SAAF now looking to lease a VIP aircraft


Outright purchase of a VIP configured inter-continental aircraft for the South African Air Force (SAAF) appears to have been shelved – at least temporarily – in favour of a leased aircraft.

Armscor tender ETEL/2016/12, issued on Friday (April 22) and with a closing date of May 4, is for the lease of an inter-continental aircraft. The tender is classified “restricted”.

When taken in conjunction with an as yet “no decision” made public from the SAAF on a Request for Information (RfI) for the acquisition of what Armscor termed “an inter-continental air transport system in support of democracy” last October, it appears leasing is now the preferred option for another VIP jetliner for South African government VVIPs.

Three days before the lease tender was published, Armscor put out another tender pertaining to VIP air transport. Tender EANL/2016/08 seeks product support and services for the Falcon 50 and 900 aircraft operated by 21 Squadron.

This gives impetus to rumours that the current VIP bizjet, Inkwazi, is to be replaced while the older Falcons will still be used for shorter, mostly in-country trips.

Last November Armscor chief executive Kevin Wakeford said Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, was “tired of waiting for the acquisition of another VIP aircraft to happen.” She, according to him, wanted to see the new aircraft at AFB Waterkloof by the end of March.

This did not happen and it now appears a decision has been made to lease rather than purchase.

Aviation industry insiders point to one suitably configured aircraft currently available. It is an Airbus A340 that previously belonged to the Tunisian government and is apparently now standing idle at a French aviation facility.

The length of the lease, apart from the interior configuration of the aircraft, are also factors to be considered, knowledgeable industry people point out.

Another issue that has to be considered is aircrew as pilots might have to be recruited or, if currently in the SAAF, they will have to do conversions onto the new type.