Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, this week met with her Swedish counterpart, Peter Hultqvist, to discuss ongoing defence co-operation between the two countries.
In her welcoming remarks the Minister specifically mentioned South Africa’s acquisition of the Gripen jet fighter from the Scandinavian country as part of the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP) in the late nineties.
She pointed out that since the establishment of a binational commission between South Africa and Sweden there have been a number of engagements between the two countries. These include the Gripen acquisition as well as “exchanging ideas and policy dialogue on the strategic defence review, training and the regional security situation.
“The acquisition of the Gripen makes South African the only country in Africa that is part of the Gripen user group. In this regard we expect deepened relations on further training, maintenance and repair collaboration between our armed forces,” Mapisa-Nqakula said at Defence headquarters in Pretoria.
The other members of the Gripen user group are Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Thailand with the United Kingdom Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS) operating the Swedish designed and manufactured fighter as a fast jet platform for pilots worldwide. Brazil has signed a contract for 36 Gripen NG fighter aircraft.
As part of the SDPP, the SA Air Force (SAAF) acquired nine duel-seat and 17 single-seat Gripens to replace the Cheetah Cs and Ds in service with 2 Squadron at AFB Makhado.
Mapisa-Nqakula expressed her wishes for South Africa and Sweden to leverage “our longstanding relationship to foster more just and equitable multilateral relations in the world order” pointing out South Africa preferred the multilateral approach.
“It should at best be anchored on the sharing of broad principles between both the European Union and the African Union. This is necessary to ensure efforts for peace are aimed at creating the necessary conditions for Africa’s development and self-sustainability.”