With the JAS 39 Gripen (Griffin in English), Saab finally achieved the goal of creating a multi-role aircraft that combines the fighter, attack and surveillance roles. The earlier generations of the plane had not fully achieved this, but with the Gripen’s advanced computer system, the pilot can change roles with a push of a button.
The Viggen system had been developed in the 1960s and it was obvious at Saab that the new technical advances made during the 1970s would entail significant benefits in the development of new planes for use in the 2000s.
Among other things, engines had become more efficient and the electrical control systems could now completely replace the mechanical. Computers were used in all aircraft systems, which was revolutionary and entailed unforeseen opportunities. Moreover, new composite materials were developed that could make the plane radically lighter. Through a canard configuration, tip instability, engine selection and new technology in the form of electrical control systems, reductions were achieved in size, weight and cost, thus creating a unique market sector for the Gripen.
But at the end of the 1970s, the political consensus in Sweden had weakened regarding the direction of the country’s future defence. Several different studies were conducted and the debate was heated. A project that had come a bit of the way, the B3LA project for producing a new attack plane, was terminated in February of 1979. The government had determined that Sweden could buy aircraft from abroad.