Loadmaster weighs heavy on Airbus, and other thoughts

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Welcome to 2009. I trust you have had a great New Year and that we all will have a prosperous 12 months before us.
As reported on this page last year, this will be a busy period. I have posted a provisional diary to guide defenceWeb coverage on the site. It can be accessed under the “looking forward” icon. Please let me know of any errors or omissions.
Welcome to 2009. I trust you have had a great New Year and that we all will have a prosperous 12 months before us.
As reported on this page last year, this will be a busy period. I have posted a provisional diary to guide defenceWeb coverage on the site. It can be accessed under the “looking forward” icon. Please let me know of any errors or omissions.
 
MSDS
The year is already under way. The annual intake of Military Skills Development System recruits have largely reported to bases around the country for basic military training (BMT). They are currently being inducted into their respective Services and will shortly start 20 weeks (five months) of initial training.
For some Services this training is nearly twice as long as in previous years, reflecting the combined military leadership`s concern with fitness, discipline and basic military skills. Army BMT was just 14 weeks a year ago and 12 weeks (three months) earlier this decade, demonstrating the land service`s commitment – among others – to meaningfully address this problem.     
Noteworthy as well is the size of this year`s intake: 5452 recruits versus 4280 the year before. Treasury has showed a commitment to fund larger intakes in coming years, taking the DoD closer to the figure of 10 000 recruits a year, which will further rejuvenate the regular ranks and make a start along similar lines in the Reserve component.
African Thorn
Staying with training… About 180 British soldiers and airmen today start a Company Group exercise at the SA Army Combat Training Centre at Lohatlha in the Northern Cape.  
The exercise, African Thorn 09, takes place under a bilateral agreement between SA and Britain reaffirmed in February 2007. This year`s edition, for which the UK is recompensing SA, winds up on 7 March. It should be interesting to compare this subunit of troops in training with local peers. Perhaps there will be opportunity for that….
Airbus
On the subject of thorns, the latest news of the Airbus A400M Loadmaster programme is not good. The pan-European project of which SA is also a workshare partner, has long run behind schedule. Now there will be further delay – at least three years` worth. There will also be cost-overruns. SA was hoping to pay about R7.4 billion for eight of the aircraft that Chief of the Air Force Carlo Gagiano sees as key to his Service`s ability to support the SA National Defence Force and our country`s foreign policy.
Airbus and EADS will in coming weeks engage the plane`s launch customers on the road ahead. Judging by CEO Tom Enders` comments in Toulouse yesterday, it will be a rocky one. Companies do not often describe their internal structures or contracts that they (freely) signed as recipes for disaster. What went wrong?    
Reuters reports the UK is not happy with the talk of delay. The country has already bought six examples of rival Boeing`s C17 Globemaster III. Australia, in many respects a strategic mirror of South Africa`s, has also bought four, saying it is, in comparison to the A400M a “proven aircraft” and in production. When might the European launch customers say “enough!” and walk away? What would the impact of that be on the SAAF`s Project Continent?             
I`m reminded of US IT-mogul and politician H Ross Perot who once told Larry King an activist was not someone who told you a river was polluted, but was the person who cleaned up the mess. Let us hope Enders is the latter sort of activist.    
 
 
Pyotr Velikiy
This week also saw the arrival and departure of the Russian battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy (Peter the Great) for the Horn of Africa where the veritable floating fort will assist in efforts to eradicate piracy along one of the world`s busiest waterways.  
The nuclear-powered fortress is the world`s largest operational warship barring the US Navy`s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers and it made for an imposing sight in Table Bay. Of interest as well is that it is the first friendly visit by a Russian warship to our waters since the 1997 Naval Review and comes 200 years after the first port call in 1809. As the ship`s captain said, we too hope it will not be another 200 years – literally or figuratively – before the next visit.