Saab has officially launched the flight evaluation phase of its Gripen E/F fighter and GlobalEye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft for Finland’s HX program.
In harsh winter conditions, Gripen E landed in Finland on Wednesday this week, followed by another one on Friday. The aircraft are participating in the Finnish HX fighter procurement program’s flight evaluations together with GlobalEye as we speak.
The HX Challenge is the Finnish Air Force’s testing and evaluation event. It is part of the capability assessment in the on-going procurement of new fighter aircraft to equip the Finnish Air Force. Except for evaluating each fighter’s capabilities, the Finnish Air Force will also be assessing the fighters’ ability to upgrade as well as adapt to future technologies and threats.
Gripen E test aircraft 39-10 arrived at Tampere-Pirkkala Airbase north of Helsinki the day prior to Saab’s media day to mark the commencement of its HX Challenge on 30 January, although due to poor weather conditions it was decided not to fly until the following day. The single-seat 39-10 (the first production-standard Gripen E) was joined by the twin-seat Gripen NG demonstrator 39-7 (sensor testbed) on 31 January.
A GlobalEye did fly from Saab’s facility in Linköping, Sweden, on 30 January with a Finnish Air Force delegation on board. This aircraft will continue to fly out of Linköping for the duration of the evaluation as that is where the company’s bespoke de-briefing and other specialist related equipment is located. The Gripen E 39-10, Gripen NG 39-7 and the GlobalEye will be evaluated through to 6 February.
Saab’s arrival in Finland for its HX Challenge evaluation followed earlier stints from the Eurofighter Typhoon from 9 to 17 January, and the Dassault Rafale from 20 to 28 January. After Saab and its Gripen E/GlobalEye, Lockheed Martin will showcase its F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter from 7 to 17 February, with Boeing concluding proceedings with its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft from 18 to 26 February.
Speaking on the opening day of Saab’s evaluation, the company’s head of the HX programme, Magnus Skogberg, spelled out the details of the company’s bid to Finland, and explained why he thought the combination of the Gripen E and the GlobalEye gave the Swedish manufacturer the edge in the competition.