South Africa will not this month receive its first Saab JAS39 Gripen C single-seat fighter as scheduled because of delays.
The first Gripen C was expected to arrive from Sweden earlier this month, but sources close to the distributor, Gripen International, have said that there has been a “slight delay” with the handover. The cause of the delay was not disclosed.
The source stated that Armscor, the state defence acquisition agency, will only 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 Cheetah 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.
The 26 Gripens 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.
In April this year, Chief of the Air Force, Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano, said that the SAAF wanted some single-seat Gripens 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.
Pic: Gripen SA-01 at the TFDC in January 2008.