The South African Air Force will focus on building capacity, transformation, youth development and reserve force capacity in 2014, according to Lieutenant General Fabian Msimang, who made the remarks to SA National Defence Force graduates at the Air Force Day parade at AFB Waterkloof on Saturday.
The 2014 annual Air Force Day marked the founding of the South African Air Force (SAAF) 94 years ago on 1 February 1920 and for the first time in some 20 years also included a passing out parade, for 52 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members who successfully completed Basic Military Training Course 2 of 2013, presented between 14 August 2013 and 1 February 2014 at the Basic Military Training School at Boston near Hoedspruit.
“I convey our congratulations to the successful graduates who are now members of a proud warrior class of this glorious National Defence Force,” Air Force chief Msimang said. “Airmen, as I look into your eyes, I know you will carry us even further, even higher…You are now soldiers.”
During his address, Msimang said the Air Force will focus on the Department of Defence’s (DoD’s) key priorities to keep the Air Force fast, flexible, versatile, effective and efficient. “I see another great Air Force year, because we have the resilience to make it through any tough economic times. In an environment of high demands and obligations, we have accomplished our missions as directed by the broader DoD.”
Referring to the tight budget the Air Force has to work with, Msimang thanked the Air Force Command Council for having “ably met and dealt with serious challenges associated with resource allocation constraints.” He added that the SAAF was committed to the use of the Reserve force in light of budgetary constraints and has consistently used, trained and develop “this cost effective segment of our human capital.”
The SAAF chief added that the rollout of the University Reserve Training Programme is continuing in the SAAF and that the SAAF College has established a Reserve Training section dedicated to training University Reserve Training Programme students.
“The SAAF is doing everything possible to remove all the remaining obstacles that keep our Reserve Force Squadrons grounded. I need the Reserve Squadrons to get back to flying in order to add capacity to the SAAF’s core business, especially against the background of our ever-increasing responsibilities and commitments in support of the South African government’s peace initiatives on the African continent.”
Regarding peacekeeping operations in Africa, Msimang said this was part of striving for a strong, peaceful, united and prosperous Africa. “But to achieve this we must be ready to rewrite its history with our blood, ready to serve, and if need be, ready to die.”
He added that South Africa’s foreign policy requires the development of partnerships and allies and the portrayal or a defensive posture. Part of this process involves the continued formalising and strengthening of defence relations and signing Memoranda of Understanding.
“Our National Defence Force has equally embraced the national priority of ensuring SADC’s unity and cohesion. We will continue to play a collaborative and constructive role in our sub-regional forums such as the Inter-State Defence and security committee and ensure an enduring focus on the establishment of the African Standby Force and by extension the SADC Standby Force. While we forge ahead with the African Standby Force, we will equally be steadfast in seeking innovative mechanisms such as the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis as an interim instrument for our continent to intervene when the needs arises.”
Msimang highlighted the SAAF’s very successful contribution to defeating M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through the deployment of Oryx and more importantly Rooivalk helicopters with the UN mission there. “The SANDF has successfully operationalized and deployed the pride of the SAAF – the Rooivalk attack helicopter – to the DRC,” he said, in the type’s first ever combat deployment.
“This platform is also a demonstration of what is possible if we work together – and by together I mean the SANDF and the SA defence industry. Together we have designed, developed, produced and fielded the best in class in terms of an attack helicopter.
“As the SAAF and the SANDF, we are committed to making sure that we support the South African defence industry and work with them as a partner of choice in meeting our requirements. This does not mean we will not source from foreign suppliers but that in doing so we will optimise the South African Defence Industry’s beneficiation through localisation.”
Msimang said the Air Force was committed to its strategic partners both locally and abroad such as the A-Darter air-to-air missile project with Brazil.
During the Air Force Day ceremony, numerous awards were given out to the SANDF graduates and Air Force units. Air Force Base Makhado won the Prestige Unit of the Air Force award for 2013. Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was supposed to present the award, but as she was not present at the parade, this was done by Msimang.