Saab has begun development of the first GRIPEN E/F fighter for Brazil, as the manufacturer continues to target the nation for a future maritime version of the aircraft.
Brazil will receive 36 GRIPENs under the SEK39.3 billion acquisition contract, comprising 28 single-seat E models and eight twin-seat trainers. Under the terms of the deal, Saab is transferring a number of technologies to Brasilia, and included in this was a design study for a maritime, carrier-capable variant of the aircraft.
It was widely considered that Brazil’s interest in this had waned following its decision to decommission its SAO-PAULO-class carrier, but Mikael Franzen, Director General for GRIPEN Brazil at Saab, maintains that it could still be a target market for the future system, alongside India that has issued a request for information for a carrier-based fighter.
“In our view this is a very suitable aircraft for the Brazilian Navy,” Franzen told media at the LAAD exhibition in Rio. “We think it is still of interest for the navy, as well as for India. Both are still interested, but [an acquisition] is for the customer to decide.”
Regarding the development of the E/F, much of the technology selected from Brazilian partners under the terms of the technology transfer will benefit all operators of the type, including the AEL Systems, an Elbit Systems subsiduary, helmet that both Sweden and Brazil will use.
Aircraft will initially be built in Sweden, but at some point this will be transferred to Brazil to support the technology transfer. The first aircraft destined for Brazil is being manufactured in Linkoping in Sweden, while the two-seat version of the GRIPEN is being developed at the GRIPEN Design and Development Network in Sao Paulo that was established in November 2016.
Franzen could not clarify when the first Brazilian aircraft will be ready or fly, only saying that deliveries will take place between 2019 and 2024.
“From the industrial side we have a strong partnership with Brazilian industry,” Franzen said, noting that 135 Brazilian engineers have so far been trained on the aircraft. “We are progressing in all areas, and from Saab’s perspective...we are very satisfied with the partnerships we have.”
Saab has recently signed contracts with two new companies, namely Atmos Sistemas and DCTA. The former will be responsible for component maintenance capabilities for sensors such as the radar and electronic warfare systems, while the latter will carry out research into future technology.
The company is on track to carry out the first flight of GRIPEN E in the second half of this year, and ground rolling tests that are being carried out are, “almost to flight speed now”, Franzen says, with a lot of the testing being carried out using simulation.
Saab also announced on 31 March that the Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV) had contracted it to develop the RBS15 anti-ship missile. Worth SEK3.2 billion, the missile will be delivered between 2017 and 2026, and will be integrated onto the Gripen E and Visby-class corvettes. See story here.
It has an improved combat range on the legacy product, as well as an upgraded target seeker, and a lower mass. It is able to combat a wide spectrum of naval and land-based targets, Saab says, and is an all-weather capability.