Ecuadorian Air Force Denel (Atlas) Cheetah-C
Fighter Wing No. 21 "Taura" (Festival Aéreo FAE 2012)
Location & Date: FAE Airshow 2012, Simon Bolivar Air Base, Guayas Province, Guayaquil Ecuador, 21 October 2012
FAE Cheetah serials serial numbers:
#347, #352, #360, #362, #377, #819, #820, #827, #832, #833, #860, #861
FAE Cheetah History
19 June 2012: Denel-Built Cheetah Supersonic Fighters Flying High in Ecuador. Denel announces that all 12 Cheetah fighters have successfully completed their test flights, and Ecuador has declared them to be ready for operational deployment.
Denel returned the planes to serviceable condition and flight-tested them in South Africa, then disassembled them and shipped them to Ecuador. The Cheetahs were delivered in 4 batches, with the final shipment completed earlier in 2012. Arriving aircraft were carefully reassembled and flight-tested in Ecuador, while Denel Aviation provided technical support and spares. Ecuadorian pilots and ground support staff also received extensive conversion training to fly and maintain the new planes.
Denel Aviation’s release says that they will continue to provide a comprehensive maintenance and support service to the FAE for the next 5 years, with an option for renewal. It would seem that the MRO agreement only begins upon acceptance, rather than upon the signing of the contract, and that other support and training provided to date was within the scope of the main contract.
23 September 2009: Denel Aviation has sold 12 Cheetah supersonic fighter aircraft to Ecuador. The Ecuadorian Ministry of Defense announced that Ecuador had reached a decision to buy 10 ex-SAAF Cheetah C's and 2 Cheetah D's to replace its aging fleet of Mirage F.1JAs in one of the Ecuadorian Air Force's two operating supersonic fighter squadrons. After some delays, a contract was signed in December 2010. The three first aircraft arrived Ecuador on April 2011.
The $78-million package was sold to the country by Denel Aviation, the SAAF and Armscor.
Denel Aviation had sold the 12 Cheetah supersonic fighter aircraft to Ecuador as part of an agreement signed by Kgobe in Ecuador's capital, Quito, in December 2010.
"Denel Aviation (formerly Atlas Aircraft Corporation) is the design authority of the single-seat fighter that was locally developed as a variant of the [Dassault] Mirage lll in the 1980s,"
The Mirage 50 is a 1980s-1990s Mirage III/V upgrade that added the SNECMA Atar 9K-50 engine and Cyrano IV-M3 radar, among other improvements. It did not substantially change the basic airframe, however, and by that time the design had lost much of its competitiveness. The Mirage 50 was not a popular export; only Chile (Mirage 50/Pantera) and Venezuela (Mirage 50M) ordered them, and in the 1990s, Chile went on to upgrade its planes to the Kfir-like Pantera configuration with Israeli help. Chile’s Panteras were recently phased out in favor of new F-16 C/Ds, and they were reportedly one of the offers made to Ecuador’s government.
Israel went down a different road. They switched in the American GE J79 turbojet that powered the Cheyl Ha’avir’s F-4 Phantoms, and heavily modified the Nesher’s airframe and electronics, in order to design IAI’s canard-winged Kfir series fighters. This expertise would lead the Israelis to assist in the subsequent South African Cheetah and Chilean Pantera programs. Ecuador currently flies the Kfir C10/CE, the family’s most advanced variant. It carries IAI’s popular EL/M-2032 radar, a fully digital cockpit, and the ability to carry precision weapons and radar-guided air-air missiles.
The GE J79 is no longer in production, but more than 2,500 engines remain in service around the world. GE still offers related services, and there is no shortage of spares via the USAF’s AMARC “Boneyard” near Tucson.
Unless, of course, the USA decides to block military sales to Ecuador. Which makes the Snecma-powered Cheetahs an interesting sort of compatible insurance policy.
The Cheetah C was the ultimate development of the Cheetah series, and was the only fighter aircraft in service with the SAAF until replaced by the Saab JAS 39 Gripen in 2008. Many of the features of the Cheetah aircraft are still classified, and the SAAF is unwilling to reveal too many details. What is known is that in addition to the upgrades described above, the Cheetah C incorporates a more sophisticated avionics and navigation suite and a new pulse-doppler multi-mode radar (ELTA), both of which are regarded as being better than the systems fitted to Block 50 F-16s, and one of the most advanced EW systems fitted to a fighter aircraft. The aircraft is also fitted with a data link, though the capabilities of this system are unknown, and it received updated versions of the helmet-mounted sight, HUD and improved HOTAS controls.
Other improvements include the fitting of a single-piece wrap-around windshield with an anti-radiation coating in place of the old three-piece version, a new in-flight refuelling probe with less external piping, new undercarriage and suspension, the deletion of the wing fences, an upgraded version of the Atar 9K50 and a new nose to incorporate the more sophisticated electronics and radar.
Like the Cheetah D, the Cheetah C is capable of delivering precision-guided munitions (PGMs), ranging from laser-guided bombs (LGBs), to GPS-guided weapons and TV-guided bombs. It also has the capability of using stand-off air-to-ground weapons such as the MUPSOW and TORGOS. In addition, it is able to carry a raft of air-to-air weapons, and the SAAF currently equips its aircraft with the V4 R-Darter, a beyond-visual-range (BVR) radar-guided missile, and the U-Darter, a highly capable short-range infrared (IR)-guided missile.
A measure of the capabilities of the Cheetah C is the result of an air-combat maneuvering (ACM) exercise between the Cheetah Cs of 2 Squadron and F-15E Strike Eagles of the 494th Fighter Squadron, United States Air Force at RAF Lakenheath, after which the score tallies for each side were almost exactly equal.
Specifications (Cheetah C)
• Crew: one, pilot
• Length: 15.55 m (51.0 ft)
• Wingspan: 8.22 m (26.97 ft)
• Height: 4.50 m (14.76 ft)
• Wing area: 35 m² (376.7 ft²)
• Empty weight: 6,600 kg (14,550 lb)
• Max. takeoff weight: 13,700 kg (30,200 lb)
• Powerplant: 1 × Snecma Atar 9K50C-11 afterburning turbojet, 7,200 kgf (71 kN, 15,900 lbf)
• Canard Area: 17.87 ft² (1.66 m²)
• Maximum speed:
• At altitude: Mach 2.2 (1,460 mph, 2,350 km/h)
• At sea level: Mach 1.14 (865 mph, 1,390 km/h)
• Range: 700 nmi (1,300 km)
• Ferry range: 1,400 nmi (2,600 km)
• Service ceiling: 55,755 ft (17,000 m)
• Rate of climb: 45,950 ft/min (14,000 m/min)
• Wing loading: 250 kg/m² (52 lb/ft²)
• Thrust/weight: 15,873 lb (70.6 kN) with Afterburner
• Maximum g-load: Unknown
• Guns: 2× 30 mm (1.18 in) DEFA 552 cannons with 125 rounds per gun
• Rockets: 4× Matra rocket pods with 18× SNEB 68 mm rockets each, OR 2× Matra JL-100 drop tank/rocket pack, each with 19× SNEB 68 mm rockets and 250 litres (66 US gal) of fuel
• Missiles: 2× Python 3 AAMs, V4 R-Darter (BVR missile), U-Darter, V3C Darter and/or Matra R530 missiles.
• Bombs: 8,800 lb (4,400 kg) of payload on five external hardpoints, including 250 kg Laser-guided bombs (LGB), GPS-guided bombs, 250 kg 'booster' bombs, a variety of unguided 'iron' bombs, reconnaissance pods or Drop tanks