Publication: defenceWeb Issued: Date: 2011-01-31 Reporter:

Denel to help phase out Cheetah




Date 2011-01-31

Denel Personnel Solutions of Atlasville has been awarded a R3 million contract to provide manpower to assist the South African Air Force (SAAF) with the phasing out of the Cheetah system under Project Belgrado. The work was awarded January 20.

The SAAF started withdrawing the Cheetah aircraft from service in the late 1990’s, with the retired aircraft utilised to support the remaining aircraft. The final aircraft were only to be retired once all the Swedish SAAB Gripen purchased under the Strategic Defence Package acquisition programme had been delivered in 2012. However, the remaining 11 Cheetah C single-seat and five Cheetah D dual-seat aircraft were phased out in April 2008 to save costs. The Gripen are still in the process of being delivered, with the final delivery expected next year.

Last month Denel Aviation confirmed that it, Armscor and the SAAF had jointly sold 12 f the retired fighter aircraft sold to Ecuador for US$78.4 million. The deal provides for five years of support in addition to the acquisition of the aircraft, support equipment, spares and training.

Denel Aviation CE Mike Kgobe affirmed that the cost of the initial acquisition is US43.4 million and South African industry would receive a further US$7 million per annum for support, with a total contract value of US$78.4 million. “The deal has a benefit for the specialist South African support industry which cannot be underestimated. Their involvement is crucial to ensuring the delivery and support success of the programme over the support period,” Kgobe said.

The Cheetah upgrade of the French Mirage III was developed by Denel Aviation and is based on the Israeli Kfir fighter, itself a development of the Mirage III. The modernisation consisted of a complete renovation of the airframe, implementation of fixed canards, two new weapon points on the wings, a new in-flight refuelling intake, new ejection seats and a more powerful engine. It also included more sophisticated avionics, radar and self protection. It is widely assumed that the two-seat Cheetah D was converted from existing SAAF Mirage III and Israeli Kfir stocks, while all the single-seat Cheetah C airframes were obtained from Israel.

Work on the first conversion began in April 1983. The type was officially unveiled to the public on July 16, 1986, although it was only declared operational the next year. Thirty-eight C-models, 16 D-models and 16 E-variants were remanufactured *1.

With acknowledgements to Dean Wingrin and Sunday World.

*1 The Cheetah programme cost about R2 billion in mid-90s Rands, probably more than R20 billion, maybe R30 billion in today's Rands.

Although there were 38 Cheetah Cs taken into operation (one crashed) there were another set of spare airframes and engines (essentially brand new still in there grease wrapping) for 54 aircraft in total.

Why, because the Cheetahs were taken into service in 1997 and designed for a minimum operational like of 15 years, that's until 2012. But actually they had an initial 5 year life extension and a second 10 year one built in and planned.

The Cheetah C would have been good enough for the SAAF for another decade at least.

Yet the Hawk and Gripen supplied by the biggest cheaters on earth took the Cheetah out of service effectively in about 2008, four years earlier than the very earliest initial period.

And now we are getting about R300 million in 2011 Rands back on our R20 billion investment.

How can these Cheetah Cs be good enough for Ecuador when they are not good enough for us?

A very sad day for Public Finance Management in the RS of A.

But which days aren't?