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South Africa admits ‘negative impact' of delayed Gripen negotiations

South Africa's Department of Defence released a statement on 6 December admitting that protracted negotiations on a support contract for the South African Air Force's (SAAF's) Gripen fighters are “negatively impacting on the air defence capability”.

It noted that a “lengthy discussion” has taken place between its procurement agency Armscor and Saab, the Gripen's manufacturer. “Proposals have been presented by both parties and are being reviewed to ensure that the matter is conclusively dealt with,” it said. “The SAAF is confident that a solution will be found to resolve the matter.”

It has been reported that the SAAF's 26 Gripens are now effectively grounded pending an agreement, with some aircraft having already been cannibalised to keep others flying.

The Department of Defence statement did not explain what has held up the negotiations, but similar problems have hit the SAAF's fleet of BAE Systems Hawk jet trainers and the navy's German-built Type 209 submarines.

Defence industry sources have suggested that the problem partly lies with Armscor's insistence on complying with the government's Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) procurement policy. This has proved problematic as foreign companies are not BBBEE compliant and using local companies as intermediaries increases the cost and legal complexity of contracts.

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