State armaments company Armscor is internationally marketing surplus Cessna 185 light aircraft, PC-7 trainers and Samil trucks. The corporation has nine Cessna 185s and nearly a dozen PC-7s on offer, together with a substantial amount of Samils.
Thati Phalatse, Manager: Sales, Defence Materiel Disposal at Armscor, told defenceWeb at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi last week that Armscor is progressing with the Cessna 185 disposal project and will soon release a tender for the purchase of the aircraft.
The South African Air Force purchased numerous Cessna 185 light observation and utility aircraft from 1965. These were progressively withdrawn, until approximately ten of the type remained in service in 2006. However, an electrical fire in the system managers’ office at AFB Waterkloof in 2006 resulted in the destruction of all the maintenance records. Unable to recompile the records, the SAAF withdrew all the remaining aircraft from service.
Phalatse said the Air Force has the Cessna 185 record books but Armscor is yet to receive them. Armscor last year confirmed that they have received all the necessary approvals to dispose of the Cessnas. However, without a full paper trail, the Civil Aviation Authority may only permit them to be registered in the restricted category.
Regarding the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II Astras, Armscor is still working on the paperwork and will check with Pilatus to see if they are willing to let Armscor dispose of the aircraft. Phalatse said that disposing of the PC-7s will take longer than selling the Cessnas – he estimated it would be a minimum of six months before everything is in order for a sale to occur. He confirmed that there has been interest in the PC-7s.
“As soon as the paperwork is done, we will go for an open tender,” Phalatse said. However, he noted that a single country may decide to buy the entire fleet. He said that 99% of the interest in the PC-7 has come from private people.
The SAAF purchased 60 PC-7 Mk IIs in 1993. As the aircraft were fitted with a South African developed avionics suite, they received the local name of Pilatus Astra. The locally-developed avionics degraded over the years and the original avionic manufacturer was no longer in business. This resulted in the Astra no longer being allowed to fly in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC).
Pilatus Aircraft Ltd was awarded a contract in October 2008 to upgrade the avionics suites of 35 Astras. It is believed that the remaining aircraft will have to be upgraded, as the original avionic system will not be supported. defenceWeb has also reliably learnt that the single Pratt &Whitney Canada PT6A-25C turboprop engine fitted to each surplus Astra is time expired and in need of a major overhaul before it can be used again.
In addition to aircraft, Armscor has a “substantial” amount of Samil trucks to dispose of. Phalatse said that these are various ex-South African Army models (Samil 20/50/100). In the past Armscor has sold many Samils to local companies. As they feature a convoy light, they are classified as controlled items and thus have their convoy lights removed before being sold.
Phalatse said that Armscor has recently sold 90 mm ammunition to African countries and also sells general scrap. He noted that Armscor does not deal in the disposal of small arms under 12.7 mm calibre due to strict arms control laws.