Tomorrow (Wednesday, May 4) is the closing date for submission of tenders to lease a VIP aircraft to the SA Air Force (SAAF), an option the Democratic Alliance (DA) strongly opposes.
The lease option was put into the public domain just on two weeks ago and appears to have been selected because the SAAF could not reach a decision on aircraft selection based on the Request for Information (RfI) issued in November by Armscor.
DA shadow defence and military minister Kobus Marais said the lease tender was unnecessary because there is “no need to acquire a new presidential jet as the current jet Inkwazi remains under-utilised and other alternatives, including commercial travel, represent a viable alternative”.
He indicated Parliamentary questions would be submitted relating to the tender and additionally, “all Parliamentary mechanisms available will be used to halt the deal”.
Marais was also critical of the initial decision to acquire another VIP aircraft when there are other, more pressing, needs for the SAAF.
These include an upgrade of airlift capability, currently provided by C-130BZ Hercules that have been in service for more than 50 years at AFB Waterkloof-based 28 Squadron, and maritime patrol and reconnaissance. This capability currently resides in the venerable C-47TPs operated for even longer by AFB Ysterplaat-based 35 Squadron.
“Aircraft to do this work are needed rather than to transport VIPs,” he said.
Military aviation watchers have also pointed out the maritime capability of the SAAF, even when aligned to that of the SA Navy, comes nowhere near fulfilling South Africa’s international commitments in terms of search and rescue at sea. This also applies to the air force’s ability to properly patrol in support of maritime operations against poachers, human and arms traffickers, and other criminal acts at sea.