The South African Air Force formally accepted its first of 26 Saab Gripen C/D fighters into squadron service on 30 April, around one month after retiring its last unit of Denel Cheetah C/Ds.

To be assigned to 2 Sqn, which on 2 April ceased operations with the Cheetah at Makhado air base, two-seat aircraft SA01 will operate from the service's Overberg air base for around the next two years, supporting continued software development work and additional weapons testing for the new fleet. The aircraft last November completed a development test campaign at the site which had totalled 199 sorties since August 2006.

 Gripen SA large
© Frans Dely/Gripen International

South Africa will receive its next two-seat Gripen later this year, with all deliveries under what was Saab's first export sale for the type scheduled for completion during 2012. Formal acceptance of SA01 had been scheduled to take place on 7 April, but was delayed at the customer's request.

 Gripen South Africa
© Frans Dely/Gripen International

Saab has already made deliveries of the Gripen to the Czech Republic and Hungary, with production continuing for domestic operator Sweden and a six-strong order also recently secured from Thailand. The company also rolled out its Gripen Demo airframe - intended to demonstrate next-generation capabilities such as an active electronically scanned array radar - at its Linköping production facility on 23 April.