Lesotho military aviators call on the SAAF

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The SA Air Force College (SAAFCOL) in Thaba Tshwane this week hosted a Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Air Wing delegation.

As with other foreign air forces calling on their South African counterparts, the LDF Air Wing visit “renewed” bilateral relations between the airborne services as well as briefed the men from the mountain kingdom on training and development programmes at SAFCOL.

The college, in the heart of the unofficial South African military capital, Thaba Tshwane, currently runs three courses – one each for junior and senior supervisors and a junior officers’ administrative course.

The primary purpose of training at SAAFCOL and in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is to ensure sufficient trained personnel, with adequate skills, are available to execute “defined tasks necessary to achieve the aim of the national defence force” reports SAAFCOL communication intern Hedges Phetlhu.

The visit included a tour of SAAFCOL facilities with the visiting airmen sitting in on a portion of the junior officers’ administrative course. This, Phetlhu wrote, “allowed them to witness day-to-day operations and functioning of SAAFCOL, giving them an overview of the college mandate”.

SAAFCOL Officer Commanding, Colonel Hoosein Maal, told his visitors the training approach at the college revolved around “first: we are soldiers; second: we are airmen and third: we are specialists”.

Last month, members of the Lesotho Defence Force visited South Africa under a co-operation agreement aimed at furthering air arm training. SAAF and LDF officials were at the end of August scheduled to discuss the hosting of LDF Air Wing members in South Africa for courses, and the introduction of joint exercises between the two organisations.

The LDF Air Wing relies on outside sources for pilot training as it has no in-house capacity. The SAAF has trained numerous pilots from its landlocked neighbour, while others were training at commercial flying schools.

The LDF has a small Air Wing, with its most modern aircraft three Airbus Helicopters H125s. Several C212s and a single GA-8 Airvan fixed wing aircraft are believed to be in service, along with several Bell 412s and a couple of BO 105s.

The LDF is tasked mainly with border control and managing internal security issues, such as cattle rustling, as well as search and rescue. It contributes a company-sized infantry force to the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), with the Air Wing providing a C212 for light transport duties.