Botswana going for Gripen – report
The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Airwing will be acquiring eight Swedish Gripen fighter jets according to the Business Weekly and Review. This follows a May report that the African country was in talks with Sweden regarding the purchase of the fighter jets from Saab. Sweden’s defence materiel agency (FMV) confirmed “a dialogue” had been initiated with Botswana regarding eight C/D versions of the Gripen. The Botswana-based publication indication the total cost of the acquisition, which it said would be 16 of the multi-role fighters, would be between $1,45 to $1,63 billion and that delivery would be “within two to three years”. In the same report it changes the number of aircraft to be bought from 16 down to eight. “The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a light single-engine multi-role fighter aircraft manufactured by Swedish aerospace company Saab. It was designed to replace the Saab 35 Draken and 37 Viggen in the Swedish Air Force. The Gripen has a delta wing and canard configuration with relaxed stability design and fly-by-wire flight controls. It is powered by the Volvo RM12 and has a top speed of Mach 2. Later aircraft are modified for NATO inter-operability standards and to undertake in-flight refuelling. There were 186 Gripens in service with military users as of January 2013,” according to the publication. South Africa, one of Botswana’s neighbours, owns 26 Gripens with 13 active and the remainder in rotational storage. According to Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula the 13 aircraft in rotational preventive maintenance (RPM) where they are maintained throughout the aircraft life cycle as prescribed by the design authority (Saab).
The use of RPM has been acknowledged as “a smart move” to take when an air force is under severe budgetary pressure “as the SAAF has been for a number of years” by military analyst Darren Olivier. “It is based on the best engineering and logistical principles and, unlike mothballing or long-term storage, it means aircraft are kept semi-active and flown every 60 days, are maintained and upgraded to the same level as active aircraft and can return to the active flight line within no more than two days. “Most importantly, the aircraft in RPM are periodically rotated out with the aircraft on the active flight line, so all aircraft are used and flying hours remain even across the fleet. “It is of course disastrous that the SAAF has had to adopt such severe austerity measures, that it's forced to limit the number of active pilots and aircraft to stay within its extremely low number of allocated flying hours and that government still refuses to fund it to a level that matches the demands placed on it. But given the prevailing conditions, adopting the RPM approach was the best possible option the SAAF could have taken to ensure it does not lose important capabilities over the longer term. "RPM is not an effective long-term strategy, it's meant only as a short-term, up to three years, intervention,” he said.