Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is promoting its FA-50 lighter fighter in Botswana, where it hopes to beat the Saab Gripen as a replacement for the Botswana Defence Force’s (BDF’s) CF-5 jets.
Botswana’s Sunday Standard last week said it had been passed documents which show KAI’s proposal to the BDF. Titled “FA-50 for the Botswana Defence Force: The right choice for the future,” they are dated May 2017.
KAI, according to the Sunday Standard, claims the FA-50 is an affordable acquisition with a low operating cost compared to its competitors from European countries; has a proven weapons capability and would be ideal for training as it can perform both combat and training missions. Korean officials apparently said the FA-50 has life cycle costs that are a third of the Gripen.
A Korean delegation met Botswanan defence minister Ramadeluka Seretse and other BDF officials to discuss the T-50 and FA-50 models in November 2013, with talk of Botswana acquiring 16 T-50s. In October 2015, President Ian Khama visited South Korea and a KAI headquarters. However, last year Botswana entered into talks with Sweden over the possible acquisition of second hand Gripen C/D jets.
Between 19 and 21 June President Khama visited Sweden where he met Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and visited Saab’s facilities, where he received a briefing on the Gripen. Khama visited Saab’s facilities in Linkoping after being invited to the city by the Governor of the Swedish providence Ostergotland.
Sweden’s Sverigesradio quoted Khama as saying during his visit that Botswana was evaluating what Sweden has to offer compared to other countries, as part of a market analysis study.
The BDF’s Deputy Director, Protocol and Public Affairs Lieutenant Colonel Fikani Machola in June said that “we wish to reiterate that the Government of Botswana through the Botswana Defence Force has been in discussion with several governments and aircraft manufactures with view to evaluate the of replacing some of its equipment to include aircraft.”
The fighter jet acquisition is the latest in the country’s defence modernisation effort. For instance, Botswana purchased €304.2 million worth of military hardware from France in 2016, including MICA-VL and Mistral missiles.
This is according to the French Ministry for the Armed Forces 2017 report to Parliament on arms exports, published in July. Most of the money is believed to be from a contract with European missile manufacturer MBDA for MICA-VL short range, ground based air defence systems and Mistral man-portable air defence systems.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Arms Transfer Database notes that Botswana bought 100 Strela-3/SA-14 surface-to-air missiles from the Ukraine in 2012.