September 28, 2009
QUITO – The Ecuadorian armed forces are negotiating to buy 12 Cheetah C fighter jets from South Africa, the press reported Thursday, citing Defense Minister Javier Ponce.
The South African aircraft will replace obsolete supersonic aircraft in the air force that are past their 30 years of useful life, the daily El Universo reported.
The article adds that the air force recommended the purchase of the planes from South Africa due to the cost, since the bids presented by Spain and Chile exceeded the budget for the modernization of the Ecuadorian fleet.
The Cheetah C fighter was developed by South Africa in the mid-1980s based on Mirage III jets that Pretoria bought from France two decades earlier.
Last month, representatives from South Africa’s Denel Aviation renewed their offer during a visit to the Cotopaxi airbase.
The Cheetahs were decommissioned by the South African air force in 2008, but the units Denel wants to sell to Quito have been upgraded and are on a par with the Israeli Kfir CE that is currently operating in Ecuador.
“The decision on the purchase has been made and it is estimated that in December the financial negotiations will begin. For that, an outlay of $35 million from a not-yet-determined total amount is anticipated,” the paper said.
Defense Ministry sources consulted by Efe did not confirm the information about the negotiations, but ministry communication adviser Francisco Aguirre said that Ponce on Wednesday held a working breakfast with the daily El Universo.
Meanwhile, it is expected that on Thursday the air force will present to Ponce a technical report on the advisability of accepting the donation of six Mirage 50 jets from Venezuela.
This week, the defense chief said the government was holding discussions with Venezuela about the possibility of accepting a donation of “equipment” to beef up the Mirage fleet, but he emphasized that nothing had resulted as yet from those talks.
“What we’ve been talking about (with Venezuela) is the possibility of a gift of some equipment that can be useful to us in restoring our Mirage fleet. Everything having to do with that gift is being discussed,” Ponce said. EFE