The Swedish Air Force (SwAF) announced during a ceremony today that MBDA’s METEOR Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Air to Air Missile has now officially entered service on its GRIPEN combat aircraft.The announcement was made by Maj.Gen. Mats Helgesson, Chief-of-Staff of the SwAF, in the presence of the CEO of Saab AB, Håkan Buskhe, and the CEO of MBDA, Antoine Bouvier.
Maj.Gen. Helgesson, said that, “after extensive testing by FMV and the GRIPEN Operational Test and Evaluation unit, all of the new MS20 functions including the METEOR missile are now fully integrated with GRIPEN. The Swedish Air Force is now in its Initial Operational Capability phase with the METEOR. The METEOR missile is currently the most lethal radar-guided missile in operational service, and the Swedish Air Force is the only operational user so far. I am very proud and satisfied to have the METEOR in the inventory of my air force.”
Antoine Bouvier, MBDA CEO, in responding to the announcement continued: “Today is a very special day for the SwAF, for Saab and GRIPEN, for METEOR, for MBDA and particularly for multi-national industrial cooperation in defence. METEOR is a missile that no nation could have developed or produced alone. Sweden and the five other Partner Nations in the programme – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK - can be both proud and confident that they have a missile that ensures unquestionable air superiority for their pilots in the defence of their respective countries’ sovereign interests. Along with that, and thanks to their involvement in the programme, they also have the freedom and independence to deploy and develop this unique missile capability as they see fit and as their requirements evolve. MBDA looks forward to continuing its extremely close cooperation with Sweden and Swedish industry in developing world-class military capabilities in support of the sovereignty and freedom of action of both Sweden and other cooperating nations”.
At the end of April 2016, the FMV (Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration) introduced the latest MS20 software load to the SwAF’s GRIPEN fleet thus enabling the JAS 39C/D to become the first aircraft capable of operating the ramjet-powered METEOR missile.
Saab, the SwAF, and Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) have now certified, approved and accepted into service the latest operational upgrade and combat enhancement for the GRIPEN fighter. Known in Swedish terms as MS20, this upgrade is the latest step in GRIPEN's process of constant capability expansion. The complete MS20 upgrade is now flying with SwAF GRIPENs and MS20 enhancements will soon be implemented in the GRIPENs of the Czech Air Force. The upgrade delivers a host of new capability options for air-to-air, air-to-surface and ISTAR missions plus many improved mission systems and other changes. A key element of GRIPEN's MS20 capability expansion is full integration of the MBDA METEOR BVRAAM (BVR Air-to-Air Missile). The ramjet-powered missile, developed by MBDA with Saab as a key partner, is an advanced, long-range and agile air-to-air weapon that is designed to counter the most sophisticated airborne threats of the 21st century.
Saab CEO Håkan Buskhe added: “Saab greatly appreciates our good relationship with MBDA both as a partner for METEOR development and production, and through our close cooperation on the METEOR integration programme for GRIPEN. This partnership has been the foundation for the delivery and deployment of a superior missile product. GRIPEN played a major role in the METEOR development project, and we are very proud to have GRIPEN as the first fighter to take METEOR into service.”
In the air-to-ground role MS20 delivers further significant enhancements. This includes integration of the Boeing GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) for a high-precision, long-range strike capability. A smart launcher can carry four SDBs, with a maximum of 16 on a single GRIPEN.
GRIPEN's ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) capabilities are expanded through a modified reconnaissance pod that provides infra-red sensors plus real-time display of images in cockpit and increased data recording.
A further improved Link 16 datalink system supports a significant increase in data exchange between other fighters and C2 nodes. This boosts situational awareness and underpins new air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities, including high-precision ‘digital’ CAS (close air support).
Among other MS20 pilot-centred enhancements are a new ground collision and avoidance system (GCAS) to protect the aircraft in demanding low-altitude environments, and an improved CBRN system that allows GRIPEN to stay operational and effective in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack.