Arms commission: Hawks, Gripen planes 'met requirements'

The arms deal commission. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The arms deal commission. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The aircraft were flexible enough to meet requirements, said South African Air Force combat systems director Brigadier General John William Bayne  on Monday.

"The Gripen we acquired was what was termed the export baseline. In other words, it was not the same aircraft that the Swedish air force flew originally ... This aircraft was designed and adapted for worldwide climatic conditions," he said.

"It was designed to operate in different environments and different equivalent areas ...
The Gripen is well-suited for the African battle-space for the future to support the country as strategic natural asset."

He said people had questioned the South African Air Force buying aircraft from Sweden, where the climate and operating conditions were different.

The aircraft were thoroughly tested before they were acquired, and were flown in harsh conditions, including snow and rain.

The Gripen was the SAAF's only full-fighter aircraft, while the Hawk was primarily a fighter-trainer aircraft. Bayne said the SAAF had taken over full ownership and delivery of the Hawks, and that ownership of the Gripen was expected to be concluded only in early 2015.

"There was adequate proof that the system [the Hawks] met the requirements."

The Gripen had completed 85% of its tests and evaluation, but there were still steps which needed to be completed before the SAAF took full ownership.

On Monday morning, the commission heard that the SAAF had to adapt to all budget cuts to fit in with the realities.

Bayne said that after the 1994 elections, South Africa was seen as a highly successful and peaceful country, and that this had played a role in budgeting, particularly the budget cuts in 1997. He said the risks of putting a young pilot into a high performance and high cost aircraft had been considered when it came to the costs of continuing the three-tier training system.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission, which is chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, in 2011 to investigate alleged corruption in the 1999 multibillion-rand arms deal.

The commission resumes on Tuesday morning, when Bayne will give evidence on the utilisation of the systems. – Sapa

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