Final Gripens arrive in South Africa


The final four Gripen C fighters destined for the South African Air Force have arrived in Cape Town and are making their way to their new home at AFB Makhado.

The four single seat fighters arrived at the docks in Table Bay Harbour on Saturday morning, having travelled by sea from Norrkoping in Sweden. They were transferred to the port on August 29 and loaded onto the cargo vessel Archangelgracht. Although previously handed over to South Africa, the final four single-seat aircraft were retained in Sweden to take part in the multinational Gripen exercise Lion Effort in May.

According to photographer Collin Scott, who witnessed the aircraft in transit, two of the Gripens were moved to Air Force Base Ysterplaat by road on September 23, and the other two on September 24.

After testing at Ysterplaat, they are scheduled to conduct a fly-over of Pretoria on Friday, no doubt for the changing of command ceremony of the head of the South African Air Force, before going to their new home at Air Force Base Makhado outside Louis Trichardt.

Apparently one of the Gripens transported on Monday developed a fault and will be held in storage, but it is unclear what the issue is.

South Africa purchased nine dual-seat (Gripen D) and seventeen single-seat aircraft from Saab of Sweden as part of the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (aka ‘arms deal’). The first instrumented Gripen D was delivered in April 2008 and is based at the SAAF’s Test flight and Development Centre near Bredasdorp in the southern Cape, together with a single-seat Gripen C. The balance of the aircraft is assigned to 2 Squadron at AFB Makhado.

Magnus Lewis-Olsson, President of Saab in South Africa, recently said that South Africa’s Gripens had been “delivered on time and on budget, exactly as the customer wanted.”

Lewis-Olsson also noted that the joint South African/Brazilian A-Darter air-to-air missile has been integrated onto the Gripen, as has the Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pod. The reconnaissance pod is optimised for use at low and medium altitudes.

The Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) system for the Gripen has also been integrated and all systems have been delivered. The A-Darter missile is also compatible with the HMD.