Draken acquires Cheetah fighters for ‘Red Air’ training

13 December 2017
Draken has acquired 12 former South African Air Force Cheetah fighters to join its growing fleet of ‘Aggressor’ trainers. Source: IHS Markit / Patrick Allen

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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