Saab to open Gripen Fighter Weapon School in South Africa

Saab is to invest in an advanced training centre for experienced fighter pilots – initially from Gripen countries and its user air forces – at Air Force Base Overberg in the southern Cape.
The Gripen Fighter Weapon School is an initiative from Saab in co-operation with the Gripen air forces user group, the Swedish defence company says in a statement. No cost was disclosed. “The Gripen Fighter Weapon School will hone the fighting skills of experienced Gripen pilots from all over the world. The custom built facilities on the southern tip of Africa will provide exceptional training with extensive airspace over mountain ranges, desserts and the Indian and Atlantic Oceans,” Saab adds.
The course will be run during the South African summer “which offers favourable metrological conditions.” 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.
“Gripen is now operative and in service in five countries worldwide and the system is continually under development,” says Magnus Lewis-Olsson, President Saab in South Africa. Explaining the reasoning behind establishing the school now, Lewis-Olsson says: “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.”
The former Gripen test pilot adds: “The Gripen Fighter Weapon School will increase our understanding between different Gripen operators and our own efforts to create a common software baseline as the pilots will cross reference their experience of Gripen.”
Supporting Gripen customers in Sweden, South Africa, Hungarian, Czech and Thailand, the first course is scheduled to take place late 2013. New threat scenarios and new requirements will drive the course syllabus at the school and the need for more in depth training on the Gripen aircraft and its systems. It will also increase the students’ operational capabilities by providing a possibility to experience a tactical behavior that differs from their national SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) and thereby broaden their skill.

The announcement follows several months after Exercise Lion Effort, a tactical exercise intended to enhance interoperability between Gripen user countries. The first exercise was held in 2009 in Hungary, while the second was held in Sweden in March and April, with the South African Air Force participating for the first time. The event focused on combined air operations and featured around 30 Gripens from Sweden, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which were based at F17 wing in Ronneby, as well as Czech L-159s and Swedish airborne early warning aircraft and tankers.

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,