Saab's next-generation fighter, the Gripen E, successfully flew supersonic for the first time over the Baltic Sea on 18th October, the company announced in a press release last week.
The Gripen E smart fighter flew at speeds greater than the speed of sound, at over Mach 1, as part of the ongoing flight trials programme.
“The purpose was to collect data from the aircraft as it achieved and sustained supersonic speed.” the release states.
The aircraft sustained supersonic speed for a number of minutes, whilst carrying out maneouvres, demonstrating the successful combination of the aicraft’s fighter design and its powerful engine.
“As Gripen pilots we are used to extreme speed but to go through the sound barrier for an aircraft’s first time is still a moment to enjoy. It is important that the aircraft handles the transition smoothly through what we call the transonic zone around the sound barrier and she certainly did, it was very smooth,” said Marcus Wandt, Test Pilot, Saab.
Jonas Hjelm, Senior Vice President and head of business area Aeronautics said, “Individual milestones such as this supersonic flight demonstrate the thoroughness of our engineering approach and the validty of the modelling. It is further evidence that the Gripen E flight test programme is going extremely well, whilst the delivery schedule to our two customers remains our key focus.”
This milestone has been preceeded by over 20 flying hours since the first flight back on 15 June 2017.
Dubbed the Gripen E prototype 39-8 'Smart Fighter', the aircraft was unveiled in May 2016. The E fighter, the sixth variant in the Gripen family, is slightly bigger than previous versions, has a stronger engine and updated radar systems.