SA Air Force (SAAF) Chief Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo now chairs the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Standing Aviation Committee (SAC).
His chairmanship of the regional bloc aviation committee was “an important event as the responsibilities of SADC air forces now is under South Africa,” Mbambo is reported as saying by Ad Astra editor, Captain Tebogo August. Elaborating, he is quoted as telling those present at a recent Air Force communication and operational forum that, “we are all aware of the many challenges in the region for the SADC air forces to tackle under these limited funding conditions”.
The SADC Standing Aviation Committee usually meets once a year, on a rotational basis among members. The meetings are convened in line with the aims and ideals of the SADC Inter-State Defence and Security Committee (ISDSC). Established in 1977, the ISDSC is a forum for defence and security co-operation and played a crucial role in the liberation struggles of SADC members.
“Blue Exercises of SADC Air Forces must still take place in the midst of peacekeeping responsibilities that must be attended to. The humanitarian disasters are on the rise in the form of floods and fires, the rise in armed terrorist groupings that are destabilising the region is on the rise, challenging the traditional approach of peacekeeping and the use of air assets in the peacekeeping domains,” is how August reported on the air force chief’s additional responsibility.
Numerous humanitarian relief exercises have been conducted by SADC members to improve co-ordination and co-operation among air forces and air wings in joint air operations, in line with the ISDSC and Standing Aviation Committee efforts: the SADC Standing Aviation Committee decided to hold a ‘blue’ exercise approximately every two years, starting with Exercise Blue Hungwe in Zimbabwe in 1997.
Other blue series exercises by SADC air arms have taken place in South Africa (Blue Crane in 1999, Blue Cluster in 2011), Tanzania (Blue Ruvuma in 2006), Angola (Blue Zambezi in 2011), Zimbabwe (Blue Leopard in 2013), Botswana (Blue Okavango in 2015), and Namibia (Blue Kunene in 2017).
The aim of the recent Air Force forum, August reported, was “to take the SAAF back to its glory days with fresh, innovative ideas that highlight that reaching greater heights is possible when the African eagle is free”.
Mbambo said at the forum, which ended on 2 November, “We aim to be on par with matters of combat readiness and the world’s pioneering developments, as our mandate is getting broader by the minute. We are at the heart of securing the lives and safety of the people of this country and we do that with fruitful collaborations with captains of the industry including the ATNS [Air Traffic and Navigation Services of South Africa], CSIR [Council for Scientific and Industrial Research], SANSA [South African National Space Agency], and the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] Summit, to name but a few, and the society at large. This is because the enduring debate on guns and butter is an old argument which does not surrender easily without casualties in any society”.