Saab is to introduce two new test platforms as it intensifies the flight trials campaign for its Gripen E combat aircraft.
Speaking at the Farnborough International Airshow in mid-July, Saab’s head of Aeronautics, Jonas Hjelm, said that test aircraft 39-9 and 39-10 will join prototype 39-8 as the programme begins to ramp-up.
“39-8 has been flying since June last year; 39-9 and 39-10 will join the programme soon [ahead of] an intensive test period for the Gripen E,” Hjelm said, adding that both prototypes have left the production line at Linköping and are undergoing verification ahead of their first flights.
Hjelm declined to say when the first flights would take place but he did confirm that they would not be at the same time. Both aircraft will be in the flight test campaign “by this time next year”, he said.
With 39-8 being used mainly for airframe and general flight control tests, 39-9 will be used as a tactical systems testbed while 39-10 will fly as the first production-standard airframe. “The avionics in 39-9 and 39-10 are almost completely different from 39-8, and this shows that our development concept for the aircraft works,” Hjelm noted. The twin-seat Gripen NG demonstrator (39-7) that provided much of the risk mitigation for the Gripen E is continuing to serve as a general test platform throughout the flight trials effort.
In terms of the test campaign, Saab recently undertook flight trials of the wingtip IRIS-T air-to-air missile stations, as well as flying with hardpoint pylons fitted. “We are progressing and are now preparing for the next step in the external loads trials,” Hjelm said.
Sweden is due to receive the first of 60 Gripen Es in 2019, with deliveries running through to 2026. The only international customer to date, Brazil, has ordered an initial batch of 28 Gripen Es and eight twin-seat Gripen Fs to be delivered between 2019 and 2024.
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