Ex-SAAF Cheetah jet restored, ready to join Draken Aggressors

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A former South African Air Force Cheetah combat aircraft has been restored after spending 18 years in storage.

The Cheetah aircraft (C 375) is currently undergoing test flight after which it’ll be shipped to Draken international to join it’s aggressors fleet in Florida.

The contractor-based training company will field the aircraft for ‘Red Air’ aggressor flying against US military and allied aircrews, following its extensive refurbishment and modification effort by South Africa’s Denel Systems, with much of the work being reassembly.

In December 2017, Draken international purchased 12 Denel Cheetah fighters (nine single-seat Cheetah Cs and three two-seat Cheetah Ds) though Denel.

According to the terms of the sale, South African state-owned defense conglomerate Denel will fully regenerate the aircraft, which have kept in storage since their retirement from the South African Air Force in 2008. In addition, Denel will provide additional support services for the aircraft going forward.

The EX-SAAF cheetahs increased the Draken’s fleet size to more than 150 fighter aircraft.

Draken International already operates a fleet of Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, MiG-21s, Aero L-39s, and Aermacchi MB-339s, and Mirage F1M/Bs.

In June 2018 the US Air Force awarded Draken International a five-year $280 million contract to provide continued contractor-based ‘Red Air’ aggressor training. The deal supports Draken international’s provision of contractor-owned contractor-operated (COCO) “tactically-relevant aircraft” for air-to-air tracking, targeting, and adversary air (ADAIR) operations.

At the time of signing the contract, Air Combat Command says the companies will “provide realistic and challenging advanced adversary air training. The air support services are expected to begin late Summer 2020 at each location.”

Atlas Cheetah during a bombing run.

The Atlas Cheetahs are an extensively modernized French-made Mirage III fighter jets, which turned what is essentially a late second generation design into nearly a fourth generation aircraft.

Patrick Kenyette

Freelance journalist and Photographer, and regular African Military Blog contributor

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