Gripen fighter and the unmanned aircraft

Saab considers unmanned fighter in studies for Gripen replacement

Swedish manufacturer revealed first information about the study Future Fighter System (KFS), launched in 2023. Country decided not to join the two 6th generation fighter programs led by the United Kingdom and Germany and France

Saab has revealed the first details about the Future Fighter System (KFS) study, commissioned by the Swedish government to evaluate a future 6th generation air defense system.

In a meeting with defense journalists in recent days, the company revealed an illustrative image that shows a Gripen fighter and an unmanned “loyal wingman” aircraft with stealth characteristics.

Although Saab emphasizes that this is an artistic impression of several evaluated concepts, the company acknowledged that one of the proposals includes unmanned aircraft, or as they have also been called, “Collaborative Combat Aircraft”.

Saab loyal wingman concept (Saab)

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The US Air Force (USAF) has rushed the development of unmanned fighters as lessons learned from the conflict in Ukraine where drones have increasingly taken on leading roles in attack missions.

Sweden is in a hurry and must define the direction of a program to replace the Gripen fighter in 2025 to have the future aircraft in 2030.

Sweden out of the GCAP program

To Flight Global, Saab’s head of advanced programs, Peter Nilsson, stated that “the war in Ukraine, NATO membership, and an expanded defense budget” had put pressure on the project.

Nilsson revealed that aspects such as low observability, internal weapons compartment, autonomy and artificial intelligence (AI) are being explored in addition to more modern radar tracking systems.

Swedish and Brazilian Saab Gripen E fighters (Saab)

The KFS study came about after Sweden decided to abandon a possible joint venture within the Tempest program, launched by the United Kingdom and which became the Global Combat Air Program (GCAP) project, officially launched in December and which includes Italy and Japan.

Due to the large investment required to enable a new air defense system with a 6th generation fighter, European countries were expected to come together for a single program, but France, Germany and Spain decided to develop their own project, FCAS (Future Combat Air System).

The Swedish Air Force, on the other hand, will only put the Gripen E/F into service in 2025, an improved version of the 1980s aircraft.


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