Gripen lineage can be traced back to the immediate post-war period when the Royal Swedish Air Force operated the Saab J (Jakt) 21A singleseat fighter and attack aircraft. Following delivery of 299, Saab developed the J 21R, based on the 21A, but powered by a de Havilland Goblin turbojet. The J 29 ‘Tunnen ’ was Europe’s first swept-wing jet fighter and entered service in 1951. The J 32 Lansen followed, first flying on November 3, 1952, the type continuing in second-line service today with the Swedish Air Force.
One of the four prototype Saab JAS 39 Gripens exposes the offset 27mm Mauser BK27 cannon and weapon pylons as it peels away from the camera.
Devoid of the now familiar Saab ‘house’ colours, the first serial JAS 39 Gripen, No 101, carries ‘Svenska Flygvapnet’ markings and joined the four prototypes in the test programme following its first flight on September 10, 1992. It will shortly transfer to the FMV for Swedish Air Force trials.
To facilitate engine maintenance in crowded rock shelters, the GE/Volvo RM 12 (F404) turbofan can be dropped down and removed in a comparatively short time.
During a visit to a Swedish Air Force base last summer the Gripen was displayed with its range of weapons including AIM-9 Sidewinders in the foreground, Skyflash AAMs, Mavericks, rocket pods, DWS 39 weapon dispensers and RBS-15F anti-ship missiles (far left and right).
This view of the fourth prototype gives an indication of just how compact the Gripen is.
During the author’s recent visit to Linkoping, the second prototype was undertaking compatibility trials with the Maverick ASM, four drill rounds being carried on the underwing pylons.
The four Gripen prototypes which have accumulated more than 600 test flights to fate.
Wing mating underway on an early prototype. Following contract signing, production is getting underway with major components arriving at Linkoping from other parts of Saab and outside equipment suppliers.
A company drawing of the JAS 39 showing the main wing and fuselage structure with the three closely spaced frames noted by the author in the text which transfer the loads from the wing to the fuselage.
To evaluate the double-delta wing design, Saab built the 210, a small single-seat test aircraft which paved the way for the J 35 Draken which made its first flight on October 25, 1955. It entered SwAF service in 1960 and remains in use in its latest upgraded J 35J model. Close-coupled canard delta configuration was the hallmark of the JA 37 Viggen which was developed for a range of tasks. A design of the late-1970s that failed to gain an order was the B 3LA attack/trainer intended to be a replacement for the SK 60. The JAS 39 is the latest in Saab’s fighter family and should see service well into the next century.
General arrangement drawing of the Gripen
Section through the JAS 39B showing the main internal fuselage layout and centre fuel tankage. Assembly of the first of 14 two-seaters will begin in March 1993.