Two Swedish delegations have recently visited the Brazilian aircraft carrier Sao Paulo in support of plans to develop a naval version of the JAS 39E/F Gripen fighter. A government team toured the ship in August, followed by a Saab-Embraer technical/engineering group in September.
Informally known as the Gripen M (Maritime or Marinha), the carrier-based version has been under study in parallel with the E/F since the program's early years. In 2013, in the run-up to Brazil's selection of the JAS 39E/F as its next fighter (with a contract due at year-end), Saab said that its company-funded study had brought the Gripen M to the point where it could be offered as a fixed-price development program, costing $250 million and taking five years from launch to production deliveries.
Saab and Brazil have already agreed that Embraer will lead the development of the two-seat JAS 39F, subject to the final contract, and development of the Gripen M could broaden that partnership. Ownership of an operational aircraft carrier is clearly a prerequisite for a Gripen M partner, and both India and Brazil have been approached.
Brazil's Sao Paulo carrier, formerly the French navy's Foch, has taken a long time to upgrade and restore to operational condition, but the Brazilian navy has persisted both with the ship and its current air wing, including a major upgrade of its AF-1 Skyhawk fighters with a new Elta radar and glass cockpit. One report suggests that Brazil expects the ship and its air wing to be operational in time to support security for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.