PICTURES: Swiss pilots fly next-generation Gripen

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Switzerland has advanced its planned purchase of the Gripen E/F fighter, with two pilots from the nation's air force and Armasuisse procurement agency having flown Saab's development aircraft in Sweden.

Four test flights totalling a combined 3h 36min were conducted between 2 and 4 May from the Swedish manufacturer's Linköping site, with Switzerland also having sent flight test engineers to the location.

 

© Armasuisse

"We performed flight performance tests using an air policing scenario," says Armasuisse chief test pilot Bernhard Berset. "We simulated a quick reaction alert and a maximum performance intercept to high altitude and supersonic speed. We tested the [General Electric F414G] engine in the entire envelope and are pleased with the results."

Saab's two-seat test aircraft was flown with several different weapons configurations during the three-day programme, including the carriage of dummy Diehl BGT Defence IRIS-T, MBDA Meteor and Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. Sorties were conducted up to an altitude of 12,000ft (3,660m) and to a maximum speed of Mach 1.35, according to Armasuisse.

 

© Armasuisse

Weapons configurations included carrying Meteor and IRIS-T missiles

"We have shown the growing capabilities of this aircraft and demonstrated everything requested, including increased performance, handling and endurance," says Saab chief test pilot Richard Ljungberg.

Switzerland last November announced its selection of the Gripen E/F to replace its Northrop F-5E/F fighters, with Saab beating rival offers by Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon.

This launched talks over an expected 22-aircraft deal. "The negotiations continue according to plan," says Saab.

According to a schedule released by the Swiss defence ministry, a contract award is anticipated by June 2013, with deliveries of the Gripen E/F to be made between 2018 and 2020.

Saab says its next phase of flight testing with the Gripen will include a new version of the Selex Galileo ES-05 Raven active electronically scanned array radar, plus enhanced avionics equipment and cockpit displays. A Swiss evaluation team will assess the modifications in the second half of 2012.