Designed to replace the Viggen in a variety of roles, the JAS 39 Gripen (griffin) will form the core of Swedish air power well into the 21st century.
Developed by Saab Military Aircraft and marketed jointly by Saab and BAE Systems, the Gripen is a fourth-generation lightweight multi-role combat aircraft that features a delta-canard configuration coupled with a digital fly-by-wire control system. Power is provided by a modified version of the proven F404J turbofan, developed and produced by Volvo Glygmotor and fitted with a new afterburner.
Unlike the Viggen, the JAS 39A lacks a thrust reverser but still possess excellent short-field capability. Ericsson developed the JAS 39's advanced multi-mode, pulse-Doppler PS-05/A radar. Gripen also features a wide-angle holographic HUD and a podded FLIR for attack and recce missions.
Five prototypes and 30 production aircraft were initially ordered, the first prototype making its maiden flight in 1988. In June 1992 a second batch of 110 aircraft, including 14 JAS 39B two-seaters, was ordered. Problems with the flight control software resulted in the loss of two prototypes and the first production JAS 39A, with consequent delays to in-service date while software upgrades were developed. Eventually, 2 Divisionen of F7 at Satenas was declared combat-ready on the JAS 39A in late 1997.
Swedish defence cuts in 2000 have reduced the final number of Gripen Divisionen (squadrons) to eight, distributed with four wings. All were partially re-equipped with the Gripen by 2004. To date, Flygvapnet fully combat-capable two-seaters. Flygvapnet has already announced that the third production batch will be to JAS 39C and JAS 39D standard, with features including helmet-mounted sights, IR-OTIS IRST and improved electronic warfare systems. These planned improvements are also being retrofitted to earlier JAS 39A/Bs. 28 Gripens were exported to South Africa; these carry a range of indigenous weapons. They are also operated by Hungarian and Czech air forces.