Saab 39 Gripen

Saab's successor to the Viggen is a lot less unorthodox in appearance than previous models. The single engine fighter has a canard configuration with relatively large canards directly in front of the delta wings. The rectangular air intakes with two rounded corners are just in front, and below the canopy. The Gripen has a nose gear door is perpen­dicular to the air flow. Single wheel main gears retract in the fuselage or wing roots. The vertical stabi­liser is much like that on the Viggen: nearly triangular and with a slightly forward swept trailing edge. Below, and in front of the exhaust, are air brakes on both sides of the fuselage.

Like the Viggen the Gripen has a canard configuration, clearly visible from this angle. The delta wing has a straight leading edge though.

The Gripen's single vertical stabiliser has a trapezium shape, but is nearly triangular and has a slightly forward swept trailing edge.

This photo shows the rectangular air intakes below the canards, with two rounded corners. Also note the nose gear door perpendicular to the air flow.

Different versions

To recognise the different versions of the Saab Gripen you have to look at

  • the number of wheels on the nose gear
  • the location of the main gear
  • the presence of a retractable refueling probe above the left canard
  • the presence of an inlet in the dorsal fin
  • the presence of a FLIR sensor in front of the canopy


The original single seat Gripen, designated most often as JAS39A (the Swedish military designation), has as key features a double wheel nose gear and no refueling probe. However, as the refueling probe is retracted in the left canard root, above the canard, the Gripen A is quite difficult to recognise from the Gripen C.

From most angles the JAS39A as shown here can hardly be distinguished from the JAS39C.

The top of the fuselage, above the left canard, has no door behind which the refueling probe of the JAS39C is located.


The two seat version of the JAS39A has a longer fuselage and tandem canopy. For the rest the JAS39B is the same as the JAS39A.

Here is a photo of a JAS39B, or Gripen B.


The main external difference between the Gripen C (JAS39C) and the Gripen A (JAS39A) is the retractable refueling probe. Obviously, you can easily recognise it when the probe is extended. But when it is retracted you can still spot the long, narrow door on top of the fuselage, above the left canard. It is difficult to see though but often has a warning triangle.

With the refueling probe extended, you can obviously easily identify this as a JAS39C. What also helps is the location on the main gear door.

The probe of the Gripen C is normally hidden behind the marked panel/door. Note the small triangular marking of the right side.


The JAS39D is the twin seat, tandem canopy version of the JAS39C, so to be distinguished from the JAS39B by the retractable refueling probe, just like the C from the A model. The gear and air intake in the dorsal fin are the way to recognise it from the JAS39F.

The two seat JAS39D has a longer nose and longer canopy than the JAS39C. Otherwise it cannot be distinguished from the Gripen B from this angle.


Marketed as the Gripen NG (for Next Generation), the JAS39E is indeed quite different from the JAS39C, although that may not be directly clear. The single wheel, trailing link nose gear is the easiest to see feature. However, the main gear is also different: it is attached to the wing roots instead of the fuselage. Additionally, the Gripen E has a small inlet at the base of the vertican fin. Finally, the JAS39E has an infrared sensor on top of the nose, in front of the canopy.

The Brazilian designation of the Gripen E is F-39E. This appears to lack the infrared sensor on the nose.

From this angle it is not easily to identify this Gripen as a JAS39E, but the location of the main gear doors are what to look for.

This detail photo shows the main gear attachment and inlet in the dorsal fin. Note the thicker wing root of the Gripen E.

With the gear extended it is much easier, as you can see the single wheel nose gear. Also note the location of the main gear and the sensor on the nose.


The same differences as for the JAS39C and JAS39E are applicable to the JAS39D and JAS39F.

The Brazilian designation of the Gripen F is F-39F. It has no infrared sensor either.

Confusion possible with

Dassault Rafale

rafale c

Apart from being a twin engine fighter the Dassault Rafale looks quite similar to the Gripen. The main other difference is in the air intakes: the two oval intakes of the Rafale are placed diago­nally at the side the fuselage. 

HAL Tejas


The delta wings, canopy and tail of the HAL Tejas make it look quite like a Saab Gripen, the Tejas Mk2 with its canards even more than the Tejas Mk1A as shown. The Tejas has D shaped air intakes below the wing roots, and separate from them, as main recognition point. (photo: Government of India/WikiMedia)

Saab 37 Viggen


Like the Gripen the Viggen has a canard configura­tion and the vertical stabilisers have about the same shape. However, the Viggen has bigger canards and double delta wings: the inner and outer leading edges have two different angles. Also the main gear has two tandem wheels and the air intakes are like cut off oval shapes.

Atlas Cheetah

cheetah c

This aircraft, and other Dassault Mirage derivatives like the IAI Kfir and Mirage 3RS, have semi circular air intakes with a shock cone in the middle. Also the vertical stabiliser's trailing edge is swept. Finally, the delta wings a attached to the fuselage at the bottom.