COVID-19 delays new AFB Durban build


Another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa is the new air force base at Durban’s King Shaka International Airport – with occupancy now expected “around the end of 2025”.

“Work commenced in 2019 with environmental impact assessment as well as the landscaping (levelling of the ground). The construction timeframe is five years, however it will be moved to the right with a year due to the lost year as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. According to time schedule, the new base is anticipated to be occupied around the end of 2025 to the beginning of 2026 provided that no other external factors impede the construction progress (sic),” was how SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Director: Corporate Communication, Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, responded to a defenceWeb enquiry on progress for a new home for 15 Squadron and the SA Air Force’s (SAAF’s) only base in KwaZulu-Natal. The squadron’s Charlie Flight is based at Port Elizabeth with BK-117s.

The helicopter squadron with its Oryx medium transport and Agusta A109 light utility helicopters will remain the lone aviation occupant of what was Durban International Airport, previously Louis Botha Airport, south of the port city’s central business district until then with its associated protection unit, 508 Squadron.

Commercial flying relocated from the then Durban International to the newly built King Shaka International in 2010, when South Africa became the first African country to host a FIFA Soccer World Cup final tournament.

The old airport was earmarked as the expansion site of the Durban port facility with a dig-out harbour to be developed. This has, to all accounts and purposes, been put on indefinite hold by Portnet apparently because of non-compliance with environmental legislation and regulations.

In response to defenceWeb questions on what facilities there will be at the new base, this publication was told it “will resemble any other SAAF base consisting of hangars, offices and accommodation for the crew and key personnel”. The new base inside the King Shaka International perimeter will have its “own entrance and exit and conform to all standards of a military base”. Its exact location was not disclosed.