LINKÖPING, Sweden — Flight-testing of Saab’s Gripen E combat aircraft is moving faster than anticipated, according to Eddy de la Motte, vice president and head of the Gripen E/F business unit at Swedish manufacturer Saab.

De la Motte told a media briefing that tests to fire MBDA’s Meteor missile had been carried out by test aircraft 39-8 and 39-9 in northern Sweden. “We’d planned two weeks for the testing and were able to get everything done in one,” the executive remarked, adding, “We’re getting more out of each individual flight test hour than we’d anticipated, which is helping to move the program forward.”

Today the flight envelope is being expanded, with 9g being achieved earlier this month, according to the company. Test pilot Marcus Wandt explained that although the aircraft is heavier than the Gripen C, “the agility is still there because it’s stronger and carries its weight very well.” Wandt and his five colleagues have flown 125 test hours.

The first Gripen E for Sweden will be delivered this year to the test and evaluation force made up of personnel from Saab and the Swedish Air Force.

The first of the 36 aircraft ordered by Brazil (28 single-seater E versions and 8 twin-seater F versions) for $4.16 billion will be delivered to the Brazilian Air Force in 2021, but the first pilots will come to Sweden next January to start training.

Mikael Franzen, vice president and head of the Gripen Brazil business unit, explained that the two production lines for the aircraft – one in Sweden and one in Brazil – would both be used to produce aircraft that may be ordered by other clients in the future. Franzen said eight aircraft would be built by Brazilians in Sweden (four Fs and four Es) to ensure that the Brazilians were totally at ease with the building processes, and 15 would be built in Brazil by Brazilians and 13 by Swedes in Sweden. The two-seater Gripen F, developed specifically for Brazil and 65 cm longer than the E nevertheless has systems and displays that are identical as in the E version.

Christina Mackenzie was the France correspondent for Defense News.

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