SA’s Gripen fighter jets ‘grounded’ — report

07 December 2021 - 14:26 By TIMESLIVE
The SA Air Force's Gripen fighter jets are grounded. File photo.
The SA Air Force's Gripen fighter jets are grounded. File photo.
Image: Dean Wingrin

SA’s fleet of Gripen fighter jets has been temporarily grounded due to a lack of funding, maintenance and support contracts not being timeously renewed.

A funding crisis affecting the SA Air Force (SAAF) had also seen the serviceability of other aircraft, including Oryx helicopters and Hercules transport aircraft, decline, reported defenceWeb.

Ongoing discussions on the Gripen maintenance contract had negatively affected the country’s air defence capability, the department of defence confirmed on Monday.

“After a lengthy discussion between the SAAF, through Armscor, and Saab on the contract concerning the Gripen, proposals have been presented by both parties and are being reviewed to ensure the matter is conclusively dealt with by the parties concerned,” said spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini.

“It is unfortunate the discussions took longer than expected, negatively impacting on air defence capability.

“The SAAF is confident a solution will be found to resolve this matter.”

Dlamini said due to sensitivity around the discussions, the negotiations could not be made public.

Sunday Times Daily reported in May that ammunition shortages and inadequate maintenance had left SA’s defence capabilities severely compromised.

Air force chief director of force development and support Maj-Gen Setete Malakoane had, at the time in a damning letter, laid bare the dire situation faced by the military in terms of maintaining its combat equipment and equipping troops.

Darren Olivier, director at African Defence Review, told defenceWeb: “Thanks to this delay, the SAAF’s Gripen fleet has been grounded for three months and probably won’t return to the air until late January at the earliest.”

He described the grounding of the fleet as a “crisis that should never have been allowed to reach this point”.



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