The South African Air Force’s fleet of four AugustaWestland SuperLynx 300 Mk64 maritime helicopters will be fully operational by the middle of next year, albeit with a limited arsenal of weapons.
SAAF chief director force preparation Maj Gen Hugh Paine says once "the Lynx gets airborne, it is the airborne radar of the ship…"
"A ship takes days to reposition. The Lynx gets airborne, flies a 100 miles, switches on its radar and does the searching and so-on, then recovers back to the ship. Its radar becomes visible to an enemy but they still don`t know where the ship is."
"That is the main focus of the Lynx at the moment," he adds.
Air Force chief Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano says the aircraft is currently undergoing its operational testing and evaluation (OT&E).
The four rotorcraft were delivered to the SAAF in July last year. For the moment they are only being fitted with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun for self defence and a limited capability against surface targets such as high-speed boats and pirate vessels, says Paine. Growth options including anti-ship missiles, depth charges, torpedoes and free-flight rockets.
The SAAF and SA Navy are being assisted in the OT&E process by a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm lieutenant commander. "We are fortunate to have a Royal Navy Tactical Coordinator on exchange to 22 Squadron that will expedite training and development. We are fortunate to have experienced pilots, but we must still build up Tactical Coordinator experience. We have lots to learn," Gagiano told Unofficial SAAF website webmaster Dean Wingrin.
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