Saab’s first Gripen F fighter to be built is moving closer to completion, a recent press tour to the Swedish manufacturer’s Linköping factory highlighted, with the first unit scheduled to be delivered to Brazil next year now undergoing its initial airworthiness inspection. All F variants are to be built at Saab’s Swedish facility, leaving the Sāo Paulo production line to optimise its single-seat E output.

The South American nation became the first country in the world to commence operational activities with the Gripen E in December 2022, with the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) ordering a total of 36 Gripen fighters back in 2015. This included eight twin-seat F variants, an airframe so far only on order to Brazil, despite the Swedish Air Force (SwAF) having also committed to 60 of the new single-seat E fighters.

Two F models are currently on the Linköping production line; the most advanced of these undergoing a comprehensive series of tests, measuring over five thousand components, as part of an airworthiness inspection lasting three to five days. Following this, the last two elements of the final assembly line – the radar and General Electric F414G engine – will be installed, from where the aircraft will pass to the delivery hangar for further tests and installation of the Martin-Baker ejection seat.

Having passed through the mating sub-assembly stage (where the forward fuselage, gun unit, rear fuselage and tail elements are combined), a second F unit (60cm longer overall than its single-seat sibling) is also preparing to enter the final assembly line following satisfactory completion of a fuel tank pressure test.

Just as the digital evolution at the heart of the E/F fighter variants continues to surpass the capabilities offered by their C/D predecessors, so too do their production methods also reflect the increased adoption of digitalisation and the efficiencies it brings. All aircraft under construction now benefit from fully-digitised, interactive alternatives to the some 50 thousand paper production documents previously employed on the production line.

Although the first F had originally been slated for delivery in 2023, noted Saab back in 2020, Johan Segertoft – Head of Gripen business unit, Saab Aeronautics – explained that the change of schedule “reflects [Brazil’s] priorities”. Additionally, despite Brazil’s Gripen production line (a joint venture between Saab and Embraer, inaugurated in May 2023 at Embraer´s plant in Gavião Peixoto) originally set to manufacture the F alongside the E, it “didn’t make sense” to optimise a line for such comparatively small volumes, explained Mattias Olsson, general production manager.

After undergoing flight tests at Saab’s Swedish facility, the completed F model will be shipped to Brazil by sea, where it will join the First Air Defense Group (1st GDA) at the Anápolis Air Base.
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