UPDATE: Dec. 20, 2022, at 12:40 p.m. ET
Four F-39 jets were presented Dec. 19 in a ceremony held at Brazil’s Anápolis Air Force Base to mark the operational activation of the type with the 1st Aviation Group of Brazil’s Air Force.
The Brazilian Air Force commander, Lt. Brig. Carlos de Almeida Baptista Júnior, said during the ceremony that the start of operations of the Gripen is “a milestone” for its service, stressing that these fighters will provide “operational capabilities that Brazil never had.”
The Air Force chief highlighted “the advanced technology incorporated into the F-39 to satisfy the country’s requirements, as well as its great efficiency, high availability and low cost of operation.”
Emilio Meneses, an independent analyst based in Santiago, Chile, told Defense News that “by making its first F-39s operational, after using them to complete a series of tests that allowed [certification of] the type, Brazil is becoming the first country deploying a fourth-generation-plus advanced combat aircraft in South America.”
“From here to the 2030s, Brazil will be deploying 66 of these advanced combat jets, less than the 100 originally ambitioned but still the largest fighter jet fleet in the region. This development is going to have an impact on how other South American countries modernize and reequip their combat aircraft fleets. This includes the possibility of more sales of Gripen,” Meneses added.
SANTIAGO, Chile — Brazil is set to officially add the Saab Gripen NG, locally designated as F-39, to the combat fleet of its air force on Dec. 19.
The first of five F-39s, delivered from Sweden between December 2021 and April 2022, are now at Anapolis Air Base near the federal capital Brasilia. They were initially used for testing and training flying from Sao Paulo and other places.
Now the Gripens will become operational and officially part of the line-up of fighter jets belonging to the 1st Aviation Group, taking charge of regular peacetime tasks. Operating from Anapolis, this unit is tasked with the defense and control of air space over nearby Brasilia, the federal capital city of Brazil.
This milestone will also mark the beginning of the retirement of the F-5EMs currently used by the 1st Aviation Group.
Around 45 F-5Ems and F5FMs are currently in service with the Brazilian Air Force, distributed among three combat aviation groups and a combined combat and training aviation group. All will be replaced by Gripen NGs.
More Gripens will be delivered in 2023, including the first two-seaters, to complete the reequipping of 1st Fighter Group with the type, and will continue in the following years to replace all the F-5s currently in service with other units. Brazil’s current fleet of 35 serviceable AMX A-1M/A-1 ground attack jets is also going to be replaced by Gripens.
Brazil placed its first order worth $4.7 million for 36 Gripen NGs, including 28 single seat and 8 two-seat machines, in October 2014. A supplementary batch of four aircraft was ordered in April 2022. The last 15 of the 40 aircraft already ordered and those to be ordered in the future will be assembled locally, including a percentage of parts manufactured in the country.
According to statements made last May by the commander-in-chief of the Brazilian Air Force, Gen. Carlos de Almeida Baptista Júnior, the service intends to procure a total of 66 Gripens, with a cost of $2.2 billion. In August, Saab’s CEO Micael Johansson confirmed negotiations are underway for the sale of the balance of 26 aircraft.
José Higuera is a Latin America correspondent for Defense News.