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​CNBC's Managing Editor Shereen Bhan was in Linköping last week to see what goes behind the production of Gripen E and experience a flight in Gripen.

Bhan traveled to Sweden for CNBC-TV18’s special series ‘Make In India: A New Deal For Defence’. Saab has made public its offer to develop, manufacture and assemble Gripen fighters in India should the country choose it.

Bhan flew with Saab’s Wing Commander Flying, Hans Einerth, who showed her the agility and speed of the aircraft during the 55 minutes sortie. She had the control for ten minutes.

For Bhan, it was a memorable ride. She has almost lived her entire life near air force bases as her father was a fighter pilot. "It was one of the coolest moments of my life," she says.

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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​

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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The low building in an industrial area in Arboga reveals nothing about the high level of technical interaction between Swedish and Brazilian engineers that goes on inside. For seven months, Marcelo Tonial and his two colleagues from AEL Sistemas are spending their days developing the knowledge on how to build and optimize the resources required to maintain the avionics units on Gripen. They are there to acquire the knowledge required to set up a workshop in Brazil for maintaining 36 Gripen fighters ordered for the Brazilian Air Force. “Going to Sweden for the technology transfer process was something I really wanted to be involved in,” says Tonial, who has temporarily left his position at the Research and Development department at AEL Sistemas to lead the Brazilian team in Sweden.

Marcelo Tonial and his colleagues are only three of nearly 350 professionals from Saab's Brazilian partner companies and the Brazilian Air Force that are involved in the Transfer of Technology (ToT), the industrial cooperation and technical exchange programme between the two countries that began in October 2015 and will last until 2024. The aim is to provide the Brazilian aerospace industry with the technology and knowledge needed to develop, assemble and maintain Gripen in Brazil.

In the technology transfer program, the sharing of knowledge goes two ways. AEL Sistemas develops and manufactures technological solutions for defence and security in air and on land and has developed the electronic display for the Gripen aircraft in Brazil.

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Gripen has for the first time undergone a series of test flights with 100% biofuel. This demonstrates that the aircraft can be flown with an alternative fuel and gives valuable knowledge for future possible use of alternative fuel.

“Demonstrating that Gripen can fly with 100% biofuel is an important step in making Gripen future-safe,” says Göran Bengtsson, Director of Research and Technology, Future Business, Aeronautics. “Gaining independence from imports of oil is important from a defence standpoint and opens the way for additional sources of fuel, which creates flexibility. It's naturally also good if we in the long term can contribute to reducing environmental impact from military aviation.”

This was the first time that a single engine fighter flew with 100% biofuel. The flights were conducted with a Gripen D (dualseat) at Saab’s facilities in Linköping and went entirely as planned.

Read the full story here​.​

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During the cold war, Sweden felt threatened by the Warsaw Pact countries. The country needed an aircraft that could outperform and outmanoeuvre a larger force of advanced fighters.

The north of Sweden is an unforgiving land with long, freezing winters and largely unpopulated areas. It presents a harsh environment to operate an aircraft – yet it was this place that gave birth to Gripen.

Defending these vast areas required a fighter that could perform air-to-air, air-to-surface and reconnaissance missions in a single sortie, without the need to return to base for reconfiguration.

Gripen was also designed to use roads as temporary runways, allowing the Air Force to use logistical flexibility and speed to keep an invading force at bay. Easy maintenance and reconfiguration was also vital, as it would need to be performed by Swedish conscripts with only 10 weeks’ training – usually outdoors in freezing, isolated conditions.

Read the full story here​.

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 ...

​Gripen E is developed with future progress in mind. See this video where Johan, one of our avionics specialists, and Marcus, test pilot, share our thoughts on building a fighter system adaptable for the future. 

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If you are planning to visit the UK, Belgium, or France in the next few months, you just might catch some stunning Gripen solo displays!

The annual Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton International Air Day in Somerset will be held on 8 July. Czech Air Force will send one Gripen fighter and two L-159 ALCA aircraft for flying display at the event.

Then, there is the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) UK, which will be held between 14 and 16 July at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire. Gripen fighters from Sweden, Hungary and the Czech Republic will be performing aerial displays at the event. Besides Gripen, more than 250 trainers, fighters, and transport aircraft have been confirmed for participation.

On 19 and 20th August, one can catch a Czech Air Force Gripen in action at the Festival of Flight, Biggin Hill airshow in the UK. This is followed by the International Sanicole Air Show in Belgium which boasts of a range of demonstrations of fighters, vintage aircraft, helicopters and parachutists. The airshow will be held on 10 September. A Swedish and a Hungarian Gripen fighter will be participating.

Besides Sanicole Air Show, a Gripen performance is also assured at the Fetes de l´Air Lens airshow in France on 9 and 10 September.

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