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As the South African Air Force celebrates its 98th birthday, we bring you the important milestones from the SAAF Gripen programme. ​ 

  • It all started on 15 September 1999 when South Africa announced its order for 26 Gripen fighters from Saab. With this order, South Africa became the first export customer for Gripen.

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  • South Africa's first Gripen, SA01, rolled-off the Saab assembly line in October 2005 and made its maiden flight in Sweden on 11 November 2005. 

  • Gripen's 100,000th hour was completed by a South African Gripen SA02 on 28 January 2008! Saab test pilot Mats Thorbiörnson and South African Air Force (SAAF) Colonel Mike Edwards were at the controls. 

  • On April 30th, 2008, the South African Air Force received and accepted its first new Gripen fighter aircraft opening a new chapter in its modernisation. This delivery was followed by an extensive two-year flight test programme in South Africa to integrate local avionics, defence and combat systems.

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  • SAAF Gripen pilots flew their first solo in October 2008.


  • ​On 2nd October 2009, Denel Dynamics delivered the first test version of its A-Darter 5th generation short-range imaging infrared air to air missile. The first test firing verifying the integration between the missile and the Gripen aircraft was done in July 2010.

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  • SAAF completes its Gripen fleet! Final four Gripen fighters were delivered on 21 September 2012.

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A South African Air Force Gripen landed at the Grand Central airport Midrand recently, demonstrating its STOL capabilities.

It was the first time a Gripen had landed on the Grand Central airport. Grand Central runway is only 1,624 meters, but the aircraft had no difficulty getting in and out of the airport, the report says.

Right from the beginning, Gripen was designed to land and take-off on regular roads and not just runways. In fact, the earlier Saab aircraft like Viggen and Draken were also designed to operate from public roads with a minimum length of 800 meters.

Read the full story here.

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Saab and Armscor have been contracted to deliver support for the South African Air Force's Gripen weapon system.

“Signing this contract further reinforces the good relationship between Saab, Armscor, and the South African Air Force. This order is vital to support the effective operation and availability of Gripen C and D in South Africa over the coming years,” says Ellen Molin, Head of business area Support and Services within Saab.

Armscor, the Armaments Corporation of South Africa, is the arms procurement agency of the South African Department of Defence. As a part of the recently signed contract, the support related services would include airworthiness management, engineering support, maintenance, repair and overhaul, spares replenishment and updates of technical publications.

The order has a total value of SEK 206 million (ZAR 314 million).

Read the full story here.

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Saab has received a support contract for the South African Gripen weapon system. The order has a total value of SEK 206 million (ZAR 314 million) over the period November 2017 to February 2020. The South African Air Force has been operating the Gripen fighter system since 2008 when the first Gripen was delivered.

The support contract, signed between Saab and Armscor, enables Saab to deliver efficient support in a sustainable manner with a long-term horizon. Through the contract, Saab will deliver support related services like airworthiness management, engineering support, maintenance, repair, and overhaul, spares replenishment and updates of technical publications.

Read the full story here.

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A Gripen fly-past commemorated 30 years of South African Air Force Base, AFB Makhado's service last week. The fly-past was followed by an aerial display.

AFB Makhado is the SAAF fighter base where the country’s Gripen fighters, BAE Systems, and Hawk fighter trainers are stationed. AFB Makhado, which was opened on 14 October 1987, houses 2 Squadron, one of the most prestigious units in the SAAF. 

AFB Makhado received its first Gripen in March 2008.


The fight against rhinoceros poaching in South Africa is all set to get a fresh impetus. South African Air Force Gripen fighters will be deployed to track poachers in the country, particularly along the Zimbabwe border. 

The primary surveillance tool for SAAF Gripen will be the Litening III targeting pod designed by Israeli defence company Rafael. The unit has a sensor turret fitted with day- and night-vision cameras, as well as a combination laser range finder and target designator. The pods significantly increase the combat effectiveness of the aircraft during day, night and under-the-weather conditions in the attack of ground and air targets. It can be mounted externally on an aircraft, and provides good quality target imagery for further analysis. 

SAAF Gripen, which use the domestically produced data link, Link ZA, can connect with command centres on ground to share information, and even with groups of wildlife rangers. 

Lieutenant Colonel Josias Mashaba, Head of the SAAF’s 2 Squadron, said that it is important to take preventive action before the rhinos go extinct. "They are smart, those guys, they are not stupid, but we find them," says Mashaba about poachers. In 2015 and 2016, more than 1,000 rhinos were killed by poachers and illegal hunters in the country.

Read more here.

​Catch Gripen in action as it performed a stunning aerial display at the annual SAAF Museum air show at AFB Zwartkop last month. The airshow was held on 06 May. More than 30,000 visitors attended the event.

The South African Air Force (SAAF) held a demonstration on 1st June to assess its combat readiness. At the event, SAAF showcased its air power capability through use of  its most modern acquisitions such as Gripen and Hawk aircraft.

During the demonstration, simulation of various combat scenarios with live ammunition was carried out. The demonstration also included joint exercises with air and ground units, and aerial displays by BK-117 Helicopters, A109, Oryx and Gripen fighter jets.

Besides aerial displays, Gripen fighters and Hawks also flew bomb damage assessment and engaged in a mock dogfight. In total, six Gripen fighters participated.

Read the full story here​.

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South African Air Force Gripen fighters have been confirmed to participate in the annual SAAF Museum air show at AFB Zwartkop next month.

The annual air show, which will be held at Air Force Base Swartkop, is expected to be attended by more than 35,000 visitors. Besides Gripen, Oryx and A109 helicopters, Casa 212 transport, and BAE Hawk combat aircraft are also scheduled to participate in both static and aerial displays during the air show.

Gripen's performances include flyovers and demonstration of air strikes with Hawk jets and Rooivalk attack helicopters.

SAAF Museum Air Show will be held on 6th May 2017.

Read the full story here.

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The SAAF's Lieutenant Colonel Musa Mbhokota, who has clocked over 2000 flying hours on eight different aircraft types, including Gripen, is all set to become Officer Commanding AFB Overberg.

Mbhokota was one of first six SAAF pilots who went to Sweden to understand the Gripen fighter system when South Africa placed the Gripen C/D order in the nineties. He was also the first black pilot to assume command of 2 Squadron, which operates the SAAF’s Gripen fighters. He first flew Gripen in the year 2002 in Sweden.

Mbhokota will assume his first base command later this month.

Read the full story here​.

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