SHAH ALAM: Saab’s latest generation fighter jet – the Gripen E – made its maiden flight on June 15. The aircraft – tail number 39-8 – took off at 10.32am local time from Saab’s development facility at Linkoping, flown by test pilot, Marcus Wandt.
The aircraft flew for 40 minutes, reaching an altitude of nearly 4000 meters before touching down safely. During the flight, the aircraft carried out a number of actions to demonstrate various test criteria including the retracting and extending of the landing gear.
Wandt told an online press conference that the test flight went smoothly. “The flight was just as expected, with the aircraft performance matching the experience in our simulations. Its acceleration performance is impressive with smooth handling. Needless to say I’m very happy to have piloted this maiden flight,” says Wandt.
Apart from 39-8, Saab is expected to fly two more Gripen E prototypes as part of the development program of the new aircraft.
Sweden is expected to purchase 60 of the planes to gradually replace the Gripen C/D models already in service. Brazil has already agreed to procure 36 Gripen E and Gripen F two-seater aircraft.
The Gripen E was first revealed in a ceremony last year, and is expected to start service with the Swedish Air Force in 2019. However, the first operational squadron is only expected to be in service in 2023.
Saab is offering the Gripen E to Malaysia for the MRCA requirement. Even though the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale has been shortlisted for the program, funding delay may well allow the Gripen as well as the Boeing Super Hornet back into reckoning in the near future.
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