During a press briefing at its Linköping, Sweden headquarters, Saab revealed the first details surrounding its Future Concept Air System study, KFS (Koncept för Framtida Stridsflyg): an initiative set into motion in July 2023 and one it is to pursue independently from the UK-led GCAP (Global Combat Air Programme).

Following Sweden’s initial thoughts of joining GCAP, after considering factors such as the Ukraine conflict, a raised defence budget and Sweden’s NATO membership, Peter Nilsson – head of Saab’s Advanced Programmes business unit – explained the next step: “Let’s take a deep breath and see where we are going to go”.

Although Sweden has not yet confirmed whether it will ultimately continue its future fighter concept independently (with options to join GCAP, FCAS or even potentially the US NGAD programme not entirely off the table), last summer the Advanced Programmes business unit initiated its fully financed programme “to take that deep breath,” confirmed Nilsson.

The independent programme is currently contracted through to 2025 with negotiations to extend this date to 2026 likely to commence soon, suggested Nilsson, with the “pretty high tempo” initial exploration phase soon to undergo a concept evaluation review. From 2026, this first phase is anticipated to move into the second element of concept, technology and demonstration development.

“We have to be quicker from thought to flight,” he ventured, highlighting the significance of Saab’s Linköping base – home to numerous development teams across several specialist programmes, including the ever-evolving Gripen E – as integral to optimising company capability. Incremental updates to Sweden’s indigenous fighter jet may also benefit from future concept initiatives, said Nilsson, who highlighted that “everything an unmanned platform needs, there’s no pilot who will say no to that capability”.

Although the ultimate design is still very much at the conceptual stage (indeed, Saab stressing that the image above represents “just an artist’s impression of one of the many concepts [it] is right now looking into with the customer in the concept programme”), Nilsson expressed his belief that the new concept won’t look like Gripen. However, noting the importance of robust LO (Low Observability) with electronic warfare capability, he jokingly remarked that “I can’t bring in several layers of paint, get one scratch and have to send it back to Texas – so there has to be a balance;” referencing the alleged durability issues adversely affecting Lockheed Martin’s stealth coating.

These first details around Sweden’s FCAS programme follow Saab’s order from the Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) in March 2024, including “conceptual studies of manned and unmanned solutions in a system of system perspective, technology development and demonstrations”.
Subscribe to the FINN weekly newsletter