The 28 Squadron C-130BZ Hercules (tail number 403) involved in a runway excursion in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in January will be brought back to South Africa.
That’s according to Brigadier General Hilton Smith, Director: SA Air Force (SAAF) Corporate Staff Services, which includes corporate communication.
Responding to a defenceWeb inquiry he said the “complete aircraft will be recovered to South Africa later this year” adding there was no indication of when the 56-year-old military transport will be moved – in disassembled form.
“Completion date is subject to UN and international COVID-19 protocols,” he said.
The pandemic was cited as a reason for delaying the arrival date of a South African forensic team in the eastern DRC city of Goma earlier this year. Travel regulations aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus meant the SAAF technical team’s departure for the central African country was also delayed.
According to Smith, the aircraft has been moved from where it ended up ignominiously alongside the Goma runway.
“It has been moved from its original form/position to facilitate ground support equipment access for further disassembling,” Smith is quoted as saying in the official air force response to defenceWeb’s questions.
The response does not directly answer whether the four-engined Lockheed aircraft has been written off and is no longer listed as a 28 Squadron asset. A retired SAAF officer said there “was no real possibility” of the aircraft ever returning to service. This was borne out by African Defence Review (ADR) director Darren Olivier who called it “a big blow” for the aviation component of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
He told defenceWeb after seeing photographic evidence of the aircraft: “Even if it is repairable, I doubt the SAAF will be able to afford it on their meagre budget, especially with the difficulty of replacing an outer wing section in an austere location such as Goma”.
Another who feels 403 is category five (write-off) is Dean Wingrin, unofficial SAAF website webmaster, defenceWeb correspondent and military aviation enthusiast and historian.
“This hull loss has serious implications for SAAF logistic capability. There are seven C-130BZ airframes with only two or three airworthy at any one time,” he said in the wake of the Goma crash.
The SAAF board of inquiry (BOI) into the Goma incident, which happened in the second week of January, is not yet complete. According to the official SAAF statement “certain components need further investigation”.