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Atlas Cheetah

The Atlas Cheetah is a South African fighter aircraft designed and produced by the aviation company Atlas Aircraft Corporation (later Denel Aeronautics).

It was developed at the behest of, and principally operated by, the South African Air Force (SAAF).


Cheetah C

The Cheetah C was the final development in the Cheetah series and was the only fighter aircraft in service with the SAAF until replaced by the Saab JAS 39 Gripen.

Cheetah D

The Cheetah D was the sole two seat variant, and was predominantly used as a trainer for pilots converting to the Cheetah C.

Cheetah E

The single seat Cheetah E was developed as an interim fighter for use in the period before the Cheetah Cs became operational.

Cheetah R

The Cheetah R was a feasibility study into an extension of the Cheetah upgrade program to include a specialist reconnaissance model.



15.55 m (51 ft 0 in)


8.22 m (27 ft 0 in)


4.5 m (14 ft 9 in)

Wing area

35 m2 (380 sq ft)

Canard Area

1.66 m2 (17.9 sq ft)



Empty weight

6,600 kg (14,551 lb)

Max take-off weight

13,700 kg (30,203 lb)


1 × Snecma Atar 9K50C-11, afterburning turbojet engine,

49.2 kN (11,100 lbf) thrust dry,

70.6 kN (15,900 lbf) with afterburner


Maximum speed

2,350 km/h (1,460 mph, 1,270 kn)

Mach 2.2 at high altitude

1,390 km/h (860 mph; 750 kn) at sea level


1,300 km (810 mi, 700 nmi)

Ferry range

2,600 km (1,600 mi, 1,400 nmi)

Service ceiling

17,000 m (56,000 ft)

Rate of climb

233.5 m/s (45,960 ft/min)

Wing loading

250 kg/m2 (51 lb/sq ft)



2× 30 mm (1.18 in) DEFA 552 cannons with 125 rounds per gun


4 × Matra rocket pods with 18× SNEB 68 mm rockets each,


2× Matra JL-100 drop tank/rocket pack, each with 19× SNEB 68 mm rockets and 250 litres (66 US gal) of fuel


2 × Python 3 AAMs, V4 R-Darter (BVR missile), A-Darter, V3S and/or Matra R530 missiles.


8,800 lb (4,000 kg) of payload on five external hardpoints, including 250 kg Laser-guided bombs (LGB), GPS-guided bombs, 250 kg ‘booster’ bombs, a variety of unguided ‘iron’ bombs, reconnaissance pods or Drop tanks.


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