Reduced availability of aircraft negatively affecting SAAF flying hours


Constrained funding is affecting the ability of the South African Air Force (SAAF) to provide enough serviceable aircraft, which is negatively affecting flying hours.

This was revealed during a progress report from the Department of Defence (DoD) presented at a Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) meeting on 18 August.

The Department of Defence said the reduced availability of aircraft is negatively affecting hours flown. Helicopter systems have a critical spares shortage which is because of procurement processes with long lead times and a backlog of spares. Transport and combat systems have similar issues.

“Constrained funding is also affecting the ability to provide enough serviceable aircraft, although serious efforts are being made to ensure availability is increased within the reduced budget,” the Committee heard, after expressing concern about the fact that the SA Air Force is not able to meet its flying hour targets.

“Attention is being given to effective planning for spares procurement to try and compensate for long lead times. It is envisaged that this will aid the SA Air Force in obtaining higher levels of serviceability allowing more flying hours to be flown to achieve the stated goals as per the Annual Performance Plan,” the DoD said.

Obsolescence, availability of spares (due to long lead times and funding challenges) and resulting difficulty in maintaining aircraft are the main issues that can affect attaining of flying hour targets, the DoD explained. “In addition to this, force employment flying hours are dependent on taskings by Chief Joint Operations and VVIP and this can mean targets are not met if taskings are below what was estimated.”

During the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year, the SA Air Force flew 3 560.8 hours, including 2 717 Force Preparation hours; 636.7 Force Employment hours; and 207.1 VVIP flying hours.

Some recent SAAF highlights include providing the Department of Health with fixed wing aircraft for the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines throughout South Africa from 1 April 2021 to date. During the last weeks of April, 22 Squadron Oryx helicopters assisted the City of Cape Town with a serious fire that broke out on Table Mountain. Apart from assisting in extinguishing fires, hikers trapped by the flames were also rescued. Additional firefighting was also performed in the first week of May with the extinguishing of the fire that broke out in Simons Town.