Saab’s Gripen is the first fighter system in the world to successfully conduct test firing of the Meteor radar-controlled air-to-air missile.
Saab reports the firing of the BVRAAM (Beyond Visual Range Air-to-air Missile) took place late last month. It was done in co-operation with Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration (DMV) agency.
The Meteor is being developed for mass production and initial users are Eurofighter, Gripen and Rafale.
The first two mass production configuration Meteor missiles were fired for the first time from Gripen at a remote-controlled target. The test firing demonstrated separation from the aircraft, the link function between aircraft and missile as well as the missile’s ability to lock on target. The test firing was also used to verify the command support developed for the pilot.
“Testing has been completed as planned and we’ve now taken another important step in work with integration and development of Gripen C/D. I’m impressed with the results that we’ve jointly accomplished and it instils confidence in continued work with integrating Meteor on Gripen,” said Michael Östergren, FMV project manager for the Meteor.
The Meteor BVRAAM has been developed to enable engagement of airborne targets at long distances. The missile is the result of a European collaborative project involving Sweden, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Great Britain. Great Britain has responsibility for contracts and work is led by UK’s defence procurement and support organisation – Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S).
“The successful Meteor test firing has again shown Gripen is the leading combat fighter system with opportunities for fast and cost-efficient continuous integration of new capabilities, such as weapons and sensors, thanks to our efficient way of working and Gripen’s innovative design. Gripen with the Saab PS05 radar and the Meteor missile represent the best when it comes to air defence,” said Lennart Sindahl, Head of Saab’s Aeronautics business area.
Further tests are in the pipeline for later this year with an eye to delivery of the new capability in 2014.
The SA Air Force (SAAF) is one of five countries operating Gripens along with the Empire Test Pilots’ School. Its small cadre of pilots, although hamstrung by financial constraints, are sure to be keeping a weather eye on the BVRAAM developments in Sweden.
Four years ago then SAAF Chief Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano said Diehl BGT Defence IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missiles had been ordered as interim self-defence and air combat weaponry for the Gripens. These will be replaced by the A-Darter, a joint Brazilian/South African development, with BVRAAM only a later addition to the Gripen arsenal.
He indicated at the time Meteor was an option. With its integration onto Gripen now going ahead it seems likely this will be the SAAF’s choice but the financial constraints hurdle will first have to be cleared.