On September 24 the first production Gripen E from Saab’s Linköping, Sweden factory arrived at its new home at Gavião Peixoto, where Saab and Embraer have established the Gripen Design and Development Center, with a co-located flight test center.
The aircraft’s journey began with it being loaded—fully assembled—aboard a vessel at Norrköping for the transatlantic voyage. It arrived in Brazil on September 20 at the port of Navegantes, where it was craned ashore. After being towed on its own wheels at nighttime the short distance to the local civilian airport, the aircraft underwent ground tests before taking off on the final leg of its journey to Gavião Peixoto.
It was the first time that the new fighter for the Força Aerea Brasileira (FAB, Brazilian air force) had flown in Brazilian airspace. The ferry flight was accompanied by a pair of Northrop F-5M fighters, while Caracal and Black Hawk helicopters were held at readiness should any emergencies arise.
“It is an immense satisfaction for the Brazilian air force to see this aircraft flying on national territory,” said the FAB commander, Lt. Brig. Antonio Carlos Moretti Bermudez. “The F-39 Gripen, the new Brazilian air force multi-mission aircraft, will be the backbone of fighter aviation and it reaffirms the FAB's commitment to maintaining the country's sovereignty and to defend the twenty-two million square kilometers under its responsibility.” An official presentation of the new aircraft is due to be held in Brasilia on October 23 to coincide with Brazil’s air force and aviator’s day.
Having first flown in Sweden in August 2019, the F-39E is the first of 28 for the FAB, with eight two-seat F-39Fs also on contract. The initial aircraft will expand the operations of the overall Gripen E test fleet and will be used for flight and environmental control system tests, as well as for tropical climate trials. It will also test uniquely Brazilian elements, such as weapons integration and the Link BR2 communications system. It will be handed over to the FAB by the end of 2021 to join the first operational unit, Wing 2 at Anápolis in Gioás state.
Brazil is taking delivery of 13 aircraft from Swedish production, to be followed by eight built in Sweden but assembled in Brazil. The final 15 will be built and assembled locally, with assembly due to start next year. The first F-39F two-seater is already in production, with delivery scheduled for 2023. The entire batch of 36 is expected to have been handed over by 2024. In the meantime, negotiations regarding a second batch are underway.