Half the Gripen fleet of 26 aircraft is believed to have been cannibalised for spare parts, while air crew have lost currency because of a lack of flight hours. Archive photo.
Date: 10 December 2021 By:
The Gripen fleet of the South African Air Force (SAAF) has temporarily been grounded, with no aircraft serviceable, due to a lack of funding and maintenance and support contracts not being renewed in time, but the Gripens will likely be flying again in the new year.
In a statement resulting from multiple media enquiries, the Department of Defence (DoD) said the air defence capability of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had been negatively impacted by protracted discussions relating to maintenance contracts.
“After a lengthy discussion between the South African Air Force (SAAF), through Armscor and Saab on the contract concerning the Gripen, proposals have been presented by both parties and are being reviewed to ensure that the matter is conclusively dealt with by the parties concerned. It is unfortunate that the discussions took longer than expected as a result, negatively impacting on the Air Defence capability,” stated Siphiwe Dlamini, DoD Head of Communication.
He added that “the SAAF is confident that a solution will be found to resolve this matter. Due to the sensitivity around the discussion, the negotiations cannot be made public”.
Darren Olivier, Director at African Defence Review, notes that “thanks to this delay, the SAAF’s Gripen fleet has been grounded for three months and probably won’t return to the air until late January at the earliest”.
He believes this is a crisis caused primarily by severe budget cuts, “but seemingly compounded by a dysfunctional relationship between the SAAF and Armscor and poor contract management. This is a crisis that should never have been allowed to reach this point”.
At least as far back as August this year, negotiations regarding the placement of new support contracts for the Hawk and Gripen were still ongoing due to “high fixed costs”.
defenceWeb understands that maintenance and support contracts have not been renewed in time because of Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) requirements, Armscor implementing Preferential Procurement regulations incorrectly, and funding constraints.
Half the Gripen fleet of 26 aircraft is believed to have been cannibalised for spare parts, while air crew have lost currency because of a lack of flight hours. This is compounded by a lack of PC-7 Mk II trainers available. (Article shortened and republished with the permission of defenceWeb editor Guy Martin)