The South African Air Force is in need of a customised maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) to replace the 60+ year old Douglas C47TP “Turbo Dak” currently used in that role by Cape Town-based 35 Squadron.
The SAAF have not had a bespoke MPA since retiring the Avro Shackleton MR3 in 1984. The flying service has been operating the C47 since1943. They have been impressed as surrogate MPAs since 1985 and the 35 Squadron fleet were upgraded to turboprop standard in 1994.
“The MPA is very high on our agenda,” says SAAF chief Carlo Gagiano. The Dakota is currently the weak link in the frigate-Lynx-MPA triangle.
The 35 Squadron website notes that the C47TP “carries no maritime specific systems, such as acoustics, electronic support measures or weapons, thus relying solely on the capability of the crew for the success of the mission.
“For this reason the Squadron can only assist the Navy in limited anti-submarine and anti-surface unit warfare,” the SAAF says.
“However, recent successes during joint anti-submarine training exercises, where the crew was able to spot the “enemy” submarine`s periscope using only the aircraft radar and their eyes, are proof of the Squadron`s persistence in maritime excellence.”
Gagiano says he is keen to replace the C47, which is also used for transport and paratrooping tasks, with a similar multipurpose platform.
“What we will do is have a common platform for the aircraft. [Size-wise it will] be in between the EADS Casa 212 [Aviocar] and the [Airbus Military] A400M [loadmaster].
“It will be something like an EADS Casa C295 [Persuader] or the [Alenia] C27J [Spartan] with the capability to conduct maritime patrol and transport.”
Gagiano added the aircraft would carry sensors and arms, including sonobuoys, antisubmarine weapons and missiles.
He says numbers must still be decided. “We anticipate a gradual build up, not a single purchase. We are still thinking of numbers, but with something that has the reliability of a C295, you can reduce the numbers because the availability is so much better.”
Sources say the SAAF is contemplating a fleet of five aircraft.