US military aid supports SAAF C-130s


The military aid that South Africa receives from the United States every year largely goes towards supporting the Air Force’s fleet of nine C-130 Hercules aircraft.

According to an official from the US military’s Africa Command (Africom), most of the $750 000 per year of the US government’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grant money is used to support Hercules aircraft, and includes things like buying spares and providing aircrew training. Aircrew use simulators in the United States to practice emergency procedures that would be too risky with real aircraft.

In 2010 and 2011 South Africa was scheduled to receive $800 000 in Foreign Military Financing, according to the US Department of State. Foreign Military Financing to South Africa topped out at around $1 million but now stands at around $750 000 per annum, according to the Africom official.

Other foreign military financing goes towards the South African Navy – money goes towards an adaptor on a submarine hatch collar, the official said.

In addition to Foreign Military Financing, the SAAF has also benefitted from excess defence articles, which are received at a fraction of the original cost. The SAAF took delivery of seven new C-130B Hercules in 1963, of which six remain in use. Three ex-US Navy C-130F aircraft were acquired in 1996, with a further two ex-US Air Force C-130Bs delivered in 1998, all under the United States Excess Defence Articles Programme. The F models were retired shortly after delivery, but the nine C-130Bs were upgraded and modernised between 1996 to 2009 to the C-130BZ configuration, incorporating a modern glass cockpit.

The South African Air Force has nine C-130s in its inventory, with an average of three flying at any one time and the rest undergoing maintenance and checks.

The US FMF programme provides grants and loans to assist foreign nations in purchasing US-made weapons, defence articles, services and military training. US Congress appropriates FMF funds in the International Affairs Budget, while the Department of State allocates the funds for eligible friends and allies, and the Department of Defence executes the programme.

The FMF programme in Africa has grown from $16 million in fiscal year 2008 to $45 million in fiscal year 2011. Approximately 18 nations receive grants through the FMF program. In FY2011, the largest benefitting country in the Africom area of responsibility was Tunisia with an allocation of $17 million, followed by Morocco with $9 million and Liberia with $7 million.

The countries within the AFRICOM area of responsibility that receive FMF include: Botswana, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Uganda.