Gripen Fighter School in SA a ‘missed opportunity’


The fact that Saab’s Gripen Fighter Weapon School will most likely be located in a foreign country is a missed opportunity for South Africa, according to Saab.

Magnus Lewis-Olsson, President of Saab South Africa, told defenceWeb at the Land Forces Africa conference Pretoria yesterday the School was planned to be housed at Air Force Base Overberg in the Western Cape. However, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has not supported this initiative.

Lewis-Olsson did not comment on why the SANDF has not agreed to host the School, and said Saab is looking elsewhere in the world. He said Saab had completed its syllabus and was ready to begin construction of the School and start training. “Other countries are interested in the School,” he said, with countries like Thailand being good potential hosts.

South Africa is a great location and it would have been a win-win situation to have the School in the Western Cape, as South African pilots would have benefitted, the Saab South Africa President said, adding that if the academy had gone ahead, it would have been a great opportunity to showcase South Africa’s capabilities.
“We are not going to kick up a fuss about this,” Lewis-Olsson said referring to SANDF reluctance to partner with Saab on the academy. “It is a missed opportunity for Saab and South Africa.”

In July last year Saab announced at the Farnborough Air Show that it would establish the School in South Africa, but shortly afterwards the SANDF denied the whole affair.

Saab had planned to run the first course with at least six students in late 2013 using between four and six South African Air Force (SAAF) Gripen C/D fighters.

A 1 000 square metres building at AFB Overberg would have been dedicated to the school and would have included briefing and debriefing rooms, a lecture hall, lunchroom, locker rooms, a gym and sauna, offices and IT infrastructure. South African and Swedish Air Force instructors would have conducted the course, Saab said.