Prosecutors in Brazil are looking into possible irregularities in the deal for 36 Saab Gripen fighter aircraft for the Brazilian Air force. Reports about an investigation into the 5.4 billion USD deal emerged last week.
A price difference of 900 million USD between a 2009 proposal and the final price that was agreed last year, has sparked the interest of prosecutors. The Brazilian Air Force has already remarked that the difference is caused by changing exchange rates and additional terms in the contract, such as flight simulators.
Saab has denied anything is wrong with the deal, that is a major export success for the Swedish company and its first export agreement for the new Gripen E/F aircraft. Saab states the price increase is the result of changes wished for by the Brazilians, such as custom avionics. For example: the Força Aérea Brasileira wishes for one big multifunction LCD display in the cockpit in stead of three.
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.
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 A-Darter, the planned air-to-air missile for the future Brazilian Air Force SAAB JAS 39E/F fighter jet has been successfully test-fired by a South African Air Force JAS 39D Gripen at the Overberg range on 9 February 2015, the Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB) confirmed on 12 February 2015.
Brazil and South Africa are now co-operating on the A-Darter, with support from Swedish SAAB. The test was part of the continuing development of the weapon, ahead of the introduction into service of a dozen JAS 39C/Ds Brazil will lease from Sweden from 2016 forward. The C/Ds will be gradually replaced by the new E/Fs from 2019, with those aircraft been mainly assembled and partly produced by Brazil’s own Embraer aircraft company.
The recent launch of the A-Darter was aimed at testing the manoeuvrability of the missile, with the rocket launched towards a remotely-controlled aircraft. The heat-guided weapon is designed to perform while sustaining up to 100Gs, with targets within a 12 miles radius. The A-Darter’s sensor-eye is said to see the difference between the target aircraft’s infrared signature and flares the bogey might launch to fool the missile. South Africa’s Denel Dynamics is the leading company of the project.
The final of three Mil Mi-35 delivered by Russia in November to the Brazilian Air Force has been declared officially operational on 9 February.
The 2nd Squadron (Poti) started flying the AH-2 Sabre, as it is called locally, from Porto Velho Airbase in the skies over the Western Amazon region. The unit now has all 12 attack helicopters at its disposal for tasks that vary from air defence, to attack, escort, suppression of enemy air defence, armed reconnaissance and close air support.
It took a while to reassemble the final three. They came in parts on board an Antonov An-124 on 26 November 2014. The work to get them up and running was done by a combined Russian-Brazilian technical / maintenance team.
The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and Helibras jointly performed something that can be best described as a pre-mid-term operational evaluation of the new Helibras / Airbus Helicopters EC725 Caracal long-range tactical transport helicopter, dubbed H-36 in FAB service.
Combined 22 people used one of the new machines to subject it to special operational conditions in the Amazon region, performing 14 flights in December, the Força Aérea Brasileira confirmed on 4 February 2015.
During the test flights, the H-36 was equipped with side machine guns, a winch to simulate rescue on land and at sea and a hook for conducting external load and rope for landing troops. Live fire exercises with side-mounted 7.62 mm machine guns was evaluated on the Brigadeiro Velloso range in the Cachimbo mountains in the Pará region of Northern Brazil.
The Brazilian Air Force, Army and Navy are purchasing 50 Caracals, of which 15 have been delivered so far. The H-36s are equipped with night vision systems, ballistic protection, a dual winch for external loads, a rappelling system, fast roping possibilities to aid in troop incursions and extractions, a secure communications and navigation system, plus a four axes auto-pilot. So far the 15 EC725s delivered have made 6,200 flight hours.