Six SAAF assets tasked for Op Chariot in KZN


The airborne element of the national defence force’s “call to arms” in response to widespread flooding in KwaZulu-Natal in April saw six SA Air Force (SAAF) assets deployed.

Activation of two Cessna 208 Caravans alongside a pair of BK 117 helicopters, an Agusta A109 light utility helicopter and an Oryx medium transport helicopter was in line with a Joint Operations Division directive and an air support request issued by Joint Tactical Headquarters in the flood-ravaged province.

The information on aircraft taskings was given to Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald in response to a question asked of Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise.

The Caravans are based at Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof on the strength of 41 Squadron with the BK 117s coming from 15 Squadron’s Charlie Flight at AFB Gqeberha – the only squadrons operating these types. The Agusta and Oryx would in all probability be 15 Squadron machines. The squadron is still based at what was Durban International Airport before King Shaka International was taken into service. The heavy rain and subsequent flooding affected the squadron at its last lone aviation outpost on the northern perimeter of the now defunct airport.

Tasks undertaken by helicopter crews included search and rescue, with an emphasis on recovering bodies; supporting humanitarian aid distribution and trooping soldiers, sappers and other SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel to where needed, as well as aerial reconnaissance, with the high-wing, single-engined C208s also contributing. The Ministerial reply indicates both the 41 Squadron aircraft were part of a 20 April search and rescue mission.