The fleet replenishment vessel SAS Drakensberg (A301) is one of six SA Navy platforms tasked with showcasing the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) at next month’s Armed Forces Day in Port Elizabeth.
The transit from Simon’s Town to the Eastern Cape harbour city ahead of February 21 will be the first working voyage of “Drakies”, as she is affectionately known, following more than 18 months out of commission for an extensive refit and systems upgrade.
Under the command of Captain Lotto Mabula, Drakensberg will be an active participant in any number of tactical and seamanship exercises with her five sister ships during the approximately 450 nautical mile transit. The time at sea will also be used evaluate, yet again, upgraded systems.
The other Navy vessels steaming to Port Elizabeth for the 2016 edition of Armed Forces Day are the Valour Class frigate SAS Amatola (F145), the Heroine class submarine SAS Queen Modjadji (S103), the hydrographic survey vessel SAS Protea (A324), the OPV SAS Galeshewe (P1567) and the mine countermeasures vessels SAS Umhloti (M1212).
The navy was not prepared to release further exercise specific information for the Simon’s Town/Port Elizabeth transit citing “operational issues” but it is clear the ships and crew will be honing specific maritime skills.
Indications are it will be the final voyage Drakensberg will undertake with Mabula as officer commanding with him standing down when she returns to Simon’s Town after the February 21 Armed Forces Day commemoration in Port Elizabeth.
The 29-year-old Drakensberg is currently the largest ship built in South Africa for the SA Navy with a displacement of 12,500 tons and a length of 147 metres. She has a maximum speed of 30 knots and a range of around 7,000 nautical miles at a speed of 15 knots.
More Navy platforms are in line to be built at South African shipyards after tenders were issued by Armscor for a replacement hydrographic survey vessel and three each of inshore and offshore patrol vessels. No tender results have yet been made public.