The most recent Operation Copper deployment in the Mozambique Channel, in addition to providing valuable “on-the-job” training for both sailors and airmen, brought to light the need for better and more sustained surveillance on this busy ocean route, possibly using UAVs and even satellites.
The airborne and maritime services of the SA National Defence Force were able to practise and hone skills needed during maritime patrol work. There was also the opportunity of being able to practice the demanding replenishment at sea task – twice. Having two maritime platforms on station effectively doubled the amount of work in terms of hailing vessels and general patrol observation.
While no-one has said exactly whose budget the deployment paid for, it is money well spent. If there is any quibbling about using joint operations funding for training or a portion of the Navy’s training budget to pay for an actual deployment, is neither here nor there.
The major outcomes – a deployment properly executed with measurable results and intelligence to take further – deserve to be noted. The intelligence gathered on the increase in fishing activity offshore of Pemba will go to the relevant Mozambican authorities and, hopefully, be taken into account for further planning as regards allocations and numbers of fishing vessels allowed in a specific area.
While no piracy-related or potential pirate incidents were logged during the three week deployment, it did fly the flag and serve notice there is military activity – both airborne and naval – to deter pirates venturing into the Mozambique Channel.
That it also put to bed the myth that Op Copper is a 24/7, 365/12 deployment comes as no surprise.