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The SAAB JAS 39 Gripen is a light-weight multi-role fighter indigenously developed by Sweden to replace the legendary Draken and Viggen with the Swedish Air Force. The Gripen is powered by the Volvo RM12 turbofan which is a licence built version of the General Electric F404, the same engine that powers the original versions of the F-18 Hornet. The Gripen has been designed to operate from roads and snow-covered runways that are less than 500 metres long. Production deliveries of the JAS 39A began in 1993 and the upgraded JAS 39C was delivered from 2003. A heavily upgraded version designated the JAS 39E has been developed in conjunction with Brazil with new avionics, a heavier payload, strengthened airframe and undercarriage and powered by the F414 - the same engine as used in the Super Hornet.
When the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999, they needed to replace their aging fleet of MiG-21s with a NATO compatible combat aircraft. Following a competition involving the western main fighter types, a fleet of 14 ex-Swedish Air Force JAS-39C Gripens were leased in 2004. The current lease has been extended to 2027 and includes the option to acquire the aircraft from Sweden and it is anticipated that the Gripen fleet will remain in service until 2029. As part of the lease extension, the fleet were upgraded to the latest MS20 configuration as used by the Swedish Air Force.
The Czech Air Force Gripen solo display is a popular regular visitor to the Air Tattoo. This year the display will be provided by 211 Tacticka Letka (211th Tactical Squadron) which is based at Caslav Air Base.
Photo Credit: Michael Hind