The Paramount Group is negotiating with several potential customers for the sale of ex-South African Air Force Mirage F1AZ aircraft, and hopes to conclude deals later this year. Paramount executive chairman Ivor Ichikowitz also confirmed that the company had delivered two F1AZs to Congo-Brazzavile and the remainder of an order for six to Gabon.
Air Forces Monthly, in its May edition, said that four F1AZs left Pietersburg Airport in South Africa on August 9 last year. Two were delivered to Congo-Brazzaville for the Force Aerienne Congolaise and the other two went to the Force Aeriennes Gabonaises.
Gabon received two F1AZs in August 2006, followed by two more in November 2007. Ichikowitz said it was possible that Gabon may buy more F1AZs. On August 17 last year Gabon celebrated the 50th anniversary of independence from France with a military parade with 7 000 men and a flypast by five ex-SAAF F1AZs.
Paramount has a continuing maintenance and support contract with Congo-Brazzaville. However, Ichikowitz was not permitted to say how much the contract was worth, nor how much Congo-Brazzaville paid for its aircraft.
In 2003 the South African Air Force put 21 F1 aircraft up for disposal by way of Armscor. Paramount purchased the entire Mirage F1 package, including airframes, spares and support equipment in 2006 and is marketing it together with Aerosud.
In an exclusive interview with defenceWeb, Ichikowitz said that South Africa is determined to maintain its lead as a Mirage centre of excellence in the fields of airframe supply, maintenance and upgrades and bought up the SAAF’s Mirage F1 fleet in order to maintain Mirage competence in South Africa.
Ichikowitz said the ex-South African Air Force Mirage F1AZ fleet still had plenty of life in it. He noted that many developing countries cannot afford to buy new aircraft but require a supersonic capability. That is where Paramount’s F1AZs are stepping in to fill the gap, with its F1s offering ‘value for money and affordability’. He told defenceWeb that Paramount/Aerosud was negotiating with several countries for the purchase of F1s.
However, he added that Paramount was not just concerned with Mirage F1s but Mirage IIIs and 5s as well. Upgrading, maintaining and supplying Mirages is “a very serious part of our business plan,” he said. “Whatever capacity and capability South Africa has is being maintained”.
In addition to maintenance and airframes, Paramount/Aerosud offers Mirage upgrade packages, including the Super Mirage upgrade that adds a more powerful Russian SMR 95/RF-33 engine. Other upgrades involve the weapons systems, avionics, oxygen systems etc.
Another South African company that has Mirage F1 experience is ATE, which assisted Thomson-CSF RCM (now Thales) in upgrading more than 50 Spanish Mirage F1s between 1997 and 2001. ATE was responsible for the design and integration of the navigation, display and weapons systems. The upgraded included colour cockpit liquid crystal displays, a Smart HUD, INS with GPS interface, modern secure communications and improved defensive aids suite, amongst other improvements. The Spanish Mirage upgrade provided ATE with experience to develop and produce the navigation and weapons systems for the South African Air Force’s 24 Hawk Lead-In Fighter Trainers.