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In 1979 the Swedish Defense Department began looking for a new multi-purpose aircraft, capable fighter, fighter and reconnaissance missions, both over land and over the sea. The machine should replace the aging Saab 35 Draken and Saab 37 Viggen. The development was awarded to a company SAAB, the comparative study was carried out by American aircraft F-16 Fight Falcon, F / A-18 Hornet and Northrop F-20 Tigershark. Several proposals were prepared as best project selected in 2105, later renamed Project 2108 and Project 2110, which featured a lightweight single-engine single-seat inherently unstable a mid equipped with technology fly-by-wire, ie the so-called. Innate instability. As the engine was chosen Volvo-Flygmotor RM12, which was licensed version of General Electric F404-400. The first draft was completed in 1981, 1984 began testing subsystems and neletuschopný model was completed in 1986. The running tests were launched to mark the 50th anniversary of the Saab 26 April 1987 and the first prototype flew on 9 December 1988.