Ecuador is to acquire 12 ex-South African Air Force Cheetah C/D fighters, following the signature of a contract with Denel Aviation.
To be operated by the Ecuadorian air force, the Cheetahs have been kept in storage in South Africa since their retirement from service in 2008. Several had been offered for sale by South Africa's Arsmcor agency in conjunction with Denel and other local companies since this time.
Formal negotiations with Ecuador commenced in 2009, and air force officials visited South Africa last April to inspect the stored aircraft and witness evaluation flights. A deal covering the transfer was recently signed by officials including Denel Aviation chief executive Mike Kgobe in Quito. The contract value has not been disclosed.
"Complete maintenance and acceptance flight testing will be conducted in South Africa and in Ecuador", Denel says. The company will also deliver an in-country maintenance and support service for an initial five years, with an option to extend further.
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"This is a huge breakthrough for Denel Aviation and it will open up a number of new opportunities for Denel and other players in the local industry involved in Cheetah support," says Kgobe. "Our future work with the Ecuadorian air force will provide an important platform to showcase local maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities to the rest of the world."
A local variant of Dassault's Mirage III developed by the then-Atlas Aviation, the Cheetah was replaced by South Africa's new fleet of Saab Gripen fighters.
Ecuador will be the only operator of the Cheetah following the type's reintroduction to service. Its air force currently flies three Mirage 50EV and 11 Mirage F1JA fighters, says Flightglobal's MiliCAS database, along with eight Israel Aerospace Industries Kfirs.