Last four Gripens to arrive in South Africa in September


The South African Air Force’s (SAAF’s) last four Gripens, currently in Sweden, will be delivered in August/September this year. They participated in Exercise Lion Effort in March/April and will take part in a Swedish air show later this month.

According to SAAF Colonel J C J Butler, Senior Staff Officer Combat Operations, the final four Gripens Cs will arrive in South Africa at the end of August or early September. They are currently being modified to the latest build standard, Block 4.

The SAAF will display a Gripen at the second Aerospace Forum Sweden, which will be held in Linkoping between May 31 and June 3. A Gripen, crewed by a SAAF pilot, is scheduled to fly during the public air show on June 3.

Chief of the South African Air Force, Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano will be present at the Aerospace Forum as a guest, but has been invited to speak on South African experiences in maintaining regional stability and security from an aerospace perspective. Gagiano has been asked to articulate how South Africa integrates air power in its foreign and security policy to contribute to regional stability.

Colonel Butler said that during Lion Effort, which was held between March 27 and April 4, the South African contingent’s performance was on a part with that of the other participants and in some cases even better. South African pilots ‘shot down’ nine other Gripens for the ‘loss’ of one during simulated combat during Lion Effort.

Lion Effort is a tactical exercise designed to enhance interoperability between Gripen user countries. The four Gripens (of 26 on order) flew alongside 30 other Gripens from Sweden, Hungary and the Czech Republic (Thailand just sent observers). The South African contingent consisted of 29 members from 2 Squadron at AFB Makhado (including eight pilots) and eleven support staff, who arrived in Sweden on March 25.

The exercise was held at F17 air base in Ronneby, with some flights taking place over the Baltic Sea. Familiarisation flights started on March 28, while the main combat portion of the exercise took place between April 1 and 4, with two waves of Gripens launching every day. In total, SAAF Gripens flew approximately 40 hours during Lion Effort 2012.

The penultimate shipment of four single-seat Gripen Cs arrived in Cape Town on October 8 last year. Six Gripens took part in the Air Force’s Air Capability Demonstration at Roodewal bombing range yesterday, dropping 250 kg bombs and providing close air support for other aircraft during the exercise.