It is the most modern aircraft in operation in Latin America, which will equip the 1st Air Defense Group (1ºGDA), in Anápolis (GO).
“The receipt of the first Gripen aircraft symbolizes a milestone for the Brazilian Air Force. It is the materialization of a long-term project, which now translates into operational capabilities that the country never had,” said Lieutenant Brigadier Carlos de Almeida Baptista Junior, FAB Commander.
The renewal of fighter aircraft is one of the Ministry of Defense’s main strategic projects. Initially, it foresaw the purchase and delivery until 2027 of 36 Gripen for US$ 3.7 billion or R$ 20 billion in current values. But another four aircrafts were added this year to the current contract, totaling 40 fighters, which will be produced by Saab in partnership with Embraer. FAB is also considering acquiring 26 more Gripen aircraft through another contract.
“I believe that, given the continental dimensions of the country, the acquisition of a second batch is a necessity that should be immediately analyzed,” said the FAB commander. For him, despite Brazil’s fiscal difficulties, it is necessary to ensure the flow of resources for the project to maintain “an adequate cadence of deliveries.
The first four units manufactured in Sweden and brought to Brazil in ships will be incorporated tomorrow to the 1st GDA.
The last 15 of the first batch of 36 fighters will be built in the country. “The partnerships formed between Brazil and Sweden guarantee ample technology transfer, which has resulted in significant benefits throughout the production chain involved,” said Baptista Junior.
The agreement for the purchase of Gripen also foresees two years of training for 350 professionals who will take care of the preparation of the aircraft at Saab’s plant in São Bernardo do
Saab plant in São Bernardo do Campo and the final assembly at Embraer’s plant in Gavião Peixoto (SP).
It was there that FAB, Embraer and Saab test pilots carried out flight tests as part of the technology transfer program so that the fighters could receive their initial operating licenses. Only then could the four aircraft be transferred to the 1st GDA, at the Anápolis Air Base (BAAN).
RENOVATIONS. The base underwent three renovations to house the new aircraft. The first was in the maintenance hangar, the second in the so-called flight line hangars – the aircraft garages – and the last one in the facilities of the 1st GDA, where the building was divided into two large wings, one administrative and the other operational, to house the Gripen mission and support systems, with the assembly of flight simulators and planning and production stations.
For the time being the F-39s will remain in Anápolis, but the FAB command is studying how to distribute them to other bases according to operational needs, infrastructure availability and geographical position. Gripen will gradually substitute the F-5M, an American-made fighter jet that entered service in Brazil in 1975 and whose modernization, carried out by Embraer, ended in 2020.
Today, the F-5M is operated at the bases in Anápolis (DF), Canoas (RS) and Rio de Janeiro (RJ). The entry into operation of the Gripen will mark the last act of the current FAB commander’s administration. Baptista Junior intended to pass on the command of the Air Force four days later to his successor, Lieutenant Brigadier Marcelo Damasceno, before the inauguration of the president-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, but he was convinced by the future minister of Defense, José Múcio Monteiro Filho, to stay in the post until January, as the commanders of the other Forces do.
CHOICE. It was in a competition with the American F-18 Hornet and the French Rafale that the Gripen was chosen by FAB to equip it for the next decades.
“The set formed by the new vector and the modern armaments acquired places the Brazilian aerospace defense at a high level, with an unprecedented dissuasive power,” said Baptista Junior.
According to FAB, the aircraft can receive short- and long-range air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles and laser or GPS-guided bombs for use against targets on land and sea. The external armament load can be up to seven tons – the aircraft can take off at a maximum weight of 16.5 tons for air defense, attack and reconnaissance missions without having to return to base and change its configuration.
Under the wings, the Gripen can carry up to seven Meteor BVR missiles and two Iris-T infrared missiles. Both were recently purchased by FAB, after the project in partnership with South Africa for the supply of missiles was abandoned.
In the future, the Gripen will be able to fire cruise missiles.
According to FAB, Gripen will fly at full capacity in 2025. Only then will all the systems of the new aircraft be integrated, tested and ready to be used in combat. These are systems that counted on the participation of Brazilian companies in the development of the production of structural parts and avionics – the aircraft’s on-board electronics -, as well as logistical support for maintenance in the country.
One of them was the development of the Wide Area Display (WAD) by the company AEL Sisstemas, a technological solution that was adopted by the Swedish Air Force, turning the Brazilian manufacturer into the supplier for the F-39 Gripen E/F produced for both countries – Sweden has acquired 60 of these fighters.
TRAINING. The Brazilian pilots selected to fly the Gripen undergo a six-month training period in Sweden, flying the Gripen C/D, an older version of the fighter jet.
After this stage, the training is concluded in Brazil, with the new Gripen E, the model adopted by the FAB, which will be the first to operate it. Here, the Air Force is finishing up creating the training package that will last a year, including the theoretical part of the plane’s systems, training in the simulator, and actual flights.
The biggest challenge for the pilots will be learning to manage the multiple systems on board the Gripen almost simultaneously.
The fighter is an aircraft with multiple functions and armaments that do not exist in the Brazilian Air Force.
In addition, it has greater power and maneuverability than current aircraft and state-of-the-art equipment, such as electronic radar capable of finding targets at greater distances, including a passive infrared detector.
For his tasks, the Gripen pilot will have a flight control and autopilot system, which will allow him to focus more on combat systems without being overloaded with
work for basic flight.
The F-39’s flight hour cost is $4,500, much less than the $15,000 of its French competitor, the Rafale. It is with this “cheap” aircraft that the FAB intends to recover its airspace defense capability in a strategic environment that is home to Venezuela’s Russian Sukhoi SU-30 fighter and Chile’s American F-16.
*** Translated By the DEFCONPress FYI Team ***