Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister, Kobus Marais, received unexpected extra insight into the number of serviceable aircraft types in the SA Air Force (SAAF) when he posed a Parliamentary question on aircraft maintenance contracts.
He was informed by Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula “the SAAF has 16 aircraft in service” and the Department of Defence (DoD) “has maintenance contracts in place for 12 aircraft”.
There are more than 160 aircraft in the SAAF fleet ranging from fighter jets, lead-in fighter trainers, trainers, transports of various types and three different helicopter types making the Ministerial response erroneous. One has to assume she was speaking about aircraft types, rather than specific aircraft. This is clarified by another part of her response to Marais’ question where she tells him “maintenance contracts have not been advertised for Cessna Citation, Beechcraft King Air, Cessna Caravan, Boeing Business jet and the Dassault Falcon 50 and Falcon 100”.
Mapisa-Nqakula’s response indicated State-owned defence and security acquisition agency, Armscor, will only re-advertise maintenance contracts for air force assets “once in receipt of valid instructions from the DoD”.
She also told Marais the SAAF was “undertaking a review of its internal capabilities where an audit of Air Servicing Units (ASUs) and squadrons is undertaken to determine what work can be done and performed in-house by the SAAF”.
This in is line with what was said by SAAF Chief, Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang. Speaking at a Chief of the South African National Defence Force (CSANDF) briefing at AFB Waterkloof in October, he said plans were in place and work was being done to ensure the “SAAF had sufficient trained personnel to keep aircraft airworthy”. He was speaking specifically about 21 Squadron where the Cessna Citation and the two Falcons are on strength.
“The only maintenance the SAAF will not be able to do itself is deep maintenance and this will be outsourced,” Msimang said.
The SAAF has, according to Minister Mapisa-Nqakula, requested a review of all SAAF maintenance contracts to ensure that best value for money contracting is undertaken. This will see different tenders advertised ranging from material supply to consolidation of different contracts and contracting directly with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) or maintenance and repair organisations (MROs).
To support the SAAF Chief’s observation of “sufficient trained personnel”, Mapisa-Nqakula told Marais “new tenders will be advertised to ensure SAAF internal capabilities are enhanced”.