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It had all begun with the simple thought of celebrating the spirit of flying and the genius of front ranking technologies that make fighter aircraft by giving aircraft enthusiasts the opportunity to fly the world’s most advanced single engine multi role fighter aircraft, the Gripen.

Saab thus brought to Indian combat aircraft followers and those with a dream to fly a fighter aircraft a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: To fly the world’s most advanced multi-role fighter aircraft, the Gripen, during its sojourn in Bangalore during the Aero India air show between February 9-13.

The Gripen Top Guns contest was an unprecedented effort to take the joy and pleasure of a fighter aircraft to all Indians through an online gaming event hosted on the website The contest had something for everyone. For people who simply loved fighter aircraft, there was an amateur level with a host of collectibles to give away as prizes: pins, stickers and key rings. For those who knew their fighter aircraft, the professional level was a real test of knowledge with the chance of being in the draw to pick the semi-finalists for a Simulator shoot out.

Gamers of the Ace level

A similar prize awaited Gamers of the Ace level who could upload a video of a flight in the Gripen. Gamers had to submit a series of defined flight sequences and could be in the draw for the simulator shoot out. Both Ace and Professional winners could be in a draw for a host of other prizes, including Goggles, flight suits, Gripen badges and an exclusive set of calendars signed off by Gripen NG test pilots. And for those who simply loved the idea of the Gripen, there was the Gripen Top Guns Model Hunt where six males and six females would get chosen for the first ever calendar. Every week, all contestants were informed of whether they had got their answers right and if they were winners in the draw for the prizes. Over four weeks, the contest changed each week, adding to the excitement.

Over 160,000 page views from 76 countries

The site received over 160,000 page views with 21,000 visitors from 76 countries, of which over 18,000 visitors came from 83 Indian cities. Around 3000 contestants played the amateur level of the game while around 2400 contestants played the professional and ace levels from January 12 to win a large number of prizes and collectibles. Over a hundred model aspirants also participated for the Gripen Top Gun India Calendar contest.

Judged by top Swedish and Indian pilots

While the shortlist for the semi-finals was draw by lots, the Gripen Ace simulator game entries were judged by top Swedish and Indian pilots to select five contestants who got a shot at flying the real Gripen Aircraft simulator. Out of the five chosen simulator ‘pilots’, one got to fly the real thing: the Gripen.

The five finalists for the simulator flights were Kasmera Dilip Shah (Bangalore), Chiranth Ashok (Bangalore), Selween Philip Mascarenhas (Chennai), Shaival Rajiv Sheth (Mumbai) and Shashank HR (Bangalore).

Come February 13, 2011, and the last day of the aero show, a student of a Bangalore engineering college flew in the Gripen after successfully battling through a contest in which over 4000 contestants tested their skills and knowledge.

Shashank HR the Gripen India Top Gun

22-year-old Shashank HR from Bangalore emerged as the Gripen India Top Gun in the month-long contest. A day earlier, five semi-finalists from across the country tested their skills on the Gripen simulator and were judged by four seasoned Indian and Swedish test pilots on their aircraft handling and combat skills.

The first Gripen Top Gun Calender ever

At the same time, on 12 February, 12 young Indians from all over the country participated in a photo shoot with the Gripen fighter. The photo shoot created a stunning series that will makes its way into history as the first Gripen Top Gun Calendar.

The Six Male models for the calendar are Abhijith S Bharadwaj (Bangalore), Dinesh Singh Slathia (New Delhi), Tushpreet Singh (New Delhi), Suhas M R (Bangalore), Vishal Marwaha (Gurgaon) and Shariq Qureshi (Hapur). The five Female models for the calendar are Ritisha Nadia James (New Delhi), Neeti Singh (Faridabad) , Shampa Saha (Bangalore), Mamta Banga (New Delhi), Garima Kapil (New Delhi) and Sonal Kapoor (New Delhi).

“A celebration of the love of flying”

“We are very pleased with the huge interest and excitement the contest has created. Aero India is a celebration of the love of flying, of fighter aircraft and the world's best aircraft technologies. Saab is delighted to have created an opportunity for people to know more about the aircraft, its history and technologies behind the product through a unique contest. We believe that the more the people of India get to see and understand the complex technologies that make flying and guarding the skies both simple and effective, the more will be the appreciation of the history of Swedish aircraft technology and Swedish technologies. We are very pleased that we were able to give someone with a life long dream, a very real opportunity to fly a world beating fighter aircraft," says Edvard de la Motte, Campaign Director, Gripen India.

Piloted by Chief Test Pilot Robin Norlander

The final winner, Shashank HR, is a final year Mechanical Engineer student at the BMS College of Engineering. Shashank was first kitted out in his flight suit on Sunday morning and then extensively briefed by the Gripen Team. Shashank’s Gripen flight, which took off after the morning display, was piloted by Chief Test Pilot Robin Norlander. Shashank HR is an avid gamer and qualified through the ACE level of the contest. Shashank had a 50 minute ride on the Gripen fighter aircraft and got a feel of the aircraft during his flight.

Visitors from 82 Indian cities

"We are delighted at the great response and interest in this contest. What was amazing was that people in over 75 countries visited the site. However, the most exciting part of the contest was the huge participation in India with visitors to the site from 82 Indian cities. It was heartening to see the huge interest and the media took in the contest and the sense of pride in having a boy from the city fly the aircraft. For all the contestants, including the models and all those who won very many prizes, it was a great and a unique experience. Even now they are writing in to us to express the great joy they have had in participating in the contest. We are specially thankful to those thousands who made huge effort to participate in the contest, including doing special photo shoots, training themselves on the simulator and taking part in the contest every week in order to have a chance to fly the Gripen.” said Joanna Sjolander – In Country Director – Gripen India.


> Read more about the winner of the Gripen Top Gun Contest

> Shaival Sheth, one of the finalists, has written about the exiting journey of being a contender of the Gripen Top Gun contest, read his story here.


A selection of images from Aero India 


Crowded road outside the exhibition area

 Media brief with the winner of Gripen Top Gun

Media had a lot of questions to the winner Shashank HR from Bangalore

The Gripen Top Gun winner Shashank HR

Shashank HR was the lucky winner of the Gripen Top Gun contest and won a flight in the fighter aircraft Gripen

Gripen take-off at Aero India

Take off

Gripen air display

The Gripen Fighter from below

Gripen back on solid earth

Saab 2000 was flying as well




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