SAAF carrying out force prep exercise ahead of Vikela deployment

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In accordance with a major primary aim of the four SA National Defence Force (SANDF) services, the SA Air Force (SAAF) is executing mission readiness training in anticipation of deployment by the Joint Operations Division to Mozambique.

This year’s Exercise Winter Solstice, currently underway at the air force’s Ditholo training area north of Pretoria, is concentrating on external deployments of the air force with the majority of preparation for Operation Vikela in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province.

Ad Astra writer Captain Tebogo August reports for SANDF social media that the exercise is primarily for SAAF personnel ahead of deployment to South Africa’s eastern neighbour as part of SAMIM (Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique) next month (September). The South African component of the regional bloc deployment is termed Operation Vikela. Winter Solstice 2022 forms part of mission readiness training for “any operational deployability taskings that may arise internally and externally on the African continent”.

The exercise is reality-based and scenario-supported marking the initial stages of finalising mission readiness training, ops room procedures and other mission essential tasks (MET) to be conducted in theatres of operation, with Mozambique top of the list.

The exercise staged an open day this week with Chief of the SA Air Force Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo on hand to see how “his” men and women, in camouflage work dress and flying overalls as opposed to blue uniforms, were progressing. This, according to him, was important as the last exercise of similar nature took place seven years ago.

“We need to resuscitate the vigour for exercises. It is important to spend more time on operations and refine our skills. As we move from one exercise to the other, may we leave with the required skills,” he told exercise participants, adding: “I commend and encourage you as you go forward to be more robust and uncompromising”.

This Mbambo sees as essential to “developing the measure to survive the era of limited resources”.

The open day saw a demonstration of SA Air Force capabilities, with Hawk Mk 120 lead-in fighter-trainers taking part along with Oryx transport helicopters and C212 light transports. The Air Force also conducted a parachute drop.

Summing up the three week-long exercise Tebogo writes: “This combat readiness undertaking puts the men and women of the SANDF’s aviation component through its paces and creates an environment in which pilots, aircrew, ground crew, technicians and logisticians have the opportunity to enhance and evaluate the way they bring individual and combined skills into operation in support of the SA Army, the SA Navy (SAN) and the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS)”.