The South African Air Force will keep its SAAB JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet in the air despite hundreds of millions of dollars of budget shortages, sources within the South African military confirmed on September 6, 2013.
Both the Gripen, the Hawk training jet and several support aircraft are threatened with long-time storage already for months now in order to save money. But according to a new plan all 26 JAS 39C/D will stay active in turns by simply rotate them through maintenance and flying status. On the long run this would be more cost efficient and keep the country’s only proper airborne air defence assets available, say SAAF senior officials. This will mean 2 Squadron at Makhado Air Base, which flies the Gripen, will stay at strength. But it will also mean up to half of the Gripen fleet can be in ‘maintenance’ at certain times.
The faith of the 24 Hawk Mk 120 lead-in advanced trainer or other aircraft is still highly uncertain. The single Boeing 737 BBJ presidential aircraft is likely to be kept airworthy, as well as some of the army support helicopters like the Rooivalk attack chopper. The latter is destined to be deployed for UN or South African National Defence Force missions on the African continent.
© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger