A 2 Squadron Gripen “incident” during a routine ground run was kept under wraps for over a month.
Yet another sorry saga in the ongoing lack of communication by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and its component services and divisions started for Zoutpansberger news editor Andries van Zyl in early April. He wanted to know from AFB Makhado, the South African Air Force (SAAF) fighter jet base, what happened to a Gripen of the lone jet fighter squadron in the air force.
The incident saw a Gripen damaged during a routine maintenance ground run on 8 April when an anchor cable broke “resulting in an accident”.
Frustrating weeks of electronic correspondence toing and froing eventually saw response from Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, number one in the SANDF Directorate: Corporate Communication.
He confirmed the “accident/incident” to the Limpopo newspaperman but gave no further information other than to say a board of inquiry was investigating. This is standard operating procedure (SOP) for any SAAF aircraft accident, crash or incident.
Regarding repairability of the jet fighter to airworthiness, the cost and the number of Gripens operational, Van Zyl was told this information cannot be disclosed “as it deals with the operational readiness of the organisation”.
The SAAF acquired 26 Gripen fighters, with deliveries starting in 2008. There are 17 single-seat C models and nine two-seater D models. The Gripen’s safety record is good, with no major incidents up until now, with limited funding putting much of the fleet in rotational storage and seldom flown.
The SAAF acquired 24 Hawk Mk 120 lead-in fighter-trainers as part of government’s Strategic Defence Procument Package. A number of incidents have occurred. In 2009 a Hawk was lightly damaged when it ran off the runway at AAFB Swartkop and in 2014 another suffered minor damage in 2014 during a hard landing at AFB Makhado.