On April 30th, the South African Air Force received and accepted its first new Gripen fighter aircraft opening a new chapter in the forces modernisation and transformation. 08/05/2008 | As part of its 1999 Strategic Defence Procurement, South Africa ordered 26 modern Gripen fighters for its front-line air defence and fighter requirement. The new multiple capability aircraft are replacing the SAAF’s fleet of Cheetah aircraft. South Africa will receive 26 Gripen new generation fighters – 9 dual-seat and 17 single-seat. Delivery of the first Gripen follows an extensive two-year flight test programme in South Africa to integrate local avionics, defence and combat systems. Initial work was conducted in Sweden before migrating to a dedicated Gripen Flight Test Centre established at the SAAF’s Test Flight Development Centre near Bredasdorp in the Southern Cape.
“Delivery of the first Gripen aircraft is an important milestone in what has been a challenging and exciting programme. South Africa was our first export customer for Gripen. It’s recognition of Gripen’s capabilities and faith in Saab has inspired other new Gripen customers, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, the UK’s Empire Test Pilot School and more recently, Thailand. We are also in discussion with several other countries, all of which are looking closely at the performance of the aircraft and Saab in South Africa,” explained Saab President and CEO, Åke Svensson.
South Africa’s first Gripen aircraft (SA01) first flew in November 2005 at Linköping, Sweden. It was transferred to South Africa in July 2006 and engaged in a South Africa-specific flight test programme which was completed in January 2008. South Africa aircraft deliveries will continue progressively from now until 2012.
Mike O’Callaghan, chief executive of BAE Systems South Africa, said: "Besides modernising the SA Air Force, South Africa’s Gripen and Hawk procurement has given rise to a game-changing Industrial Participation (offset) programme. This has been the catalyst for the rejuvenation of the country’s aerospace and defence industry, placing it squarely in the global arena."
BAE Systems and its partner SAAB are jointly fulfilling a combined obligation to deliver US$8,7 billion in Industrial Participation benefits to South Africa through investments and other stimulation of the country’s mining and manufacturing sector. The companies are currently ahead of schedule and remain committed to meeting this obligation in full and on time.
SAAB serves the global market with world-leading products, services and solutions ranging from military defence to civil security. Saab has operations and employees on all continents and constantly develops, adopts and improves new technology to meet customers´ changing needs.
Gripen is the first of the new generation, multi-role combat aircraft to enter service. Using the latest available technology it is capable of performing an extensive range of air-to-air and air-to-surface operational missions and employing the latest weapons. Gripen is designed to meet the demands of current and future threats, while at the same time meeting strict requirements for flight safety, reliability, training efficiency and low operating costs. Gripen is in service with the Swedish, Czech Republic and Hungarian Air Forces and has also been ordered by South Africa and Thailand. The UK Empire Test Pilots´ School (ETPS) is operating Gripen as its advanced fast jet training platform for test pilots worldwide.
Source: Gripen International
Picture provided and copyrighted by Frans Dely/AvPix Publishing
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