South Africa’s restored Cheetah fighters make Ecuador debut

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Ecuador has received 12 ex-South African Air Force Cheetah C/D fighters, ordered in late 2010, from Denel Aviation.

Ecuador President Rafael Correa Delgado announced on 21 January that the entire batch of 12 fighters has arrived from South Africa.

The 10 C-model and two D-model Cheetahs had been in storage since their retirement from service in South Africa four years ago. Ecuadorian officials visited South Africa in April 2009 to start negotiations, and signed a $78 million contract in December 2010. The deal also includes five years of maintenance support.

The Cheetah was developed in the 1980s during South Africa's apartheid regime. Israeli and South African engineers modified Dassault Mirage IIIs with a modern suite of avionics, radar, and electronic warfare systems, creating a configuration similar to Israel's Kfir.

 

The Cheetahs are expected to replace Ecuador's fleet of 12 ageing Mirage F1s.

Ecuador bought the Cheetah fleet shortly after a border crisis with the Colombian air force, which was accused of violating Ecuadorian airspace to attack suspected guerrilla camps.

Since 2008, the Ecuadorian air force has also acquired or ordered Dhruv advanced light helicopters from India's Hindustan Aeronautics, Xian MA60 transports from China, unmanned air vehicles from Israel, and Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano light attack fighters from Brazil, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.