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South Africa looks at MiG-AT for training

Alexander Velovich/MOSCOW

RUSSIAN AND South African defence officials have discussed the potential purchase of the MiG-AT advanced jet trainer and the Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum combat aircraft for the South African Air Force (SAAF) during a visit to Moscow.

Defence minister Joe Modise met his Russian counterpart, Pavel Grachev, in July to discuss closer defence relations. Grachev views South Africa as potentially a "strategic partner."

Alexander Ageyev, head of strategic planning at MiG-MAPO, says that there is a "strong chance" that the SAAF will purchase the MiG-AT.

The SAAF needs to replace its obsolescent Atlas Impala Mk1s and Mk2s, which are derivatives of the Aermacchi MB.326, used for jet training and ground attack.

Other contenders for the competition include the Aermacchi MB.339 and the British Aerospace Hawk.

MiG-MAPO is working towards a first flight of the MiG-AT trainer later this year. The aircraft is aimed at meeting a Russian air force requirement to replace its Aero L-39 Albatros jet trainers.

As long ago as 1991, the SAAF expressed an interest in the MiG-29 as a possible replacement for its Atlas Cheetahs and Dassault Mirage F.1s following the cancellation of its CAVA future-fighter programme. Funding such a project, however, remains difficult.