SAAF Gripen engine support contract finally awarded

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Armscor has placed a support contract with GKN Aerospace for the maintenance of the South African Air Force’s (SAAF’s) Gripen engines, meaning both engines and airframes are now fully supported for South Africa’s fighter jet fleet.

According to an Armscor presentation delivered to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) in mid-September, Saab as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has an airframe support contract for the Gripen in place from September 2022 to end August 2025, worth R650 million (of which R476 million is funded).

It took some time for the contract with GKN Aerospace to be finalised for Gripen engine support – this contract is now in place and covers the period from August 2023 to end July 2026. It is worth R327 million, of which R145 million is currently funded. Armscor originally aimed to have the engine support contract in place with GKN by 1 December 2022.

South Africa has been operating the Gripen C/D since 2008 and is Saab’s first export customer for the type.

The South African Air Force was forced to ground the Gripen in September 2021 due to budget constraints that saw a delay in finalising a new maintenance support contract with Saab and GKN as the original airframe and engine manufacturers respectively.

With the maintenance contract being finalised, a Gripen took to the air again on 5 September 2022. Members from 2 Squadron at Air Force Base Makhado as well as Saab representatives assisted in getting the aircraft airworthy ahead of the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2022. Gripens were more recently displayed prominently in August for the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, where they performed combat air patrols along with Hawk Mk 120s.

Due to the SAAF’s tight budget, the support contract with Saab covers 13 aircraft over three years – the SAAF had 26 Gripen C/Ds, but one was written off following a ground incident. The remaining 12 will remain in storage. It is not clear how many engines the GKN contract covers.

The other jet combat aircraft in SAAF service, the Hawk Mk 120 lead-in fighter-trainer, also has maintenance contracts in place. OEM BAE Systems was awarded the airframe maintenance contract, valid from September 2021 to end August 2024. This is worth R250 million, of which R221 million is funded. Armscor said the order is progressing well, with 90% of the material supply already delivered. “The product support contract (PSC) strategy has proven to be effective for the Hawk maintenance and support.”

Rolls Royce, as the engine OEM, was contracted to provide support from June 2022 to end May 2025 for the Hawk’s Adour Mk 951 engine. This is valued at R29 million, with R19 million funded. “The order is progressing well,” Armscor reported.

Paramount Advanced Technologies is responsible for Hawk avionics maintenance from August 2023 to end July 2026. This contract is worth R9.6 million, with over half (R4.6 million) funded. Line replacement units that require repair are already at Paramount.