The first series production Gripen E aircraft for Sweden has made its initial flight, piloted by Försvarets Materielverk (FMV, defense materiel administration) test pilot Henrik Wänseth, the company announced on 3 December. An image of aircraft 6002 flying in a new splinter tri-tone grey camouflage pattern reminiscent of the Swedish Air Force’s (Flygvapnet) green and brown scheme from the Cold War was released by the company. Serialed 6002, the aircraft displayed a new three-tone gray splinter camouflage that is redolent of the “fields and meadows” worn for many years by Swedish military aircraft.
Saab representative was unable to say if it is the first aircraft that will be delivered to the service. This particular airframe might go to the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) for testing, and might remain with the organisation rather than being subsequently handed over to the SwAF. Saab also has three flying Gripen E prototypes in aircraft 39-8, 39-9 and 39-10, and it is unclear if some or all of these will remain Saab assets or if they will be refurbished and delivered to the Swedish air force ahead of 6002.
The Swedish air force is to receive 60 JAS 39E single-seaters, with deliveries running through to 2026. They are equipped with a wide-area cockpit display and helmet-mounted display from AEL Sistemas, Elbit’s Brazilian subsidiary. Some form of operating capability is scheduled to be achieved in 2021. The only international customer to date, Brazil, has ordered an initial batch of 28 Gripen Es and eight twin-seat Gripen Fs to be delivered between 2021 and 2024. Both countries have left open the option for further procurements.
In terms of the wider production programme, manufacture of the first serial-standard aircraft began at Linköping in January. While similar concurrent testing and production has caused problems for other programmes, Eddy De La Motte, vice-president and head of Gripen E/F, said in June that he was not concerned that the Gripen E/F effort would encounter the same issues. “We have de-risked that element of the programme,” he said. The line at Linköping is geared to turn out 24 aircraft per year.