Sweden plans to unveil next-gen FFS aircraft demonstrator in 2026

Aviation journalist Gareth Jennings recently shared on X [formerly Twitter] Sweden’s ambitious timeline for their next-generation fighter jet, labeled “Swedish FCAS Program.” The timeline indicates that “demonstrators” of the aircraft are expected by 2026. 

We reported earlier, citing the Italian source RID, that Stockholm plans to independently develop this next-gen combat aircraft, initially referred to as the Future Fighter System [FFS]. However, Jennings mentioned in his post that the program is called “Konceptet Framtidens Stridsflyg” [KFS] in Swedish, translating to Future Combat Aviation [FCA]. 

Whether called FFS or KFS, Sweden’s intentions are resolute. Jennings’ infographic reveals that this fighter jet will be actively developed over the next six to seven years. The Swedish defense procurement organization FMV will complete the concept analysis by 2029, which includes defining the plane’s conceptual system. Technological advancements are already in progress as of 2023 and will continue until around 2030-2031.

Sweden's Gripen gets new EW, comm- and reconnaissance systems
Photo credit: SAAB

Alone or together with partners?

Jennings pointed out that there’s still uncertainty surrounding future participation in Sweden’s next-generation fighter program. “Sweden hasn’t yet decided whether it will develop a next-generation fighter on its own or join an existing project [GCAP and FCAS/SCAF are still on the table, with even NGAD being a potential option if the U.S. is open to it],” he noted. 

However, BulgarianMilitary.com reminds us that Sweden officially exited the British-led Tempest program [which included Italy] that later evolved into GCAP. Currently, it seems Japan has taken “Sweden’s spot” as a significant player in weapons development. 

Riyadh wants a cutting-edge fighter and has turned to London - GCAP fighter
Photo credit: BAE Systems

The decision on Sweden’s approach to the FFS/KFS/FCA program is still up in the air. But, as previously reported by BulgarianMilitary.com, Europe is looking at the development of three next-generation fighter programs: GCAP [UK, Italy, and Japan], FCAS [Germany, France, and Spain], and FFS/KFS/FCA [currently Sweden, going solo].

FFS/KFS/FCA

According to sources, Sweden aims to develop a combat aircraft that’s superior to its current SAAB JAS 39 Gripen-E. SAAB is set to lead this next-generation fighter program, continuing its legacy in advanced aviation. Sweden has a track record of success with its Gripen fighter, which has competently stood up to rivals like the European collaborative Eurofighter—created by Germany, the UK, Italy, and Spain—as well as France’s Rafale.

Su-75 uses Su-57's equipment. Rostec: Su-75 production began in 2027
Photo: Rostec

As reported by RID, this new Swedish fighter concept targets the same weight class as Russia’s Su-75 Checkmate fighter. Mimicking the design philosophy of the Sukhoi Su-75, the Swedish aircraft will feature a single-engine design and boast advanced unmanned capabilities.

Regardless of Sweden’s final decision, SAAB is committed to continuing its tradition of building combat aircraft. The company has stated, “Saab and Sweden building fighter aircraft is not going to end with the Gripen. Whether we join someone else or go on our own, there will certainly be something following.”

Today’s Gripen

Ukraine: We will get either F-16 or Gripen, talks are underway
Photo credit: PixaBay

Speaking of the future of Swedish fighters of the next generation, we cannot miss the existence of today’s Gripen-E developed by SAAB. This fighter is considered one of the most exceptional fighters in its category in the world. The SAAB JAS 39 Gripen-E is an advanced version of the earlier Gripen models, designed to meet the modern demands of air combat and defense. The ‘E’ variant incorporates significant upgrades in avionics, sensors, and weapon systems, making it a formidable competitor in the global fighter market. 

One of the key features of the Gripen-E is its advanced avionics suite, which includes a state-of-the-art Active Electronically Scanned Array [AESA] radar. The Gripen-E is known for its exceptional agility and maneuverability, thanks to its aerodynamic design and powerful engine. It is equipped with the General Electric F414G engine. 

Another significant advantage of the Gripen-E is its cost-effectiveness. Compared to other modern fighter jets, the Gripen-E offers a lower operational cost, making it an attractive option for countries with limited defense budgets. Its maintenance requirements are also relatively low, thanks to its robust design and the use of advanced materials that reduce wear and tear.

Brazil's JAS 39 Gripen receives multi-domain MANET datalinks
Photo credit: SAAB

‘Some stealth’

The Gripen-E is designed with interoperability in mind, allowing it to seamlessly integrate with NATO and other allied defense systems. 

Stealth and survivability are also key aspects of the Gripen-E’s design. While not a stealth aircraft in the traditional sense, it incorporates several features to reduce its radar cross-section and infrared signature, making it harder to detect and track by enemy radar and missile systems. Additionally, the aircraft is equipped with advanced electronic warfare systems that can jam or deceive enemy sensors and missiles.

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