Saab JAS 39 Gripen

The Saab JAS 39 Gripen (English: "griffin") is a light single-engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured by the Swedish aerospace company Saab. It was designed to replace the Saab 35 Draken and 37 Viggen in the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet). The Gripen has a delta wing and canard configuration with relaxed stability design and fly-by-wire flight controls. It is powered by the Volvo RM12, and has a top speed of Mach 2. Later aircraft are modified for NATO interoperability standards and to undertake in-flight refuelling.

In 1979, the Swedish government began development studies for an aircraft capable of fighter, attack and reconnaissance missions to replace the Saab 35 Draken and 37 Viggen. A new design from Saab was selected and developed as the JAS 39, first flying in 1988. Following two crashes during flight development and subsequent alterations to the aircraft's flight control software, the Gripen entered service with the Swedish Air Force in 1997. Upgraded variants, featuring more advanced avionics and adaptations for longer mission times, began entering service in 2003.

In order to market the aircraft to export customers, Saab has formed several partnerships and collaborative efforts with multiple overseas aerospace companies. One example of such efforts was Gripen International, a joint partnership between Saab and BAE Systems formed in 2001. Gripen International was responsible for marketing the aircraft, and was heavily involved in the successful export of the type to South Africa; the organization was later dissolved amidst allegations of bribery being employed to secure foreign interest and sales. On the export market, the Gripen has achieved moderate success in sales to nations in Central Europe, South Africa and Southeast Asia; bribes have been reportedly involved in some of these procurements.

A further version, designated Gripen JAS 39 E/F, is under development as of 2014; it has been referred to as Gripen NG or Super-JAS. The changes include the adoption of a new powerplant, the General Electric F414G, an active electronically scanned array radar, and significantly increased internal fuel capacity. Saab has proposed other derivatives, including a navalised Sea Gripen for carrier operations and an optionally-manned aircraft for unmanned operations. Sweden and Brazil have ordered the Gripen E/F and Switzerland initially selected it for procurement. As of 2013, more than 247 Gripens have been built.

Saab JAS 39 Gripen
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Saab Group
Origin Sweden
Country Name Origin Year
Sweden 1988
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Brazil View
Hungary View
South Africa View
Sweden 1997 View
Thailand (Siam) View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) View
Czech Republic View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Saab Group 1987 247 View

The Gripen is a multirole fighter aircraft, intended to be a lightweight and agile aerial platform incorporating advanced, highly-adaptable avionics. It has canard control surfaces which contributes a positive lift force at all speeds, while the generous lift from the delta wing compensates for the rear stabilizer producing negative lift at high speeds, increasing induced drag. Being intentionally instable and employing digital fly-by-wire flight controls to maintain stability removes many flight restrictions, improves manoeuvrability, and reduces drag. The Gripen also has good short takeoff performance, being able to maintain a high sink rate and strengthened to withstand the stresses of short landings. A pair of air brakes are located on the sides of the rear fuselage; the canards also angle downward to act as air brakes and decrease landing distance. It is capable of flying at a 70-80 degrees angle of attack.

In order to enable the Gripen to have a long service life, projected to be roughly 50 years, the aircraft was designed to have low maintenance requirements; major systems such as the RM12 engine and PS-05/A radar are of a modular type to reduce operating cost and increase reliability. The Gripen was designed to be flexible as it had been anticipated that newly developed sensors, computers, and armaments would need to be integrated as technology advances. The aircraft was estimated to be roughly 67% sourced from Swedish or European suppliers and 33% from the United States.

One key aspect of the Gripen program that Saab have been keen to emphasize has been technology-transfer agreements and industrial partnerships with export customers. The Gripen is typically customized to customer requirements, enabling the routine inclusion of local suppliers in the manufacturing and support processes. A number of South African firms provide components and systems – including the communications suite and electronic warfare systems – for the Gripens operated by South African Air Force. Operators also have access to the Gripen's source code and technical documentation, allowing for upgrades and new equipment to be independently integrated. Some export customers intend to domestically assemble the Gripen; it has been proposed that Brazilian aerospace manufacturer Embraer may produce Gripens for other export customers as well.

The Swedish Air Force placed a total order for 204 Gripens in three batches. The first delivery occurred on 8 June 1993, when 39102 was handed over to the Flygvapnet during a ceremony at Linköping; the last was handed over on 13 December 1996. The air force received its first Batch II example on 19 December 1996. Instead of the fixed-price agreement of Batch I, Batch II aircraft were paid as a "target price" concept: any cost under/overruns would be split between FMV and Saab.

The JAS 39 entered service with the F 7 Wing (F 7 Skaraborgs Flygflottilj) on 1 November 1997. The final Batch three aircraft was delivered to FMV on 26 November 2008. This was accomplished at 10% less than the agreed-upon price for the batch, putting the JAS 39C flyaway cost at under US$30 million. This batch of Gripens was equipped for in-flight refuelling from specially equipped TP84s. In 2007, a programme was started to upgrade 31 of the air force's JAS 39A/B fighters to JAS 39C/Ds. The SwAF had a combined 134 JAS 39s in service in January 2013.

On 29 March 2011, the Swedish parliament approved the Swedish Air Force for a 3-month deployment to support the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya. Deployment of eight Gripens, ten pilots, and other personnel began on 2 April. On 8 June 2011, the Swedish government announced an agreement to extend the deployment for five of the Gripens. By October 2011, Gripens have flown more than 650 combat missions, almost 2,000 flight hours, and delivered approximately 2,000 reconnaissance reports to NATO. Journalist Tim Hepher suggested that the Libyan operations may stimulate sales of the Gripen and other aircraft.

In November 2012, Lieutenant Colonel Lars Helmrich of the Swedish Air Force testified to the Riksdag regarding the Gripen E. He stated that the current version of the Gripen would be outdated in air-to-air combat by 2020. With 60 Gripens having been judged to be the minimum required to defend Swedish Airspace, the Swedish Air Force wants to have 60–80 Gripens upgraded to the E/F standard by 2020.

On 25 August 2012, the Swedish government announced that a procurement of 40–60 JAS 39E/F Gripens was expected, and planned to be in service by 2023. On 11 December 2012, the Riksdag approved the purchase of 40 to 60 JAS 39E/Fs, but with an option to cancel if at least 20 aircraft are not ordered by other customers. The government approved the deal for 60 Gripen Es on 17 January 2013, with deliveries scheduled from 2018 to 2027. On 3 March 2014, the Swedish defence minister stated that another 10 Gripen Es might be ordered. This was later confirmed by the Swedish government.

Originally 60 JAS 39Cs were to be retrofitted to the E level by 2023, but Sweden's revised acquisition strategy, adopted in June 2014, calls for all Gripen E aircraft on order to be new-built. This change will free Swedish Gripen C aircraft for leasing to potential customers. One of the first beneficiaries of this is likely to be Brazil, which has an immediate need for fighters and has already selected the Gripen E.

On 19 March 2015, the Swedish Air Force received its final JAS 39C Gripen (aircraft 39294).

Role Fighter, attack and reconnaissanceaircraft
Manufacturer Saab Group
Design group Industrigruppen JAS, FMV
First flight 9 December 1988
Introduction 1 November 1997
Status In service
Primary users Swedish Air Force
South African Air Force
Czech Air Force
Hungarian Air Force
Produced 1987–present
Number built Approx. 247
Program cost US$?13.54 billion (2006)
Unit cost US$?68.90 million (2006)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 (2 for JAS 39D)

  • Payload: 5,300 kg (11,700 lb)

  • Length: 14.1 m (46 ft 3 in); two-seater: 14.8 m (48 ft 5 in)

  • Wingspan: 8.4 m (27 ft 7 in)

  • Height: 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in)

  • Wing area: 30.0 m² (323 ft²)

  • Empty weight: 6,800 kg[307] (14,990 lb)

  • Loaded weight: 8,500 kg (18,700 lb)

  • Max. takeoff weight: 14,000 kg (31,000 lb)

  • Powerplant: 1 × Volvo RM12 afterburning turbofan

  • Dry thrust: 54 kN (12,100 lbf)

  • Thrust with afterburner: 80.5 kN (18,100 lbf)

  • Wheel track: 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)


  • Maximum speed: Mach 2 (2,204 km/h (1,190 kn; 1,370 mph)) at high altitude

  • Combat radius: 800 km (497 mi, 432 nmi)

  • Ferry range: 3,200 km (1,983 mi) with drop tanks

  • Service ceiling: 15,240 m (50,000 ft)

  • Wing loading: 283 kg/m² (58 lb/ft²)

  • Thrust/weight: 0.97

  • Maximum g-load: +9 g


  •  Guns: 1× 27 mm Mauser BK-27 Revolver cannon with 120 rounds (single-seat models only)

  • Hardpoints: 8 (three on each wing and two under fuselage) and provisions to carry combinations of:

  • Rockets: 4× rocket pods, 13.5 cm rockets

  • Missiles:

    • 6× AIM-9 Sidewinder (Rb.74) or IRIS-T (Rb 98)

    • 4× AIM-120 AMRAAM (Rb.99) or MICA

    • 4× Meteor (under development)

    • 4× AGM-65 Maverick (Rb.75)

    • 2× KEPD.350

    • 2× Rbs.15F anti-ship missile

  • Bombs:

    • 4× GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb

    • 2× Bk.90 cluster bomb

    • 8× Mark 82 bombs

End notes