This programme will take place at the South African Air Force (SAAF) Flight Test and Development Centre, near Bredasdorp.
The aircraft involved in this programme is the first for the SAAF, and undertook a preliminary flight- test programme in Sweden.
The South African flight-test programme will confirm and validate the avionics systems and external stores (weapons, fuel tanks, sensor pods), specified by the SAAF and by the national defence acquisition, disposal and research and development agency Armscor, for integration into the Gripen.
These include South African systems; further, part of the airframe of every Gripen (including those for other customers), such as the lower half of each central fuselage section, is built in this country.
This flight-test programme is scheduled to run for 18 months, and will be supported by technical experts from the SAAF, Armscor, parastatal defence industrial group Denel (some of their systems are to be integrated on to the Gripen), and, of course, Saab.
Indeed, Saab has seconded a team of such experts to South Africa for two years to work alongside their local counterparts on the Gripen programme.
The aircraft, known as the SA01, has been shown to visitors at this week’s Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2006 exhibition at Air Force Base Ysterplaat in Cape Town.
It made its public debut to the media at Ysterplaat on September 19, the eve of AAD 2006.
Gripen is Swedish for ‘griffin’, a mythological animal with the head and wings of an eagle and the body and tail of a lion – rather appropriate for a fighter to be operated by the SAAF.
Deliveries to the SAAF for operational duties are scheduled to start in early 2008. The Gripen is already in opera- tional service with the Swedish, Czech, and Hungarian air forces, and also serves with the UK’s world-renowned Empire Test Pilots’ School, as its advanced fast jet platform. The Gripen continues to be actively marketed to a number of countries around the world.