Continuing tough economic conditions could well open the door for the SA Air Force (SAAF) to acquire much-needed airlift capacity in the not-too-distant future.
“Fly now and pay later” is how Afrikaans daily Beeld describes talks about acquisition of Airbus A400M new generation airlifters.
Talks are at an early stage at diplomatic level, the paper said, adding they centred round a German offer that South Africa’s airborne arm of service could buy A400Ms earmarked for the Luftwaffe.
Earlier this year Germany and Spain indicated they would not be able to take delivery of all the A400M aircraft ordered due to financial constraints. Some South African aviation industry people saw this as opening a backdoor for the SAAF to return to the stable of A400M operators. No indication of the number of aircraft on offer is made.
South Africa was originally a risk sharing partner in the A400M manufacturing process but this was withdrawn by previous Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, due to cost escalations and delays.
Mike Ramagoma, personal advisor to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, told Beeld he was aware of talks about an A400M offer in the run-up to the Aerospace Africa and Defence (AAD) exhibition which ended at AFB Waterkloof on September 21.
The SAAF’s only real airlift capability resides at 28 Squadron where ageing C-130BZs are operated. The air force has a number of small C212 and C-47TP transport aircraft which are also used for things like maritime surveillance.
The SANDF has had to make extensive use of charters to provide airlift and this is likely to remain in place until such time as the Defence Review is approved by Parliament. Once the green light is given to the Review can a start be made on finalising acquisition plans for equipment and approaching Treasury for funding.
“The army, air force, navy and military health services are evaluating options. No transactions for new equipment have yet been concluded because final decisions have not yet been made,” Ramagoma told the paper.