Aerial footage of the advanced swedish-made fighter jet in service with Hungarian Air Force.

Hungarian Air Force JAS-39 Gripen

The activities at Kecskemét Air Base begin early in the morning: at 7:30AM everything is already fully operational. When I enter the briefing room the pilots are totally busy planning the flights of the day. I’m impressed by the great activity of the two squadrons: nonstop takeoffs from 9AM till mid-afternoon. Four Gripens are available to more crews who exchange stick after about one hour flight each. 
I talk to some pilots and they are very satisfied of the Swedish-made aircraft. - It is easy to fly and you can change the type of mission during the flight pushing a button, it is a great multi-role fighter jet -.

It's an imporant feature for the home-based “Puma” Fighter Squadron: it has the role to cover air defense and ground attack missions. 

My plan of the day is to climb aboard an An-26 and take photos of two Gripens made available for my service, one single-seater and one two-seater . I discuss the details of my photographic needs with the Chief of Flight Operations and together we define the position and maneuvers of the Gripens. Fighters will perform some exchanges of position, intersections and openings. Everything is perfect, I can’t wait to be in the air! 

At 12:30PM Antonov warms the engines and ten minutes later I'm in flight. After reaching the established altitude Gripens are ready to get in position behind the cargo plane, I ensure to be well anchored to the ceiling before the opening of rear loading ramp. Getting used to the cold wind coming in from the open ramp is the hardest thing: about 5,000 meters, -10°C, a floor of about 35 degrees excursion. 

However, I don’t lose my main goal: the fighters are ready and so am I. I’m happy to see that one of the two fighters is the special tail patterned one, that I wanted. I don’t want to miss even a moment, I start to shoot bursts of pictures according to the pilots that take correct positions at my signal and perform the maneuvers we agreed in beforehand. 

The agility and power of the aircraft are amazing: during the maneuvers, in a second, the Gripens are hundreds of meters away from the An-26. 

After 40 minutes of shooting pics is time to come back. At the end of the flight I have the opportunity to speak with the Base Commander who was on board of the two-seater Gripen during my activity. 

He is very kind and helpful, with so much passion for his job. He confirms the opinion of the other pilots about the Gripen - It is very easy to fly and in the operational tier the Gripen provides the commanders a multirole flexibility to perform a wide range of tasks during the same mission -.

He tells me about the past, present and future activities – our Gripen fighter jets have been guarding the space of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania during Balting Air Policing mission in 2015. It was a milestone for Hungarian Air Force because since the end of War World II, it was the first time that hungarian fighters have been deployed to protect International airspace. During the next years we may be involved in the defense of the Icelandic airspace and return to the Baltic in 2019.
Currently we deal with defending part of the Slovenian airspace dividing the task with Italian Air Force -.

The commander also explains how the training of young Gripen pilots is built up.

- The training of young pilots of the Hungarian Air Force is divided in three stages: in the first phase students are screened to start on the fly, in the second phase the candidates are sent to Canada where they learn to fly the T6 Texan and the Hawk trainer jets. During this phase we have the division of the dedicated flight lines: fighter aircraft, transport aircraft, helicopters. In the third phase the students are sent to Sweden to take the specialization on the Gripen fighter jet. When they come back to Kecskemet AFB they are assigned to the “Dongo” Fighter Training Squadron to continue on-site training -.

The future step involves the Squadrons to consilidate the ability of Air to Air Refueling (acquired in 2015 thanks to a joint training with USAF 100th Air Refueling Wing from RAF Mildenhall, UK).

This year’s plan also covers taking part in various multinational exercises including Fire Blade, Load Diffuser, Adriatic Strike, Saber Guardian, Ample Strike and TLP.

The Gripen Demo Team will perform at some of the most important European public events: Motril Airshow, AWACS 35th Anniversary, Air Tattoo, Sanicole Airshow and Ostrava Airshow.

On the left Kecskemét Air Base Commander

I wish to thank Kecskemét Base Commander, Public Affairs Officer Lt. Róbert Tóth and all flight and ground crews who assisted me during the reportage.

Written By Matteo Sanzani

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