The South African Air Force needs a new “very important person” (VIP) fleet because of the age of the incumbent aircraft, but currently has no registered projects to do so. Answering a question by Democratic Alliance MP James Masango, the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans says “[s]trategic planning is an ongoing process to determine the future required capability of any of our services.”
The ministry adds the current “VIP fleet is in need of urgent attention and we often have to charter planes when our fleet is under maintenance. Cumulative costs would make it cheaper to replenish it, especially in view of the fact that more former Heads of State require our services than in 1994.”
Answering a separate question by DA MP David Maynier, the ministry said it has spent about R20.5 million on charters since April 2009. “The South African Air Force has very limited aircraft for the responsibility of securing VVIPs and VIPs and most of these are at advanced age and often requiring repairs. The bulk of planes that are chartered is therefore occasioned by the state of the Air Force’s old aircraft and the additional responsibilities given to former President TM Mbeki by the African Union, which requires a great deal of travel.
As a result, R3 631 586.18 was spent on three charters between April 2009 and March 2010. A further R16 934 090.95 has been spent since.
The SAAF’s 21 Squadron operates a small VIP fleet including a Boeing B737-7ED business jet acquired in 2002, two Cessna Citation II’s obtained in 1982 and 1994 respectively (the last from Venda), two Dassault Falcon 50 purchased in 1982 and 1985 respectively as well as a Falcon 900 operated since 1991. Several of these were acquired second-hand, making them even older than the dates appear.