State-owned defence company Denel Aviation confirmed the sale of 12 Cheetah C supersonic fighter aircraft to Ecuador on Monday, following a sale agreement signing ceremony, which took place recently in Quito.
CEO Mike Kgobe announced that Denel Aviation would also provide the Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE) with comprehensive maintenance and support service for at least five years, with an option for renewal.
Complete maintenance and acceptance flight-testing would now be conducted in South Africa and in Ecuador.
Kgobe described the deal as a "breakthrough", particularly in highlighting Denel Aviation’s capabilities as a maintenance and repair organisation (MRO). “Our future work with the Ecuadorian air force will provide an important platform to showcase local MRO capabilities to the rest of the world,” Kgobe said in a statement.
No purchase price was provided, but it has been reported previously that Ecuador had budgeted an initial $35-million for this programme, but expected that the total costs would be higher.
The Cheetah C is a South African conversion of the single-sea Mirage lll, undertaken by Denel Aviation during the 1980s.
The fighters, which were originally bought from France, would most likely replace Ecuador's current force of Dassault F1 fighters and possibly its Sepecat Jaguar fighter-bombers. It was not known if Ecuador might also acquire South African weapon systems.
The aircraft have been in storage since they were retired from active duty in 2008 – the Denel Cheetah C and D aircraft were retired following the acquisition of a fleet of Saab Gripen fighter jets as part of the controversial defence procurement package.
Denel Aviation reported that negotiations, which also involved Armscor (South Africa's agency responsible for the sale of surplus military equipment), had been continuing since 2009, with an FAE team having visited South Africa in April to inspect the fleet.