As of this week the aerial support component of Operation Copper will no longer see any SA Air Force elements deployed on a temporary basis to Pemba in Mozambique.
This is part of making the Southern African Development Community (SADC) anti-piracy tasking more cost-efficient, Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, Senior Staff Officer Operational Communications at SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations, said. The Mozambican port will no longer be a land base for any SANDF components taking part in Operation Copper.
“Apart from personnel, South African military assets assigned to Operation Copper are a Navy platform and a C-47TP,” he said, adding the Navy platform was currently alongside in Pemba.
The new arrangement started on Thursday this week when one of 35 Squadron’s C-47TPs flew from its AFB Ysterplaat home base into AFB Waterkloof for refuelling before continuing on to Maputo.
“The aircraft will land and refuel in Maputo and then be ready to undertake long range patrols in support of the Navy platform. Both commanders will work together on planning patrols to cover as much area as possible and as efficiently as possible. When the aircraft has to refuel it will land at the closest Mozambican airport and then resume patrol duties.”
According to Paxton no specific time limit has been set for the C-47TP to be away from AFB Ysterplaat. Maintenance and other issues will be taken into account and planned for so that a second aircraft can be tasked and dispatched when needed.
The offshore patrol vessel SAS Galeshewe is the naval platform currently on station in the Mozambique Channel. She will return to Simon’s Town on December 4.
The current South African commitment to Operation Copper is scheduled to finish on March 31 next year and will cost more than R127 million by the end of the 2015/16 financial year.