Cape Town traffic was faced with an unusual hazard at midday yesterday: the first two Saab Gripen C single-seat fighters destined for the South African Air Force were being towed to AFB Ysterplaat.
The first Gripen C was initially due for delivery in late October/early November last year, but was delayed by South Africa so that the two aircraft could be two shipped together. The two aircraft, SAAF serials 3910 and 3911, arrived by ship in Table Bay Harbour yesterday. The aircraft were towed today the 8km from the harbour to AFB Ysterplaat where they will be made ready for flight.
Once serviceable, the two aircraft will be flown to the SAAF’s Test Flight Development Centre (TFDC) in the Southern Cape. They will remain there for approximately two weeks before flying to AFB Makhado near the town of Louis Trichardt, were they will join 2 Squadron.
The Gripen will play a key part in the air force’s plans to safeguard the airspace above the stadiums during the 2010 Soccer World Cup. At least four Gripen C fighters are likely to be in the country for the World Cup, joining the Gripen D aircraft already in service.
It was announced in November 1998 that as part of the new defence equipment package, the SAAF would acquire the Saab-BAE Systems supplied Gripen fourth generation fighter aircraft, customised to meet specific South African requirements, to fulfil the role of an Advanced Light Fighter Aircraft. These were to replace the dual-seat Cheetah D and the single-seat Cheetah C fighters then currently in the SAAF inventory.
The original order was for 9 dual-seat Gripen D and 19 single-seat Gripen C aircraft. However, the order was revised in 2005 to nine dual-seat and seventeen single-seat aircraft.
South Africa’s first Gripen rolled-off the Saab assembly line in October 2005 and made its maiden flight in Sweden on 11 November. The aircraft made its South African public debut on 19 September 2006 at Air Force Base Ysterplaat in Cape Town.
This aircraft, a fully test-instrumented two-seater Gripen D, is based at TFDC where it is engaged in the comprehensive integration and development of customised South African avionics, weapons and systems.
The SAAF accepted its first Gripen D in April 2008 and the final two Gripen D aircraft arrived in South Africa in July last year. These eight aircraft are assigned to 2 Squadron at AFB Makhado.