The South African Air Force (SAAF) has had its flying hours cut from 25 000 in the 2018/19 financial year to 17 200 the following year, the latest budget vote has revealed.
In the 2019 Estimates of National Expenditure released on 20 February, it emerged that the Air Defence component of the Department of Defence has been allocated 17 100 flight hours for 2020/21 and the same for 2021/22.
Air Defence has been allocated R6.415 billion for 2018/19, down from R6.628 billion the year before; R6.883 billion in 2016/17 and R7.049 billion in 2015/16. This is less than half the budget of the South African Army (R16.234 billion) for 2018/19 but more than for Maritime Defence (R4.424 billion).
Air Defence spending will increase slightly in 2019/20, with an allocation of R6.977 billion, which will increase to R7.674 billion the following year before dropping to R6.568 billion in 2021/22.
Most of the South African Air Force’s budget will go towards paying salaries, with R3.7 billion spent on 9 652 personnel in 2017/18. R3.6 billion will go towards 9 933 personnel for 2019/20.
The SAAF is mandated to provide four helicopter squadrons and one combat support helicopter squadron; three medium transport squadrons (one VIP squadron, one maritime and transport squadron, and one light transport squadron) and nine reserve squadrons as well as one air combat squadron.
Spending on the helicopter capability remains fairly static, but the Transport and Maritime Capability budget is set to increase from R521 million in 2017/18 to R1.156 billion in 2019/20 and R1.177 billion in 2020/21, possibly as a result of acquiring new light transport aircraft.
Air Combat Capability spending is set to suffer from spending cuts, going from R840 million in 2018/19 to R726 million the following year and increasing to R981 million in 2020/21 before dropping to just R528 million in 2021/22. This compares with R1.368 billion spent on the Air Combat Capability in 2015/16.
The latest budget vote spelt more bad news for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), which has had its budget shrink again in real terms. The 2019/20 defence budget stands at R50.5 billion and will increase marginally to R53.8 billion in 2020/21 and down to R52.3 the following year, which does not keep pace with inflation.
The previous financial year saw the Department of Defence allocated R47.9 billion by National Treasury.