According to the Defence Works Formation (DWF) annual management plan presentation to Parliament, the relocation of 15 Squadron will happen, but it is still not clear when this will take place.
The presentation by DWF General Officer Commanding, Major General Joseph Ledwaba, earlier this week largely went about functions and work the formation has and is taking over from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI).
A one-line item under the directive “Take over facility functions from DPWI” confirms construction of an air force base at King Shaka International Airport, north of Durban. Current status of the project, as given in Ledwaba’s presentation, is “in progress”.
AFB Durban has been the lone occupant of what was Durban International Airport since 2010 when commercial flying relocated to the new airport. Then SA Air Force (SAAF) Chief, Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano, said the only east coast-based squadron, operating Agusta A-109 light utility and Oryx medium transport helicopters, would have to move. He said options were being looked at and warned cost would be an influence.
Apart from the new international airport north of Durban, Hluhluwe was mentioned as a possible new home for 15 Squadron and its support units, including protection squadron 508.
The necessity of moving AFB Durban was eased with Portnet’s announcement of a delay in starting work on a dig-out port to expand Durban harbour. The new facility is planned for what was the KwaZulu-Natal’s port city’s air link with South Africa. Local media in the province report the dig-out port project is “deferred for a couple of years” and “it will be a no-go until 2030”.
The two-star general also informed the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) the formation he commands was created to provide a work capability for the Department of Defence (DoD). This will decrease its reliance on DWPI, long a bone of contention with the senior command cadre of the national defence force.
The roots of the DFW go back to when current SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke was SA Army Chief between 2004 and 2011. His dissatisfaction with what was then the Department of Public Works saw the re-establishment of the Army Works Regiment. This grew into a formation of the land-based force and is now a full Defence Formation. This sees it serving all four services – air force, army, military health and navy – as well as divisions such as Joint Operations, Logistics and Defence Intelligence.