Spending a billion Rand to upgrade two ageing SA Air Force (SAAF) medium transport aircraft does not necessitate a project being registered.
That’s the word from State-owned defence and security materiel agency and project manager Armscor. Responding to a defenceWeb inquiry, Liziwe Nkonyana, its Senior Manager: Corporate Communication, said the C-130BZ work was part of in-service support and no project name is registered for it. Work is being done at Marshall Aerospace in Cambridge, United Kingdom, where Project Ebb was executed on the same type some two decades ago.
The SAAF plans to keep its six remaining C-130BZ medium transports airworthy. Tail numbers of the C-130s the SAAF wants serviceable are 401, 402, 405, 406, 408 and 409 (404 had a nose gear collapse while performing a touch and go in 2010).
According to Nkonyane, the upgrade and refurbishment of the 28 Squadron aircraft is “to address obsolescence, compliance with mandatory aviation authority regulations and aircraft servicing”. This means a project name is not needed as it is not an upgrade – “we are just conducting modifications and aircraft servicing”.
Each of the two upgrades covered by the current tranche of National Treasury funding is expected to take around 18 months, with the first underway following the arrival of aircraft 409 in Cambridge earlier this month.
Refurbishing and overhauling all six C-130BZs would cost just over R4 billion with R1 billion allocated so far for aircraft 405 and 409. 405’s major service and upgrade is scheduled for mid-2024.
Under Project Ebb, Marshall Aerospace upgraded the SAAF C-130 fleet to C-130BZ standard (three aircraft were upgraded in the UK and the remaining six in South Africa by Denel) in the late nineties. The upgrade covered a major avionics upgrade package giving the aircraft a modern glass cockpit.
The SAAF aims to have one or two C-130s operational at any time while the others undergo maintenance.