DSA reports pylon progress

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 22 Sept 2008

Denel Saab Aerostructures (DSA) says it expects new orders for stores pylons for use on the global Gripen fighter fleet.

The Gripen is now in service in Sweden, SA, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the British Empire Test Flying School. The advanced fighter is also on order for Thailand and under consideration in Denmark, India, Norway, Romania, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

Industry sources and publications say many of these were previously considering the US Lockheed Martin F35 Joint Strike Fighter, but are now looking elsewhere because of the high cost and low work-share offered on the fighter.

There are also fears export F35s will be "dumbed down" and will not include some of the advanced software of the US models.

The intelligent stores pylons carry weapons, targeting and reconnaissance systems, as well as long-range fuel tanks.

DSA says its work developing and manufacturing NATO-standard pylons for the Gripen has earned them R500 million to date.

The first contract awarded in 2000 to DSA as part of the Gripen industrial participation contracts was for the design, industrialisation and certification of NATO standard pylons for the jet fighter.

Valued at R42 million (at the time, approximately US$7 million), this contract was followed up by another worth about US$39 million for pylon production.

DSA's current order book for pylon work stands at a total of 300 pylons, of which 220 is delivered. DSA will be contracted to make an additional 80 modified pylons, which brings the total to 380. Modification kits will also be manufactured under a separate order.

Saab and DSA forecast an additional requirement of pylons up to 2013, which implies further work for DSA on the Gripen programme.

"This contract is a good example of Saab's commitment and long-term relationship with South Africa and Denel Saab Aerostructures," says Ulf Nilsson, the programme management director at Saab Aerosystems.

Besides the pylon work, DSA has longstanding contracts to manufacture Main Landing Gear Units - essentially the centre fuselage airframe section - as well as rear fuselage sections for Gripens destined for the Swedish Air Force and all export versions.

In addition, DSA is now a supplier to the likes of Airbus, AgustaWestland, Boeing and Israeli Aircraft Industries.

Saab acquired an equity stake of 20% and management control of DSA in February 2007 as a result of Denel's restructuring strategy. In terms of the agreement, Saab is entitled to increase its shareholding as the business grows.

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