Draken International pilots begin training on ex-SAAF Cheetahs


Pilots with Draken International have begun transition training on the Atlas Cheetah as the US-based company prepares to take delivery of 12 ex-South African Air Force examples.

On 16 October Draken International announced that John ‘Slick’ Baum became the first American to fly the Cheetah as transition training has begun. “Our friends in South Africa are pure professionals and have gone above and beyond to welcome Draken this week,” the company said.

Conversion flights were carried out in the two-seat Cheetah B 861 (painted in South African flag colours) owned by Denel. The first Cheetah Cs for Draken International will take to the air next week as stored airframes are returned to service by Denel Aeronautics technicians.

Twelve ex-South African Air Force (SAAF) Cheetahs (nine single seat Cheetah C and three dual seat D models) were late last year sold to Florida-based Draken International, which will use them for adversary training for the US Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps.

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 sold 12 retired Cheetahs to the Ecuadorian Air Force six years ago.