SA's Gripen pilots to get more flying hoursDate: 3 April 2012
The South African Air Force (SAAF) is hopeful that the pilots of its Gripen fighters will be granted significantly more flying hours during the financial year, which started on April 1.
SAAF director: force preparation Major-General Tsoku Khumalo indicated that the target was for 180 flying hours yearly, starting from 2012/13.
Speaking to South African journalists at Sweden's Ronneby Air Force Base (AFB) on Tuesday he said the increase in flying hours was needed to maintain "currency in piloting your aircraft".
"You can't sacrifice the hours you need to maintain currency."
"It's our job to protect our sovereignty. We've got the capability, we've got the equipment and we've got the people," he affirmed, adding that a key target would be to deal with the Somali piracy threat off Africa's east coast.
SAAF Gripens have already carried out antipiracy reconnaissance missions. The fighters can fly from their base, AFB Makhado, to the middle of the Mozambique channel and back, without having to refuel.
More generally, the SAAF wants to increase the number of youngsters it trains as pilots, for all "lines" (in air force jargon - fighter, transport and helicopter), every year. As some of the Gripen's systems are still undergoing operational test and evaluation, the number of pilots converted on to the new fighter will remain limited until this process is completed.
The SAAF's fighter unit, 2 squadron, is currently participating in the multinational exercise, dubbed Lion Effort, in Sweden.
Lion Effort involves Gripen fighters from the Czech Republic and Hungary, as well as South Africa and Sweden. Thailand, the other operator of the Gripen, did not send any aircraft but did send six observers. The Czech Republic also contributed three of its indigenous L159 light attack fighters to the exercise.
"Our pilots are measuring up," assured Khumalo. "We're holding our own."
He said participants in the exercise were both learning from, and passing on lessons.
Source: Engineering News