Modise sidesteps Lekota question on serviceable SAAF fighters

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Mosiuoa Lekota, who was at the helm of South Africa’s defence and military veterans ministry at the time the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP) was finalised in the late 1990s, still shows an interest in what has happened to the sharp-end equipment he oversaw into service with the SA Air Force (SAAF) and SA Navy (SAN).

He was not given a number by current minister Thandi Modise, replying to how many Gripen and Hawk fighters are “restored to active service”. Lekota sought numbers by way of a Parliamentary question telling the minister his information was two out of 26 Gripen advanced light fighter aircraft (ALFA) and three of 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainers (LIFTs) were airworthy. Could she please supply him with current numbers?

The COPE (Congress of the People) leader and public representative had to be content with an explanation not involving serviceable aircraft numbers.

Modise’s response reads: “The Chief of the SA Air Force recently approved a seven year plan (MTSF [medium term strategic framework] plus Plan 2030) with an end-state of an organisation which is affordable, sustainable and responsive. This plan seeks to ensure prime mission equipment (PME) will be held at the minimum level of capability maturity required with provision to optimise as and when the threat scenario changes”.

“Plan 2030 Focus of Main Effort in so far as PME is concerned is the rejuvenation of core capabilities by means of essential life extensions, mid-life upgrades, and disposal management in order to reduce baseline costs.”

“Furthermore, the Strategic Capital Acquisition Master Plan (SCAMP) has been virtually depleted, thereby not allowing rejuvenation of fleets through acquisition of replacement prime mission equipment.

“In FY2023/24 the National Treasury allocated an additional R1 billion for the upgrade and/or acquisition of the Medium Air Transport Capability. This funding will be utilised to conduct aircraft servicing, address the urgent regulatory and obsolescence issues faced by the current Medium Air Transport Capability and procure additional spares and engines. This funding only partially addresses the Medium Air Transport Capability Fleet Requirement and is not sufficient to acquire replacement aircraft”.