, in the aftermath of the crashes in 1989 and 1993 during the aircraft's development, the Gripen project risked losing credibility and weakening of its public image. There was public speculation that failures to address the technical problems exposed in the first crash had directly contributed to the second crash and thus had been avoidable.[34] Brändström observed that elements of the national media had called for greater public accountability and explanation of the project; ill-informed media analysis had also proved to distort public knowledge of the Gripen.[35] The sitting Conservative government was quick to initiate efforts to maintain political support for the Gripen and endorse the aircraft; Minister of Defense Anders Björck issuing a public reassurance that the project was very positive for Sweden.[36]

In relation to the marketing efforts of the Gripen to multiple countries, including South Africa, Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary, there were media reports of widespread bribery and corruption by BAE Systems and Saab.[37] In 2007, Swedish journalists reported that bribes equivalent to millions of dollars had been paid by BAE,[38][39] and was followed by investigative reporting on BAE Systems in the UK and South Africa.[40][41] Following criminal investigations in eight countries, only one individual in Austria, Alfons Mensdorf-Pouilly, was prosecuted for bribery, the scandal tarnished the international reputation of the Gripen, BAE Systems, Saab, and Sweden.[42]

The cost of the Gripen has been the subject of frequent speculation and news attention. In 2008, Saab announced reduced earnings for that year, and partly attributed that to increased marketing costs of the aircraft.[43] In 2008, Saab disputed Norway's cost calculations for the Gripen NG as having been overestimated and in excess of real world performance with existing operators.[44] A 2007 report by the European Union Institute for Security Studies stated the total research and development costs of Gripen to be €1.84 billion.[45] According to a white paper independently produced by Jane's Information Group in 2012, the operational cost of the Gripen's was the lowest among a flightline of modern fighters, estimated to cost $4,700 per flight hour.[46] According to the Swedish Ministry of Defense, the cost estimation of the full system, comprising 60 Gripen E/F, amounts to SEK 90 billion distributed over the period 2013–2042. The Swedish Armed Forces estimates that the option of maintaining 100 aircraft of C/D-model until 2042 would cost SEK 60 billion, while the option of buying aircraft from a foreign supplier would cost SEK 110 billion.[47]

Further developments

In 2007, a two-seat "New Technology Demonstrator" or "Gripen Demo" aircraft was ordered; it was presented on 23 April 2008.[48] It has increased fuel capacity, a more powerful powerplant, increased payload capacity, upgraded avionics and other improvements. The demonstrator serves as the testbed for numerous upgrades[49] for the new Gripen NG (Next Generation) variant, also referred to as Gripen E/F, and MS 21.[50][51] This version is powered by the General Electric F414G, a development of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet's engine. The engine produces 20 per cent more thrust at 98 kN (22,000 lbf), enabling a supercruise speed of Mach 1.1 with air-to-air missiles (AAM).[52]

Compared to the Gripen D, the Gripen NG's maximum take off weight has increased from 14,000 to 16,000 kg (30,900–35,300 lb) with an increase in empty weight of 200 kg (440 lb). Due to relocated main undercarriage, the internal fuel capacity has increased by 40 per cent; combat radius will be 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) with six AAMs plus drop tanks, allowing for 30 minutes on station.[53] Ferry range will be 4,070 km (2,200 nmi) with drop tanks; the fuselage also has two additional hardpoints. The PS-05/A radar is replaced by a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, Raven ES-05, based on Selex ES's Vixen AESA radar family.[54][55] Amongst other improvements, the new radar is to be capable of scanning over a greatly increased field of view and improved range.[56] The Gripen Demo's maiden flight was conducted on 27 May 2008, it lasted about 30 minutes and reached a maximum altitude of about 6,400 meters (21,000 ft).[57] On 21 January 2009, the Gripen Demo flew at Mach 1.2 without reheat to test its supercruise capability.[58]

Saab performed study work on an aircraft carrier-based version in the 1990s. In 2009, Saab launched the Sea Gripen project in response to India's request for information on a carrier-borne aircraft. Brazil also potentially needs carrier aircraft.[59][60] Speaking in 2013, Saab's Lennart Sindahl stated that development of an optionally-manned version of the Gripen E capable of flying unmanned operations was being explored by the firm; further development of the optionally-manned and carrier versions would require the commitment of a customer.[61][62]

Sweden awarded Saab a four-year contract in 2010 to improve the Gripen's radar and other equipment, integrate new weapons, and lower its operating costs.[63] In June 2010, Saab stated that Sweden plans to order the Gripen NG under the JAS 39E/F designation, and is to enter service in 2017 or possibly earlier if export orders are received.[51] On 25 August 2012, Sweden announced it planned to buy 40–60 Gripen E/Fs; this followed Switzerland's decision to buy 22 of the E/F variants.[64] The Swedish government approved the decision to purchase 60 Gripen Es on 17 January 2013,[65] with the first deliveries pushed back to 2018.[66] Construction of the first pre-production demonstration aircraft began in July 2013.[67][68]



The Gripen was designed to operate as one component of a networked national defence system; as such, information can be exchanged automatically in real-time between Gripen aircraft and ground facilities.[69] In order to deliver a high level of manoeuvrability in conjunction with good short takeoff and landing performance, Saab chose to adopt a delta wing-canard design with relaxed stability.[70] The Gripen is powered by the Volvo-Flygmotor RM12 engine, a derivative of General Electric F404; changes include greater thrust and more stringent birdstrike protection.[71]

The Gripen has favourable flight characteristics, such as low drag properties, which enables faster and more efficient flight, as well as either increased range or a larger equipment payload.[70] To allow operations from short strips, the Gripen is capable of maintaining a fast sink rate and is strengthened to withstand the stresses of conducting short landings.[72] The canards decrease landing distance, angling downwards to act as air brakes.[70] The main wing is also fitted with flaps and elevons to change the flow of air around the wing.[73]

On average, the aircraft's content, 67% is sourced from Swedish or European suppliers, and 33% from the United States.[3] Some Gripens have been heavily customised to meet customer requirements or to include certain local suppliers; South African Gripens feature a considerable number of avionics components produced by firms based in South Africa; systems such as the communications suite and electronic warfare system were domestically manufactured and fitted in place of a standard fit.[74] Saab has also provided several technology-transfer arrangements with foreign operators. As part of their bid for an Indian contract, Gripen International offered to share the source code of the Gripen NG's AESA radar with India.[75]

Armaments and equipment

Saab describes the Gripen as a "swing-role aircraft", stating that it is capable of performing various mission profiles during a single sortie.[76] A unique aspect of the Gripen's capabilities is that it can rapidly rearm and sortie from Forward Operating Bases and even public roads when required.[77] Saab's campaign director for India Edvard de la Motte commented that: "If you buy Gripen, select where you want your weapons from. Israel, Sweden, Europe, US… South America. It’s up to the customer".[77]

The Gripen is typically capable of carrying up to 14,330 lb (6.50 t) of armament or equipment.[73] Munitions include various missiles, laser-guided bombs, and a single 27 mm Mauser BK-27 cannon;[78] missiles include the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile, the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile, and the RBS-15 anti-ship missile.[79] External reconnaissance and targeting modules, such as the LITENING targeting pod, have been employed upon the Gripen by some operators.[80] The Gripen's Ternav tactical navigation system combines information from multiple onboard systems such as the air data computer, radar altimeter, and GPS to continuously calculate the Gripen's location.[81]

The Gripen's source code and technical documentation is made available to operators, which allows for the integration of additional munitions and equipment to be performed by the operator, as well as other improvements to the aircraft.[82] In 2010, the Swedish Air Force's Gripen fleet had finished receiving the MS19 upgrade which enabled the use of a range of new weapons, including the long-range MBDA Meteor missile, the short-range IRIS-T missile and the GBU-49 laser-guided bomb.[83] A subsequent upgrade programme, MS20, being conducted from 2011 to 2013, includes full compatibility with the Meteor missile.[84]


The total-integration avionics make the Gripen a "programmable" aircraft; software updates can change the aircraft's performance and allow for the adoption of additional operational roles and equipment over time.[73] The ADA programming language was adopted for the Gripen, and is used for the primary flight controls on the final prototypes from 1996 onwards and all subsequent production aircraft.[85] The Gripen's software is continuously being improved and changed to add new capabilities; in comparison the preceding Viggen was updated only as per an 18-month schedule.[86] In May 2010, Sweden issued a contract to Saab for the integration of several new computers and display systems and to improve the handling of sensory information, these are to be installed by 2020.[87]

The cockpit was designed with the express purpose of giving the pilot a high level of situational awareness. It is dominated by a head-up display and three large multi-function displays;[88] in two-seat variants the rear seat's displays can independently operate from the pilot in the forward seat, a useful capability during electronic warfare, reconnaissance and command and control activities.[88] The Gripen has sensor fusion functionality and a full-digital mission recording system is capable of capturing all sensory and onboard system information through a mission for later playback.[88]

The primary flight controls are compatible with the HOTAS control principle; the centrally mounted stick, in addition to flying the Gripen, also directly controls the cockpit displays and the weapon systems.[89] The Gripen also features the Cobra Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS), developed by Saab and BAE and based on the Striker HMDS used on the Eurofighter.[90] By 2008, the Cobra HMDS was fully integrated on operational aircraft, and is available as an option for export customers; it has been retrofitted into older Swedish and South African Gripens.[90] In the event of ejection, the Cobra HDMS was developed so that all connections between the pilot and the cockpit can be rapidly and safely detached.[91]

The Gripen uses the modern PS-05/A pulse-doppler X-band radar, developed by Ericsson and GEC-Marconi, which is based on the latter's advanced Blue Vixen radar for the Sea Harrier, this was also the basis for the Eurofighter's CAPTOR radar as well.[92] The radar is capable of detecting, locating and identifying targets 120 km (74 mi) away,[93] and automatically tracking multiple targets in the upper and lower spheres, on the ground and sea or in the air, in all weather conditions. It can guide several air to air missiles at beyond visual range to multiple targets simultaneously.[94]

Usability and maintenance

During the Cold War, the Swedish Armed Forces were preparing to defend against a possible invasion from the Soviet Union; in order to maintain an air defence capacity, Sweden elected to disperse its military aircraft across the country in the event of an invasion.[95] The JAS 39 was designed with the ability to take off from snow-covered landing strips of only 800-metre (2,600 ft).[70] Another requirement for this role was a short-turnaround time of just ten minutes; a team composed of a technician and five conscripts would be able to re-arm, refuel, and perform basic inspections and servicing inside that time window before returning to flight.[70][96]

One principle of the airframe's design was that many components do not require maintenance or are of low maintenance cost; combined with the aircraft's maintenance-friendly layout, it should mean that the Gripen will have a longer life than the preceding Viggen fighter, according to one source this is expected to be around 50 years.[86] Each aircraft is fitted with a Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) that monitors and records the performance of various systems, and provide information to technicians to assist in servicing the Gripen.[97] Additionally, the manufacturer operates a continuous improvement programme for the Gripen; towards this end, information from the HUMS and other Gripen systems can be submitted for analysis.[98]

Operational history


The Swedish Air Force placed a total order for 204 Gripens in three batches.[99] The first delivery occurred on 8 June 1993, when 39102 was handed over to the Flygvapnet during a ceremony at Linköping; the last was handed over on 13 December 1996.[18][20] The air force received its first Batch two example on 19 December 1996.[18] Instead of the fixed-price agreement of Batch One, Batch Two aircraft were paid as a "target price" concept, any cost under/overruns would be split between FMV and Saab.[18]

The JAS 39 entered service with the F 7 Wing (F 7 Skaraborgs Flygflottilj) on 1 November 1997.[100][101] The final Batch three aircraft was delivered to FMV on 26 November 2008.[22] This was accomplished at 10% less than the agreed-upon price for the batch, putting the JAS 39C flyaway cost at under US$30 million.[22] This batch of Gripens was equipped for in-flight refuelling by specially equipped TP84s (known internationally as the C-130 Hercules) already in service.[18] In 2007, a programme was started to upgrade 31 of the air force's JAS 39A/B fighters to JAS 39C/Ds.[102] The SAF has a combined 134 JAS 39s in service in January 2013.[103]

On 29 March 2011, it was announced that eight Gripens would be deployed to support the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya. Sweden's role to the no-fly zone did not involve conducting ground-attack sorties.[104] Journalist Tim Hepher speculated that sales of several modern aircraft, such as the Gripen, may be stimulated by operations over Libya.[105] On 8 June 2011, the Swedish government announced an agreement to extend the deployment of the five Gripens.[106] As of 24 October 2011, Gripens have flown more than 650 combat missions, almost 2,000 flight hours and delivered approximately 2000 reconnaissance reports to NATO.[107]

On 25 August 2012, the Swedish government announced that a fourth batch of the modified E/F variant would be ordered by Saab. A total of 40–60 aircraft is expected to be bought. The new variant is planned to be in service by 2023.[64][108] The Swedish armed forces reports that 60 Gripens is the minimum to defend Swedish Airspace and numbers up to 80 are more realistic.[109][110]

In November 2012, Lieutenant Colonel Lars Helmrich of the Swedish Air Force testified to the Riksdag on the importance of the Gripen E upgrade, stating that the current version of the Gripen would be outdated in air to air combat by 2020.[111] In 2013, NATO jet fighters responded to a simulated attack by Russian bombers against Stockholm; Swedish Gripens were not available to intercept Russian aircraft.[112][113]

The Swedish Air Force wants to upgrade 60–80 Gripens to this standard by 2020.[109][114] On 11 December 2012, the Swedish Riksdag approved the purchase of 40 to 60 E/F aircraft, but with an option to cancel if at least 20 aircraft are not ordered by other customers.[115] The Government of Sweden approved the deal for 60 Gripen Es on 17 January 2013. Deliveries will begin in 2018 and be completed in 2027.[65]

NATO users

The Czech Air Force and the Hungarian Air Force operate the Gripen; each currently leases 14 ex-Swedish Air Force aircraft, with the option of eventually acquiring them.[116]

Czech Republic

In December 2001, the Czech Government announced that the Gripen had been selected, and stated that a major factor in this decision was the provision of a generous financing and offset programme by Gripen International.[117] Hungary also received an offset arrangement, valued at 110 per cent of the cost of the 14 fighters.[118] Hungary's decision to lease the Gripen came as a surprise; earlier the government had announced the intention to procure the F-16 instead.[119] Leased for a period of 10 years for 780 million Euros, the 12 single-seaters and two JAS39D double seat trainers, are expected to be renewed for another term in excess of 10 years.[120]


Initially, Hungary had planned to lease aircraft from Batch II, however the inability to conduct aerial refuelling and employ US guided weapons led to an upgraded variant being developed to meet NATO requirements.[121] The export Gripen underwent refuelling tests in 1998 at Boscombe Down, UK, in response to Hungary's needs.[122]

United Kingdom

The Empire Test Pilots' School (ETPS) in the United Kingdom has used the Gripen for advanced fast jet training of test pilots since 1999.[123]

South Africa

In 1999, South Africa signed a contract with BAE/Saab for the procurement of 26 Gripens (C/D standard) with minor modification to meet their requirements.[24] Deliveries to the South African Air Force commenced in April 2008.[124] By April 2011, 18 aircraft (nine two-seater aircraft and nine single-seaters) had been delivered.[125] On 13 March 2013, South African Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula reported that "almost half of the SAAF Gripens" have been stored because of insufficient budget to keep them all flying. Of the 26 Gripens delivered, 12 are in long-term storage, with 10 or fewer being operational.[126] While the establishment of a Gripen Fighter Weapon School at Overberg Air Force Base in South Africa had been under consideration, in July 2013 Saab ruled out the option due to a lack of local support for the initiative; Thailand is one alternative location under consideration.[127] Since April 2013, South African contractors have taken over prime responsibility for maintenance work on the Gripen fleet, all previous support contracts with Saab had expired; this arrangement has led to fears that extended operations may not be possible due to lack of proper maintenance.[128] Brigadier-General John Bayne has testified that the Gripen met the minimum requirements of the SAAF, as the country faced no military threats.[129] In September 2013, the SAAF decided not to place a number of its Gripen fighters in long-term preservation. Instead, the cheaper alternative will be rotating all 26 aircraft, with some held in short-term storage under corrosion-controlled conditions between flying cycles to keep all planes operational and evenly spread flying hours.[130]


The Royal Thai Air Force ordered six Gripens (two single-seat C-models and four two-seat D-models) in February 2008 to replace some F-5s, with deliveries beginning in 2011.[131] Six more Gripen Cs were ordered in November 2010 with deliveries from 2013.[132] The Gripens are to be based at Surat Thani Airbase.[133] The first of the six aircraft were delivered on 22 February 2011.[134] The next three were delivered on 2 April 2013, while the remaining three were delivered in September 2013.[135] It is believed that Thailand may eventually order as many as 40 Gripens.[136]

Potential and future operators

Saab's Head of exports Eddy de La Motte has stated that the Gripen's chances have improved as nations waver in their commitments to the F-35.[137] Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group has attributed difficulty securing export sales to the Swedish government's inability to offer the same sort of strategic partnership as some rival aircraft manufacturing nations.[138]


In 2013 Canada reopened its plan to replace the ageing CF-18 Hornet fighter. Originally planned to acquire 65 F-35 Lightning IIs, the program has fallen under scrutiny for cost overruns and other expenses. The JAS 39 is one of the contenders alongside the F/A-18E Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Dassault Rafale.[139] In June 2013, following discussions with Canada during the evaluation process, Saab decided to withdraw from the competition, saying "conditions were not yet ripe for us". The Gripen may be re-entered if conditions change.[140]


In October 2008, it was reported that the Brazilian Air Force had selected three finalists in their F-X2 programme. They are Dassault Rafale, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Gripen NG.[141] The aircraft involved is to total 36 and possibly up to 120 later. The decision was expected on 2 October 2009. On 2 February 2009, Saab submitted a tender for 36 Gripen NGs to the Brazilian Air Force Command.[142] On 5 January 2010, it was reported in the media that the final evaluation report by the Brazilian Air Force placed the Gripen ahead of the other two contenders. The decisive factor was apparently the overall cost of the new fighters, both in terms of unit cost, and operating and maintenance costs.[143] Some of the media reported that in early 2010 the Rafale had been chosen by the Defense Ministry,[144] However in February 2011, the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, reportedly selected the F/A-18.[145][146] The decision has since been delayed to 2012 due to financial constraints.[147] On 19 January 2012, the Brazilian minister of defence said he believed the decision for the FX-2 will be taken in the first half of 2012.[148]


The Croatian Air Force had announced plans to replace their MiG-21 bis aircraft, possibly with either the JAS 39 Gripen or the F-16 Falcon.[149] On 27 March 2008, the Swedish Defence Material Administration and Saab responded to Croatia's request for information regarding the procurement of 12 aircraft.[150] Due to economic and political reasons, the Croatian Air Force postponed the decision and was looking at a possible joint purchase with Slovenia of 12 aircraft as of October 2010.[151] Croatia was formerly offered eight Gripen C/D fighters in October 2012.[152]


In 2007, Denmark signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Defence Ministers of Sweden and Denmark to evaluate the Gripen, pending Denmark's future replacement of their fleet of 48 F-16s. Denmark has also requested new variants of Gripens to be developed that will include new avionics, a larger and more powerful engine, larger payload and, most importantly, longer range.[30] This request was the basis for the Gripen NG, which satisfies all Denmark's requirements, such as the more powerful F414G engine.[153] Denmark has since delayed the decision over the purchase several times,[154] but with their reconsideration of the F-35 purchase, Saab in 2013 indicated that the Gripen was now one of four contenders for the Danish purchase.[155]


On 7 July 2008, Dagens Industri reported that the Netherlands announced it would evaluate Gripen NG together with four other competitors and announce the result in the end of 2008.[156] Saab responded on 25 August 2008 to a 'Replacement Questionnaire' issued by the Dutch Ministry of Defence, offering 85 aircraft to the Royal Netherlands Air Force.[157] The Netherlands evaluated the Gripen NG against the F-35.[158] On 18 December 2008, media reported that the Netherlands evaluated the F-35 ahead of the Gripen NG, citing a better performance-price relation.[159][160] On 13 January 2009, NRC Handelsblad claimed that, according to Swedish sources, Saab has made an offer to the Dutch to deliver 85 Gripens for 4.8 billion euro, about 1 billion euro cheaper than budgeted for the F-35.[161] This price includes training of pilots and maintenance for the next 30 years.[162]


In January 2008, the Swiss Defence Material Administration invited Gripen International to submit initial bids for supplying the Gripen NG as a replacement for their ageing F-5s.[163] Saab responded with an initial proposal on 2 July 2008.[164] Some 22 aircraft were expected to be procured. Other contenders were the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon fighters.[165] On 30 November 2011, the Swiss government announced its decision to buy 22 Gripen NG fighters.[166][167][168] The contract for the 22 aircraft would total 3.1 billion Swiss francs.[169]

In early 2012, a confidential evaluation report of the Swiss Air Force's tests of the three contenders in 2009, was leaked to the press. It rated the Gripen as performing substantially worse than the Rafale and the Eurofighter. The Gripen was assessed as satisfactory for reconnaissance missions, but unsatisfactory for air policing or air-to-air and strike missions.[170][171] The evaluation was of the JAS 39C/D, while the more advanced Gripen NG was bid.[172] The parliamentary security commission found that the Gripen offered the most risks, but voted to go ahead with the fighter because it was the cheapest option.[173]

On 25 August 2012, the plan to order was confirmed by both the Swedish and Swiss authorities.[174] The Swiss Air Force is to order 22 single-seater JAS 39Es. The aircraft are expected to be delivered from 2018 to 2021 at a fixed price of CHF 3.126 billion ($3.27 billion) which includes research and development costs, mission planning systems, initial spares and support, training, and certification. The Swedish government guarantees the price, performance and operational suitability of the aircraft. Eleven current generation (8 JAS 39Cs and 3 JAS 39Ds) Gripen fighters will be leased from 2016 to 2020 to train Swiss fighter pilots while avoiding expensive upkeep of the current F-5s.[175][176][177][178] In 2013, Saab moved to increase the offsets to Swiss industry above 100% of the deal value after the upper house of the Swiss parliament voted down the financing for the deal.[179] Then on 9 April 2013, the lower house's security policy commission postponed discussions until its next session in late August to allow time to receive clarification about contract details.[180] On 27 August 2013, the National Council's Security Commission approved the purchase[181][182] while both the lower house and the upper house of the parliament approved it later on the 11 September 2013[183][184] and 18 September 2013[185][186] respectively. It is expected that a national referendum will be voted in 2014.

United Kingdom

Following a meeting with Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials in May 2011, Saab agreed to establish a development centre in the UK to expand on the Sea Gripen concept. Saab chief executive Håkan Buskhe stated: "The MoD is looking for competition". The decision to proceed to a flight demonstrator will be made in late 2012.[187]


In September 2006, Bulgaria announced they were considering the replacement of ageing MiG-21s, either with 16 JAS 39C/D Gripens, or 16 used F-16s.[188] In January 2013, the Bulgarian government was considering the replacement of ageing MiG-21s and Su-25s with 9 new JAS 39C/D Gripens, used Eurofighters Tranche 1 or used F-16s to replace the MiG-21s.[189]

Other nations that have expressed interest in Gripen include Finland,[190] Oman,[191] Slovakia,[192][193] and the Philippines.[194]

In September 2013, Saab's CEO Håkan Buskhe said he envisions Gripen sales to reach 400 or 450 airplanes.[195]

Failed bids


The Gripen was a contender for the Indian MRCA competition for 126 multirole combat aircraft.[196] In April 2008, Gripen International offered the Next Generation Gripen for India's tender[197] and opened an office in New Delhi in order to support its efforts in the Indian market.[198] On 4 February 2009, Saab announced that it had partnered with India's Tata Group to develop the new Gripen variant to fit India's needs.[199]

The Indian Air Force (IAF) conducted extensive field trials and evaluated Gripen's flight performance, logistics capability, weapons systems, advanced sensors and weapons firing.[200] In April 2011, the IAF rejected Gripen's bid in favour of the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale.[201] Senior Indian Air Force officials, while happy with the improved capabilities of Gripen NG, identified its high reliance on US-supplied hardware, including electronics, weaponry and the GE F414 engine, as a factor that may hamper its export potential.[202]


The Gripen C/D was one of contenders in competition for 48 new multirole fighters for the Polish Air Force started in 2001, the government previously planned to purchase 64 F-16A/B MLU. On 27 December 2002, the Polish Defence Minister announced the selection of the F-16C/D Block 50/52+.[203] The third candidate was the Dassault Mirage 2000-5 Mk 2. According to Stephen Larrabee, the choice to go with the F-16 was heavily influenced by a lucrative offset agreement by Lockheed Martin, and the political emphasis placed on the strategic relationship between Poland, the US, and NATO.[121] The Lockheed Martin's offer was valued at $3.5 billion and 170% offset, while the Swedish-British bid at €3.2 billion with 146% offset. Both Gripen International and Dassault Aviation described the decision as political.[204] According to a former Polish military defence vice-minister, the JAS 39 offer was better. Saab's offer also included participation in fighter research and technologies.[205]


On 18 January 2008, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence issued a Request for Binding Information (RBI) to the Swedish Defence Material Administration,[206] who responded in April 2008 with an offer for 48 Gripens.[207][208] On 20 November 2008, the Norwegian government announced that the F-35 Lightning II had been selected for the Royal Norwegian Air Force, stating that the F-35 is the only candidate meeting all of its operational requirements;[209] media reports have claimed the requirements were tilted in the F-35's favour.[210]

Saab and the Swedish defence minister Sten Tolgfors have criticised the selection, stating that there were flaws in Norway's cost calculations for the Gripen NG.[44] The offer was for 48 aircraft over 20 years, but Norway had extrapolated it to operating 57 aircraft over 30 years, thus doubling the cost; Norway's operational cost projections also failed to relate to the operational costs of Sweden's Gripens. Norway also calculated with more attrition losses than what Sweden considered reasonable. According to Tolgfors, Norway's decision will complicate further export deals for the Gripen.[211][212] In December 2010 leaked United States diplomatic cables revealed that the USA deliberately delayed Sweden's request for access to a US AESA radar until after Norway's selection. The cables also indicated that Norwegian consideration of the Gripen "was just a show" and that Norway had decided to purchase the F-35 due to "high-level political pressure" from the US.[29]


The Romanian Air Force announced they would replace their MiG-21 LanceR aircraft beginning in 2008, possibly with JAS 39 Gripen, F-16 Fighting Falcon or Eurofighter Typhoon.[213] On 23 March 2010, the Romanian Ministry of Defence decided to purchase 24 ex-USAF F-16s.[214] The bids of both the Gripen and the Eurofighter were re-submitted in May 2010; both parties matched the price of the F-16 proposal in the revision.[215]


  • JAS 39A: The initial fighter version that entered service with the Swedish Air Force in 1996. A modification program has started and 31 of these will be upgraded to C/D standard.[216]
  • JAS 39B: The two-seat version of the A variant. It is 0.66 m (2 ft 2 in) longer than the single seat version.[18] The rear cockpit does not have a HUD, but an image from the front cockpit HUD can be presented on the rear cockpit flight data display; version has reduced fuel load and no internal gun.
  • JAS 39C: The NATO-compatible version of Gripen with extended capabilities in terms of armament, electronics, etc. It uses large colour displays with English language, feet and knots instead of meters and km/h. This variant can also be refuelled in flight.[24]
  • JAS 39D: The two-seat version of the C variant.[24]
  • Gripen Demo: A two-seat technology demonstrator for improvements slated for the Gripen NG program.[57] Changes include a new engine (F414G), SELEX Galileo Raven ES-05 AESA radar, increased fuel capacity, higher payload, upgraded avionics and other improvements. The Gripen NG was a contender for the Indian MRCA competition[197] under the name "Gripen IN" (India).
  • JAS 39E: Production version from the Gripen NG program. 60 single-seater JAS 39Es are on order for Sweden, 22 Es are expected for Switzerland.[65][115]
  • JAS 39F: The two-seat version of the E variant. As of 2013, none have been ordered. In 2013, it was rumored that SAAB reached a joint development agreement with Boeing to reposition the JAS 39F "Super" Gripen as a training aircraft,[217] but this was later denied.[218]
  • Gripen UCAV: A proposed unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) variant; Saab are reportedly investigating an optionally-manned version of the Gripen E.[62]


There were 186 Gripens in service with military users as of January 2013.[103]

The Czech Air Force has 14 Gripens on lease; these include 12 single-seat C models and two two-seat D models, in operation in January 2013.[103]
The Hungarian Air Force operates 14 Gripens (12 C-models and two D-models) on a lease-and-buy arrangement as of January 2013.[103]
The South African Air Force (SAAF) ordered 26 aircraft; 17 single-seat C-models and nine two-seater D-models.[14] The first delivery, a two-seater, took place on 30 April 2008.[124] The South African Air Force has nine single-seaters and nine two-seaters in use as of January 2013.[103]
The Swedish Air Force originally ordered 204 aircraft, including 28 two-seaters. Sweden leases 28 of the aircraft, to the Czech and Hungarian Air Forces. In 2007, the Swedish government stated that only around 100 JAS 39C/D Gripens will be kept in an operational state.[219] The SAF has 134 JAS 39s, including 50 JAS 39As, 13 JAS 39Bs, 60 JAS 39Cs and 11 JAS 39D Gripens in inventory in January 2013.[103]
The Royal Thai Air Force has ordered 12 JAS 39 Gripens (eight single-seat JAS 39C and four JAS 39D two-seaters).[134] It had six JAS 39s, including four JAS 39Cs, and two JAS 39Ds in use as of January 2013.[103] Nine were delivered in April 2013.[135] Another three were delivered in September 2013.[135] On 18 October, the Thai government announced their intentions to purchase another six Gripens [220]
Empire Test Pilots' School operates Gripens for training. ETPS instructor pilots and students undergo simulator training with the Swedish Air Force, and go on to fly the two-seater Gripen at Saab in Linköping, in two training campaigns per year (Spring and Autumn). The agreement was renewed in 2008.[221]

Aircraft on display

Accidents and incidents

As of July 2011, the Gripen has been involved in eight incidents, including five hull-loss accidents with no loss of life.[223]

The first two crashes, in 1989 and 1993 respectively, occurred while displaying the Gripen to the wider public and resulted in considerable negative reporting in media. The first crash was filmed by a news crew from Sveriges Television and led to calls from previous critics of the project to cancel development altogether.[224] The second crash resulted in a minor scandal since it occurred during the 1993 Stockholm Water Festival in central Stockholm with tens of thousands of spectators present. A human tragedy was narrowly avoided as the aircraft crashed in an empty area on the island of Långholmen. The pilot ejected in time and was unscathed, but one woman received burns that required hospitalization and only 14 other individuals reported injuries of a "psychological nature". The event led to media criticizing the decision to display Gripen over large crowds and brought back memories of the embarrassing 1989 crash.[225][226] Both the 1989 and 1993 crashes were related to flight control software issues.[227]

Specifications (JAS 39 Gripen C/D)

External images
A detailed and labeled cutaway drawing of the Gripen from Saab

Data from Saab Gripen[101][228][229][230][231]

General characteristics
  • Crew: 1 (2 for JAS 39D)
  • Payload: 5,300 kg (11,700 lb)
  • Length: 14.1 m (46 ft 3 in); two-seater: 14.8 m (48 ft 5 in)
  • Wingspan: 8.4 m (27 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in)
  • Wing area: 30.0 m² (323 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 6,800 kg[229] (12,600 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 8,500 kg (18,700 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 14,000 kg (31,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Volvo Aero RM12 afterburning turbofan
    • Dry thrust: 54 kN (12,100 lbf)
    • Thrust with afterburner: 80.5 kN (18,100 lbf)
  • Wheel track: 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)



See also

  • Flygsystem 2020
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