Saab JAS 39 Gripen
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen (IPA: [ˈgriːpɛn]; 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 air to air 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 1996. Upgraded variants, featuring more advanced avionics and adaptations for longer mission times, began entering service in 2003.
To market the aircraft internationally, Saab formed partnerships and collaborative efforts with 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; bribery has been suspected in some of these procurements, but authorities closed the investigation in 2009.
A further version, designated Gripen JAS 39E/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 Gripen Maritime 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.
In the late 1970s, Sweden sought to replace its ageing Saab 35 Draken and Saab 37 Viggen. The Swedish Air Force required an affordable Mach 2 aircraft with good short-field performance for a defensive dispersed basing plan in the event of invasion; the plan included 800 m long by 17 m wide rudimentary runways that were part of the Bas 90 system. One goal was for the aircraft to be smaller than the Viggen while equalling or improving on its payload-range characteristics. Early proposals included the Saab 38, also called B3LA, intended as an attack aircraft and trainer, and the A 20, a development of the Viggen that would have capabilities as a fighter, attack and sea reconnaissance aircraft. Several foreign designs were also studied, including the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, the Northrop F-20 Tigershark and the Dassault Mirage 2000. Ultimately, the Swedish government opted for a new fighter to be developed by Saab (Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolag).
In 1979, the government began a study calling for a versatile platform capable of “JAS”, standing for Jakt (air-to-air), Attack (air-to-surface), and Spaning (reconnaissance), indicating a multirole, or swingrole, fighter aircraft that can fulfill multiple roles during the same mission. Several Saab designs were reviewed, the most promising being “Project 2105” (redesignated “Project 2108” and, later, “Project 2110”), recommended to the government by the Defence Materiel Administration (Försvarets Materielverk, or FMV). In 1980, Industrigruppen JAS (IG JAS, “JAS Industry Group”) was established as a joint venture by Saab-Scania, LM Ericsson, Svenska Radioaktiebolaget, Volvo Flygmotor and Försvarets Fabriksverk, the industrial arm of the Swedish armed forces.
The preferred aircraft was a single-engine, lightweight single-seater, embracing fly-by-wire technology, canards, and an aerodynamically unstable design. The powerplant selected was the Volvo-Flygmotor RM12, a license-built derivative of the General Electric F404−400; engine development priorities were weight reduction and lowering component count. On 30 June 1982, with approval from the Riksdag, the FMV issued contracts worth SEK 25.7 billion to Saab, covering five prototypes and an initial batch of 30 production aircraft. By January 1983, a Viggen was converted to a flying test aircraft for the JAS 39’s intended avionics, such as the fly-by-wire controls. The JAS 39 received the name Gripen (griffin) via a public competition, which is the heraldry on Saab’s logo.
Testing, production, and improvements
Saab rolled out the first Gripen on 26 April 1987, marking its 50th anniversary. Originally planned to fly in 1987, the first flight was delayed by 18 months due to issues with the flight control system. On 9 December 1988, the first prototype (serial number 39-1) took its 51-minute maiden flight with pilot Stig Holmström at the controls. During the test programme, concern surfaced about the aircraft’s avionics, specifically the fly-by-wire flight control system (FCS), and the relaxed stability design. On 2 February 1989, this issue led to the crash of the prototype during an attempted landing at Linköping; the test pilot Lars Rådeström walked away with a broken elbow. The cause of the crash was identified as pilot-induced oscillation, caused by problems with the FCS’s pitch-control routine.
In response to the crash Saab and US firm Calspan introduced software modifications to the aircraft. A modified Lockheed NT-33A was used to test these improvements, which allowed flight testing to resume 15 months after the accident. On 8 August 1993, production aircraft 39102 was destroyed in an accident during an aerial display in Stockholm. Test pilot Rådeström lost control of the aircraft during a roll at low altitude when the aircraft stalled, forcing him to eject. Saab later found the problem was high amplification of the pilot’s quick and significant stick command inputs. The ensuing investigation and flaw correction delayed test flying by several months, resuming in December 1993.
The first order included an option for another 110, which was exercised in June 1992. Batch II consisted of 96 one-seat JAS 39As and 14 two-seat JAS 39Bs. The JAS 39B variant is 66 cm (26 in) longer than the JAS 39A to accommodate a second seat, which also necessitated the deletion of the cannon and a reduced internal fuel capacity. By April 1994, five prototypes and two series-production Gripens had been completed; but a beyond-visual-range missile (BVR) had not yet been selected. A third batch was ordered in June 1997, composed of 50 upgraded single-seat JAS 39Cs and 14 JAS 39D two-seaters, known as ‘Turbo Gripen’, with NATO compatibility for exports. Batch III aircraft, delivered between 2002 and 2008, possess more powerful and updated avionics, in-flight refuelling capability via retractable probes on the aircraft’s starboard side, and an on-board oxygen-generating system for longer missions. In-flight refueling was tested via a specially equipped prototype (39‐4) used in successful trials with a Royal Air Force VC10 in 1998.
During the 1995 Paris Air Show, Saab Military Aircraft and British Aerospace (BAe, now BAE Systems) announced the formation the joint-venture company Saab-BAe Gripen AB with the goal of adapting, manufacturing, marketing and supporting Gripen worldwide. The deal involved the conversion of the A and B series aircraft to the “export” C and D series, which developed the Gripen for compatibility with NATO standards. This cooperation was extended in 2001 with the formation of Gripen International to promote export sales. In December 2004, Saab and BAE Systems announced that BAE was to sell a large portion of its stake in Saab, and that Saab would take full responsibility for marketing and export orders of the Gripen. In June 2011, Saab announced that an internal investigation revealed evidence of acts of corruption by BAE Systems, including money laundering, in South Africa, one of the Gripen’s customers.
On 26 April 2007, Norway signed a NOK150 million joint-development agreement with Saab to cooperate in the development programme of the Gripen, including the integration of Norwegian industries in the development of future versions of the aircraft. In June of the same year, Saab also entered an agreement with Thales Norway A/S concerning the development of communications systems for the Gripen fighter. This order was the first awarded under the provisions of the Letter of Agreement signed by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence and Gripen International in April 2007. As a result of the United States diplomatic cables leak in 2010, it was revealed that US diplomats had become concerned with cooperation between Norway and Sweden on the topic of the Gripen, and had sought to exert pressure against a Norwegian purchase of the aircraft.
In December 2007, as part of Gripen International’s marketing efforts in Denmark, a deal was signed with Danish technology supplier Terma A/S that lets them participate in an industrial cooperation programme over the next 10–15 years. The total value of the programme is estimated at over DKK10 billion, and is partly dependent on a procurement of the Gripen by Denmark.
Controversies, scandals, and costs
Developing an advanced multi-role fighter was a major undertaking for Sweden. The predecessor Viggen, despite being less advanced and less expensive, had been criticized for occupying too much of Sweden’s military budget and was branded “a cuckoo in the military nest” by critics as early as 1971. At the 1972 party congress of the Social Democrats, the dominant party in Swedish politics since the 1950s, a motion was passed to stop any future projects to develop advanced military aircraft. In 1982, the Gripen project passed in the Riksdag by a margin of 176 for and 167 against, with the entire Social Democratic party voting against the proposal due to demands for more studies. A new bill was introduced in 1983 and a final approval was given in April 1983 with the condition that the project was to have a predetermined fixed-price contract, a decision that would later be criticized as unrealistic due to later cost overruns.
According to Annika Brändström, in the aftermath of the 1989 and 1993 crashes, the Gripen risked a loss of credibility and the weakening of its public image. There was public speculation that failures to address technical problems exposed in the first crash had directly contributed to the second crash and thus had been avoidable. Brändström observed that media elements had called for greater public accountability and explanation of the project; ill-informed media analysis had also distorted public knowledge of the Gripen. The sitting Conservative government quickly endorsed and supported the Gripen – Minister of Defense Anders Björck issued a public reassurance that the project was very positive for Sweden. In connection to the Gripen’s marketing efforts to multiple countries, including South Africa, Austria, the Czechia and Hungary, there were reports of widespread bribery and corruption by BAE Systems and Saab. In 2007, Swedish journalists reported that BAE had paid bribes equivalent to millions of dollars. Following criminal investigations in eight countries, only one individual in Austria, Alfons Mensdorf-Pouilly, was prosecuted for bribery. The scandal tarnished the international reputation of the Gripen, BAE Systems, Saab, and Sweden.
The Gripen’s cost has been subject to frequent attention and speculation. In 2008, Saab announced reduced earnings for that year, partly attributing this to increased marketing costs for the aircraft. In 2008, Saab disputed Norway’s cost calculations for the Gripen NG as overestimated and in excess of real world performance with existing operators. A 2007 report by the European Union Institute for Security Studies stated the total research and development costs of Gripen were €1.84 billion. According to a study by Jane’s Information Group in 2012, the Gripen’s operational cost was the lowest among several modern fighters; it was estimated at $4,700 per flight hour. The Swedish Ministry of Defense estimated the cost of the full system, comprising 60 Gripen E/F, at SEK 90 billion distributed over the period 2013–42. The Swedish Armed Forces estimated that maintaining 100 C/D-model aircraft until 2042 would cost SEK 60 billion, while buying aircraft from a foreign supplier would cost SEK 110 billion.
JAS 39E/F and other developments
A two-seat aircraft, designated “Gripen Demo”, was ordered in 2007 as a testbed for various upgrades. It was powered by the General Electric F414G, a development of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet’s engine. The Gripen NG’s maximum takeoff weight was increased from 14,000 to 16,000 kg (30,900–35,300 lb), internal fuel capacity was increased by 40 per cent by relocating the undercarriage, which also let two hardpoints be added on the fuselage underside. Its combat radius was 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) when carrying six AAMs and drop tanks. The PS-05/A radar is replaced by the new Raven ES-05 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, which is based on the Vixen AESA radar family from Selex ES (since 2016 Finmeccanica, then Leonardo S.p.A.). The Gripen Demo’s maiden flight was conducted on 27 May 2008. On 21 January 2009, the Gripen Demo flew at Mach 1.2 without reheat to test its supercruise capability. The Gripen Demo served as a basis for the Gripen E/F, also referred to as the Gripen NG (Next Generation) and MS (Material Standard) 21.
Saab studied a variant of the Gripen capable of operating from aircraft carriers in the 1990s. In 2009, it launched the Sea Gripen project in response to India’s request for information on a carrier-borne aircraft. Brazil may also require new carrier aircraft. Following a meeting with Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials in May 2011, Saab agreed to establish a development center in the UK to expand on the Sea Gripen concept. In 2013, Saab’s Lennart Sindahl stated that development of an optionally manned version of the Gripen E capable of flying unmanned operations was being explored by the firm; further development of the optionally manned and carrier versions would require the commitment of a customer. On 6 November 2014, the Brazilian Navy expressed interest in a carrier-based variant of the Gripen.
In 2010, Sweden awarded Saab a four-year contract to improve the Gripen’s radar and other equipment, integrate new weapons, and lower its operating costs. In June 2010, Saab stated that Sweden planned to order the Gripen NG, designated JAS 39E/F, and was to enter service in 2017 or earlier dependent on export orders. On 25 August 2012, following Switzerland’s intention to buy 22 of the E/F variants, Sweden announced it planned to buy 40–60 Gripen E/Fs. The Swedish government decided to purchase 60 Gripen Es on 17 January 2013.
In July 2013, assembly began on the first pre-production aircraft. Originally 60 JAS 39Cs were to be retrofitted to the E-models by 2023, but this has been revised to Gripen Es having new-built airframes and some reused parts from JAS 39Cs. The first production aircraft is to be delivered in 2018. In March 2014, Saab revealed the detailed design and indicated it planned to receive military type certification in early 2018. The first Gripen E was rolled out on 18 May 2016. Saab delayed the first flight from 2016 to 2017 to focus on civilian-grade software certification, but high speed taxi tests began in December 2016. On 15 June 2017, Saab completed first flight of the Gripen E.
In September 2015, Saab Aeronautics head Lennard Sindhal announced that an electronic warfare version of the Gripen F two-seater was under development.
On 18 May 2016, Saab unveiled the next generation fighter, Gripen E, in a ceremony in Sweden. The first successful test flight of Gripen E (designation 39-8) happened on 15 June 2017. The maiden flight, planned for late 2016, was slightly delayed as Saab decided to finalise all of the software development before conducting flight trials in order to mitigate risk. As of May 2018, the Gripen E had attained supersonic flight & was to commence load tests.
Light grey aircraft banking tightly, revealing its underside.
Underside of a Gripen in flight, 2012
The Gripen is a multirole fighter aircraft, intended as a lightweight and agile aerial platform with advanced, highly adaptable avionics. It has canard control surfaces that contribute 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 unstable and employing digital fly-by-wire flight controls to maintain stability removes many flight restrictions, improves maneuverability, 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.
To enable the Gripen to have a long service life, roughly 50 years, Saab designed it to have low maintenance requirements. Major systems such as the RM12 engine and PS-05/A radar are modular to reduce operating cost and increase reliability. The Gripen was designed to be flexible, so that newly developed sensors, computers, and armaments could be integrated as technology advances. The aircraft was estimated to be roughly 67% sourced from Swedish or European suppliers and 33% from the US.
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.
Avionics and sensors
All of the Gripen’s avionics are fully integrated using five MIL-STD-1553B digital data buses, in what is described as “sensor fusion”. The total integration of the avionics makes the Gripen a “programmable” aircraft, allowing software updates to be introduced over time to increase performance and allow for additional operational roles and equipment. The Ada programming language was adopted for the Gripen, and is used for the primary flight controls on the final prototypes from 1996 onwards and all subsequent production aircraft. The Gripen’s software is continuously being improved to add new capabilities, as compared to the preceding Viggen, which was updated only in an 18-month schedule.
Much of the data generated from the onboard sensors and by cockpit activity is digitally recorded throughout the length of an entire mission. This information can be replayed in the cockpit or easily extracted for detailed post-mission analysis using a data transfer unit that can also be used to insert mission data to the aircraft. The Gripen, like the Viggen, was designed to operate as one component of a networked national defence system, which allows for automatic exchange of information in real-time between Gripen aircraft and ground facilities. According to Saab, the Gripen features “the world’s most highly developed data link”. The Gripen’s Ternav tactical navigation system combines information from multiple onboard systems such as the air data computer, radar altimeter, and GPS to continuously calculate the Gripen’s location.
The Gripen entered service using the PS-05/A pulse-Doppler X band multi-mode radar, developed by Ericsson and GEC-Marconi, which is based on the latter’s advanced Blue Vixen radar for the Sea Harrier that also served as the basis for the Eurofighter’s CAPTOR radar. The all-weather radar is capable of locating and identifying targets 120 km (74 mi) away, and automatically tracking multiple targets in the upper and lower spheres, on the ground and sea or in the air. It can guide several beyond visual range air-to-air missiles to multiple targets simultaneously. Saab stated the PS-05/A is able to handle all types of air defense, air-to-surface, and reconnaissance missions, and is developing a Mark 4 upgrade to it. The Mark 4 version has a 150% increase in high-altitude air-to-air detection ranges, detection and tracking of smaller targets at current ranges, 140% improvement in air-to-air mode at low altitude, and full integration of modern weapons such as the AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM, AIM-9X Sidewinder, and MBDA Meteor missiles.
The future Gripen E/F will use a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, Raven ES-05, based on the Vixen AESA radar family from Selex ES. Among other improvements, the new radar is to be capable of scanning over a greatly increased field of view and improved range. In addition, the new Gripen integrates the Skyward-G Infra-red search and track (IRST) sensor, which is capable of passively detecting thermal emissions from air and ground targets in the aircraft’s vicinity. The sensors of the Gripen E are claimed to be able to detect low radar cross-section (RCS) targets at beyond visual range. Targets are tracked by a “best sensor dominates” system, either by onboard sensors or through the Transmitter Auxiliary Unit (TAU) data link function of the radar.
The primary flight controls are compatible with the Hands On Throttle-And-Stick (HOTAS) control principle – the centrally mounted stick, in addition to flying the aircraft, also controls the cockpit displays and weapon systems. A triplex, digital fly-by-wire system is employed on the Gripen’s flight controls, with a mechanical backup for the throttle. Additional functions, such as communications, navigational and decision support data, can be accessed via the up front control panel, directly above the central cockpit display. The Gripen includes the EP-17 cockpit display system, developed by Saab to provide pilots with a high level of situational awareness and reduces pilot workload through intelligent information management. The Gripen features a sensor fusion capability, information from onboard sensors and databases is combined, automatically analysed, and useful data is presented to the pilot via a wide field-of-view head-up display, three large multi-function colour displays, and optionally a helmet mounted display system (HMDS).
Of the three multi-function displays (MFD), the central display is for navigational and mission data, the display to the left of the center shows aircraft status and electronic warfare information, and the display to the right of the center has sensory and fire control information. In two-seat variants, the rear seat’s displays can be operated independently of the pilot’s own display arrangement in the forward seat, Saab has promoted this capability as being useful during electronic warfare and reconnaissance missions, and while carrying out command and control activities. In May 2010, Sweden began equipping their Gripens with additional onboard computer systems and new displays. The MFDs are interchangeable and designed for redundancy in the event of failure, flight information can be presented on any of the displays.
Saab and BAE developed the Cobra HMDS for use in the Gripen, based on the Striker HMDS used on the Eurofighter. By 2008, the Cobra HMDS was fully integrated on operational aircraft, and is available as an option for export customers; it has been retrofitted into older Swedish and South African Gripens. The HMDS provides control and information on target cueing, sensor data, and flight parameters, and is optionally equipped for night time operations and with chemical/biological filtration. All connections between the HMDS and the cockpit were designed for rapid detachment, for safe use of the ejection system.
All in-service Gripens as of January 2014 are powered by a Volvo RM12 turbofan engine (now GKN Aerospace Engine Systems), a license-manufactured derivative of General Electric F404, fed by a Y-duct with splitter plates; changes include increased performance and improved reliability to meet single engine use safety criteria, as well as a greater resistance to bird strike incidents. Several subsystems and components were also redesigned to reduce maintenance demands. By November 2010, the Gripen had accumulated over 143,000 flight hours without a single engine-related failure or incident; Rune Hyrefeldt, head of Military Program management at Volvo Aero, stated: “I think this must be a hard record to beat for a single-engine application”.
The JAS 39E and F variants under development are to adopt the F414G powerplant, a variant of the General Electric F414. The F414G can produce 20% greater thrust than the current RM12 engine, enabling the Gripen to supercruise (maintain speed beyond the sound barrier without the use of afterburners) at a speed of Mach 1.1 while carrying an air-to-air combat payload. In 2010, Volvo Aero stated it was capable of further developing its RM12 engine to better match the performance of the F414G, and claimed that developing the RM12 would be a less expensive option. Prior to Saab’s selection of the F414G, the Eurojet EJ200 had also been under consideration for the Gripen; proposed implementations included the use of thrust vectoring.
Equipment and armaments
The Gripen is compatible with a number of different armaments, beyond the aircraft’s single 27 mm Mauser BK-27 cannon (omitted on the two-seat variants), including air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, air-to-ground missiles such as the AGM-65 Maverick, and anti-ship missiles such as the RBS-15. In 2010, the Swedish Air Force’s Gripen fleet completed the MS19 upgrade process, enabling compatibility with a range of weapons, including the long-range MBDA Meteor missile, the short-range IRIS-T missile and the GBU-49 laser-guided bomb. Speaking on the Gripen’s selection of armaments, Saab’s campaign director for India Edvard de la Motte stated that: “If you buy Gripen, select where you want your weapons from. Israel, Sweden, Europe, US… South America. It’s up to the customer”.
In flight, the Gripen is typically capable of carrying up to 6,500 kg (14,330 lb) of assorted armaments and equipment. Equipment includes external sensor pods for reconnaissance and target designation, such as Rafael’s LITENING targeting pod, Saab’s Modular Reconnaissance Pod System, or Thales’ Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pod. The Gripen has an advanced and integrated electronic warfare suite, capable of operating in an undetectable passive mode or to actively jam hostile radar; a missile approach warning system passively detects and tracks incoming missiles. In November 2013, it was announced that Saab will be the first to offer the BriteCloud expendable Active jammer developed by Selex ES. In June 2014, the Enhanced Survivability Technology Modular Self Protection Pod, a defensive missile countermeasure pod, performed its first flight on the Gripen.
Saab describes the Gripen as a “swing-role aircraft”, stating that it is capable of “instantly switching between roles at the push of a button”. The human/machine interface changes when switching between roles, being optimized by the computer in response to new situations and threats. The Gripen is also equipped to use a number of different communications standards and systems, including SATURN secure radio, Link-16, ROVER, and satellite uplinks. Equipment for performing long range missions, such as an aerial refueling probe and onboard oxygen generation system (OBOGS), was integrated upon the Gripen C/D.
Usability and maintenance
During the Cold War, the Swedish Armed Forces were to be ready to defend against a possible invasion. This scenario required defensive force dispersal of combat aircraft in the Bas 90 system to maintain an air defence capacity. Thus, a key design goal during the Gripen’s development was the ability to take off from snow-covered landing strips of only 800 metres (2,600 ft); furthermore, a short-turnaround time of just ten minutes, during which a team composed of a technician and five conscripts would be able to re-arm, refuel, and perform basic inspections and servicing inside that time window before returning to flight.
During the design process, great priority was placed on facilitating and minimising aircraft maintenance; in addition to a maintenance-friendly layout, many subsystems and components require little or no maintenance at all. Aircraft are fitted with a Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) that monitors the performance of various systems, and provides information to technicians to assist in servicing it. Saab operates a continuous improvement programme; information from the HUMS and other systems can be submitted for analysis. According to Saab, the Gripen provides “50% lower operating costs than its best competitor”.
A 2012 Jane’s Aerospace and Defense Consulting study compared the operational costs of a number of modern combat aircraft, concluding that Gripen had the lowest cost per flight hour (CPFH) when fuel used, pre-flight preparation and repair, and scheduled airfield-level maintenance together with associated personnel costs were combined. The Gripen had an estimated CPFH of US$4,700 whereas the next lowest, the F-16 Block 40/50, had a 49% higher CPFH at $7,000.
- JAS 39A: initial version that entered service with the Swedish Air Force in 1996. A number have been upgraded to the C standard.
- JAS 39B: two-seat version of the 39A for training, specialised missions and type conversion. To fit the second crew member and life support systems, the internal cannon and an internal fuel tank were removed and the airframe lengthened 0.66 m (2 ft 2 in).
- JAS 39C: NATO-compatible version of Gripen with extended capabilities in terms of armament, electronics, etc. Can be refuelled in flight.
- JAS 39D: two-seat version of the 39C, with similar alterations as the 39B.
- Gripen NG: improved version following on from the Gripen Demo technology demonstrator. Changes from the JAS 39C/D include the more powerful F414G engine, Raven ES-05 AESA radar, increased fuel capacity and payload, two additional hardpoints, and other improvements. These improvements have reportedly increased the Gripen NG costs to an estimated 24,000 Swiss Francs (US$27,000) per hour,and increased the flyaway cost to 100 million Swiss Francs (US$113M).
- JAS 39E: single-seat production version developed from the Gripen NG program. Sweden and Brazil have ordered the variant. Brazil’s designation for this variant is F-39E.
- JAS 39F: two-seat version of the E variant. Eight ordered by Brazil, to be developed and assembled in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil.; planned for pilot training and combat, being optimised for back seat air battle management, with jamming, information warfare and network attack, besides weapon system officer and electronic warfare roles. Brazil’s designation for the variant is F-39F.
- Aggressor: ‘red team’ weaponless variant of the Gripen C & possibly D intended for the UK’s Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) requirement, and part of the US Air Force’s adversary air (AdAir) opportunity.
- Gripen M: proposed carrier-based version based on the Gripen NG. As of 2011, its development was underway. As of 2013, Brazil and India were interested. This variant has also been named Sea Gripen or Gripen Maritime. In July 2017 the Brazilian Navy began studying the Saab Gripen for naval purposes by sending an attaché to the Brazilian Air Force. The Brazilian Navy is looking to replace its fleet of Douglas A-4 Skyhawk aircraft.
- Gripen UCAV: proposed unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) variant of the Gripen E.
- Gripen EW: proposed electronic warfare (EW) ‘Growler’ variant of the Gripen F.
- Crew: 1 (2 for 39D)
- Length: 14.1 m (46.3 ft)
- Wingspan: 8.4 m (27.6 ft)
- Height: 4.5 m (14.8 ft)
- Wing area: 30 m² (323 ft²)
- Empty weight: 6,800 kg (15,000 lb)
- Max. takeoff weight: 14,000 kg (30,900 lb)
- Powerplant: 1 × 1 × Volvo RM12 afterburning turbofan
- Dry thrust: 54 kN (12,100 lbf)
- Thrust with afterburner: 80.5 kN (18,100 lbf)
- Maximum speed:
- High altitude: Mach ≈2.00 (2,460+ km/h, 1,530+ mph)
- Combat radius: 800 km (497 mi)
- Ferry range: 3,200 km (1,990 mi)
- Service ceiling: 15 240 m (50 000 ft)
- Wing loading: 283 kg/m²
- Thrust/weight: 0.97
- Takeoff distance: 500 m
- Landing distance: 600 m
- Maximum load factor: +9/-3 g
- Guns: 1 × 27 mm Mauser BK-27 revolver cannon with 120 rounds (single-seat models only)
- Hardpoints: 8 – one dedicated for FLIR / ECM / LD / Reconn pod. two under the fuselage, two under and one on the tip of each wing. with a capacity of 5 300 kg (11 700 lb) and provisions to carry combinations of:
- Rockets: 4 × rocket pods, 13.5 cm rockets
- 6 × AIM-9 Sidewinder (Rb.74) or IRIS-T (Rb 98) or A-Darter
- 4 × AIM-120 AMRAAM (Rb.99) or MICA
- 4 × Meteor
- 4 × AGM-65 Maverick (Rb.75)
- 2 × KEPD.350
- 2 × Rbs.15F anti-ship missile
- 4 × GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb
- 2 × Bk.90 cluster bomb
- 8 × Mark 82 bombs
- Radar: PS-05 / A Pulse-Doppler
- Crew: 1 (2 for 39F)
- Length: 15.2 m (49 ft 10 in)
- Wingspan: 8.6 m (28 ft 3 in)
- Height: 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in)
- Wing area: 31 m² (334 ft²)
- Empty weight: 8,000 kg (17,600 lb)
- Max. takeoff weight: 16,500 kg (36,400 lb)
- Fuel capacity: (combined) 7,018 kg (15,440 lb)
- Internal: 3,400 kg (7,500 lb)
- External: 3,655 kg (8,040 lb) using two 450 gal. and one 300 gal. drop tanks.
- Powerplant: 1 × General Electric F414-GE-39E afterburning turbofan
- Dry thrust: 64 kN (14,400 lbf)
- Thrust with afterburner: 98 kN (22,000 lbf)
- Maximum speed:
- High altitude: Mach 2.0 (2,460+ km/h, 1,530+ mph)
- Sea level: Mach 1.13 (1,400+ km/h, 860+ mph)
- Without afterburner: Mach 1.25 (1,540+ km/h, 950+ mph) supercruise capable; Mach 1.1 with air-to-air weapons
- Combat radius:
- Air-to-ground: 1,500 km (932 mi)
- Combat air patrol: 900 km (559 mi)
- Ferry range: 4,000 km (2,485 mi)
- Service ceiling: 16,000 m (>52,500 ft)
- Wing loading: 258.06–532.26 kg/m² (52.69–108.98 lb/ft²)
- Thrust/weight: 0.396–0.818 (dry); 0.605–1.249 (with afterburner)
- Takeoff distance: 500 m
- Landing distance: 600 m
- Maximum load factor: +9/−3 g
- Guns: 1 × 27 mm Mauser BK-27 revolver cannon with 120 rounds (single-seat models only)
- Hardpoints: 10 – one dedicated for FLIR / ECM / LD / Reconn pod. three under the fuselage, two under and one on the tip of each wing; with a capacity of 6,000 kg (13,227 lb) and provisions to carry combinations of:
- Rockets: 4 × rocket pods, 13.5 cm rockets
- 6 × AIM-9 Sidewinder (Rb 74) / IRIS-T (Rb 98) / A-Darter / ASRAAM / Python 4/5
- 4 × AIM-120 AMRAAM (Rb 99) / MICA / R-Darter / Meteor
- 4 × AGM-65 Maverick (Rb 75) Air-to-surface missile
- 2 × KEPD 350 Air-launched cruise missile
- 2 × RBS-15F anti-ship missile
- 4 × GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb
- 2 × Bk.90 cluster bomb
- 8 × Mark 82 bombs
- Radar: Leonardo (formerly Selex) Raven ES-05 roll-repositionable AESA radar.
- Electro-Optics: Leonardo Skyward-G IRST system.
- IFF Transponder: Leonardo M428 transponder with full MkXIIA Mode S and Mode 5 compatibility.