Saab has begun flight tests of its new Gripen E fighter with external stores. The first Gripen E prototype, 39-8, has conducted a number of successful flights carrying external payloads, including pylons from the Swiss company RUAG Aerostructures.
The initial Gripen E test aircraft took to the air last year, and since then Saab has carried out an “intensive flight trials period”. The aircraft has been engaged in envelope expansion work, demonstrating “expected performance and behaviors, with high availability and reliability”, according to a company press release.
“Gripen flew as expected and we are very pleased with the flight test results,” said Jonas Hjelm, Senior Vice President and head of Saab business area Aeronautics, of the recent stores trials. “During the flight, the aircraft carried out a number of actions to verify the flying and handling qualities of the aircraft with this extended configuration.”
The Gripen E is provided with eight external stores pylons. The first flights with external stores were conducted over the Baltic Sea at the beginning of last month. Besides two examples of the IRIS-T air-to-air missile on the wingtips, the aircraft was fitted with five pylons designed and built together with RUAG Aerostructures.
The flights included several test manoeuvres at supersonic speed. Future trials will involve carriage and release of missiles, drop tanks and other external stores.
“I am glad to follow the continued success of the Gripen E programme. RUAG Aerostructures is proud of the broad and long-term partnership with Saab”, said Dirk Prehn, CEO of RUAG Aerostructures. “As a major supplier in the Gripen programme, responsible for the design and manufacture of the pylons and other components, we contribute to the superior performance of the fighter, meeting all requirements in terms of safety, performance, life-cycle cost and quality”, he added.
Expanding the test fleet
Speaking ahead of the Farnborough International Airshow, Jonas Hjelm also provided details of changes incorporated in the next two Gripen E aircraft for the flight test programme: 39-9 and 39-10.
The next two aircraft differ from the first Gripen E in having new and upgraded computers. These were rapidly added to them without affecting the flight critical systems in “days and weeks”.
“Today’s threats are not tomorrow’s and modern fighters could be viewed as a network of flying supercomputers seeking to outperform their opponents,” Hjelm said. “So we designed Gripen’s smart architecture to ensure that we can introduce the latest powerful computers and other hardware swiftly and simply which is unmatched in this industry. We have the double advantage of being both the newest aircraft and able to effortlessly leap ahead as processing power advances. The pilot flying Gripen E will therefore have an undeniable edge.”
As well as the single-seat Gripen E, design of the two-seat Gripen F version is progressing. This is being designed with Embraer in Brazil and will be used for training and combat missions. For the latter, it will carry an electronic warfare officer, mission commander or weapon system officer in the rear seat. The Gripen E is being developed for the Swedish Air Force while the Brazilian Air Force will receive both Gripen E and F.