No maintenance contracts in place for multiple SAAF aircraft types

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Armscor does not have maintenance contracts in place for three of the South African Air Force’s (SAAF’s) aircraft types, with challenges finding a C-47TP maintainer indicating the type could be permanently grounded.

The King Air, Caravan and C-47TP fleets do not have maintenance contracts in place, according to an Armscor presentation delivered to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) in mid-September.

Armscor is in the process of appointing a contractor for King Air maintenance, having received three bids from May this year. Less good news concerns the Caravan fleet, as the only bidder “failed capability analysis” and the bid was cancelled in July. The SAAF is now discussing adding an avionics upgrade to a new maintenance support contract.

Prospects for the C-47TP fleet to return to the air remain poor, as a request for bids this year elicited no valid bids, and Armscor was forced to cancel the process for the second time. “The Dakota C-47TP is a very old aircraft, thus the support for this aircraft is very limited in South Africa and the world,” Armscor stated. “Due to the age of the aircraft, it is no longer supported by the OEM [original equipment manufacturer]. There are no AMOs [aircraft maintenance organisations] with a Dakota C-47TP stipulated on the Operational Specification.”

Armscor added that there have been numerous attempts to get a support contract for the C-47TP Dakota fleet since 2018, which resulted in no valid bids and several user requirement specification amendments. “Discussion are being held with SAAF regarding the future usage of the aircraft due to reasons indicated above,” Armscor state in its presentation to the PCDMV.

Regarding the rest of the SAAF fleet, maintenance contracts are in place for most other aircraft types, although not all are fully funded. On the fixed wing side, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) contracts are in place for the Boeing Business Jet, Falcon fleet, C212, and PC-12, although the PC-12 is not serviceable as the engine requires an overhaul.

The PC-7 Mk II contract will end in less than a year and a replacement has yet to be placed. The situation is the same with Rooivalk and Oryx support contracts. As for the rest of the rotary wing fleet, Leonardo South Africa is responsible for A109 airframe support, and Airbus Helicopters responsible for BK 117 support. It is expected a new product support contract for the Super Lynx 300 will be in place by 20 October 2023.

For the combat fleet, Gripen engine and airframe contracts are in place as are Hawk Mk 120 engine and airframe contracts.