Saab ships first of 28 South African Gripens

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By Craig Hoyle in Linkoping

South Africa’s first of 28 Gripen multirole fighters has been shipped to the country from Saab’s Linköping manufacturing site in Sweden ahead of a 14-month flight test campaign.

To be conducted from the South African Air Force’s (SAAF) Overberg test and development centre from mid-August, the work will total around 150 test flights, says Johan Rydin, Saab’s in-country director for the forthcoming campaign.

gripen 
© Saab

The first of South Africa's 28 Gripens has arrived

The process will be used to validate the integration of South African-specific equipment on the Gripen, including communications and electronic warfare systems, a new helmet-mounted sight and locally developed weapons, believed to include Denel’s Darter series of beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles. Saab personnel will provide in-country support services for the aircraft from this month.

Rydin says the first SAAF Gripen – ZA01 – completed around 25h of flight testing in Sweden between its first flight last November and its shipment to South Africa in late June. The two-seat aircraft will be formally unveiled at Overberg in early September before being displayed at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition in Cape Town later the same month.

The SAAF is to receive a total of 19 single-seat Gripen Cs and nine two-seat D-model aircraft under its current production order, although Saab-led Gripen International hopes to secure a follow-on contract for the type after 2010.