SA Airforce's Gripen to flex wings in SwedenDate: 16 March 2012
By Janet Szabo
The South African Air Force (SAAF) will participate for the first time in a multi-national air exercise with its Gripen fighter aircraft in Sweden the Air Force announced today.
Exercise LION EFFORT is a major bi-annual Swedish Air Force operation and will be held from March 27 to April 5. The SAAF's 2 Squadron will fly the 4 Gripens Cs, the last four single-seaters out of an order of 17 which had been left in Sweden specifically to enable the South Africans to take part in LION EFFORT. According to the SAAB group website, Lion Effort 2012 will be the biggest Gripen exercise to date with all five Gripen-operating nations taking part, of which four will fly their own aircraft. Some 30 Gripen fighters and about 300 people will participate in the exercise.
Lion Effort 2012 is being hosted by the Swedish Armed Forces, which will participate with about 15 Gripens. The Czech, Hungarian and South African air forces will each bring four Gripens to F 17 Wing at Ronneby, which will serve as the base for this exercise. The Royal Thai Air Force has declared its Gripen squadron operational but will not bring any aircraft. It is, however, a member of the Gripen User Group and will participate in Lion Effort with a number of observers.
A Saab 340 Erieye AEW and a C-130 tanker from the Swedish Air Force will also be involved in the exercise, as well as four L-159s trainers from the Czech Air Force. F 17 air base is located in the south-east corner of Sweden, and the flights will mainly take place in the airspace over the Baltic Sea. Most of the Gripen aircraft will arrive at F 17 during the first two days. The initial phase of the exercise will consist of familiarization flights in the area, while the main elements of Lion Effort will take place between April 1 and 4. Various types of air combat operations will be planned, executed and evaluated in this phase of the exercise. Missions will be flown both by single-nation formations and in composite air operations, in which pilots from the different Gripen squadrons co-operate together.
Four Gripen C single-seat fighters were delivered to South Africa in October last year. The original Gripen order, placed in 1999 as part of the new defence equipment package, was for nine Gripen D dual-seat and 19 Gripen C single-seat aircraft at a cost of R19.908 billion. However, the order was revised in 2005 to nine dual-seat and seventeen single-seat aircraft. Armscor, the South African arms procurement agency, is responsible for the delivery of the aircraft to South Africa once they have been handed over by the aircraft manufacturer, SAAB, in Sweden. All nine dual-seat Gripen D aircraft have already been delivered, while nine of the Gripen C version is in SAAF service. The last four aircraft will be shipped to SA after Lion Effort.
Although still not an operational system, the SA Air Force's growing fleet of SAAB Gripen fighters conducted about half the 51 aircraft intercepts conducted during the 2010 soccer World Cup. The SAAF deployed 11 of 15 Gripen then available as well as 12 of 24 BAE Systems Hawk lead-in fighter trainers. Support and maintenance costs for the Gripen stand at R153 947 95.12 from June 2007 to October 2011.
Source: SABC News