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Fact file: Denel Cheetah multi-role fighter aircraft

The Denel Cheetah was essentially a remanufactured and upgraded French Dassault Mirage III. South African airframes were used for the D and E range and Israeli airframes for the C-model. The first aircraft to be converted was a Mirage III D2Z (airframe number 845) from April 1983. It is not known publicly when its conversion was completed, but when the type was officially unveiled to the public on July 16, 1986, the type was already in service with 89 Combat Flying School, although it was only declared operational the next year.






Pic: A 2 Squadron Denel Cheetah C seen from an SAAF C130 on route from Pretoria to Makhado in 2006.  

Designation:

Denel Cheetah C/D/E

Type:

Multi-role fighter & two-seat conversion trainer.

Country of origin:

 

France, South African modifications; Mirage III built under license in SA.

First flight:

May 1985.

Delivered to the SAAF:

From 1986.

Associated project name(s):

Bark, Brahman, Carver, Cushion, Kiemvry, Recipient, Tunny1.

Numbers:

 

38 C-models, 16 D-models and 16 E-variants remanufactured from 1983. In 2003 28 C-models and 10 D’s remained. In 2005 the total for both types was 29, in 2007 about 14. Two remain in service and are assigned to TFDC for weapons development.

Cost:

nn

Crew:

1 pilot (C-model), pilot, navigator (D-model).

Major dimensions & weights (C-model)

  • Wingspan:

  • Length:

  • Height:

  • Wing area:

  • Basic empty weight:

  • Max take-off weight, utility:

 

  • 8.22m (34.78ft).

  • 16.3m.

  • 4.5 (13.94ft).

  • 34.85m2 (380ft2).

  • 7.26mt.

  • 13.545mt.

Performance

  • Take-off to clear 15m:

  • Landing from 15m:

  • Rate of climb:

  • Service ceiling:

  • Max operating speed:

 

  • Max cruise speed:

  • Max range at cruise speed:

  • Stall speed:

  • G-loads:

  • Wing loading:

  • Thrust:

  • Thrust/weight ratio:

 

  • -

  • -

  • 1494m/min (3 minutes to 10.975 metres).

  • 17,000m.

  • Mach 2.2 (2350km/h) @ 10,975m, Mach 1.115 (1368km/h) @ sea level.

  • -

  • -

  • -

  • -

  • 250kg/m2 (52lb/ft2).

  • 70.6kN (15,873lbs) with afterburner.

  • -

Engine Specifications

  • Make:

  • Model:

  • Type:

  • Number:

  • Compression ratio:

  • Engine diameter:

  • Engine length:

  • Dry weight:

  • Power turbine rotor speed:

  • Shaft horsepower:

 

  • SNECMA.

  • 9K50.

  • Turbojet.

  • 1.

  • 6.5.

  • 1m.

  • 5.9m.

  • 1.582mt.

  • -

  • -

Hard points:

7 (Centreline, one per wing root, two per wing).

Armament:

  • Bombs:

 

  • Missiles:

 

 

  • Rockets:

  • Cannon:

 

  • 120kg HE and 250kg HE ballistic, laser- or global positioning system guided bombs.

  • V4 (Denel R-Darter) electromagnetic-guided beyond visual range air-to-air missile, V3D (Denel U-Darter) Infrared-guided short-range air-to-air missile.

  • FZ70 70mm unguided.

  • 2 x 30mm DEFA.

Other attachments:

  • Reconnaissance pod:

  • External fuel tanks:

 

  • Vinton Vicon 600E

  • 1 x centre line tank (800 litres), 2 x 600 litre tanks, 2 x 1300 litre tanks or 2 x 1700 litre tanks.

Comment:

 

The Cheetah was essentially a remanufactured and upgraded Dassault Mirage III.

 

South African airframes were used for the D and E range and Israeli airframes for the C-model. The first aircraft to be converted was a Mirage III D2Z (airframe number 845) from April 1983. It is not known publicly when its conversion was completed, but when the type was officially unveiled to the public on July 16, 1986, the type was already in service with 89 Combat Flying School, although it was only declared operational the next year.

 

In order to bring the airframes back to “zero hours” flown, some 50% of components were replaced. Non-moving canards were added just aft of the air intake, as were more hard points, a aerial refuelling probe, a new ejection chair and the 9K50 engine. Also fitted was a new main wingspar, a “drooping” leading edge and a dog-tooth incision on each main wing.

 

Improvements were also made to the avionics, radar, electronic warfare and self-protection systems, including a modern pulse Doppler radar. This is used in conjunction with a digital navigation attack system and HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick).

 

Ten aircraft were upgraded to fire beyond visual range missiles and two to drop laser-guided bombs. Tactical reconnaissance was limited to day operations only.

 

The type was phased out of general service in April 2008, well ahead of the planned date of 2012, because of cost constraints. Two remain at the Air Force Test Flight & Development Centre at AFB Overberg near Bredasdorp east of Cape Town. The others are in store pending disposal.

 

It was reported in September 2009 that Ecuador was seeking to purchase up to 12 C and D marks of the aircraft. Denel Aviation at the time hoped the sale of would be concluded by years' end. By February no deal had been signed. Denel added the Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE) needed to replace obsolete supersonic aircraft – "as recently … by the Ecuadorian daily, El Universo." The FAE operates a mixed fleet of 12 Dassault Mirage F1JE and one F1BJ fighters as well as 13 Israeli Kfir fighters of various marks, according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies' 2009 edition of the Military Balance. Reports suggested the Cheetah will replace the F1 and serve alongside the Kfir.

 

 


 

1 Dave Becker, Cheetah Farewell, SA Flyer, May 2008, p40.


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