The SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen multirole fighters will become (even) better planes, thanks to a firmware upgrade very much alike a newer Android or iOS on your smartphone. “The new version will partly have new, awesome functions and fixes shortcomings on earlier versions,” says Robert Novén, test engineer at the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) T&E division in Linköping, Sweden.
FMV T&E – FMV stands for Försvarets materielverk – has “pimped” one Gripen with the MS20 upgrade. The aircraft is – although unconfirmed – likely a D-version, making it possible for test engineers like Novén to ride in the back seat to verify and evaluate the new firmware. Forty of those test flights are now planned to take place, with another JAS 39C and another 39D modified with the new bits and bytes.
MS20 includes new weapon, radar and combat functions. The final and tested firmware upgrade will enable all current C/D Gripens to use the Meteor Beyond Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile, already tested on the Saab Test Flight Squadron’s JAS 39C in July 2014. Moreover, the Gripens will be able to use small diameter bombs and have a new program to improve its radar capabilities and enables it to fly in highly chemical, biological and radio-active zones. A specially adapted CBRN Gripen with tail number 253 has already been involved in international testing.
The other updates of MS20 might be less sexy, but still great. They will renew or improve the Gripen’s Ground Collission Avoidance System, its self-protection suite, Link 16, digital Combat Air Support, reconnaissance functions and support for navigation in civilian airspace.
Although Sweden has ordered 60 Gripens of the new E-standard for 2.6 to 3 billion USD, with deliveries commencing in 2018, many of the current 90 operational JAS 39C/D Gripen of the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet) are likely to stay in service for many years to come. Moreover, the Gripen C and D are flown by the air forces of the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa and Thailand. Slovakia is expected to start leasing JAS 39C/Ds within the next two years.
The Brazilian Air Force will soon fly leased C/Ds until half of the currently ordered 36 Gripen Es SAAB will build together with Brazilian Embraer enters service. The first two Força Aérea Brasileira pilots already made their solo flights from Såtenäs Airbase. The first 20 of a group of at least 150 engineers of Embraer are expected at the SAAB plant in Linköping coming Autumn to start their training in how to build a Gripen.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, including source information provided by Försvarets materielverk
Featured image (top): A Swedish Air Force JAS 39C with a ESTL self-protection pod (Image © Peter Liander / Saab AB)