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Gripens do half of 51 World Cup intercepts

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Gripens do half of 51 World Cup intercepts


DefenceWeb -- Written by Leon Engelbrecht Saturday, 25 September 2010 16:19


The South African Air Force's (SAAF) growing fleet of SAAB Gripen fighters conducted about half the 51 aircraft intercepts conducted during the June/July soccer world cup. The SAAF deployed 11 of the available 15 Gripen during the month-long tournament as well as 12 of 24 BAE Systems Hawk lead-in fighter trainers.


Also deployed on interception duties were 12 unarmed Pilatus PC7 Mk II Astra trainers, 14 AgustaWestland A109M and some Eurocopter BK117 light utility helicopters. Air Force director fighters, Brigadier General John Bayne, told a Gripen briefing at the SAAB chalet at Africa Aerospace & Defence 2010 exhibition that ends today that some 347 combat air patrols (CAP) were flown to secure all 64 games.


In a similar briefing in August, Major General Les Lombard, the General Officer Commanding te Air Force Command Post said with “that grouping of aircraft we could cater for various threats, be it from paragliders right up to the possibility of hijacked airliners.”


Bayne says some 2214 SAAF personnel were deployed for Operation Kgwele as the endeavour was known. Lombard noted it was the “largest air defence operation the SAAF has ever conducted. It was over an extended period of time and all 64 games were secured by air defence assets.” He added that it “is a massive operation securing the airspace of an entire country and you need the close cooperation of all the roleplayers... the Airports Company SA, the Department of Transport's Air Traffic Navigation Service (ATNS) an the police.


Lombard noted command-and-control required the establishment of six sector control centres (SCC): South Africa normally only has two. The permanent installations at the Lowveld Airspace Control Sector at Hoedspruit in Mpumalanga and the Bushveld Airspace Control Centre in Pretoria were augmented by two mobile sector control stations from 140 Squadron, deployed to Bloemfontein and Cape Town. “And there our resources came to an end. So with a lot of initiative and hard work from within the SAAF, two temporary sector control stations were created at Port Elizabeth and Durban with great cooperation from ATNS who supported us with facilities and allowed integration into their systems at those venues.


“The development of the sectors in a very short time and the close cooperation with the ATNS was really a winner. Then in terms of the sector control centres from where all the military aircraft was controlled, we had very lose coordination with the ATNS with regard to deploying the necessary sensors such as radars to develop an integrated air picture.


“We deployed four Tellumat-supported Umlindi radars from 140 Squadron, three tactical mobile radars (TMR) from 142 Squadron and integrated these with our static radars, ATNS and SAAF long range, which allowed us a very good tactical integration...,” Lombard said.


“In terms of radar sensor information, the CAF (chief of the air force, Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano, who spoke before Lombard) alluded to the effectiveness of the Gripen radar, it was really marvellous to see the effectiveness of that and many low flying aircraft were considerably surprised by our ability to detect them in areas where they thought they could fly under radar coverage. The Gripen could pass on the data – via Link ZA – to the SCC so that intercepts could be vectored onto them. This opens up a whole new concept of operations within the SAAF and is something we will pursue down the line.


“We also had the ability to integrate the radars of the navy frigates and the SA Army Thutlhwa... ...these obviously are force multipliers … the frigates were just off the coast, to give us the coverage we so badly needed for low flying aircraft [at coastal venues].” In addition, said Lombard, the SA Army deployed 29 observation posts (OP's) at various venues and these were in direct communication with the SCC “in order to supply us with visual input of very low flying aircraft or aircraft with very low radar cross section. The SA Navy supplied five further OP's in the Cape area.


Bayne noted that the air defence system recorded detected 65 non-compliant aircraft, including airliners, which led to the 51 intercepts. Nine aircraft were diverted. Police waiting at airfields took unspecified action against 43 pilots. Bayne praised the availability of the SAAF's new fighter fleet, noting that seven Gripen and four Hawk were deployed to AFB Waterkloof to provide CAP over the northern matches (Polokwane, Pretoria, Nelspruit, Johannesburg, Rustenburg, Durban and Bloemfontein) and four of each to AFB Overberg to CAP Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.


For this purpose the Gripen were allocated 276 flying hours and the Hawks 279. Bayne says the five two-seat Gripen D were 98% reliable and the six single-seat Gripen C 89%. The Hawk was 98% reliable. At any given time 8.95 of the 11 Gripen were available and 11.6 of the Hawk. Maintainability was 89% for Gripen and 92% for Hawk. Bayne observed that the figures for Gripen would have been higher had it been an operation system. The platform, being acquired under Project Ukhozi, is still in the project phase.




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