Saab carries out first test flight of biofuel-powered Gripen aircraft


Saab has conducted a series of test flights of its JAS 39 Gripen powered solely by biofuel made of rapeseed oil.

The company says the flights mark the first time a single-engine fighter has flown powered by 100% biofuel, and are part of a wider initiative that aims to reduce the environmental impact of aviation.

Saab Future Business, Aeronautics Research and Technology director Göran Bengtsson said: “Demonstrating that Gripen can fly with 100% biofuel is an important step in making Gripen future-safe.

“Gaining independence from imports of oil is important from a defence standpoint and opens the way for additional sources of fuel, which creates flexibility.

"It's naturally also good if we, in the long term, can contribute to reducing environmental impact from military aviation.”

Saab used a dual-seat Gripen D for the first biofuel demonstration flight, which was conducted at its facility in Linköping, Sweden.

"The test team noted no differences between the biofuel and the ordinary jet fuel, which means it can be used as a fully satisfactory alternative."

Bengtsson added: “The test team noted no differences between the biofuel and the ordinary jet fuel, which means that biofuel can be used as a fully satisfactory alternative to ordinary jet fuel in Gripen.

“Flying with biofuel in operational service with Gripen requires, however, further certification of the fuel and access to fuel in the amounts that correspond to operational needs.”

The project was carried out in collaboration with the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV), Saab and GKN Aerospace, which produces the RM12 engine for the Gripen C / D.

The biofuel used in the tests is known asCHCJ-5, and can be used as replacement for normal jet fuel without the need for engine changes or modifications, GKN Aerospace noted.


Image: Saab used a dual-seat Gripen D for the first biofuel demonstration flight. Photo: courtesy of Saab AB.