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Denel delivers final Cheetah to Ecuador

June 20, 2012 at 11:45 AM

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, June 20 (UPI) -- Flight testing of Cheetah combat jets has been completed by Denel of South Africa and the planes have been delivered to Ecuador.

A contract for 12 of the supersonic fighters was signed with the Ecuadorian government in 2010 and the aircraft were tested and delivered in four batches.

The Cheetah has a maximum speed at altitude of more than 1,400 miles per hour, has a service ceiling of more than 55,000 feet and can carry a full range of weaponry. It was first built in South Africa in the 1980s as an upgrade to the Mirage III from Dassault of France.

"This is an exciting business opportunity for Denel Aviation," Riaz Saloojee, the group chief executive of Denel. "We successfully sold a fighter plane that was designed in South Africa and used locally for many years to a major international client."

Of the 12 aircraft delivered, 10 were Cheetah Cs, the two-seat variant.

In addition to the contract for construction of the aircraft, Denel Aviation will provide a comprehensive maintenance and support service to the Ecuadorian air force for five years.

The South African air force has retired its fleet of Cheetahs, replacing them with the Gripen fighter from Saab of Sweden.

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