The South African Air Force (SAAF) says it and its sister services have so far secured South African skies for the soccer World Cup that ends this Sunday. The SAAF says in a statement that securing the national airspace “has been a huge undertaking by and has had a huge positive impact on members of the Air Force.”
The SAAF has deployed an undisclosed number of Saab Gripen advanced light fighter aircraft, BAE Systems Mk120 Hawk lead-in fighter trainers, Pilatus Astra PC7 Mk2 turboprop trainers as well as Agusta A109 light utility, Denel M1 Oryx medium utility helicopters and mobile radars to secure the event that began June 11. The mobile radars have augmented the air picture generated by the SAAF’s static radar and that of the Air Traffic Navigation Service. Also assisting are frigates of the SA Navy and local warning radar assigned to the SA Army’s air defence artillery.
The SAAF says it has to date screened 12 621 civil and commercial aircrew and issued 51 294 flight authorisations. “In terms of this volume, the violations were low and comprised less than 0.1% of flights authorised,” it says.
“In terms of non-compliance various options were used to deal with the matter. In the first instance non-compliant aircraft were prevented from departure by either SAPS [SA Police Service] Airfield Liaison Officers or Air Traffic Controllers at various airports In cases where aircraft were already airborne and a high state of security was required, violators were either requested to divert and land at airfields outside the secure area or were intercepted and then escorted where possible to a secure airport.
“During periods of lower security aircraft already airborne were allowed to complete their flight with action only taken on landing. Aircraft were also intercepted as a precautionary measure in order to validate their aircraft registration and type when arriving from areas outside radar coverage,” the statement adds. The process followed by the SAPS varied in accordance with the cause of non-compliance as well the required state of security at the time of the incident. This process varied from refusing Security Screening Codes to crew for future flights, charges with court action, to merely admonishing the crew and briefing them on the process to be followed in future.
The SAAF notes more detailed statistics will only be made available on completion of the event and within norms acceptable to the security of future events. The restrictions are being removed as the matches are completed per venue. The final restrictions will be lifted in the Gauteng Area at the end of the tournament on Sunday.