SAAB JAS 39 Gripen

Aircraft Profile
JAS 39A 50/G from F10 Wing
(photo, Gripen International)


Since World War 2, the quality of Swedish engineering has become world renowned. Nowhere is this quality more evident than in the successive generations of thoroughbred fighters produced by Saab which began in 1948 with the J 29 ‘Tunnan’ and continues today with the JAS 39 Gripen. The Gripen now competes in the export market against the best combat aircraft from Europe, the USA and Russia and has proved to be a very attractive solution for many air forces.

The Saab JAS 39 Gripen came into being at one of the lowest points in the modern history of Swedish aerospace development. Between 1976 and 1979 Saab, (the only military aircraft manufacturer in Sweden), was working on the design of a projected subsonic light attack and trainer aircraft with the company designation B3LA. Intended to replace the Sk 60, the B3LA was similar in concept to the Italian AMX aircraft, but in February 1979 the programme was suddenly cancelled by the newly elected Swedish government as too expensive. At a stroke, this left Saab without any work other than a Viggen update programme.

Throughout the remaining months of 1979 the Swedish Air Force carried out a thorough re-examination its future equipment requirements, and concluded that the only affordable option was the development of a single combat aircraft which combined the roles of Jakt (fighter), Attack (attack) and Spaning (reconnaissance) in one airframe, the JAS Project. The new aircraft could replace both the Draken and Viggen using a swing-role capability which would allow it to be configured for a specific mission at the flick of a switch. It was anticipated that forthcoming advances in avionics would allow a small single-engined high-performance aircraft to fulfill all these roles successfully.

In March 1980 the Government endorsed the Air Force’s plan, but insisted that foreign manufacturers be allowed to bid for the contract. In response the Swedish aircraft industry formed a special group, the JAS Industry Group comprising Saab-Scania, Volvo-Flygmotor, Ericsson Radio Systems and FFV to manage the Swedish industry bid. A formal request for proposals was issued in early 1981, and the JAS Industry Group (IG JAS) response – centred around a design called the Saab 2110 – was submitted on 1 June the same year. After evaluating rival bids, FMV (Forsvarets Materialverk – Swedish Defence Material Agency) concluded that the Swedish proposal fully met it’s requirements. On 30 June 1982 a fixed-price contract as signed between the FMV and IG JAS for 5 prototypes and 30 initial production Batch 1 aircraft to be designated JAS 39A. In September 1982 the name Gripen (Griffin) was selected for the aircraft.

The design evolved by Saab for the JAS 39 Gripen incorporates many advanced features. The Gripen is a single-seat (or two-seat), single-engined, fly-by-wire, delta-winged aircraft with a close-coupled all-flying canard. It is designed to operate from Sweden’s network of BAS 90 dispersed roadstrip airfields with the minimum of support. To minimise weight, almost thirty per cent of the structure is carbon-fibre composite. The engine chosen is the proven General Electric F404-400, similar to that used on the F/A-18, fed by fixed rectangular side intakes. It is assembled by Volvo Flygmotor under the designation RM12. The engine is fitted with a new Volvo/GE designed afterburner to give the Gripen all-altitude supersonic performance. Unlike the Viggen there is no thrust reverser, as short-field landing performance is achieved by rotating the canard through almost 90 degrees to aid aerodynamic braking. The triplex digital fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system controls the aircraft through two canards, the leading edge flaps and four elevon control surfaces. Saab claims the Gripen is the first inherently unstable canard fighter to enter production.

Ericsson was tasked with developing a new small multi-mode radar for the Gripen, the PS-05, while FFV developed the nav/attack systems. The cockpit originally featured three Ericsson EP-17 monochrome multi-function displays, and a wide-angle holographic Head-Up Display. HOTAS controls allow many cockpit functions to be selected without the pilot’s hands leaving the control stick or throttle. The Martin Baker S10LS zero-zero ejection seat provided is a break with the previous tradition of using Saab-designed seats.

Saab unveiled a mock-up of the final Gripen design in early 1986. Development of the Flight Control System (FCS) proved problematic and caused delays in finalising the assembly of the first aircraft. Finally, on 26 April 1987, JAS 39-1 was rolled out at Linköping. The first flight was achieved on 9 December 1988, but a major setback occurred not long afterwards. Following the sixth flight of JAS 39-1 on 2 February 1989, the aircraft veered off the runway and cartwheeled – fortunately the pilot was unhurt. The cause was found to be flaws in the pitch control routine of the FCS software. Calspan in the USA used a modified T-33 to prove the required software corrections. After 15 months delay, the second prototype JAS 39-2 flew on 4 May 1990 with the new FCS software. Three more prototypes followed, the fifth and last flying on 23 October 1991. Flight testing showed drag to be 10% lower than predicted, and airfield performance was better than specified. In June 1992 the follow-on contract for Batch 2 aircraft was approved.

The four prototypes were joined by the first production Gripen (39-101) on 4 March 1993, upon its maiden flight. The second production aircraft was delivered to the FMV for service testing on 8 June 1993. However, the Gripen’s problems were not over, and on 18 August 1993, 39-102 crashed during an air display over Stockholm after the pilot had lost control and ejected. A further revision of the FCS software was required, and this caused flight testing to be suspended until 29 December 1993 when the necessary software updates were available.

One JAS 39A aircraft from Batch 1 was converted on the production line to be the prototype for the JAS 39B two-seat operational trainer version. Featuring a 65.5 cm (28.8 in) fuselage stretch, the rear cockpit is the same as the front, except for the absence of a HUD. This aircraft was first rolled out on 29 September 1995 at Linköping, and made it’s maiden flight on 29 April 1996. Deliveries of JAS 39A aircraft to service unit began on 9 June 1996 with the first aircraft being formally handed over to 2 Divisionen (the 2nd squadron) of F7 wing at Såtenäs. After a comprehensive work-up the unit became officially operational on 1 November 1997. On 1 January 1999, F7’s other Division became the second operational Gripen unit. The next wing to convert was F10 wing at Ängelholm, but after a change of plans F10’s aircraft were transferred to F17 wing at Ronneby and F10 was disbanded. The next unit to convert was F21 wing at Luleå and this will be followed by F4 wing at Östersund in 2005, giving a total of 8 squadrons.

In any BVR (Beyond Visual Range) combat, the Gripen has a key advantage with it’s TIDLS (Tactical Information Data Link System). Supplied by Celcius AB, TIDLS allows each aircraft in a Gripen formation to constantly share sensor and radar data with the others via a secure jam-proof digital radio network. An air-to-ground connection also allows mission data to be updated in real time or downloaded to a ground station. Such a capability considerably enhances the situational awareness of each pilot and thus improves his or her chances of winning the fight.

On 12 June 1995, at the Paris Airshow, Saab and British Aerospace (now BAE SYSTEMS) announced a joint venture to develop and market the Gripen on the export market. This agreement was formalised in November 1995 with the establishment of a joint venture company. In 2001 the joint venture was registered in Sweden as Gripen International. The task of modifying a design produced solely to satisfy Swedish requirements into a product which was attractive to the export market resulted in a derivative referred to as the Export Baseline Standard. Much of the design work was carried out at BAe’s Brough factory in East Yorkshire. Aircraft equipped to the Export Baseline Standard (EBS) are semi-officially designated JAS 39C (or JAS 39D for the two-seater). Since the EBS equipment standard is significantly superior to the JAS 39A/B version, the Swedish Air Force was keen to acquire this version. Accordingly, the last 20 aircraft of Batch 2 and all aircraft of Batch 3 will be to the EBS.

JAS 39C/D aircraft incorporate a number of systems and equipment improvements to improve effectiveness and inter-operability. These include a retractable inflight-refuelling probe on the port air intake, full colour English-language cockpit displays in Imperial units, new central computers, night-vision compatible cockpit lighting, a FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red) pod, a reconnaissance pod, a more powerful air conditioning system, an OBOGS (On-Board Oxygen Generation System) and strengthened wings with NATO-standard stores pylons. The first examples will be delivered to F7 wing in mid 2004.

An early success of the joint venture occurred when a contract was signed by South Africa on 3 December 1999 for 9 two-seat and 19 single-seat Gripen based on the JAS 39C/D configuration. Deliveries are scheduled from August 2006 to 2012, to replace the SAAF’s Cheetah Cs. A further success was achieved when Hungary announced on 10 September 2001 its intention to lease 14 Gripens from Sweden. Initial discussions focused on the JAS 39A/B variant, but on 3 February 2003 this was formally changed to the JAS 39C/D version, with deliveries commencing in early 2006. The lease will last for ten years, after which Hungary intends to purchase the aircraft.

The Czech Republic selected the Gripen as it’s future fighter on 10 December 2001, but a formal contract had to be delayed after extensive flood damage throughout the country in mid Agust 2002 forced a short-term change in priorities. On 12 December 2003 the Czechs announced an intention to sign a contract for 14 JAS 39C/D Gripens in a lease deal similar to the Hungarian contract. When the first aircraft is delivered in May 2005, the Czech Republic will become the first NATO operator of the Gripen.

Gripen came a close second to the F-16 in Poland, but was unable to overcome a specially tailored financial package and heavy political pressure from the US government. A hotly tipped sale to Austria was missed when the Austrian government decided to maximise the economic benefits of using the same fighter aircraft as neighbouring Germany – the Eurofighter Typhoon. Despite these setbacks, the prospects for future exports still looks extremely good. Several countries require a replacement for ageing MiG-21, Mirage or F-5 aircraft and the Gripen is ideal for this role.

If the B3LA had not been cancelled in 1979, the Swedish Air Force would now be operating a foreign (probably US) fighter and a handful of B3LAs instead of the Gripen. After a troubled development programme the JAS 39 Gripen has matured into a formidable combat aircraft. It is an affordable, lightweight, multi-role fighter which incorporates the latest in datalink network technology, to ensure that it operates with maximum effectiveness in the air. On the ground it requires far fewer technicians to service and support it than contemporary aircraft and this ensures that operating costs are minimised. Far more than a ‘Swedish F-16’, the Gripen has the makings of a classic fighter.

Two JAS 39As from F10 wing Gripen formation over Visby Gotland
(All photos Gripen International)


Requirement Specification: JAS
Manufacturers Designation: n/a

Development History:
Saab 2110 Project to meet JAS requirement.
JAS 39 Batch of 5 prototype development aircraft.
JAS 39A Batch 1 Initial production single-seater version. Mark 1 avionics fit: Hughes HUD, monochrome cockpit displays, D80 computer, PP1/PP2 displays processors, three MIL STD 1553B databuses, Microturbo TGA15-090 APU
JAS 39A Batch 2 Follow-on batch of single-seat fighters. Mark 2 avionics fit: Kaiser HUD, D80E computer, PP12 display processors, Microturbo TGA15-328 APU
JAS 39A+ Batch 2 Upgraded single-seat fighter with PS-5/A radar and MACS D96 computer, monochrome cockpit displays
JAS 39B Two-seat operational trainer version of JAS 39A. Internal cannon deleted, fuselage lengthened by 2 ft 2 in (0.655 m), larger cckpit canopy, ventral air intake for air conditoning system. Prototype was a JAS 39A Batch 1 aircraft converted on the producton line.
JAS 39B Batch 2 Initial production version of two-seat operational trainer.
JAS 39C Batch 2 Export Baseline Standard single-seat fighters for Swedish AF. Mark 3 avionics: colour cockpit displays, Sundstrand APU
JAS 39C Batch 3 Follow-on Export Baseline Standard single-seat fighters for Swedish AF. Mark 4 avionics: much larger LCD colour cockpit displays, five MIL STD 1553B databuses, RM12UP engine with FADEC.
JAS 39D Batch 3 Follow-on batch of two-seat operational trainers.
JAS 39C/D SAAF Export Baseline Standard aircraft with substantial South African avionics and equipment for delivery to the SAAF.
JAS 39E/F Designation reserved for proposed upgraded version with an AESA electronically scanned radar.
JAS 39G/H Designation reserved for further upgraded version at some point in the future.
JAS 39X Generic designation for export version.


Key Dates:
mid 1980    Definition phase initiated.
3 June 1981    JAS 39 design presented to the FMV.
30 June 1982    Development contract with IG JAS signed for 5 development aircraft and 30 Batch 1 aircraft.
26 April 1987    First prototype (JAS 39-1) rolled out.
9 December 1988    Maiden flight of first prototype.
2 February 1989    First prototype lost in landing accident.
4 May 1990    Second prototype makes maiden flight.
23 October 1991    Fifth and last prototype makes maiden flight.
26 June 1992    Batch 2 production contract signed for 110 aircraft, including JAS 39B version.
10 September 1992    Maiden flight of first production aircraft (JAS 39.101).
8 June 1993    First JAS 39 delivered to FMV (JAS 39.102).
8 August 1993    Gripen (JAS 39.102) crashes during flying display in Stockholm due to FCS software problem.
29 December 1993    Flight testing resumed with JAS 39-2.
November 1994    First JAS 39A delivered to Swedish AF.
September 1995    Roll out of first JAS 39B Gripen 2-seater
November 1995    Saab-BAE SYSTEMS joint venture established.
29 April 1996    First test flight of two-seater Gripen.
9 June 1996    First Gripen officially handed over to Swedish AF (F7 Wing)
22 November 1996    First production 2-seater maiden flight
13 December 1996    Batch 3 order placed.
June 1997    Export Baseline Standard defined.
1997    First JAS 39B delivered to Swedish AF.
March 1998    First test firing of AIM-120 AMRAAM from Gripen.
1998    BAe buys 35% stake in Saab.
18 November 1998    SAAF announces intention to order Gripen.
3 December 1999    First export order for Gripen signed with South Africa.
2001    ‘Gripen International’ marketing company established.
6 Sept 2002    1st Batch 2 JAS 39C delivered to FMV.
2003    Batch 3 deliveries begin.
May 2005    First deliveries to Czech Republic.
early 2006    First deliveries to Hungary.
August 2006    First deliveries to South Africa.
2012    Last delivery to South Africa.
First production JAS 39C from Batch 2 First production JAS 39A with Mk.82 bombs
(All photos Gripen International)


Military Operators

Czech Republic – Air Force (12 JAS 39C, 2 JAS 39D on order)
Hungary – Air Force (12 JAS 39C, 2 JAS 39D on order)
South Africa – Air Force (19 JAS 39C, 9 JAS 39D on order)
Sweden – Air Force (8 Sqns. with 160 JAS 39A/B/C/D)

Government Agencies

Sweden – FMV several JAS 39A/B/C for development testing

Civilian Operators



Saab JAS 39A Gripen
Crew: One [JAS 39B: Two]
Dimensions: Length 46 ft 3 in (14.10 m) excl. pitot tube [JAS 39B: 48 ft 6 in (14.8 m)]; Height 14 ft 9 in (4.50 m); Wing Span 27 ft 7 in (8.40 m); Wing Area 322.92 sq ft (30.00 sq m)
Engines: One Volvo Flygmotor RM12 turbofan (General Electric F404-GE-400) rated at 12,140 lb st (54.00 kN) dry and 18,100 lb st (80.51 kN) with afterburning
Weights: Operating Empty 14,770 lb (6,700 kg) [JAS 39B: 15,430 lb (7,000 kg)]; Normal Take-off about 17,639-18,739 lb (8,000-8,500 kg); Maximum Take-off 28,000 lb (12,700 kg)
Armament: 27-mm Mauser BK27 cannon semi-recessed under centre fuselage next to port air intake with 120 rounds, wingtip launch rails for Rb 74 (AIM-9L) Sidewinder or similar missiles, four underwing hardpoints and one under-fuselage centre-line pylon for a maximum of 14,330 lb (6500 kg).
Performance: Maximum level speed ‘clean’ Mach 2.0 at high altitude, Mach 1.15 at low level; Maximum rate of climb at sea level classified; Time to 33,000 ft (10,000 m) 2 mins; Service ceiling classified; Ferry range 1,619 nm (1,864 mls, 3,000 km) with drop tanks, Combat radius for interception 486 nm (559 mls, 900 km) at high altitude with typical stores load and external fuel, for air-to-surface 648 nm (746 mls, 1200 km) in hi-lo-hi mission with with typical stores load and external fuel, or 405 nm (466 mls, 750 km) all low altitude with typical stores load and external fuel.
Saab JAS 39C Gripen
Weights: Operating Empty 14,990 lb (6,800 kg) [JAS 39D: 15,650 lb (7,100 kg)]; Maximum Take-off 30,865 lb (14,000 kg)
The second production JAS 39B Gripen formation over Cape Town
(All photos Gripen International)


Design Centre

Head of Design Team: Not known
Design Office: Saab Aerospace, Linköping, Sweden


Batch summary:

Prototypes   5 aircraft
Batch 1  30 aircraft
Batch 2 110 aircraft
Batch 3  64 aircraft
SAAF  28 aircraft
Saab Aerospace
(Saab Aerospace, S-581 88, Linköping, Sweden.)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
JAS 39 protos. 5 Linköping 1986-Oct 1991
JAS 39A Batch 1 30* Linköping 1992-1996
JAS 39B proto. (1) Linköping 1994-Sept 1995
JAS 39A Batch 2 61 Linköping 1996-2001
JAS 39A+ Batch 2 14 Linköping 2001-2002
JAS 39C Batch 2 20 Linköping 2002-2003
JAS 39B Batch 2 14 Linköping 1996-2003
JAS 39C Batch 3 50 Linköping 2003-2007
JAS 39D Batch 3 14 Linköping 2003-2007
JAS 39C SAAF 19 Linköping 2003-2012
JAS 39D SAAF 9 Linköping Oct 2003-2012
Total: 237    

* Last aircraft converted to JAS 39B prototype on the production line.
Total Produced: 237 a/c

Production List

‘European Air Forces Directory 2003/04’
by Ian Carroll
Published by Mach III, 2003 ISBN: 1 898129 79 7
* Includes JAS 39 production list.

View showing the small strake behind the canard,
first added during Batch 1 production
Gripen with AMRAAM and Sidewinder armament
(All photos Gripen International)

More Information


‘SAAB Gripen: Sweden’s 21st Century Multi-Role Aircraft (Aerofax series)’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Gerard Keijsper
Published by Midland Publishing, Sept 2003 ISBN: 1 85780 1377
* Comprehensive 176 page monograph dedicated to the Gripen.

‘Saab Gripen, the Nordic Myth’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Hugh Harkins, Siobhan McCann (ed.)
Published by Centurion Publishing, 24 July 2000 ISBN: 1 9036 30002
* No information available on the contents of this title.

‘JAS 39 Gripen: Rikets Flyplankop’
by Gunnar Lundqvist & Bo Widfeldt
Published by ?, 2004 ISBN: ? ? 89250
* Well illustrated Swedish text development and technical history.

‘Saab Aircraft since 1937’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Hans G Andersson
Published by Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1989 ISBN: 0 85177 831 3
* History of Saab aircraft, including a chapter on the Gripen.

‘World Air Power Journal, Volume 20’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
Published by Aerospace Publishing Ltd, spring 1995 ISBN: 1 874023 49 2
* Includes 20 page feature on Gripen development up to late 1994.

‘World Air Power Journal, Volume 24’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
Published by Aerospace Publishing Ltd, spring 1996 ISBN: 1 87402 3662
* Includes 2 page feature on the JAS 39B.

‘World Air Power Journal, Volume 42’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
Published by Aerospace Publishing Ltd, autumn 2000 ISBN: 1 86184 051 9
* Includes ‘Focus Aircraft’ 44-page feature on the Gripen.


To be added.

(Official Gripen International website – news, pics etc)

JAS 39 Gripen
(Gripen overview, technical data and photos)

Saab JAS 39 Gripen
(Photographic walk-around of a JAS 39B)


Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
To be added.


To be added.