Air Force Base Waterkloof, once known as the SA Air Force’s (SAAF) centre of transport excellence is a title the current base boss is working hard to keep, a Parliamentarian said following an oversight visit to the Centurion base.
Kobus Marais, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister, told defenceWeb the effort going into the base and its upkeep was “heartening”. He also commended base commander Major General Cobus Butler for “focussing on priorities and applying innovative plans to keep the base running properly”.
“What he is doing is great because we all have to get further with less. What is happening at Waterkloof is a lesson to many in the national defence force,” he said, adding technology and infrastructure maintenance, as well as security, are Butler’s major concerns.
AFB Waterkloof is home to four transport squadrons. They are 21 (VIP transport), 28 (C-130BZ), 41 (Cessna 208 Caravan, B200 Super King Air and PC-12) and 44 (C-212). Other units at the base include Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (JARIC), Command and Control School, Electronic Warfare Centre, the SAAF Telecommunications Centre as well as 1 Air Servicing Unit (ASU).
On a briefing by 28 Squadron to portfolio committee members on the oversight visit, Marais reports they were told three C-130BZs were expected to be serviceable “around mid-December” with two others remaining grounded.
“Indications are parts from aircraft 403 (brought back to Waterkloof following a runway excursion in the Democratic Republic of Congo in January) and the presently grounded pair will be used to keep three airworthy,” according to the parliamentarian who told defenceWeb he “got the impression” maintenance planning was being done with Denel Aviation, licensed as an aircraft maintenance organisation (AMO) by original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Lockheed Martin.
As a colonel, Butler was Officer Commanding AFB Ysterplaat in Cape Town so he is no stranger to base management. He was subsequently transferred to SAAF headquarters on the western side of the Pretoria CBD where he was Senior Staff Officer Electronic Warfare. As a brigadier general he was Director: Combat Systems before moving to Waterkloof. His promotion to Major General was confirmed while based at Waterkloof, previously an air station, taken into service in 1938, before becoming a base.