Saab, the Swedish aerospace and defence company, is testing the oxygen and anti-gravity system of its new Gripen F aircraft in extreme conditions to identify potential deficiencies early in development. 

The tests are being conducted in the Life Support rig at Saab’s facility in Linkoping, Sweden, where the Gripen aircraft’s systems are pushed to their limits. The Life Support rig is installed in a high-altitude chamber that enables Saab engineers to simulate high altitude with extremely low pressure.

The tests are carried out on a ground aircraft rig, using test dummies connected to respiratory simulators and other systems. The oxygen and anti-gravity systems used in the tests are the same as those used in real aircraft.

The tests aim to verify the system’s reliability and safety even in the most demanding situations, such as high-altitude flights. The development of the Gripen F is ongoing in many different areas and at various locations, with both Swedish and Brazilian test engineers involved.

GlobalData’s “Brazil defence market 2022-2027” report claims that its air force has nearly doubled its order of F-39 E/F Gripen fighter jets, for which the contract was awarded to Saab, valued at $4bn. This contract also includes the technology transfer and assembly of fighter jets in Brazil.

Saab and Swedish Armed Forces signed a maintenance contract for the Gripen from 2023-2025 and allowing the Swedish Armed Forces to place more orders for the jet. Combat aircraft equates to 41.0% of the total market value of the “Global Military Fixed Wing Aircraft” due to the acquisition of the Jas 39E Gripen aircraft, according to GlobalData. 

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Saab plans to deliver the Gripen F to the Brazilian customer in 2025. The Life Support rig was inaugurated in 2018 for testing the Gripen E but has since been modified and developed to enable testing of the Gripen F.

The Brazilian Air Force began operational activities with the Gripen E in late 2022. Saab takes up over half of the supplier’s Latin American military fixed-wing market shares because Brazil procured the Gripen fighter jet. This level of market dominance from Saab bodes well for Brazil’s superiority in the air to its South American counterparts. 

Caption: Latin America military fixed-wing aircraft market ($ billion), 2022–32 Top Suppliers Shares’ ($ billion) Credit: GlobalData Intelligence

The configuration of the Life Support rig in Saab’s high-altitude chamber allows engineers to test the system in simulated high-altitude conditions with extremely low pressure for the Gripen F.

“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,” said Mattias Larsson, test engineer and responsible for the rig.

Saab reported a 16% growth in net sales in Q4 2022.