Saab has signed a contract extension with the UK’s Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS), covering the latter’s continued use of a Gripen trainer for another four years.

Announced on 12 July, the deal will support Qinetiq-managed ETPS’s delivery of fixed-wing test pilot and flight test engineer courses, and builds on a relationship which has existed for 15 years.

“The original agreement has been in place since 1999 and, under the terms of the new framework, Saab will support ETPS from 2015 until 2018,” the company says.

More than 70 test pilots have flown the type since the service with ETPS began, says Saab, which cites a “100% on-time delivery”. More than 800 flying hours have been provided so far, from its Linköping site in Sweden.

The UK school’s instructors and students had flown a two-seat B-model trainer until 2013, but Saab reveals: “Earlier this year ETPS transitioned from Gripen B to Gripen D”. Flying the newer production standard “provides access to a very advanced fast jet platform with a unique systems testing capability,” it adds.

Under their contract terms, Saab will provide access to the Gripen D each year, along with support services and flights with SK 60 (Saab 105) aircraft, serving as radar targets.