The Southern African Development Community (SADC) humanitarian relief exercise Blue Kunene is up and running.
According to reports from the Namibian capital, the exercise will be officially launched today (Thursday) in Oshakati by Namibian Defence Minister, Major General Penda ya Ndakolo Shilumbu.
The exercise concentrates on preparing SADC member countries’ air forces, air wings and air arms for rapid deployment to respond to humanitarian crises in the southern African region and beyond.
Indications are “about 10” of 16 member states, the newest addition being Comoros which joined at last week’s SADC heads of state conference in Pretoria, will participate in the exercise with about a thousand personnel.
In February this year SA Air Force (SAAF) Chief, Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang said the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) would participate with both personnel and aircraft. At the time of publication no confirmation of what aircraft or how many personnel had been received either from SANDF Corporate Communications of SAAF Corporate Services. Photographs posted on the Unofficial SAAF website show a SAAF C-130BZ and three Oyrx medium transport helicopters at Ondongwa airport prior to the exercise.
Speaking at the Air Force Prestige Day parade in February, Msimang said: “The SAAF will be participating in the SADC inter-operability air power exercise called Exercise Blue Kunene which will be hosted in Namibia in the coming months. This exercise is held under the auspices of the SADC Standby Force informed by Article 13 of the Protocol of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union”.
The first week of the exercise is said to be for deployment and a command post exercise with the humanitarian aid side taking place in the second week before shut down and withdrawal, set for September 7.
The first biennial SADC air exercise to focus on humanitarian operations, including aid delivery and relief, was held in South Africa in 2011 (Blue Cluster). It was followed by Blue Zambesi in Angola in 2013 and Blue Okavango in Botswana in 2015.
Picture via the Unofficial SAAF Website, used with appreciation