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Category: TOP GUNS

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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 as we gather speed in much ...

​​ 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 withDeccan 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 involved in a dangerous mission because ...

So, what’s the big difference between flying fighter jets a couple of decades back and today? When asked this question, Gripen test pilot Anders Håkansson had this to say:

“There were no computers when I began my career in the Swedish Air Force and we didn’t have the luxury of trying and testing on the simulators as we have today. I began my career by flying the Saab 37 Viggen, a mighty aircraft, before I started handling the Gripen.”

“Over the last two decades, technology has changed everything in the world of fighter planes. From taking-off to coordinating with the ground forces, technological advancements have transformed the way pilots fly today. Anders, who has trained many Gripen pilots, says that the younger generation knows computers and hence can adapt to technology in a better way. There is no need to teach them step by step. They just need to be taught how to handle the system and do the tactics since they are fast learners,” he adds.

Anders is a veteran of the Swedish Air Force for almost 30 years and was one of the Gripen test pilots who participated in Aero India 2017. He has the experience of flying Gripen for 17 years and has an acute understanding of the capabilities and specifications of the aircraft.

From A/B to C/D and E/F, Gripen has come a long way over the last few decades. According to Jonas Jakobsson, another Gripen test pilot, the fighter has undergone several design changes ...

As we speak, our preparations for Aero India 2017 are in full swing. André, our display pilot, is ready to put up a great show in a couple of days. Watch how he prepares for a flying display and what he says about pulling some G’s in front of a demanding crowd of spectators. ​​

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Lovisa Sandelin from Ludvika, Central Sweden, is the first woman to graduate as a SwAF fighter pilot since 2004. She has graduated from the aviation school in Linköping, Southern Sweden, along with 22 other students and they have a few more years of training to undergo until, eventually, they have the skills to fly the Gripen fighter. 

Sandelin isn’t focused on the attention she has received due to her gender. “I see it more as something personal. Getting my pilot’s wings is a big milestone for me just as my male colleagues see it is a big milestone in their lives, so I maybe don’t focus so much on the fact that I’m a woman,” she says. She also pointed out that it is imperative for more women to apply and join the Swedish Armed and Air Forces.

Until the early 1990s, women were not qualified to become fighter pilots. This has changed over the years with many countries lifting this ban one after another. Typically perceived as a male-oriented job, the profession has seen very few women applying.

“Public perception of the profession being a typically male one could be an explanation for why so few women opt to become fighter pilots in Sweden,” says Swedish Air Force’s Air Combat School Mats Juhlander.

"But it isn’t. The Armed Forces opened as an occupation for both sexes in 1989,” he adds.

Read the full story here.

Image Courtesy: Forsvarsmakten​

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FAB Gripen pilots Captain Gustavo de Oliveira Pascotto and Captain Ramon Santos Fórneas, trained with pilots of four different nations to develop new techniques at a recently held Gripen User Group Simulation event.  

During a virtual fight, the two pilots led seven other pilots to fight against 40 enemy aircraft in a series of attack and counter-attack missions. At the end of this fight, the group took down the enemy from a distance of 80 kms.

"The highlight of the training was the fact that it was very realistic. The pilots felt like they were actually flying," Fórneas said.

"Since the training involved complex scenarios, and pilots of different nationalities and experiences participated, it was an excellent opportunity to assess our level of training of beyond visual range air-to-air combat, and find the best ways to use Gripen,” Captain Pascotto said.

Captain Pascotto and Captain Fórneas were the first FAB pilots who were sent to Sweden to learn to fly Gripen. They fulfilled their first Gripen training mission in November 2014. 

Read the full story here.

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A group of Swedish Air Force pilots met their Brazilian counterparts last month and talked about operating Gripen and discussed the associated infrastructure and logistics.

The pilots were accompanied by the Saab Campaign Director in Brazil and the Swedish Defence Attaché, Lieutenant Colonel Christer Olsson. The meeting was aimed at increasing interactions between the pilots of the two countries. The Brazilian pilots also got to know about the various aspects of Gripen operation in Sweden and about the necessary adjustments for receiving the aircraft.

"Brazil is a strategic partner in the Gripen NG programme. As Sweden and Brazil will operate the same plane, it is very important to know each other, "explains Colonel Christer Olsson.

Colonel Olsson also added that this meeting was important not just for Brazil, but also for Sweden. During these interactions, the Swedish pilots also got an opportunity to understand how things work at the FAB Air Force.  “There would be more such exchanges in future,” he says. 

Read the full story here.

Image Courtesy: Fab.mil

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The SAAF's Lieutenant Colonel Musa Mbhokota, who has clocked over 2000 flying hours on eight different aircraft types, including Gripen, is all set to become Officer Commanding AFB Overberg.

Mbhokota was one of first six SAAF pilots who went to Sweden to understand the Gripen fighter system when South Africa placed the Gripen C/D order in the nineties. He was also the first black pilot to assume command of 2 Squadron, which operates the SAAF’s Gripen fighters. He first flew Gripen in the year 2002 in Sweden.

Mbhokota will assume his first base command later this month.

Read the full story here​.

In an interview with IHS Jane's, Saab test pilot André Brännström elaborates on Gripen features and explains how the fighter maintains the highest level of capability.

"We have a range of capabilities - from air-to-air, to air-to-ground and recce. And Gripen is easy to fly. By just pushing a knob, I can go air-to-ground from an air-to-air mission. We can also do it together. I can do a close air support and an air surveillance at the same time," Brännström says.

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Batch VIII Gripen pilots are now combat ready. A ceremony to celebrate their achievement was held last week at Wing 7.

Image Courtesy: RTAF

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Welcome to the official Gripen blog by Saab. This site features information and commentary about the Gripen fighter jet.