Sweden to upgrade its entire Gripen fleet

Swedish Air Force Saab JAS 39 Gripen C
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Swedish Defense Materiel Administration and Saab signed a contract to upgrade Swedish Air Force JAS 39 Gripen C/D fighter jets.

The contract is worth SEK 3.5 billion ($336 million) and includes replacing the jets’ engines, radars, avionics, and other systems.

“This upgrade will provide the Swedish Air Force with a significantly stronger fighter capability. The contract is a big leap ahead in terms of radar performance and functionality, both for the hardware and software, and will future-proof the operational capability of Gripen C/D,” Jonas Hjelm, head of Aeronautics at Saab, is quoted in the company’s press release.

The release explains that the upgrade is intended to improve interoperability between Gripen C/D and the latest Gripen E, indicating that upgraded aircraft will not be brought to full Gripen E standard.

According to World Air Forces 2023 index Sweden operates 71 Gripen C single-seat and 23 Gripen D twin-seat fighters. In 2013 the country ordered 60 Gripen Es, the latest variants of the aircraft.

Initially old Gripen Cs were intended to be upgraded to the E standard, however, the choice to build new airframes was made later.

Gripen C/D, developed in the late 1990s as an upgrade to the earlier Gripen A/B, is a single-engine fourth-generation fighter jet operated by several countries including Czechia, Hungary, and Thailand. It is designed to operate from austere environments and is often considered as one of the cheapest Western-made fighter jets.

The E/F variants of the Gripen were developed in the 2010s to improve on all aspects of earlier models. The Gripen E features a new General Electric F414 engine, an upgraded airframe, new avionics and electronic warfare suite, and other changes.

The new variant so far has been only purchased by Sweden and Brazil, although it participated in numerous tenders often losing to the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35.

In March 2022 Saab was already awarded a $52 million contract to extend the service life of Sweden’s Gripen C/Ds to 2035.

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