Cheetah sale to Ecuador worth US$78.4m


Denel Aviation has confirmed that the total contract value of the 12 Cheetah fighter aircraft sold to Ecuador is expected to be US$78.4 million. The deal, announced Monday, provides for five years of support in addition to the acquisition of the aircraft, support equipment, spares and training.

Denel Aviation CE Mike Kgobe confirmed that the cost of the initial acquisition is US43.4 million and South African industry would receive a further US$7 million per annum for support, with a total contract value of US$78.4 million. “The deal has a benefit for the specialist South African support industry which cannot be underestimated. Their involvement is crucial to ensuring the delivery and support success of the programme over the support period,” Kgobe said.

According to the Commander in Chief of the Fuerza Aerea Ecuatoriana (FAE), Brigadier General Leonardo Barreiro, the investment in acquiring the ex-South African Air Force aircraft is US$80 million. Barreiro explained that the modernised South African aircraft would replace the twelve obsolete Mirage F1 fighters which the FAE has operated since 1979 and have completed their useful life. “Our pilots travelled to South Africa to fly the aircraft and verify the aircrafts´ condition. Their report ratified that they are in good condition,” emphasised Barreiro.

The SAAF started the withdrawal of the Cheetah aircraft in the late 1990’s, with the retired aircraft utilised to support the remaining aircraft. The final aircraft were only to be retired once all the Swedish Gripens purchased under the Strategic Defence package acquisition programme had been delivered in 2012. However, the remaining 11 Cheetah C single-seat and five Cheetah D dual-seat aircraft were phased out in April 2008 to save costs. The Gripens are still in the process of being delivered, with the final delivery expected in 2012.

Both single seat and dual seat Cheetah form part of the Ecuadorian package, with ten Cheetah C and two Cheetah D being included in the package. It is expected that the first of the aircraft will arrive to Ecuador during the first quarter of 2011, once the periods stipulated in the Law of Public Contract have been fulfilled.

The Cheetah upgrade of the French Mirage III was developed by Denel Aviation and is based on the Israeli Kfir fighter, itself a development of the Mirage III. The modernisation consisted of a complete renovation of the airframe, implementation of fixed canards, two new weapon points on the wings, a new in-flight refuelling intake, new ejection seats and a more powerful engine. It also included more sophisticated avionics, radar and self protection. It is widely assumed that the two-seat Cheetah D was converted from existing SAAF Mirage III and Israeli Kfir stocks, while all the single-seat Cheetah C airframes were obtained from Israel.

Work on the first conversion began in April 1983. The type was officially unveiled to the public on July 16, 1986, although it was only declared operational the next year. Thirty-eight C-models, 16 D-models and 16 E-variants were remanufactured.

According to Wikipeadia, the FAE has 13 Kfir C.2 and TC.2 (single and duel-seat aircraft respectively) in service, from 18 obtained directly from Israel. At least eight have already been upgraded to the latest Kfir C.10 version, known in Ecuador as the Kfir CE.

According to the FAE, the Cheetah is compatible in their electronics and weapons systems with the Israeli Kfir CE and will thus complement their supersonic fleet.