Amatola readies for war games with Germany


As SAS Amatola, the South African Navy (SAN) frigate presently in the UK and taking part in today’s commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi during the First World War, she is also preparing for the seventh iteration of Exercise Good Hope with Germany.

Amatola is on a 96 day operational, commemoration and diplomatic visit to various European and African countries, known as Operation Ketane.

Fregattenkapitän (Commander) Kai Brand, Deputy Defence Attaché at the German Embassy in Pretoria, told defenceWeb Exercise Good Hope VII is an advanced national exercise at the tactical level, “going through all the naval warfare exercises, mainly anti-surface and anti-air.” The exercise will include a combined German Sea Battalion and SAN Maritime Reaction Squadron performing joint boarding exercises.

The Good Hope series has traditionally been hosted by South Africa, but due to austerity measures and other commitments and exercises at the same time, Germany invited South Africa, an offer which was accepted. This sees Germany as the lead nation in the naval exercise for the first time.

Amatola will be the sole South African participant alongside German Navy vessels including FSG Augsburg (F213), a Bremen-class frigate, FSG Bonn (A1413), a Berlin-class replenishment ship and the replenishment oiler Rhön (A1443). Besides the four vessel Task Group, Germany will contribute all the air and subsurface platforms for the exercise. Amatola has an SA Air Force (SAAF) Super Lynx maritime helicopter from 22 Squadron embarked.

Captain Frans Roux, Officer Commanding Amatola, said because the SAN does not often frequent European waters, the German Navy has “been kind to give us three officers who join us on the way up to Spain, to help in preparations for European waters. They will supplement the training we will do on board.”

Part of the training included the German officers conducting many simulated exercise and emergencies to prepare the crew for the Royal Navy’s Basic Operational Sea Training (BOST).

BOST took place from 13 to 17 February 13 to 17. Following completion of BOST at Naval Base Devonport, Amatola proceeded to Portsmouth for the SS Mendi commemoration, the highlight and priority of the deployment.

The ship proceeds to Kiel in Germany on February 24 to participate in Exercise Good Hope VII, which starts on February 26 and ends on March 10.

Besides assisting with BOST preparations, the three German officers also assisted the South Africans for operations in the cold Baltic Sea where the sea phases of Exercise Good Hope VII will take place.

Brands said weather in the southern hemisphere “is a lot more challenging” adding they would be working in “the Baltic, a high density maritime traffic area.”

After arrival in Germany, shore training drills will be undertaken during the first week of the exercise at the German Naval Damage Control Training Centre in Neustadt. This facility is not new to the SAN as the initial frigate crews where trained there prior to sailing the four new Valour Class (Meko A200) frigates to South Africa in the mid-2000s.

The second week will consist of at-sea phases in the Baltic, where the South Africans will face additional challenges in the form of average air temperatures of just 10° Celsius and a water temperature of 8°.

Captain Michael Boucher, the Task Force Commander for Operation Ketane, noted two South African officers will form part of the German Task Force Commanders’ Staff aboard their flagship during the exercise.
“Of course,” Boucher added, “we have operational headquarters in Simon’s Town that will be conducting the exercise from there at an operational level.”

With both Germany and South Africa having strategic interests in working in the naval area, Brand feels “both countries can learn a lot from each other. It’s important to maintain relations and work together”.

Exercise Good Hope VII is “a good and rich exercise” he concluded.

Amatola is scheduled to arrive back in Simon’s Town on April 22, having conducted diplomatic visits to various West Coast African countries.