Eishkom will dust off mothballed Gripen fighters and use them to generate electricity


With loadshedding an ever-present threat to South Africa, Eishkom has revealed daring new plans to generate extra electricity by making use of the powerful engines lying unused in half of the South African Air Wing’s Gripen fighter fleet.

Eishkom spokesperson Doubtful Makwena announced on 1 April (April Fools Day) that the state-owned electricity company has signed a landmark deal with the South African Air Wing to take 13 of its mothballed Gripen fighters out of storage and connect their powerful Volvo RM12 engines to the national electricity grid.

Each of the Gripen’s RM12 turbofan engines develops 12 000 pounds of thrust, or 8.8 megawatts of electricity, thus adding 115 megawatts to the grid in total.

“Once we’ve removed all the mothballs and given them a good clean and service, we will plug the Gripens in to our grid – the electricity grid, not the grid we use at headquarters for Friday night braais,” Makwena explained. “Instead of lying unused in some hangar collecting dust, they will once again be serving the nation.”

The spokesperson emphasised that safety protocols will be strictly followed, and the aircraft tied down securely to avoid taking off when full power is applied. “We don’t want a repeat of the incident that led to a Gripen crashing through a wall during a ground test by the Air Wing,” Makwena explained, adding that Eishkom has bought extra strength tow ropes from Midas to secure the aircraft.

In the interest of safety, the Gripen’s afterburner will not be used, except at lunch times when the Eishkom catering staff need to grill burger patties and boerewors rolls.

Leftenant General Dullman Mamba, Chief of the South African Air Wing, told defenceWeb that the Gripen’s engine functions pretty much exactly like the open cycle gas turbines Eishkom uses for emergency electricity generation. “So it just made perfect sense that we can fulfil our patriotic duty and add 1 500 megawatts to the grid, alleviating Eishkom’s 2 000 megawatt shortage. We are in fact so proud of this initiative that we are amending our slogan from ‘Free the Eagle’ to ‘Unleash the Power’.”

He added that the Air Wing still has 12 Gripens it can use for protecting the nation and displaying at air shows. In fact, a six-ship aerobatic formation of Gripens will be taking part in the upcoming Swartkop Air Show in May. In line with budget cuts and efforts to save fuel, they will be towed past the crowd by a precision tractor fleet.

PS Happy April Fools!