The Gripen has good range, but maximizing your airtime is an extra guarantee to protect your airspace. The Gripen’s air-to-air refueling capability is one of the many ways Saab is making sure its fighters are where they’re supposed to be: in the air. In a country like Brazil, for example, with an area of more than 8 million square kilometers, refueling is mandatory in-flight.
Imagine the impact of an airplane that can fly over Rio de Janeiro for 12 hours and constantly covers that airspace instead of having to refuel while another airplane takes its place, says Jonas Jakobsson, Gripen pilot at Saab. “If you can refuel in the air, you can stay airborne longer,” he adds. This applies to every air force. Air-to-air refueling allows the Gripen to reach any part of the national territory while improving its ability to stay in combat. It also contributes to its interoperability as the ability to refuel in flight is one of the prerequisites for participating in NATO missions and exercises.
Refueling in the air requires a very high level of precision from the pilot. The plane flies at over 500 km / h and the edge of the armored cage is approximately eight inches from the cabin at the time of connection, “explains Pierre Farkas, Gripen’s Executive Director for Colombia.” The Force Swedish Area refueled with several international tankers in flight and it will also work perfectly with the Colombian Air Force tankers, he adds.
In addition to in-flight refueling, the Gripen can also perform what Saab calls hot refueling to further maximize the operational impact of a Gripen fleet, making it a true mission enabler in today’s complex operating environment. Hot refueling means that the aircraft is refueled on the ground while the engine is still running. This is an advantage in operations that require rapid completion. This helps the aircraft keep downtime to a minimum and is ready for the next departure or mission as quickly as possible.
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