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S Africa completes delivery of Cheetah fighters to Ecuador

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The Cheetah supersonic fighter jet of SAAF.

CENTURION, S AFRICA (BNS): South Africa has completed delivery of 12 of its Cheetah supersonic fighter aircraft to the Ecuadorian Air Force under an agreement signed in 2010.

The 10 Cheetah C (single seat) and two Cheetah D (double seat) jets, previously used by the South African Air Force (SAAF), are getting ready for deployment with the Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE).

South African defence firm Denel Aviation, which has manufactured the fighters, said it will continue to provide a comprehensive maintenance and support service to the FAE for the next five years with an option for renewal.

Ecuador had signed an agreement with S Africa to buy the Cheetah fighters to modernise its aircraft fleet.

The fighters were delivered in four batches with the final shipment completed earlier this year, Denel said. Prior to dispatching the aircraft, they were returned to service and flight-tested before being disassembled locally for shipment and then carefully reassembled and flight-tested in Ecuador, it said.

Denel provided technical and logistics support to the local teams conducting the tests in Ecuador. Ecuadorian pilots and ground support staff also received extensive conversion training to fly and maintain the South African planes.

Seven of the fighters took to the Ecuadorian skies simultaneously during a fly past on 17 May 2012 to mark the handover of command of the country's air force to Brigadier General Enrique Velasco.

The Cheetahs were designed and developed by Denel for the SAAF as a variant of the Mirage lll supersonic fighters in the 1980s. The Cheetahs were later retired from service following the acquisition by South Africa of its new fleet of Saab Gripen fighter jets.

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