Philippines Eyes Swedish JAS 39 Gripen for Air Force Modernization

JAS 39 Gripen
March 5, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: JAS 39Jas 39 GripenGripenSwedenChinaF-16

Philippines Eyes Swedish JAS 39 Gripen for Air Force Modernization

The Philippine Air Force is considering the Swedish JAS 39 Gripen as its next multirole jet fighter, moving away from previous plans to acquire F-16 Fighting Falcons


Summary: The Philippine Air Force is considering the Swedish JAS 39 Gripen as its next multirole jet fighter, moving away from previous plans to acquire F-16 Fighting Falcons. This potential acquisition follows the retirement of the Philippines' F-5 fleet and the procurement of FA-50 light attack aircraft. Meanwhile, Saab, the Gripen's manufacturer, has seen interest from the Czech Republic to extend the lease of its Gripen squadron. The Gripen, designed for various military operations including interception and ground attack, has been in service since 1997. With over three decades of operational history, it's positioned as a versatile and cost-effective option for modern air forces.

JAS 39 Gripen: The Next Choice for the Philippine Air Force?

Last month, the Philippine Air Force expressed renewed interest in the Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen multirole jet fighters. Stockholm and Manila are expected to conclude the deal at a meeting expected for later this month. The Philippines had retired its fleet of aging Northrop F-5 fighters in 2005, and in 2013 signed a deal with the Korea Aerospace Industries to receive a dozen FA-50 light attack aircraft.


While the Philippines had previously sought to acquire around a dozen F-16 Fighting Falcons, Sweden proposed the sale of the JAS 39 Gripen instead – and it now appears that the Gripen could be the chosen warbird for the Maritime Southeast Asian nation.

It has already been a good year for Saab, the maker of the JAS 39, as this month the Czech Republic also announced that it will seek to modernize the fourteen Gripens now in service with the Czech Air Force. The fighters were leased from Sweden in 2005, and while its term expires in 2027, Prague is negotiating with Stockholm to extend the lease of the squadron until 2035 – when the Central European nation receives its F-35 Lightning II fighters as part of a deal from last September.

JAS 39 Gripen in the Crosshairs

The Gripen is the first true Swedish multirole combat aircraft. In addition to being rugged enough to operate from little more than a remote road, it is capable of conducting interception, ground attack, and reconnaissance. Though it is a mature program, having taken its first flight more than three decades ago, the aircraft remains highly capable and very agile.

It also important to note that the JAS 39 was developed at the end of the Cold War to confront Soviet aircraft, and thus would be an ideal warbird for Ukraine to employ in its war against Russia. The aircraft was initially designed to replace the variants of the Saab 35 Viggen and Saab 37 Draken combat aircraft. Development of what would become the Gripen began in the late 1970s as part of a joint effort by an industrial consortium that consisted of Saab, Saab Microwave Systems (formerly Ericsson), Volvo Aero Corporation, Saab Avitronics, and FFV Aerotech.

The government in Stockholm sought an aircraft that could be capable of fighter, attack, and recon missions. After evaluating a number of existing foreign aircraft including the American F-16 and F-18 fighters, the Swedish Parliament decided in June 1982 to move forward with a domestic project.

The Mach 2 delta wing and canard fighter jet is fitted with two trailing-edge drooping "elevons" to improve short-field performance and maneuverability. It is powered by a Volvo turbofan engine with an afterburner. It has a range of up to 3,200 km (2,000 miles), and can fly at an altitude of 15,240 meters (50,000 feet). It is reported to have a lower cost per flight hour than many other aircraft.

The Gripen made its maiden flight in December 1988, and it entered operational service with the Swedish Air Force in 1997. A total of 204 aircraft in three batches had been ordered by Swedish Air Forces, which to date has taken delivery of 74 aircraft.

The single-engine, multirole-combat aircraft was designed with a single pilot, but the B and D versions were also developed featuring a longer canopy for a crew of two. It is presently offered in two modern variants: C- and E-series, yet even those require some updates, and last month it was announced that the Gripen C-series would enter an "upgrade process" that could see those models remain in service until at least 2035.

As of 2016, a total of only 158 Gripens were produced and well over half are in service with the Swedish Air Force, with the rest having been exported around the globe. Current operators include Brazil, the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa, and Thailand, while the United Kingdom's Empire Test Pilots' School also operates Gripens in a training capacity.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author: [email protected].