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Lack of funds grounds South African jets

March 13, 2013 at 12:59 PM   |   Comments

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, March 13 (UPI) -- Nearly half of South Africa's fleet of 26 Gripen fighters have been mothballed because of lack of operational funds.

The grounding of the jets, manufactured by Saab of Sweden, was disclosed Tuesday by Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula during questioning in Parliament.

"The South African air force has 12 Gripen fighter aircraft placed in long-term storage," Mapisa-Nqakula said. "These aircraft are placed in storage as a planned activity in line with their utilization and the budget expenditure patterns/flow of the SAAF."

South African publication Business Day said in its report that the aircraft purchased from Swedish manufacturer Saab had cost the government about $1 billion.

Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier, who had questioned Mapisa-Nqakula, said 10 or fewer of the 26 aircraft purchased are operational and that there are only six pilots in the air force qualified to fly the planes.

In addition, he said, "there are (only) about 150 flying hours available to the entire squadron for 2013."

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