The South African Air Force wants some single-seat Saab JAS39C advanced light fighter in inventory before next June’s FIFA Soccer World Cup.
Chief of the Air Force Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano says the fighter will be deployed to safeguard the world soccer event.
Under present scheduling SA is set to receive nine dual-seat Gripen D trainer/command-and-control aircraft first and then 17 Gripen C single seat fighters.
Gagiano says this might have to change as the Gripen will be key to securing SA`s airspace during the event. “We are arming the two seaters with missiles and we are arranging to maybe get some one seaters as well, to exchange duals for single seaters,” Gagiano said last week.
“A production line is a rigid thing but we should have a number of them by next June.”
Gagiano also expressed himself well pleased with the outcomes of last month`s Exercise Shield 3, one of a series of force preparation exercises ahead of the global soccer festival.
Shield 3 tested, among other things, the ability of the police, Air Force and Air Traffic Navigation Service (ATNS) to coordinate airspace control and enforce “no fly” zones around soccer stadia.
“It went extremely well. What I`m very happy about is we are moving much closer to the ATNS people. That is for me very important, as we are the two key roleplayers. That was for me the success of Shield 3,” Gagiano said.
The SAAF will have an array of aircraft on duty for the event, including missile-armed Gripen, cannon-fitted BAE Systems Hawk Mk 120 light fighters and Denel CSH2A Rooivalk attack helicopters.
“The focus is on ensuring the airspace is safe”, says Gagiano of Operation Kgwele, the SANDF`s world cup support plan.
Speaking on the edge of a rough grass airstrip at the Roodewal Bombing Range in Limpopo, Gagiano added that “airstrips like these have got to be manned.
“We have to have police and people on these strips because you can have someone with [evil intent] take off and there are about 60 airfields in the Gauteng area.
“So, it is matter of clearing all airliners, we need to make sure there are no people coming in who are not cleared and validated. And then obviously [with] all our radars integrated with civilian radars we [will] keep a picture of what`s going on,” the air chief says.
“You`ll have Gripen, Hawk, Rooivalk and light aircraft like [Pilatus] PC12 and Astra. The light aircraft will intercept and order mavericks out of [no fly] areas but if things look bad then you`ll have to send fighters.
“…we [will] have a mix of aircraft because a helicopter cannot take on an airliner that`s diverting from its flight path. You need a Gripen to do that. Some airliners [are fast] …it may take the Hawk a long time to catch up especially if you are at a [poor] aspect to intercept, Gagiano says.