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The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Commander Lt General Gaolathe Galebotswe this week confirmed that his organisation has interest in procuring new fighter jets to replace an aging fleet of their F5s.
Among the type of fighter jets the BDF is interested in is the Swedish made Gripen, which the army is said to have recently developed interest in procuring. Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chaired by MP for Kanye South Abraham Kesupile on Monday, Galebotswe confirmed that his organisation was interested in acquiring a fleet of new jets to boost their air defense capability.
“The Gripen should fit within this area and give us a certain edge. Fighters (planes) can be jet or turbo propelled. In capability definition we should be able to operate in contested and uncontested space,” said the commander.
“I am talking about revitalising the BDF, when I came in we were looking for platforms we have to rebuild, the current F5 planes gave us reach, it was part of the air defense capability.” However, Galebotswe said they were looking at the life cycle of the old fleet, as well as its operating cost per hour. Said Galebotswe, “We were looking for something to replace the F5, and we considered the F16, the Russian Mig, a Chinese jet.
The Gripen was also part of the that process.”Moreover, Galebotswe confirmed that there was dialogue in place to consider the Gripen as a replacement. “If this deal happens it will be between the two governments (Botswana and Sweden). The Gripen has the lowest operating cost.”
However, Galebotswe said that there was no concrete agreement and no allocation of funds to purchase the planes. The BDF boss was responding to a question from PAC member and MP for Bonnigton South Ndaba Gaolatlhe who wanted to know if the BDF had ordered fleet of Gripens or any other form of jets and whether this was a priority for the army to build their capability.