The South African Air Force will be getting new medium and light transport aircraft in the next decade, according to the Department of Defence.
In its 2018/19 budget, the Department said the long-delayed acquisition would start from next year. According to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV), the 2017 Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) indicated that the Air Defence programme of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would increase significantly towards 2019/20 with an additional R1.4 billion allocated for the procurement of new medium and light transport aircraft and a new generation mobile communications capability.
“While this process of capitalisation was set to start in 2018/19, the 2018 ENE reveals that such funding will only commence from 2019/20 onwards,” the PCDMV stated last month.
The Committee added that it was a “strategic concern” that the expansion of the Air Defence programme was being delayed.
This is most likely due to the declining defence budget, which shrank from R48.999 billion in 2017/18 to R47.949 billion for 2018/19. This represents a 2% decrease in nominal terms, but a 7% decrease in real terms – defence as a percentage of GDP for 2018/19 stands at only 0.95%.
The Air Defence Programme received a real reduction in its allocation of 10.81% for 2018/19. This is the second consecutive real reduction of more than 10% for the Air Defence programme, which saw a 10.56% reduction in 2017/18.
The already struggling Transport and Maritime Capability in 2018/19 received a 19.76% allocation reduction to R675 million from R798 million.
The SAAF has been trying to acquire transport as well as maritime surveillance aircraft for years, but to no avail. Project Saucepan aimed to replace the C-47TP maritime surveillance aircraft, and was later replaced by Project Metsi, for maritime patrol/surveillance aircraft, and Project Kiepie for light transport aircraft. However, the SAAF budget over the last few years has made no provision for these acquisitions and it is not clear if the budget for these will be deferred again.