Swedish defense giant Saab is ending the year on a high note. Last week, the aerospace firm finalized a deal with the Swedish Defense Materiel Administration to ensure continued operability and provide capability enhancements to the JAS 39 Gripen (Griffin) C/D fighter aircraft.
According to the company, the order value is approximately 3.5 billion krona ($340 million), and the contract period runs from 2023-2029. It also gives the Administration an option to place additional orders for capability enhancements in 2023.
Improving the Gripen
The JAS 39 Gripen is considered among the best fourth-generation multirole fighters in service today, and these improvements are meant to make it an even more capable aircraft.
The planes will be equipped with a new version of their engine, which will enhance flight performance, while a more effective electronic warfare system will also be introduced, allowing for increased attack capability with a new payload.
The order will also include an upgrade to Saab’s latest fighter radar. It provides increased performance with an emphasis on enhanced fighter capability and extended detection and tracking range. It further includes an upgraded and future-proof avionic system which, among other features, enables fast software updates of the sensor function.
“This upgrade will provide the Swedish Air Force with a significantly stronger fighter capability,” said Jonas Hjelm, head of aeronautics at Saab. “The contract is a big leap ahead in terms of radar performance and functionality, both for the hardware and software, and will future-proof the operational capability of Gripen C/D.”
The capability enhancement will also enable better interoperability between Gripen C/D and Gripen E variants and will include an upgrade of support systems and data links.
Interoperability was considered an important prerequisite, as the platforms will be used in parallel over many years.
From Scandinavia to South America
In addition to the improvements for the Swedish Gripen fleet, Brazil will officially adopt the aircraft – designated locally as the F-39 – into its combat fleet this week. The first five of Brazil’s Gripens were delivered between December 2021 and April 2022, and the fighters are now at the Anápolis Air Base near the federal capital, Brasilia.
They were initially used for testing and training flying from Sao Paulo and other places, Defense News first reported. The Gripens are set to become operational and officially part of the Brazilian Air Force’s 1st Aviation Group, and begin taking part in regular peacetime missions.
The South American nation placed its first order in October 2014, according to Defense News. It was worth $4.7 million for a total of 36 Gripen NGs, including 28 single-seat and eight two-seat aircraft. A supplementary batch of four aircraft was ordered in April 2022.
According to the latest reports, the final 15 aircraft already ordered, and units ordered in the future, will be assembled locally, and they will include a percentage of parts manufactured in Brazil.
The JAS 39 Gripen made its first flight in December 1988, and it entered operational service with the Swedish Air Force in 1997. A total of 204 aircraft in three batches were ordered by the Swedish Air Force, which has taken delivery of 74 aircraft to date.
It became the first true Swedish multirole combat aircraft – capable of conducting interception, ground attack, and reconnaissance.
Saab has struggled to find foreign buyers, but the Swedish firm’s luck has turned around this holiday season.
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.