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THE AIRFORCE - THE SAAF INTO THE FUTURE
 
 
On 27 April 1994, the air wings of the 'independent' homelands of Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda were merged into the SAAF. The Rooivalk attack helicopter was also ordered into production, with deliveries commencing in May 1998. As part of a major re-equipment drive, the South African government signed a series of contracts in 1999 that will see it spending close on R30 billion on new weapons and equipment for the SA National Defence Force.

The various Forward Air Command Posts and Air Operations Teams were closed on 31 December 2003 and integrated in the new Joint Regional Task Groups under command of Chief of Joint Operations.

The Saab Gripen, customised to meet specific South African requirements to fulfil the role of an Advanced Light Fighter Aircraft (ALFA), was ordered. Nine dual-seat Gripen Ds and 17 single-seat Gripen Cs replaced the dual-seat Cheetah D and the single-seat Cheetah C fighters resepctively. The Cheetah aircraft were retired in April 2008. The nine dual-seat Gripens commenced deliveries in 2008, the first single-seat Gripen srriving in 2009.

24 Hawk Mk120 LIFT aircraft from British Aerospace replaced replaced the Impala. All aircraft will be dual seat aircraft, and optimised for jet training as well as weapon-delivery training. The first Hawks was delivered in 2005.

30 Agusta A109 LUH light utility helicopters were purchased from the Italian helicopter manufacturer, Augusta, which replaced the Alouette III helicopters which had been in service in the air force for over 40 years.

In addition to the above, the Navy will be acquiring three Type209 Submarines and four MEKO A200 Corvettes from the Germany. Four Super Lynx maritime helicopters were also ordered for use on the Navy's MEKO corvettes.

Although the early 2000's continue to be difficult years due to budgetary restrictions, the Commonwealths' second oldest air force, with a long and proud history, can look forward to an exciting future.
 
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