South African company Denel Aviation has sold 12 Cheetah C supersonic fighter aircraft to Ecuador. An agreement to conclude the deal was recently signed by the CEO of Denel Aviation, Mike Kgobe in the capital city of Ecuador, Quito.
Denel Aviation is the design authority of the single-seat fighter that was locally developed as a variant of the Mirage lll in the 1980s. In terms of the agreement with the Ecuadorian Air Force, Denel Aviation will continue to provide a comprehensive maintenance and support service for at least five years following the sale, with an option for renewal.
“The on-going maintenance contract reflects the global reputation of Denel Aviation to provide maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) work to a wide range of aircraft models,” says Mr Kgobe. “Our offer met the needs of the Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE) that was looking to modernise its fighter fleet.”
“This is an exciting business deal for South Africa,” says Mr Kgobe. “The Denel Cheetahs have been in storage since they were retired from active duty in 2008. Denel Aviation and the South African Cheetah Support industry in conjunction with the South African Air Force were directly involved in the decommissioning and packaging for storage of the aircraft and support infrastructure.
The Denel Cheetah C and D aircraft were retired from service following the acquisition by South Africa of its new fleet of Saab Gripen fighter jets under the Strategic Defence package acquisition programmes.
Negotiations between Denel Aviation, Armscor and the FAE have been continuing since 2009. A FAE team visited South Africa in April this year to inspect the Cheetah fleet and to witness specific evaluation flights. The aircraft have been made available for sale through Armscor, the state agency responsible for the sale of surplus military products and equipment.
Denel Aviation (formerly Atlas Aircraft Corporation) was the prime contractor in the development of the Cheetah, a variant of the Dassault Mirage III, in the mid-1980’s and holds the design authority for, and the maintenance expertise on the Cheetah.
Complete maintenance and acceptance flight testing will be conducted in South Africa and in Ecuador, now that the deal has been finalised. Denel Aviation earlier visited FAE facilities to review the infrastructure and technical capability of the Ecuadorian Air Force to accommodate the Cheetah aircraft to evaluate the level of support required and to identify the need for further training.
“This is a huge breakthrough for Denel Aviation and it will open up a number of new opportunities for Denel and other players in the local industry involved in Cheetah support,” says Mr Kgobe.
Denel Aviation has accumulated world-class skills, expertise and business know-how in performing MRO-work on Mirage type aircraft. “Our future work with the Ecuadorian air force will provide an important platform to showcase local MRO capabilities to the rest of the world” says Mr Kgobe.