Saab's investment in technologies linked to Europe's Neuron unmanned combat air system demonstration programme could in the future enable it to take the pilot out of its Gripen E/F fighter, believes chief executive Håkan Buskhe.

Revealing his thoughts on the prospect of adapting the in-development type for optionally piloted operations, Buskhe says: "Maybe an air force could fly with a mixed formation of Gripens - one or two manned, and the others without pilots."

"We are working with the Neuron programme, and will have flight tests at the Vidsel test range next year," Buskhe says, adding that "it's not so far to go down that road" to transfer systems to the Gripen. "Of course, it will be driven by the market, but we think this could be the future."

Referring to the costs involved in developing and fielding a small fleet of UCAS, he notes: "The logistics footprint will be too expensive if you build a totally different system for unmanned."

Asked whether Saab could join Alenia Aermacchi, Cassidian and Dassault in pursuing a future European medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air system, Buskhe says: "I'm not closing any doors." However, he notes that any such collaborative programme would hinge on the capabilities required and the likely costs involved.

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Source: Flight Daily News