SAAF buys Thales pods for Gripen


The South African Air Force (SAAF) has reportedly ordered four Thales Optronics electro-optical reconnaissance pods for its growing Saab JAS39C/D Gripen fleet.

Jane`s International Defence Review and Flight International report the SAAF placed the order for the Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pods (DJRP) in early June.


Deliveries are scheduled from the middle of next year.

Flight International adds that Thales Optronics, previously the UK-based Pilkington, apparently beat Israel`s Rafael Reccelite, which was being marketed by Danish supplier Terma.

“The selection represents a follow-on success for Thales, with the company having previously acquired UK supplier W Vinten, which provided its Vinten 18 wet film reconnaissance systems for the SAAF’s now-retired Denel Cheetah fighters,” the respected journal added.

Thales Optronics’ sales and marketing director Geraint Lloyd describes the DJRP as “a bespoke reconnaissance sensor with broad-area swath coverage”, and confirmed that the company was selected via prime contractor Saab.

The deal covers the pods and related ground exploitation equipment and also has the potential for future upgrades such as the addition of a real-time data transfer function, Lloyd added.


The DJRP sensors will be manufactured in Glasgow and there are no offsets linked to the sale.

Weighing around 250kg, the DJRP has already been integrated with the UK Royal Air Force’s BAE Systems Harrier GR7/9 and Panavia Tornado GR4 strike aircraft as well as the BAE Systems Hawk advanced jet trainer.

With the SAAF’s inventory including 24 Hawk Mk120s, Lloyd says the reconnaissance pod’s “multi-platform capability” was a significant factor in its selection for the service.

Carriage trials with the DJRP will be conducted by Saab in Sweden, but Lloyd says “the rest of the integration work will be done in-country [South Africa]”.

Flight clearance activities with the Gripen are expected to begin in mid-2010.

South Africa has ordered 17 Gripen C and 9 Gripen D, the latter the two-seat variant.

Pic: An artist’s rendition of the next-generation Gripen, used here to illustrate the DJRP under the aircraft’s right-hand air intake.