Draken International has incorporated a number of newly acquired Denel Aviation (Atlas) Cheetah fighter aircraft into its fleet of ‘Aggressor’ platforms, the ‘Red Air’ trainer provider announced on 12 December.
The Florida-based company has received 12 of the former South African Air Force Cheetah fighters, comprising nine single-seat C-models and three twin-seat D-models.
Denel Aeronautics will bring the aircraft back to an ‘operational’ status by mid-2018, and will provide follow-support in partnership with Draken.
“With both the newly acquired Cheetahs and the Mirage F1Ms modernised in the 1990s, these highly capable platforms were selected over early model [Lockheed Martin] F-16s and non-modernised Mirage F1s based upon their true 4th generation capabilities,” the company said in a statement.
Developed from the Mirage III, the supersonic Cheetah first entered South African service in the late-1980s. Modifications over the Mirage III included the addition of non-moving canards on the engine intakes, in-flight refuelling probe, new stores pylons, new ejection seats, the SNECMA Atar 9K-50 engine, a new wing design, and nose strakes to improve high angle of attack performance. The single-seat C variant features the Elta EL/M-2035 radar also.
South Africa operated the Cheetah through to April 2008, before retiring them with a fleet average of just 500 hours per airframe.
Draken will use the Cheetah’s alongside its 22 recently acquired Dassault Mirage F1s and its already existing fleet of modernised McDonnell Douglas A-4K Skyhawk, Aero L-159, and Aermacchi MB-339 aircraft. “We now have the ability to deliver supersonic, modernised, and truly threat representative 4th generation capabilities at a very affordable price point,” Vice-President of Business Development at Draken, Sean Gustafson, said.
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