Ten Southern African Development Community (SADC) air forces have concluded Exercise Blue Kunene in Namibia, after participation from 1 200 personnel and 23 aircraft.
The exercise began on 24 August and concluded at a ceremony in Oshakati, Namibia, on 4 September. Participating nations were Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Namibia. They contributed 23 aircraft to the exercise, which flew over 350 hours, according to the Namibia Press Agency.
During the closing ceremony, Namibian Air Force Commander, Air Vice-Marshal Martin Pinehas said the exercise was a success, with 250 tonnes of food airlifted to the Kunene region, and 1 500 people provided with medical care. The majority of ailments treated were gout, arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, upper respiratory diseases, and the common cold, the Namibian Ministry of Defence said. Community outreach projects included the rehabilitation of a number of schools. The exercise was carried out with the cooperation of Namibia’s Disaster and Risk Management Unit.
Hosea Kutako International Airport was the Strategic Operating Base during the exercise, with Ondangwa the Main Operating Base and Opuwo, Ruacana and Okangwati Forward Operating Bases. Drought relief aid was delivered to nearly two dozen remote communities.
Participating aircraft included Cheetah and Chetak helicopters and Y-12 transport aircraft from Namibia, a C-130 and CN235 transport and Bell 412 helicopter from Botswana, and a C212 from Zimbabwe. The Angolan Air Force flew in at least one An-72, one Il-76 and several Mi-171Sh helicopters while the South African Air Force contributed two C-212s, a King Air and three Oryx medium transport helicopters. A 28 Squadron C-130BZ was used for airlift to the northern Namibian airport at Ondangwa. About 100 South African personnel from various musterings travelled to Namibia for the exercise.
Blue Kunene is the fifth of its type to be staged under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community. It aims to prepare airborne elements of embers states’ air forces/air arms/air wings for rapid deployment in disaster situations and subsequent humanitarian relief operations, including medical and other aid.
South Africa hosted the first SADC humanitarian air relief exercise in 2001 as Exercise Blue Cluster. It was followed by Blue Zambesi in Angola in 2013 and Blue Okavango in Botswana in 2015.
At the launch on 24 August, Namibia’s Minister of Defence Penda Ya Ndakolo said the exercise was aimed at building regional airlift capability that will eventually strengthen the African Standby Force.