Brazil Begins Manufacturing of Saab Gripen Fighter

 - July 9, 2020, 12:46 PM
The first of 28 F-39Es for Brazil is seen on its first flight in 2019. Having been employed on trials work in Sweden, the aircraft is shortly to be transferred to the flight test center in Brazil. (Photo: Saab)

Saab Aeronáutica Montagens (SAM) has begun the production of sections for the Gripen E/F fighter at its facility at São Bernardo do Campo, in the southern suburbs of São Paulo in Brazil. Initially, the aerostructures plant is producing tail cones and front fuselages for the single-seat Gripen E, which will be dispatched to both the Swedish assembly line in Linköping and the Brazilian line. The latter is located at the Embraer plant at Gavião Peixoto to the northwest of São Paulo.

Production has been established with around 70 employees, many of whom have undergone training in Sweden prior to establishing the production plant in Brazil. The creation of the SAM facility is an element of the 100 percent technology transfer agreement made when Brazil signed a contract to build and produce the Gripen E/F for the Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB, Brazilian air force) in 2014.

By 2024 SAM expects to have around 200 employees. The plant will expand its sub-assembly work to include the front and rear fuselage sections, airbrakes, and center wing box for the two-seat version, for which Brazil is leading the development through the Gripen Design and Development Network (GDDN) center opened at Gavião Peixoto in November 2019. The first two-seater is currently under assembly in Sweden by a joint Brazilian/Swedish team.

Under current plans, the FAB will receive 28 single-seat Gripen Es—to be designated F-39E in FAB service— and eight two-seat F-39Fs. Follow-on batches could add a further 72 aircraft to the figure. The first F-39E aircraft for Brazil—which was also the first production Gripen E—took to the air on August 26, 2019, and was formally handed over last September, although it stayed in Sweden for tests. It is due to be transported to Brazil shortly to begin the operations of the new flight test center established next to the GDDN facility. The first Gripen F two-seater is expected to fly at Linköping next year.

After this initial pair for Brazil, the next 11 are due to be built and assembled in Sweden for delivery to the FAB in late 2021. The remaining 23 aircraft on order will be assembled at Gavião Peixoto, of which the first eight will mostly be built in Sweden before being shipped in subassembly form for completion.

In the meantime, the Linköping-based Gripen E test fleet has grown to seven aircraft, comprising three development aircraft (39-8, -9, and -10) and the first four production machines. The latest, 6004, made its first flight on June 30. According to Mikael Olsson, head of flight test and verification, the trials fleet is currently engaged on an intensive envelope expansion campaign, while at the same time testing the aircraft’s operational systems. Olsson also noted that, in addition to trial flights beginning soon in Brazil, a third test location would be established in Sweden by the air force and the country's FMV defense materiel administration.