Saab's Gripen E is set to start its next major period of testing, as the new-generation fighter stays on course for delivery from next year, the Swedish manufacturer says.

"We are preparing for the next phase of flight trials – that is, external stores," says Jonas Hjelm, head of Saab's aeronautics business unit. Since the first prototype's flight debut in June 2017, the programme has remained on track, he says, with recent milestones including achieving supersonic flight.

Gripen E 39-8 - Saab


"We are on track. We will deliver according to the contracts that we have," Hjelm confirms. Saab has current orders from the Swedish and Brazilian air forces for a combined 96 E/F-model fighters, with both expected to receive their first examples before the end of 2019.

Speaking during the company's annual Gripen seminar in Stockholm on 16 May, Hjelm declined to reveal when the programme's remaining two prototypes will join the test fleet, but says "they will fly in the not too far future."

Pointing to Saab's adoption of an app-type software development philosophy with the Gripen E, he notes: "We have solved how you reconfigure an aircraft without jeopardising the flight-critical evidence. This will really impact how we are able to adapt the aircraft to new challenges."

Meanwhile, the annual Gripen User Group event took place earlier this month in Brazil, where the construction of a new Saab/Akaer-backed aerostructures plant is also advancing.

Saab recently completed an upgrade activity to bring the Czech air force's Gripen C/Ds to its latest MS20 operating standard, which was first fielded by Sweden in 2016.

"The Czech air force will really improve their overall capabilities" as a result of the update, Hjelm says. "We know that other customers will follow: next in line to get these enhanced capabilities is the Hungarian air force." South Africa and Thailand are also current users of the single-engined type.