Gripen Fighter Weapons School to use 4-6 SAAF Gripens


Saab’s new Gripen Fighter Weapon School will use between four and six South African Air Force (SAAF) Gripen C/D fighters and will have at least six students for the first course in October next year.

Saab on Tuesday announced the establishment of the School at the South African Air Force’s Air Force Base Overberg in the Western Cape.

According to Magnus Lewis-Olsson, President of Saab in South Africa, the purpose of the School is to make good pilots great and further cooperation between Gripen user countries. “Saab now believes there is a need to establish an advanced training centre for experienced Gripen pilots with the aim to increase their operational capabilities, provide an opportunity to operate in an environment different from their own and a chance to train in a region that mirrors a realistic future potential deployment scenario,” he said.

The School will run one two-month course every year in advanced fighter skills. “We will look at one subject each year, such as low-level reconnaissance and electronic warfare threats,” Lewis-Olsson said. “Later on we could look at air-to-air.”

It will be open to experienced Gripen pilots, although technicians and fighter controllers could join in. The two-month course will be co-written by Gripen pilots with operational experience and will involve 20 flights, both during the day and at night, that will involve the use of live ordnance. Guest speakers and tutors will also add to the course, Saab said in a presentation during the Farnborough Air Show.

With regard to resources, the School will use between four and six leased South African Air Force C/D dual/single seat Gripens, which will function as both aggressor and target aircraft. Ground threats, such as surface-to-air missiles, will be replicated and the school will also have access to simulators and mission support systems.

A 1 000 square metres building at AFB Overberg will be dedicated to the School and will include briefing and debriefing rooms, a lecture hall, lunchroom, locker rooms, a gym and sauna, offices and IT infrastructure.

Saab said the Overberg site offers “exceptional training with extensive airspace over mountain ranges, deserts and the Indian and Atlantic Oceans”. The School will have access to the Denel Overberg Test Range, which has become a well-known venue for the in-flight performance measurement of missiles and aircraft systems.

The first course will be conducted in October 2013 involving at least six students and focusing on air to ground operations, with an aerial threat. Both South African and Swedish Air Force instructors will conduct the course.

The course will be run during the South African summer, “which offers favourable metrological conditions,” Saab said. The training will focus on different multirole aspects every year and the advanced airborne exercises will be mixed with academia and survival training in an African context.

Saab said it was 100% committed to the project while the SAAF was onboard and supporting the project, but final and formal approval with South African government bodies is still outstanding.

The Gripen Fighter Weapon School is an initiative from Saab in co-operation with the Gripen user group. Saab said it is starting discussions with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Thailand but in the future, advanced aggressor aircraft and non-Gripen countries could participate. In addition, attachment courses in Vidsel, Sweden (for cold climate training) and Thailand (for hot and humid conditions) could be added in the future, as well as short courses on things like anti-aircraft gunnery and electronic warfare.

South Africa’s last four Gripens, of 26 on order, will be shipped from Sweden in August. They were held back in Sweden to participate in the multinational Gripen exercise Lion Effort. The exercise, held in Sweden in March and April, focused on combined air operations and featured around 30 Gripens from Sweden, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The South African Air Force said the exercise provided the fighter line with much needed exposure, tested the operational deployment ability of the Gripen and training of air and ground crews in multinational operations. It added that by participating in this exercise the SAAF and South African National Defence Force was exposed to Composite Air Operations (CAMAO) training, Large Force Employment and Offensive and Defensive Air Support,