Hungary JAS39 upgrade Rene Sleegers 640Hungarian Gripens to be upgraded

In 2001, the Magyar Légierö (HuAF, Hungarian Air Force) started negotiations with the Swedish company SAAB for the lease of twelve single-seat JAS39C en two dual-seat JAS39D Gripens as a replacement for the ageing Russian made MiG-29 Fulcrums.

This resulted in a 10-year lease programme with the option to extend. The first Gripen was delivered to Hungary in 2006. The 10-year lease contract was extended in 2016 with another ten years, till 2026.

With the upcoming end-date of the lease contract the HuAF has chosen to update thirteen JAS39s instead of leasing new-build JAS39E Next Generation Gripens.

Except for one dual Gripen, Hungary will upgrade twelve JAS39C and one JAS39D to the newest MS20 Block 2 standard, which is also the most recent version of the Gripen C and D variants used by the Flygvapnet (Swed AF, Swedish Air Force). One of the dual-seat Gripens, serial 44, is ex Swed AF and is already MS20 Block 2 standard. This fighter was delivered on 1 July 2016 as a replacement for the one that crashed.

The MS20 Block 2 upgrade significantly improves the aircraft’s combat and communication capabilities by boosting Link 16(NATO Data Link) functionality and updating voice communication to the most recent NATO secure communication standard. It also offers a wide variety of weapons that can be installed on the aircraft, including GBU-49 modern air-to-ground laser-guided bombs, IRIS-T infrared Within Visual Range (WVR) air-to-air missile and Meteor long-range radar-guided BVRAAM that outperforms other missiles. The radar will be updated to the PS-05/A Mk 4 that improves sensor capability, extending the air-to-air target tracking range and improving performance and the latest Identification Friend of Foe (IFF) NATO Mode 5 will also improve the capacity to recognise coalition aircraft.

Hungarian Defence Force Inspector Major General Nandor Kilian stated that "Thanks to the modernisation of the Gripen aircraft, the operational capabilities of the Hungarian Air Force will be significantly increased. Our staff has appreciated close and fruitful cooperation with the Swedish side on this specific modernisation project as well as the cooperation during the fifteen years that we have operated Gripen aircraft".

Photo by René Sleegers

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