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

Hungarian Air Force JAS-39 Gripen

The activities at Kecskemét Air Base start early in the morning: at 7:30AM everything is already fully operational. When I entered the breifing room, the pilots were totally busy planning the flights of the day. I was impressed by the great activities of the two squadrons: nonstop takeoffs from 9AM till mid-afternoon. Four Gripens were available for more crews who exchanged the stick after about one hour flight each.

I've talked 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 is an important feature for the "Puma" Home Fighter Squadron: it has the task of covering air defense and ground attack missions.

My plan of the day was to board an An-26 and take photos of two Gripens made available for my service, one single-seater and one two-seater. I discussed the details of my photographic needs with Chief of Flight Operations and together we defined the position and the maneuvers of the Gripens. The fighters had to make some position exchanges, intersections and openings. Everything was perfect, I could not wait to be in the air!

At 12:30AM Antonov warmed the engines and ten minutes later I was in flight. After reaching the established height, the Gripens were ready to get in position behind the cargo plane, I ensured to be well anchored to the ceiling before opening the rear loading ramp. Facing the cold wind coming from the open door was the most difficult thing: about 5,000 meters, -10° C, a floor of about 35 degrees of excursion.

However, I did not lose my main goal: the fighters were ready and so was me. I was happy to see that one of the two fighters was the tail patterned one, that I wanted. I did not want to miss even a moment, I began to shoot bursts of pictures in coordination with the pilots who took the correct positions to my signal and performed the maneuvers that we had previously agreed.

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

After 40 minutes of shooting pics, was time to go back. At the end of the flight I had the opportunity to talk to 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 has confirmed 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 told me about 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 will be involved in the defense of the Icelandic airspace and we will 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 explained about the training of young Gripen pilots.

- 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 main future step will involve 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).

During the current year pilots will take part in several multinational exercises including Fire Blade, Load Diffuser, Adriatic Strike, Saber Guardian, Ample Strike and TLP.

The Gripen Demo Team will perform in some of the largest 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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