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Sat, Feb 02, 2008

Gripen Fleet Surpasses 100,000 Flight Hours Mark

Occurs During January 28 SAAF Test Flight

With Saab test pilot Mats Thorbiornson and South African Air Force (SAAF) Colonel Mike Edwards at the controls, South Africa's second Gripen fighter (SA02) made history when, during a scheduled flight test sortie this week, it passed the cumulative 100,000 flying hour mark for the entire Gripen fleet of new generation fighters.

Since the maiden flight of Gripen, the Saab Test team have kept a record of every flight hour logged during Gripen's development program at Saab, and also all the in-service hours logged by the Swedish Air Force and Gripen's export customers Hungary, the Czech Republic, the UK's Empire Test Pilots' School and South Africa.

So it was that at 0915 local time on January 28, 2008, a Gripen D two-seat fighter in South African Air Force markings, took to the skies over Saab in Linkoping, Sweden to takes its place in the ongoing Gripen story. After a one-and-a-half-hour flight -- which included a 10 minute hot re-fueling short turn around and take-off -- Mats Thorbiornson and Mike Edwards said they were delighted with the success of the sortie.

"I'm feeling very proud today and I think everybody at Saab should be feeling proud today -- this a great milestone for the Gripen program," said Thorbiornson. "We are still very busy developing Gripen and it feels very good"

Col. Mike Edwards, from the SAAF Gripen Project Team, was also the 1,000th member of the Gripen Order of pilots who have flown the Gripen.

"Yes, we were very fortunate that the 100,000th flying hour was flown in a South African Gripen fighter," he said. "I was very honored to participate in this 100,000th hour flight but of course the honor and the tribute should go to all the pilots from the Gripen Order that have contributed to the hours flown."

South Africa's first Gripens are slated to enter regular service in 2008.



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