The SA Air Force (SAAF) has “several options” as regards a new site for Air Force Base Durban but there is no real pressure on the Command Council to make a decision due to delays in starting work on the dig-out port on the site of the old Durban International Airport.
AFB Durban is on the northern side of what is now a giant car park used by motor vehicle manufacturers until such time as excavation work on the addition to Durban harbour starts. That, according to reports from KwaZulu-Natal, could take some time with expectations of the first phase of the dig-out port only becoming operational in 2020.
AFB Durban is home to 15 Squadron with a mixture of Agusta A109 and Oryx helicopters. The squadron’s C Flight flies BK117s out of AFB Port Elizabeth and it is the only SAAF squadron that currently has a detached flight.
The east coast air force base is also home to 508 Squadron, a specialist protection unit which obtained squadron status in May 1987.
Apart from search and rescue, both inland at and sea, 15 Squadron is also tasked with providing VIP transport, mostly for President Jacob Zuma between King Shaka International Airport and his Nkandla homestead in rural northern KwaZulu-Natal.
There has been speculation that the Durban base would relocate to the new international airport of the northern side of the KwaZulu-Natal port city but this did not happen. Among the reasons given for the move not happening four years ago was a lack of funds to build appropriate facilities for the base at the then brand-new King Shaka International Airport.
Another possible site is the northern KwaZulu-Natal harbour city of Richards Bay but the SAAF would not be drawn on specific sites.
“Options are currently under investigation. A preferred site has not been identified and no date has been set for the base to relocate,” was the official SAAF response to a defenceWeb enquiry.