Project Hoefyster, for new Badger infantry fighting vehicles for the SA Army, is not feasible in its current form and there is concern Projects Biro and Hotel, for new SA Navy vessels, will not be fully funded, the Department of Defence (DoD) has said.
In a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) at the beginning of May, Secretary for Defence Gladys Sonto Kudjoe outlined the DoD’s goals and challenges.
She said a budgetary review recognises that Project Hoefyster is not feasible for Denel, Armscor or the DoD in its current form. According to the DoD’s presentation, when cabinet decides the future of Denel, Project Hoefyster may receive some direction.
On the matter of Denel, Kudjoe said the consequence of a potential collapse of the defence and technology conglomerate has been raised at the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, taken to the National Security Council and taken to Cabinet.
Project Hotel, for the provision of a new hydrographic survey vessel for the South African Navy, saw progress being made but the 2021/2022 financial year budget allocation is insufficient to sustain the project. The Hydrographic Survey Vessel (pennant number A187) is currently under construction by Sandock Austral Shipyards and is projected to be delivered to the SA Navy in June 2023. This vessel will take over the hydrographic survey function currently executed by the ageing SAS Protea (49 years old). The SAS Protea will thereafter be retained for a training role only.
Project Biro, for the construction three new inshore patrol vessels for the South African Navy, has also made good progress but the DoD said the project is not sufficiently funded to meet its contractual obligations. Kudjoe said Special Defence Account reserves will have to be reallocated to this project to honour the obligations. The three multirole inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs) are currently under construction by Damen Shipyards Cape Town, with the first launched in March and scheduled for delivery in August this year. The second is due for delivery in September 2022, with the third in June 2023.
The maritime coastal patrol function is currently executed by the obsolete offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) SAS Isaac Dyobha and SAS Makhanda. The new MMIPVs will be maintained by the SA Navy in cooperation with the Armscor Dockyard. Maintenance and repair will be executed within the SA Navy’s operating budget allocation, the DoD said.
The operating costs of the new vessels is to be offset through the phased decommissioning and placement into reserve of current obsolete vessels. The OPV SAS Galashewe has already been placed in reserves with OPV SAS Isaac Dyobha to be placed in reserves by September 2021 and SAS Makhanda by January 2023. The DoD said it is expected that no additional cost of employee expenditure will be involved. It is planned that the new vessels will be operationally available for force preparation and force employment from their commission dates, contributing significantly to the SA Navy’s planned annual sea hour target.