Ex Blue Okavango focuses on regional humanitarian aid


The SA Air Force (SAAF) has confirmed its participation in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) humanitarian aid assistance exercise Blue Okavango currently underway in Botswana.

As background to the exercise, SAAF Brigadier General Marthie Visser said: “SADC air force chiefs took a decision to hold a biennial SADC air component exercise involving all regional air forces/arms/ wings during a Standing Aviation Committee meeting held in Maputo in March 2010”.

The first exercise concentrating solely on humanitarian aid in times of disaster was hosted by South Africa a year later. Angola hosted the second in 2013 and Botswana is now hosting the third iteration of Exercise Blue Okavango which started more than a week ago.

Nine of the 15 SADC member states are taking part in the exercise. They are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

According to Visser the exercise involves about 1,000 participants from SADC air forces/arms/wings who will conduct humanitarian relief operations training.

SAAF Colonel Padi Khoase is South Africa contingent commander for the exercise. Included in the South African deployment are the Gripen, Oryx, Agusta, C-130, C-208, and C-47TP, mobile sector control, tactical command and control communications container SAAF systems. She did not give numbers of aircraft deployed to South Africa’s north-western neighbour for Blue Okavango, headquartered at Maun airport.

Included in the exercise’s set objectives are practice of SADC air doctrine, joint transport, helicopter, fighter and command and control operations to validate inter-operability and compatibility of multi-national components. Another objective is the improvement of co-operation in military operations among the nine countries taking part.

The training component will focus on strengthening joint distribution of humanitarian aid with NGOs, testing and validating joint fighters’ capability, exercising multi-national joint staff planning in humanitarian aid operations and for aircrews to practice tactical and air transport missions for humanitarian aid.

Air component commanders and staff officers will also plan and execute humanitarian aid relief and supporting efforts by way of a command post exercise (CPX) and execution of the generated plans during a field training exercise (FTX).

Blue Okavango is set to end on July 31.