The first Brazilian Air Force (FAB) Saab Gripen E fighter made its maiden flight in Sweden on Monday. The aircraft, designated 39-6001, took off at 2:41 pm (local time) from the manufacturer’s Linköping aerodrome led by the company’s test pilot, Richard Ljungberg.
The fighter’s maiden flight lasted 65 minutes and included maneuverability and flight quality assessments at different altitudes and speeds. According to the manufacturer, the main purpose of the flight was to verify if the aircraft’s behavior was in accordance with expectations.
“This milestone is a testament to the great partnership between Sweden and Brazil. Less than five years since the contract was signed, the first Brazil Gripen has conducted its first flight,” says Håkan Buskhe, President and CEO of Saab.
The Brazilian Gripen that took off today will be used as a test aircraft in the flight test program. The main difference from the model compared to previous test aircraft is that the 39-6001 features a widescreen cockpit called the Wide Area Display (WAD), two small Head Down Displays (sHDD) and a new Head Up Display (HUD)
“For me as a pilot it has been a great honor to fly the first Brazilian Gripen and aircraft as I know how much this means for the Brazilian Air Force and everyone at Saab and our Brazilian partners. The flight was smooth and the aircraft behaved just like we have seen in the rigs and simulators. This was also the first time we flew with the Wide Area Display in the cockpit, and I’m happy to say my expectations were confirmed,” says Saab test pilot Richard Ljungberg.
Gripen 39-6001 will join the joint testing program for future flight testing expansion, as well as tactical and sensor system testing, SAAB said.
In Brazil, the aircraft will be designated F-39 and will have the registration number FAB 4100. The delivery of the first fighter to the FAB is expected to take place by the end of 2019.
Gripen “Made in Brazil”
The FAB has ordered a total of 36 Gripen fighters, including 28 Gripen E single-seaters and eight “F” models for two pilots. The $ 5.4 billion deal also includes Saab’s technology transfer that will allow it to build the aircraft in Brazil, a task that will be carried out by Embraer and other Brazilian companies.
Gripen’s national production will be concentrated at Embraer’s Gavião Peixoto unit. In all, the Brazilian manufacturer will fully produce 15 fighters, being eight single-seat models and seven two-seat models. The order must be completed by November 2024, according to FAB schedule.
The new Gripen is an aircraft that can perform different functions. In addition to interception hunting, it can also be used as a bomber and armed reconnaissance aircraft.
According to the Swedish manufacturer, the Gripen E can fly Mach 1 without the use of afterburners and, at full power, can reach a top speed of 2,200 km/h.
The fighter’s autonomy, compared to previous Gripen versions, has increased by 50%, even without the need for aerial refueling. In combat configuration (armed with four missiles and carrying two external fuel tanks), the new generation aircraft has a range of 1,800 km.
Brazil currently has a modernized fleet of F-5 Tiger II fighters in addition to the A-1 attack aircraft (AMX). Neighboring countries in South America operate more advanced aircraft such as the F-16 (Chile and Venezuela), MiG-29 (Peru) and Su-27 (also Venezuela).