Twelve Cheetahs, once the major component of the SA Air Force’s (SAAF) sharp-end fighter jet inventory, have been sold to US-based Draken International.
According to Denel, the South African government owned defence and technology conglomerate, the contract for the sale of the locally developed fighters to Draken includes return to service and flight acceptance tests in South Africa as well as aircraft delivery to Florida in the United States.
Denel is pursuing post-delivery logistics support for the duration of aircraft operations.
Draken said the Cheetah acquisition reinforces the company’s focus on providing advanced capabilities to its clients.
“As the demand for increased capacity of adversary resources continues to soar throughout the (US) Department of Defence and globally, Draken’s new Cheetah jets will provide the US Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps an advanced radar-equipped supersonic platform to train against,” a Draken statement said.
Nine Cheetah C (single-seat) and three D (Dual-seat) models are expected to be operational with Draken by mid-2018.
The Cheetahs will become the first South African aircraft in the Draken fleet. They will join A-4 Skyhawks equipped with APC-66b radar and L-159 Honey Badgers with GRIFO-L-radars. Draken sees supplementing its fleet with the Cheetahs as offering customers “a capable, yet cost-effective platform”.
Draken sees the Cheetah as complementary to its recent acquisition of 22 modernised radar-equipped Spanish Mirages F1Ms.
Denel is the design authority for the South African developed Cheetah, a variant of the Mirage III flown by the SAAF in the 1980s. The aircraft were retired from active duty with 2 Squadron following the Gripen acquisition as part of the Strategic Defence Procurement Project (SDPP) in the late 1990s.
Denel Aeronautics chief executive Mike Kgobe said there had been “a number of expressions of interest” for the rest of the cheetah fleet following delivery of 12 aircraft to the Ecuador Air Force six years ago.
The decision to sell the Cheetahs to Draken International followed a visit to Denel Aeronautics by Draken International representatives in July this year. A letter of intent was received a month later.
Denel Aeronautics is further engaging with Draken International to secure a logistics support contract by end January 2018 for the supply of component and engine maintenance, repair and overhaul as well as design authority and systems engineering support.