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New Gripen fighter makes intl debut, flies over Leh

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The new generation Gripen fighter. A Saab photo

LEH, INDIA (BNS): Making its debut in the international skies, a multi-role Gripen Next Generation (NG) fighter aircraft has flown in the harsh environment of Leh airbase in Jammu and Kashmir as a contender for the Indian Air Force's Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft deal.

The aircraft took part in the last phase of the MMRCA flight trials last week.

“To date the aircraft has flown some 135 test flights in Sweden and is now testing its wings abroad, showing the international arena that next generation Gripen fighter development is on track.”

“The harsh environment of the Leh airbase, 3300m high up in the Himalayas, proved to be no match for the Swedish fighter where it cleared the high altitude trials,” the aircraft's manufacturer Saab said in a statement.

The Gripen NG demo is the flying platform which is being used to train and develop the new technologies and features incorporated into the Gripen NG. The aircraft has been specifically developed to meet the operational requirements of countries such as India and Brazil, the statement said.

The new multi-role fighter will incorporate several enhanced features like increased combat range and endurance, advanced electronic warfare, super cruise capability, superior mission survivability and increased payload capacity. The aircraft will be armed with METEOR, AMRAAM, IRIS-T, AIM-9X missiles and targeting sensors to enhance its air-to-air superiority.

India had floated a $10-billion tender in August 2007 to acquire 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft for the IAF. Six global firms – Lockheed Martin, D'Assault, EADS, MiG Corporation, Boeing and Saab – had submitted their bids in response to the tender.

Flight trials of the six aircraft started in August 2009.

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