Pictures and video: South African air force Saab Gripen flies over Cape Town

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Many of the leading players from the defence aviation industry are in South Africa this week to attend the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition, which will take place at Ysterplaat airbase near Cape Town from tomorrow.
One of the highest profile debutants at the newly located biennial event - which has over recent times been staged at Waterkloof AB near Johannesburg - will be the South African air force's first of 28 Saab Gripen multi-role fighters, which was formally rolled out at the base earlier today.

© Frans Dely/Gripen International

Although the Gripen is a familiar sight to South African showgoers, having been selected in 1999 to meet national requirements, this is the first time that one of the nation's production aircraft has been able to attend instead of a Swedish air force example.

To celebrate the recent arrival in South Africa of D-model aircraft ZA01, marketing company Gripen International commissioned local photographer Frans Dely to capture still and video imagery of the aircraft in the skies above Cape Town and around the southern Cape last month, and has given Flight International exclusive access to the footage. Dely's past work - some of which you can see on his Aviation Dimension website - includes a famous set of waterskiing Harvard images which prompted fierce debate after appearing in Uncle Roger's pages. And no, they weren't faked!

Aircraft ZA01 was shipped to South Africa from Sweden just after July's Farnborough air show, and is spearheading an 18-month in-country development programme for the export-standard Gripen. A particular emphasis of the development work will be the integration of South African-unique weapons, avionics equipment and a new helmet-mounted display system.

© Frans Dely/Gripen International

The first air force pilots selected to fly the Gripen in South African air force service from 2008 also recently started training on the service's new BAE Systems Hawk aircraft at Makhado AB in preparation for future deliveries of the fighter. The Gripen and Hawk acquisitions represent just part of a major modernisation drive across South Africa's military aviation community, which has also acquired AgustaWestland A109 light utility helicopters, Super Lynx shipborne helicopters and ordered Airbus Military A400M transport aircraft.

© Frans Dely/Gripen International
© Frans Dely/Gripen International

You can read more news from the AAD show in next week's Flight International, with a special report from Unmanned Aviation Editor Peter La Franchi.