SAS Galeshewe decommissioned


The SA Navy’s thin patrol capability is now down to two platforms with the converted strikecraft SAS Galeshewe (R1567) decommissioned.

SAS Isaac Dyobha (P1565) and SAS Makhanda (P1569) will be the maritime service’s lone patrol vessels until at least the middle of next year when delivery of the first multi-mission inshore patrol vessel (MMIPV) is expected. A contract for three MMIPVs has been entered into between Armscor, government’s defence and security acquisition agency, and Damen Shipyards Cape Town under Project Biro. The original call for six platforms – three inshore and three offshore – was cut due to lack of funding.

According to the SA Naval Museum and republished with attribution: “P1567 was one of nine former Minister Class strikecraft in service with the SA Navy (SAN). The first six vessels were delivered to the SAN between 1977 and 1980. A second batch of three was ordered and taken into service between 1983 and 1985.

“P1567 (boat seven) was the first of the improved Batch 2 boats. With the exception of the first three boats (P1561-P1563) built in Israel, the other strikecraft were built locally by Sandock Austral in Durban. The original design of the vessels was based on the Israeli SAAR IV (renamed RESHEF) fast attack craft. These vessels of 450 tons packed a mean punch for their size. They could attain a speed in excess of 30 knots, while two 76 mm guns and up to eight fixed launchers for the Skerpioen SSM provided a lot of firepower for a relatively small platform. While not ideally suited for South African sea conditions they admirably formed the backbone of the SAN for more than three decades.

“P1567 was launched on the afternoon of 26 March 1982 and named SAS Hendrik Mentz by Mrs Amy Edwards, wife of Vice Admiral Edwards, then SAN Chief. The ship was officially commissioned into the SAN on 11 February 1983, during which then SAN Chief, Vice Admiral AP Putter, charged the first Officer Commanding, Commander JAJB Vorster with command.

“The political changes of the early 1990s saw South Africa return to the international fold and Hendrik Mentz pioneered the first of many subsequent SAN flag showing cruises around the world in ensuing years. In May and June 1990 Hendrik Mentz (Commander R Steven Jennings) accompanied by another strikecraft, SAS Jan Smuts (P1561) and the support vessel SAS Drakensberg (A301), undertook a successful 15 200 sea mile flag showing cruise to the Far East, visiting the Republic of China (Taiwan). This was the first time since 1945 the South African naval ensign was flown in the Far East.

“In February and March 1993 Hendrik Mentz together with two other strikecraft, the submarine SAS Maria van Riebeeck, later renamed SAS Spear (S97), and SAS Drakensberg crossed the South Atlantic to participate in the first Atlasur exercise with the navies of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The strikecraft was also part of the second Atlasur held in South African waters in May 1995.

“In line with post 1994 political changes, names of strikecraft were changed on 1 April 1997; in time for Navy 75 celebrations and the Presidential Fleet Review. The class was re-designated as Warrior Class strikecraft and Hendrik Mentz re-commissioned as Galeshewe (the vessel was actually out of commission during this time). Commander MA Girsa was appointed first Officer Commanding in 2002,” SA Naval Museum Officer Commanding, Commander Leon Steyn writes.

On background to the strikecraft’s new name, he states: “Kgosi (Chief) Galeshewe was a chief of the Tlhaping tribe in South Africa. Galeshewe was captured in 1878 following an attack on Cornforth Hill near Taung and subsequently sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for his part in the uprising. In 1897, during a rinderpest outbreak, he again clashed with police and military at Phokwane near Hartswater. As a result, he was imprisoned for his part in what became known as the Langeberg Rebellion. He died at Magogong, north of Hartswater, in 1927,”

Other deployments Galeshewe was part of include various Red Lion exercises, Operation Desert Dune in 2001, Atlasur V and Oxide 2 in 2002, Ndlovu in 2005, Divex 06 and Good Hope II in 2006, Ibsamar I and Good Hope III in 2008, Golfino in 2009, Good Hope IV, Interop East and Operation Kgwele in 2010 as well as Good Hope VI in 2014.

Among other Galeshewe highlights was assisting the Australian fisheries control vessel, Southern Supporter, to intercept an illegal fishing vessel the South Tommy, 260 miles south of Cape Agulhas.

Galeshewe has the distinction of being the first operational front line warship in the SAN to be commanded by a woman officer commanding, Lieutenant Commander Maria Clulee.

Steyn’s comprehensive overview of Galeshewe for the SA Naval Museum further states: “In 2014 she became the first OPV (offshore patrol vessel) to be assigned duties for Operation Copper. This anti-piracy operation in the Mozambique Channel was initiated in 2011 and originally only saw rotational deployment of the four Valour class frigates and Drakensberg. The three refurbished OPVs operating from Durban offered a more economical alternative.

“During July and August 2018 Galeshewe was part of another Operation Copper deployment, this time in tandem with the hydrographic survey vessel SAS Protea (A324). This was the first time in many years the SAN deployed two ships to Copper. The vessels operated completely independent of foreign support and did not enter any harbour during the three-week deployment. Protea served as operational support vessel for Galeshewe, supplying the OPV with fuel, stores and fresh water. The ships successfully completed several replenishment-at-sea (RAS) operations during the operation. On patrol, Galeshewe would sail close to the coastline, and Protea would sail further out. This allowed the ships to cover more area than a single vessel could.”

Galeshewe’s final transit brought her to fleet headquarters in Simon’s Town in July. Originally she was scheduled to be decommissioned in March, but the Covid-19 pandemic saw the ceremony and related activities cancelled.

“The naval ensign was lowered for the last time on 8 October. P1567 was a pioneer in many ways and decommissioned after more than 37 years of service in the SAN,” the final tribute from the Naval Museum commander reads.

Information and photograph from the SA Naval Museum used with attribution and thanks.