Armscor has received a letter of tasking regarding procurement of a VVIP aircraft, the acquisition agency’s General Manager: Marketing And Business Development has confirmed.
Responding to a defenceWeb enquiry, Lulu Mzili said a letter of tasking had been received but she did not provide further information saying only “interaction with the Department of Defence (DoD) was underway”. She also did not indicate if the letter originated from the DoD, the Defence Ministry or the SA Air Force (SAAF).
She did not respond when asked if a Project Moeketsi had been registered. Reliable sources have indicated this is to replace to Falcon 50 and 900 aircraft operated by 21 Squadron as short-haul VVIP and VIP aircraft. These aircraft have been in service since 1985 (the 50) and1991 (the 900).
Last month the Sunday Times reported the SAAF plans to acquire a regional aircraft, probably a mid-size bizjet, for use by the President. The acquisition, the newspaper said, was not advertised and was also not listed on the Armscor website because it is tailored for a specific supplier.
“The on-off again bid to buy President Zuma a new plane is back in with discussions underway to purchase a R1.3 billion, 18-seater private jet, fitted with secure locks to keep ‘foreign currency, weapons and classified documents’,” it reported.
The acquisition has apparently been given the project name Moeketsi and the aircraft it is seeking to acquire for the VIP transport squadron of the SAAF must be able to carry 18 passengers, excluding crew. According to a document seen by the Sunday Times, the primary mission of the aircraft will be “air support to the office of the President and Deputy President”. Facilities will include an executive lounge, entertainment facilities and secure storage for valuables, foreign currency and classified documents. This is standard on all 21 Squadron aircraft as landing fees, fuel and other expenses often have to be paid in cash in foreign countries.
Mzili said Armscor had received “nothing, either in the form of an instruction or task from the DoD” when the Sunday Times published its report.
That now appears to have changed, but no announcement has been made by either Armscor or the Defence Ministry on acquisition of a replacement aircraft for Inkwazi, the Presidential 737 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ). An announcement regarding acquiring a replacement was made in November 2015 apparently at the behest of Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. She reportedly wanted a new presidential aircraft on the apron at AFB Waterkloof by the end of March last year. No decision was taken because none of the bids submitted met all required specifications, Armscor said.