In 1979, the Swedish government began development studies for an aircraft capable of fighter, attack and reconnaissance missions to replace the Saab 35 Draken and 37 Viggen. A new design from Saab was selected and developed as the JAS 39. Comparatively small relative to similar fighters, the Gripen has eight hardpoints that allow it to carry various armaments and equipment. It is also fitted with a single 27mm Mauser BK-27 cannon.
The JAS 39 first flew in 1988. After early problems with avionics were rectified, the aircraft entered service in 1997. Saab has since cooperated with other aerospace companies in marketing the aircraft internationally, and has achieved moderate success in Central and Northern Europe. More than 240 Gripens have been delivered or ordered as of 2012. 1a
- JAS 39A: The initial fighter version that entered service with the Swedish Air Force in 1996. A modification program has started and 31 of these will be upgraded to C/D standard.
- JAS 39B: The two-seat version of the A variant. It is 0.66 m (2 ft 2 in) longer than the single seat version. The rear cockpit does not have a HUD, but an image from the front cockpit HUD can be presented on the rear cockpit flight data display; version has reduced fuel load and no internal gun.
- JAS 39C: The Allied Pact-compatible version of Gripen with extended capabilities in terms of armament, electronics, etc. It uses large colour displays with English language, feet and knots instead of meters and km/h. This variant can also be refuelled in flight.
- JAS 39D: Two seat version of the JAS 39C.
- JAS 39E: Production version from the Gripen NG program. 60 single-seater JAS 39Es are on order for Sweden, 22 Es are expected for Switzerland. Changes include a new engine (the Volvo Aero RM14 afterburning turbofan), SELEX Galileo Raven ES-05 AESA RDF, increased fuel capacity, higher payload, upgraded avionics and other improvements.
- JAS 39F: Two seat version of the Gripen-E.
- Sea Gripen: A proposed carrier-based version based on the NG variant, its development was underway in 2011. It is being developed for the Brazilian Navy.
- South Africa