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08:20 AM, July 10, 2018
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JAS Gripen (Image: Wikipedia)

Botswana is looking beyond the deal to acquire eight to 12 Gripen fighters for better and more affordable aircraft options, the defense and security minister said.

The government of Botswana is facing shortage of funds and is yet signed the $1.7 billion deal to acquire Gripen fighter jets from Swedish Saab. “Nothing has been finalised yet. In fact, nothing much has been done (with regards to the Gripen deal). We are still looking for better and affordable deals,” Defense and Security minister Shaw Kgathi was quoted as saying by Botswana Gazette Monday.

Talks on Botswana’s planned acquisition of JAS Gripen C and D variants began in 2016 and looked close to a deal late last year when former Botswana President Lt. Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama visited Sweden.

The Gripens were meant to replace the Botswana Defence Force’s (BDF’s) ageing fleet of US-made F-5 fighter jets acquired over two decades ago.

The paper also quoted BDF sources as saying the military’s desire to acquire Gripens has been frustrated by budgetary constraints as the Ministry of Defence and Security does not have the money needed to proceed with the acquisition.

The sources concurred with minister Kgathi in that the BDF is still negotiating with several governments and aircraft manufacturers around the world in search of affordable aircraft options.

The aircraft acquisition is part of a force modernisation programme that also includes the replacement of old troop carriers, transporters, tanks, armoured vehicles, light weapons and aerial defence systems.

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