Tim Ripley

Sweden's Gripen is to be refuelled in flight for the first time in the autumn when the fourth generation combat aircraft undergoes trials from the UK's Boscombe Down aviation test centre.

The trials are part of the ongoing effort by Saab and British Aerospace to field the export version of the Gripen with a retractable refuelling probe.

Visitors to the BAe Partnership Village can inspect the two-seat Gripen on its international debut. Also on display is the W Vinten Vicon 70 Series 72c reconnaissance pod, which has been selected to equip export versions of the Gripen.

The pod is fitted on an under-fuselage "shoulder" pylon. A variety of electro-optical and infrared sensors can be installed for day/night low and medium altitude tactical reconnaissance missions.

Test pilot Reino Lidvik says there has been a lot of interest in the two-seat Gripen at Farnborough. "People are surprised at how simple the cockpit is and soon understand that the cockpit is pilot friendly."


Saab spokesman Jan Ahlgren says long term sales prospects for the Gripen are still good in spite of Chile's recent decision to defer purchase of its new combat aircraft. Gripen was a leading contender for the order, which would have been its first export sale.

"Chile has officially declared a delay but the requirement is still there," says Ahlgren. "Our competitors in Chile were all third generation aircraft and they are getting very old. We are a fourth generation aircraft and development work is still going on. We will be available for 30 years - so we have staying power in the market place."

Eastern Europe will not become an active market until next year when the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland join NATO, says Ahlgren. Recently the three countries have suggested leasing Western combat aircraft to replace their vintage Soviet era equipment. "We listen to them and I am sure we can comply with their wishes," says Ahlgren.

The Gripen team is using Farnborough to stress the advanced air combat capabilities of its aircraft, particularly its ability to utilise NATO-compatible data-links to allow formations of aircraft to exchange missile targeting data with Gripens which remain 'cloaked' from the enemy by switching off their radars.

Source: Flight Daily News