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He got a flying license before a driver's license. SwAF display pilot Henrik Björling talks about his preparations for Sweden's Flying Day on 26 August.

Henrik, 36, has flown for over half of life. Among the many aircraft he has flown in the last 18 years, Gripen is his favourite. 

"It is one of the most modern aircraft in the world. It is an aircraft built for the pilot to perform at the highest level," he says.

When asked about his preparations for Sweden's flying Day performance, he says, “The exercise will happen this month. Like any other sport, I exercise daily so that I am all ready to play my role in the display. Just an hour before my flight, I stop talking and start with my mental preparation. I review the entire program visually. I check the weather – if it is sunny, windy and so on. And then I get on the plane and just do it!”

Read the full story here.

Image Courtesy: Forsvarsmakten​

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Czech display pilot Captain Ivo Kardoše from the 211 Squadron of the 21st Tactical Air Force Base Čáslav, has won awards for his performances at airshows like Yeovilton and Fairford.

At the Yeovilton Air Day 2017, which was held on 8 July, about 40,000 visitors got the opportunity to watch the Czech pilot in the air. After a week, Kardoše performed at the RIAT 2017, one of the world's largest airshows. 

The weather was not very good for a flying display, so Kardoše had to make some last minute changes. "I had to choose a variant of the demonstration with lower flight levels and adapt it to the current meteorological situation," he says. Despite the challenges, the Czech test pilot won the award for the best flying demonstration by an overseas participant.

Read the full storyhere.

Image Courtesy: Afbcaslav.cz​

Saab test pilot Marcus Wandt explains how he prepared for Gripen E's first flight.​

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At 10:32 on 15 June 2017, Gripen E took off on its maiden flight, flown by a Saab test pilot. The aircraft (designation 39-8) left from Saab’s airfield in Linköping, Sweden and flew over the eastern parts of Östergötland for 40 minutes. During the flight, the aircraft carried out a number of actions to demonstrate various test criteria including the retracting and extending of the landing gear.

“The flight was just as expected, with the aircraft performance matching the experience in our simulations. Its acceleration performance is impressive with smooth handling. Needless to say, I’m very happy to have piloted this maiden flight,” says Marcus Wandt, Experimental Test Pilot, Saab.

Read more here.

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Captain Ivo Kardoš from the 211th Tactical Squadron at Čáslav Air base won the award for the best flying demonstration by an overseas participant at RIAT 2017. The performance was judged to be a "consistently well flown and accurate fast jet demonstration" during the airshow.

"It was a wonderful, amazing airshow," says Kardoš. "It was the best one I've ever been to. Of course, it's a great honour to win the prize and to represent Gripen and Saab." 

RIAT is one of the largest military airshows in the world. Held at RAF Fairford in Gloucestshoire every year, the airshow gets a participation of fast jets, giant transporters, historic aircraft etc. from around the world.

RIAT 2017 was held between 14 and 17 July.

At LIMA 2017, an RTAF Gripen Fighter performed aerial displays for the audience. Here are a few images chronicling the performance.

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Getting ready for the flight
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Engineers getting the aircraft ready for the display
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The Malaysian Defence Minister with the RTAF Gripen display team

Photo credit: Richard Cooper @COAPPhoto​​

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It is 10:25 in the morning at Čáslav air base and the sunrays are only just beginning to stream through the morning fog. There is no wind, all one can hear is the whistling sound of two Gripen fighters leaving their hangar. Soon, the whistle turns into a roar as the fighters ascend towards the sky. This is how a typical morning at the air base looks like.

The Czech Republic has been using Gripen system for over ten years to protect its airspace. The country also uses the fighters for NATO missions in countries like Iceland.

"The fighters are on constant standby to identify, escort, and if necessary, fight invasion of Czech airspace. Additionally, they also provide support to civil aviation, including escorting and providing guided landing of civilian aircraft, in case of technical failure or bad weather conditions,” says Jan Ducha, Ground Personnel commanding officer of the Czech Air Force.

Recounting his experience at this year's NATO Tiger Meet exercise in Saragosa, Spain, Jan says that Gripen is very easy to use and requires less staff as compared to other similar aircraft. Other countries participating with other aircraft systems brought up to 25 people per aircraft. To fly a Gripen, one needs only one pilot, one engineer and a mechanic (per aircraft), Jan adds. 

"What use is an aircraft of, if it is in a hangar, waiting for spare parts or if you need so much staff to attend to it ...

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Vayu’s Angad Singh strapped into a Saab Gripen at Aero India 2017, for a ‘hands on’ experience of a lifetime!

“Arm seat,” says a voice in my ear. This is the point of no return, as I head to Yelahanka’s 3-kilometre runway in the rear seat of a Saab Gripen D. I depress the catch that secures the ejection seat arming mechanism and push the switch from the ‘safe’ position to ‘armed.’ This simple action, more than anything in the past ninety-odd minutes, drives home the reality of what is about to happen.

“Seat armed,” I reply, trying my darndest to sound like a fighter pilot. I am not certain I succeeded. 

Waves of heat radiate off the asphalt runway, baked by the midday sun. Holding short to the north side of the runway as we line up are two Tejas LCA trainers, readying to depart after us. Behind us and lined up to the right of the centreline is another two-seat Gripen D. We wait for what seems like an eternity, made worse by the nerves that seem to amplify the discomfort of my g-suit. In reality it was probably only a few seconds from line up to ATC clearance for take-off. My pilot, Saab’s Wing Commander Flying, Hans Einerth, doesn’t waste time or words – he releases the brakes as soon as ATC gives him the word. 

This is not so bad, I think to myself. My anxiety begins to subside ...

What is most important for a fighter pilot? To have more information than the opponent, says Mats Thorbiornson. And that is what makes Gripen unique. 

A former aircraft technician with the Swedish Air Force, Mats Thorbiornson is now a Gripen test pilot. With experience in flying Saab’s Viggen, and around 40 to 50 different kinds of aircraft from the U.S., Russia and France, Mats has tested his mettle when it comes to flying and maintaining fighter aircraft. He was one of the Gripen pilots present at Aero India 2017. 

So how did an aircraft technician become a pilot? On being asked, Mats said that during his tenure in the Swedish Air Force as a technician, he had the opportunity to write the pilot test and he performed well in it. The rest, as they say, is history.

For a man who has been flying Gripen for so long, he says that his favourite part of the Gripen fighter is its versatility as an aircraft. Gripen’s ability to perform air-to-air, and surface-to-air missions makes it a viable multi-role fighter. With just the push of a few buttons, one can switch missions on-board the aircraft.

The ease of flying Gripen is best demonstrated when one gets to manoeuvre the aircraft. As Mats says in another interview with Deccan Herald​, “One feels very safe when doing manoeuvres in a Gripen. You feel absolutely secure when you are flying in low altitude, negotiating a bad weather or while ...

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A fighter aircraft pilot’s life is full of tough challenges and experiences. In a profession where mistakes can lead to life-or-death situations, it is imperative that they are equipped with the best facilities in order to perform their task to the best of their abilities. 

The nature of a pilot’s job sometimes requires flying high and in extreme conditions. Atmospheric pressure and composition at certain heights put the pilot in situations where the lack of proper equipment could be very harmful. To face such conditions, pilot suits have to be equipped and built with the capability to sustain the pilot under duress.

Due to the stress that the suit faces as a result of being exposed to rough conditions, it has to be checked and approved every 6 to 12 months. Such tests include assessing the equipment hoses and pipes which are prone to leaks, condition tests and pressure tests.

The pilot can choose a three lettered code for each piece of equipment and accordingly, a unique serial number is assigned to each piece. A Gripen pilot’s suit works as a system with each piece having a very specific function, thus making it necessary to wear and maintain each of them. Each pilot also wears absorbent innerwear that absorbs sweat and humidity while preventing condensation. The suits also come in fire and water resistant variants.

Each part of the suit serves a very specific purpose e.g. the jacket has multiple storage options for emergency ...

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