Saab still keen on SA Gripen fighter schoolDate: 20 September 2012
By Dean Wingrin
Saab is still keen to establish the Gripen Fighter Weapon School in South Africa, despite a less than enthusiastic response from the SANDF.
Saab announced in July that it would establish the school at the South African Air Force's AFB Overberg in the Western Cape. Using between four and six Gripen C/D fighters leased from the SAAF, the purpose of the School is to train experienced Gripen pilots and further cooperation between Gripen user countries.
At the time, Saab said it was 100% committed to the project while the SAAF was onboard and supporting the project, "but final and formal approval with South African government bodies is still outstanding."
However, shortly after the announcement by Magnus Lewis-Olsson, President of Saab in South Africa, the SANDF issued a statement saying that it had no plans to partner with Saab in the establishment of the school and that there "has never been any discussion between Saab and the SANDF."
Speaking to defenceWeb at the seventh Africa Aerospace and Defence Exhibition currently taking place at Air Force Base Waterkloof, Lewis-Olsson said that Saab had not given up on the idea of establishing the school in South Africa.
"It is a fantastic opportunity," Lewis-Olsson explained, "It is something we really want to do."
While Lewis-Olsson declined to comment on what discussions were being held with the South Africa authorities, it was clear that Saab viewed South Africa as the ideal country to host the school.
The Saab proposal includes the construction of briefing and debriefing rooms, a lecture hall, lunchroom, locker rooms, a gym and sauna, offices and IT infrastructure at AFB Overberg, home to the SAAF's Test flight and Development Centre. The base already hosts the combined Swedish-South African Gripen Flight Test Centre.
The School is to run one two-month course every year in advanced fighter skills. The first course was to be conducted in October 2013 involving at least six students and focusing on air to ground operations, with an aerial threat. Both South African and Swedish Air Force instructors would conduct the course.