The SA Air Force (SAAF) did not meet its own set targets for flying hours in the 2019/20 financial year, with total hours and VVIP hours both less than planned.
According to the Department of Defence annual report for that financial year, the airborne service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) expected aircraft from its VIP squadron – 21 – to spend a thousand hours moving top government people, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, to and from important meetings and events locally, continentally and internationally. The target was missed by 92.9 hours.
All told, the SAAF planned for aircraft in its fleet to be airborne for 17 200 hours with by far the majority – 12 200 – used for force preparation.
Four thousand hours were set aside by SAAF budget planners for use in force employment of SAAF assets. Two thousand five hundred and seventy-six of these were used.
No detail of which aircraft types, classes or missions, for example, cargo, trooping, search and rescue or mercy flights are provided. The report does not specify whether helicopters or fixed wing aircraft were utilised but notes hours flown are dependent on “the number of serviceable aircraft and operational taskings received”.
The report states “the SAAF continued to provide support to the joint force employment requirements, despite air defence capabilities remaining under pressure due to budget constraints”.
It says the SAAF has to provide four helicopter squadrons and a combat support helicopter squadron as its commitment to the Department of Defence (DoD) air defence programme. Other commitments in this regard include three medium transport squadrons – a VIP squadron, as well as one maritime and transport, a light transport and “nine reserve squadrons”. 2 Squadron flying its Gripen jets out of AFB Makhado is the sole air combat squadron required as per the air defence programme which also has the responsibility for ensuring there is a 24 hour air command and control capability.