Away from the turmoil of the marketplace, the Gripen team has continued to develop the aircraft and enhance its weapon capabilities. On Dec. 13, 2005, a Gripen took off from Linköping with a fully representative systems-fit Meteor missile, the first such flight for this important European weapon. The Gripen is the lead platform for the MBDA-led ramjet-powered long-range air-to-air missile program, and the first captive-carry flights will lead to a firing campaign to be conducted at the Vidsel range in northern Sweden this year.
As well as its work on Meteor, Saab has also received a contract to integrate the multinational IRIS-T short-range infrared guided weapon onto the Gripen. The first missile shoot is planned for 2007. In conjunction with the helmet-mounted display, for which development work is ongoing, the IRIS-T will provide the Gripen with a high off-boresight “look and shoot” missile capability.
Another recent milestone for the Gripen team was the first series of trial refuelings with a C-130 tanker in November, which followed tanker trials earlier in the year using a South African Air Force Boeing 707. Hercules refueling clearance for the Gripen is not only applicable to Swedish Air Force operations, but also further reinforces the type’s export credentials.