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JAS 39 Gripen - Program

The Gripen project is Sweden's biggest industrial venture ever. The JAS-39 Gripen is one of the most successful developments of the Swedish defense industry. A multipurpose fighter and reconnaissance aircraft, the Gripen has been utilized heavily by both the Swedish Air Force as well as the air forces of other nations. The Gripen was the result of a joint development project by Saab Military Aircraft, Ericsson Microwave Systems, Volvo Aero Corporation, and Aerotech Telub. Gripen International is responsible for the production and continued development of the aircraft. The company is jointly owned by Saab and BAE Systems.

In 1978 the Swedish Government decided that the Swedish Air Force needed a new multirole aircraft for the turn of the century. Studies concerning a replacement for the Air Force were carried out during the whole of the 1970s. The vision of a unified aircraft for fighter, attack and reconnaissance missions have existed within the Swedish Air Force for some time. Tunna, Lansen, Draken and Viggen have all been manufactured in different versions for different purposes. The terms AJ 37, JA 37 and AJS 37 suggest that the Viggen system went some way towards realizing that vision. Ideas for a multi-role aircraft existed already in the middle of the 1970s in the form of prospective aircraft. The aircraft's layout was decided later on the basis of all the different requirements raised by the project specification.

At the same time as the Swedish aerospace industry was defining a new project, the Air Force made an evaluation of existing foreign aircraft such as the American F-16 and F-18. After an evaluation process, Parliament decided in June 1982 to go ahead with the Swedish project and the Defence Materiel Administration signed a contract for development of the JAS 39 Gripen on the 30th June 1982 for the development of the JAS 39 Gripen including five test aircraft and one batch of 30 aircraft with accompanying support systems (equipment for technical maintenance and more) as well an option for a further 110 aircraft. The final flight tests were completed in December of 1996.

The Gripen has come at a great cost. The project has so far cost the Swedish tax payers over 100 billion SEK. (Today US$15 billion.) During the whole of the 1980's there were between 2,000 and 3,500 people engaged in the development work, which in total took over 30,000 man-years.

A total of 204 aircraft in three batches were ordered for the Swedish Air Force. The first batch of 30 aircraft has been completed. Deliveries from the second batch are ongoing, and comprises 96 one-seater and 14 two-seater aircraft. The government decided on the 19th June 1997 to provide a third batch consisting of 64 aircraft, 14 of them two-seaters, plus a further development and adaptation program. Deliveries of the aircraft in Batch 1 were completed between 1993-1996. The first aircraft in Batch 2 was delivered in December 1996 and the whole of the batch is thought to have been finally delivered in 2004. Delivery of Batch 3 began in 2003. Final delivery date is agreed as 2007. This took the total for the Swedish Air Force to 204 aircraft, including 28 two-seaters. Production of batch three was scheduled for 2002-2007.

The major project with the Gripen is whether or not fighters currently in use will be upgraded, and how those upgrades will fit into the streamlining of the defense budget. The Swedish Air Force has evaluated whether or not to upgrade its existing Gripen fighters, the majority of which are A and B classification, to the standards of the C and D models. The Commander-in-Chief has proposed buying 100 new C/D aircraft, and upgrading 31 of the existing A/B Gripens to the current standards. A remaining 40 of the Gripen A/Bs would be sold, either as-is or upgraded to C/D/ class.

The Swedish Air Force, having opted to buy the Gripen NG (Next Generation), ordered a series of improvements on the Gripen NG prototype. Besides superb avionics and superior flight performance, they say the Gripen NG can land on an 800-metre stretch of highway; and then refuel, rearm and take-off within 10 minutes. This allows each Gripen NG to fly far more sorties per day than any other aircraft today. AESA radar, Active Electronically Scanned Array, is among the enhanced Gripen's capabilities. In simple terms, it refers to a radar that is built up of many small antenna elements into a large antenna. Each individual element can be controlled, facilitating many functions. Previously, the Gripen radar was a mechanically controlled antenna that illuminates one area at a time. An AESA radar can quickly scan larger areas, monitor more targets simultaneously and allow the pilot to operate with more flexibility.

The Government is establishing a new focus for Swedish defense in its Bill "A functional defence" 2008/09:140, published 19 March 2009. The air force must primarily develop the capability to operate in the Nordic region. It should also be able to participate in air operations together with other countries, in Sweden and within and outside our region. Most of the air force will therefore consist of permanent units. As far as equipment is concerned, around 100 JAS 39C/D aircraft will be available to the Swedish Armed Forces, in four divisions. Apart from this, the helicopter battalions capability will be gradually developed through the introduction of new helicopter models. The need for helicopters for medical evacuation means that helicopter 10 will be modified. The Riksdag approved action plan for the JAS 39 Gripen aircraft applies. The A/B version of the JAS 39 Gripen will be phased out and the fleet aligned. Greater focus must be placed on armament and usability. Sweden, along with other Gripen countries, must continue to develop the aircraft system and its capabilities so that it remains a core air defense component for several decades to come.

On 10 March 2010 defense and security company Saab received an order from FMV (the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration) concerning development of the existing Gripen fleet. The order value amounts to SEK 2 billion for Saab, split over a period of four years. The capability of the Swedish Air Force's Gripen C/D aircraft is continuously subject to adjustment and upgrading in order that it can operate and remain effective and advanced also in the future. The order includes further adjustments for increased operational effect, like for instance upgraded countermeasure and communication systems. The order also includes other measures to further reduce the operating costs, based on experience gathered from more than 130,000 flight hours




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