The proud Heritage of Gripen

The year was 1937. The world was on the brink of another world war. Sweden wanted to equip the armed forces and build up its own, strong air force. A major new industry was born out of this threat. From a modest start Saab has developed into a global company in security and defence that is well known for its efficient technology and innovative solutions.


Saab 17, our first produced fighter aircraft which made its maiden flight in May 1940. It was used as a reconnaisance and a bomber aircraft.

Gripen - The birth of a modern fighter

Throughout the Cold War, Sweden, as a non-aligned nation, was squeezed between two very large and powerful military organizations – the Warsaw Pact and NATO. In order to provide the best possible national defence and security for her people, a new and radical strategy was required.
As a result, the Swedish Air Force (SwAF) adopted a concept based on operations conducted from a large number of dispersed airbases, where the aircraft could be well hidden when not airborne. This was complemented by an extensive chain of air surveillance radars along the eastern coast of the country, connected into a highly efficient network of command posts for rapid reaction and Ground Controlled Intercept.


Saab 29 Tunnan.


With 55 operational squadrons, the Swedish Air Force was in the 1950s one of the largest and most powerful air forces on the planet. Swedish fighter aircraft stood on Quick Reaction Alert around the clock, ready to launch within 60 seconds.
The aircraft used in the early days of the Cold War were versions of the Saab 29 Tunnan, Saab 32 Lansen and the Saab 35 Draken.


Saab 32 Lansen. 

Sharing real-time operational data

It was in the Draken that Saab initiated the technology of sharing real-time operational data between aircraft in a fighting unit, using radio frequencies. Critical information could now be passed between fighters, allowing the majority to engage the enemy whilst remaining radio and radar silent. This in turn led to the development of new fighting tactics that gave the Swedish fighters a key advantage over their opponents. This technology was to mature over the next 30 years into the most sophisticated internal fighter to fighter data-link in the world, and forms an essential element in the fighting capability of all Gripen aircraft in service now, and in the future.


Saab 35 Draken


One aircraft, several roles

During this period of intensive Cold War flying operations it became clear that it would be more cost-effective if each aircraft was capable of conducting several roles. At the same time, there

was a pressing need to reduce the maintenance cost which could only be achieved by operating a unified fleet with a single design. The resulting conceptual study for a new aircraft, the Saab 37 Viggen, came up with the vision of a common aircraft type, capable of fully operational use from unprepared road bases. Operational from the 70s, the Viggen fighter system eventually matured into three versions. Each of them had a clearly defined and developed secondary role. The Viggen, although a very powerful and successful combat aircraft, was like so many other fighters of this generation too expensive to replace on a like for like basis. The need for a true multi-role fighter that combined all the roles carried out by the Viggen variants led to the studies, and eventual development of, the Gripen fighter.


Saab 37 Viggen

The development history of Gripen (A/B, C/D, E/F)

Gripen A/B

Gripen A/B was the first generation of Gripen. It was designed to defend Sweden in a Cold War scenario. As such, it was built to withstand the Swedish arctic climate. It was built from the very beginning to be a multi-role aircraft, but this first generation was focused more on air-to-air combat. Gripen A is a single-seater and Gripen B is basically the same aircraft with almost the same operational capabilities (it has no gun and carries a little less fuel), but with two seats.