According Saab CEO Håkan Buskhe the company remains on track to deliver the first series production examples of its Gripen E
Buskhe revealed that the test data from the current prototype is better than predicted and a second aircraft will be ready by end of the year.
“Test and evaluation of the first [prototype] aircraft is going extremely well. We are getting better-standard data than we had anticipated,” Buskhe said to Flight Global.
“It’s always challenging to have this type of programme, but if it’s not challenging then it probably will not be a good product at the end,” he notes, while describing development work as progressing “fairly well”.
Noting that Saab is eyeing potential opportunities to sell the Gripen E to additional nations, including Canada, Finland and Switzerland, he says: “Our performance in delivery will also prove that we have a ready product.”
Buskhe says Saab had hoped to conclude new sales of its Gripen C/D by the end of last year, but that factors including political processes in potential customer nations prevented this from happening. “The number of possible deals hasn’t changed,” he stresses. “We have some intensive discussions with some countries, and there are great possibilities during this year.”
With the US Air Force having delayed a decision in its T-X trainer competition from last year until around mid-2018, Buskhe says Saab also spent “much more than anticipated” on the activity last year. Working in partnership with bid leader Boeing, it is pursuing a deal for 350 aircraft to replace the USAF’s Northrop T-38s.
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 Aug. 25, 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.
Photo credit: Saab