Saab test pilot Richard Ljungberg took the first Gripen E for Brazil aloft for its maiden flight on August 26. The flight took place at the company’s Linköping factory airfield and lasted for 65 minutes, during which basic handling qualities and performance points were validated.
The aircraft is the fourth Gripen E to fly and the first full production machine, following the test aircraft 39-8, 39-9, and 39-10 into the air. Despite being the first serial aircraft, the Brazilian machine is being retained in Sweden for trials, concentrating on further envelope expansion and tactical system tests. It is serialled 39-6001 and wears the side number 4001. The Gripen is to be designated F-39 in FAB (Força Aerea Brasiliana, Brazilian air force) service.
“This milestone is a testament to the great partnership between Sweden and Brazil,” said Håkan Buskhe, president and CEO of Saab. “Less than five years since the contract was signed, the first Brazil Gripen has conducted its first flight.”
Compared with the three trials machines that preceded it, Aircraft 4001 has modified hardware and software, including an updated flight control system. It also has a new cockpit layout with a wide-area display, two small head-down displays, and new head-up display from Brazilian company AEL Sistemas, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems from Israel. The wide-area display has been selected for the Gripen Es of both Brazil and Sweden. The earlier trials aircraft had cockpits based on that of the Gripen C, with two large multifunction displays.
Brazil signed for 28 single-seat Gripen Es and eight two-seat Gripen Fs in October 2014. The contract includes 100 percent technology transfer, with six Brazilian companies—led by Embraer—involved in production. Brazil is taking the lead in development of the Gripen F, for which it is currently the only customer.
Under current production plans, the first 13 Gripens for Brazil are to be built and completed in Sweden, with the following eight being built in Sweden but assembled in Brazil. The final 15 from the order are intended to be produced entirely in Brazil. It is possible that the FAB will order more Gripen E/Fs beyond the current 36, with requirements potentially reaching beyond 100.