Saab's next-generation fighter, the Gripen E, has taken to the skies for the first time. At 10:32 am CET on June 15, the prototype delta-wing multi-role fighter set out on its maiden flight from Linköping, Sweden with Saab test pilot Marcus Wandt at the controls. During the 40-minute flight over the eastern parts of Östergötland, the latest Gripen variant executed a series of maneuvers to test its systems, including extending and retracting its landing gear.
Based on the Gripen C/D fighter aircraft, Saab says that the US$85 million Gripen E or Gripen E/F is completely redesigned with an all-new avionics suite and software that allows it to be modified at short notice without extensive layovers. It's fully NATO interoperable and includes Network Centric Warfare (NCW) technology for advanced data communications, dual data links, satellite communications, and video links.
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"The flight was just as expected, with the aircraft performance matching the experience in our simulations," Wandt said after the flight. "Its acceleration performance is impressive with smooth handling. Needless to say I'm very happy to have piloted this maiden flight."
The Gripen E has an overall length of 15.2 m (49.9 ft), a wingspan of 8.6 m (28.2 ft) and has a maximum takeoff weight of 16,500 kg (36,400 lb). Its GE Aviation F414G engine gives it 20 percent more thrust than its predecessor for a maximum speed of Mach 2 (1,522 mph, 2,450 km/h) in Supercruise mode at high altitude.
With its 10 hard points, the Gripen E can carry a wide variety of armaments and pods, including METEOR, AMRAAM, IRIS-T, and AIM-9 missiles; JDAM bombs; and machine gun pods. It also has AESA radar, IRST passive sensors, Head-Mounted Displays, advanced avionics, next-generation data processing, and a state-of-the-art cockpit. In addition, it's designed for a combat turnaround time of 10 minutes and the entire engine can be replaced in one hour.
"Today we have flown this world class fighter aircraft for the first time," says Jonas Hjelm, Senior Vice President and Head of Saab Business Area Aeronautics. "We achieved it with the fully qualified software for the revolutionary avionics system. This is about giving our customers a smart fighter system with the future designed in from the start. The flight test activities will continue to build on this achievement with the program on track to achieve the 2019 delivery schedule to our Swedish and Brazilian customers."
The video below shows the Gripen E taking to the air for the first time.