Saab and Denel are exhibiting an air defence solution at this year’s AAD after a period of trials. Saab’s Giraffe AMB radar is partnered with Denel’s Umkhonto vertical-launch surface-to-air missile. The Giraffe radar was deployed to South Africa around six months ago, and has completed a number of successful firings with the Umkhonto system.
Representing another step in the ongoing collaboration between the two companies, which has included integrating the A-Darter missile on to the Gripen fighter, the air defence system brings together the agile multi-beam Giraffe, which is in use with many operators, including Sweden, with the missile system that was initially developed for South Africa’s MEKO A200/ Valour frigates. Umkhonto employs inertial/infrared guidance, and has been sold for naval use to Algeria and Finland. It is also available in ground-based form, with a typical launcher having eight canisters.
Giraffe AMB is a member of Saab’s family of air defence radars that covers a range of both ship and ground-based requirements. The company is proposing the larger Giraffe 4A/8A radars, which are based on the latest gallium nitride semi-conductor technology, for the SANDF’s Project Chutney air defence requirement, for which a request for proposals is awaited.
Gripens for Botswana?
South Africa’s northern neighbour has confirmed that it is seeking to purchase a batch of new fighters to replace its ageing Canadair/ Northrop CF-5A/B Freedom Fighters, with the Gripen C/D considered the favourite. The commander of the Botswana Defence Force, Lieutenant General Gaolathe Galebotswe, confirmed that the Gripen had the lowest operating costs of the various candidates, which include F-16s, MiGs, Chinese aircraft and the KAI F/A-50. The Swedish defence material agency, FMV, noted that negotiations concerned approximately eight aircraft.
Saab has had an office in Gaborone since early 2014, and is pursuing a number of opportunities in the country. “There’s a need for greater security as the economy grows,” remarked Saab’s head of market area EMEA, Magnus Lewis-Olsson. “The economy is also diversifying, with tourism growing. Air transport is important in a sparsely populated country, and there’s a growing need for airspace control.”
Regarding the potential Gripen sale, Lewis-Olsson commented that although it would be some time before any deal could be concluded, “there is a healthy discussion with them – it’s well within our radar.”
Any deal would almost certainly be made between the Swedish and Botswana governments.
In the meantime, Saab is also discussing a follow-on support contract for South Africa’s Gripen fleet.