Gripen F demonstrator

Swiss Air Force and federal defence procurement agency (Armasuisse) pilots have successfully completed flight tests of the new Saab-built Gripen F demonstrator aircraft at the company’s facility in Linkoping, Sweden.

Conducted in collaboration with Saab from 10 to 13 December 2012, the two test flights were aimed at validating the integration of new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar into the aircraft, as part of further development of Gripen C/D aircraft into the upgraded Gripen E/F fighter.

Features evaluated during the four-day testing programme include radar assembly, cooling, electrical power supply, as well as data exchange between the radar and the mission computer.

Armasuisse Gripen programme director Jurg Weber said the agency is fully satisfied with the progress achieved by the upgrade programme.

The resulting data recorded and simultaneously transmitted by the aircraft through a protected connection will now be used by Saab and AESA radar manufacturer, Selex Galileo, for further development.

The new AESA radar prototype is scheduled to undergo a comprehensive testing programme in 2013 and 2014 under close monitoring of the Swiss Air Force, which is planning to procure 22 single-seater JAS 39E aircraft as part of a multi-billion dollar contract to help replace its F-5 Tiger fleet.

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Announced in August 2012, the CHF3.126bn ($3.4bn) fixed price contract covers delivery of 22 aircraft along with mission planning systems, initial spares and support, as well as training and certification, starting from 2018 to 2021.

Powered by a more powerful engine, the Gripen E/F, also known as the next-generation Gripen, is an advanced fighter aircraft featuring enhanced performance to address the emerging air defence requirements.

Additional features include increased payload and internal fuel capacity, new avionics, electronic warfare suite and landing gear, AESA radar, passive infrared search and tracking sensor and two additional under-fuselage hand-points.

Image: Saab’s Gripen F demonstrator aircraft takes off during flight testing in Linkoping, Sweden. Photo: copyright of Saab Group.