Technical staff from the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces have given impetus to the maintenance and repair of South African military equipment, in particular operational vehicles, according to SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Solly Shoke.
A total of 235 operational vehicles were repaired in the 2015/16 financial year with another 286 undergoing repairs, he writes in the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) annual report for the year ending March 31, 2016, released this week.
Another 850 vehicles have been prepared for what Shoke termed “preservation” with a further 524 de-activated to be used as spares.
“Skills transfer and practical training is an ancillary benefit of this cost-saving exercise which saw 258 SANDF apprentices and 48 ‘reserve trade workers’ taking part.”
Known as Operation Thusano, the involvement of Cuban mechanics is one of the outcomes of a defence co-operation agreement signed between the island nation and South Africa in August 2014. The first outcome was South African students being sent to Cuba for specialist training and the second the arrival in January last year of what the SANDF’s Logistics Division calls “94 Cuban specialists/collaborates” to work with local technical support services soldiers on vehicle maintenance and refurbishing.
According to the Logistics Division, there are 57 Cubans working on maintenance, repair, preservation and de-activation of military vehicles while at the same time they are carrying out training. Eighteen engineers are responsible for maintenance, repair and preservations of combat and transport aircraft as well as helicopters and the remainder are involved in various aspects of SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) operations.
As far as assisting the airborne arm of the SANDF is concerned the Cubans have, again according to the Logistics Division, been responsible for the maintenance and repair of 99 bombs, done eight weeks of inspection and seven post-flight inspections of transport aircraft.
“They have submitted 49 recommendations for improved maintenance and preservation systems of the SA Air Force,” Logistics Division reports on the DoDMW website.
The involvement of Cuban military personnel with the SANDF is part of assisting the Department to address milestone one of the Defence Review (stopping the loss of capacity and capability in the SANDF).