The delivery process of South Africa’s first Saab JAS39 Gripen C single-seat fighter, aircraft number SA-10, will get underway next week.
A source close to the distributor, Gripen International says Armscor, the state defence acquisition agency, will be sending a team to Linköping in Sweden next week in order to commence with the pre-acceptance inspections and flights.
Government in November 1998 announced that as part of the new defence equipment package, the SAAF would acquire the Saab-BAE Systems supplied Gripen fighter aircraft to replace the Denel/Dassault Cheetah C & D fighters then currently in service.
The original order was for nine dual-seat Gripen D and 19 single-seat Gripen C aircraft.
However, the order was revised in 2005 to nine dual-seat and 17 single-seat aircraft at a 2008 cost of R19.908 billion.
The 26 Gripen are to be delivered progressively between 2008 and 2012.
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, SA-01, a fully test-instrumented two-seater Gripen D, is based at the SAAF’s Test Flight Development Centre in the Southern Cape, 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 this year.
The eight aircraft are assigned to 2 Squadron at AFB Makhado.
The Cheetah was due to be phased out in December 2012, but was retired prematurely in April 2008 as a result of budgetary pressures. Armscor is currently negotiating the sale of some to Ecuador.
In April this year, Chief of the Air Force, Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano, said that the SAAF wanted some single-seat Gripen in inventory before next June’s FIFA Soccer World Cup.
Only once the acceptance team is satisfied will they take delivery of the first Gripen C and ship it to South Africa where it will be handed over to the SAAF.
The aircraft, in the air-to-air role is to be armed with the Diehl BGT Defence IRIS-T short-range air-to-air-missile.
The SAAF ordered the weapon that is said to cost 400 000 euro each as an interim self-defence and dogfight missile in May last year. The weapon was on display at the Africa Aerospace and Defence show in Cape Town in September 2008.
It is understood the first missiles ordered have been delivered.
The missile will later be replaced by the Denel A Darter currently under development as part of Project Assegaai.
Pic: SA-10 on its maiden flight.