Lieutenant General Fabian Msimang, chief of the South African Air Force (SAAF), has warned of the dire consequences of underfunding, but maintains that the Air Force is able to fulfil its mandate in spite of considerable challenges. He was speaking at the Prestige Day Parade and Basic Military Training Passing Out Parade on Friday.
“Success in war depends not only in knowing yourself and your enemy; for it is during peace time that we prepare for the next conflict or war. Budgetary cuts will definitely not reduce the levels of global unrest and instability. On the contrary, our chronic below global acceptable defence budget allocation levels will render us vulnerable, weak and undependable. However, I call upon all patriotic SAAF members not to lose sight of the national priorities, especially during this period,” Msimang said during his speech at Air Force Base Waterkloof.
“2015 was another tough, but successful Air Force year, because we collectively had the resilience to make it through another tough period of severe austerity measures. In an environment of high demands and obligations, we have accomplished our missions.”
Some of the SAAF’s focus areas for 2016, according to Msimang, include the Africa Aerospace and Defence Exhibition 2016, to be held in September at Air Force Base Waterkloof; building Reserve Force capacity and reactivating the Reserve Force flying squadrons; foreign learning opportunities; restructuring the SAAF; chess programmes; youth outreach; and transformation.
In his speech, Msimang said that the SAAF continues to foster relations with foreign defence forces. Members have been sent to Cuba, Zimbabwe, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Bangladesh, while South Africa hosted members of foreign air forces from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Lesotho, Oman and the United Kingdom. The SAAF is training pilots from Oman while their turboprop trainer fleet undergoes maintenance.
“All these engagements are meant to ensure that the SAAF continues to maintain the momentum in force preparation and capacity building endeavours. We have done well despite the unfavourable budget allocations. Equally, we remain committed towards the implementation of the Defence Review 2014 in spite of limited resource allocation,” Msimang said.
Friday’s ceremonies began with a parachute drop and display before an Oryx and A109 LUH flew past with flags. A mass flypast, courtesy of South African Air Force Museum aircraft, involved two Alouette IIIs and an Alouette II, the Patchen Explorer, Bosbok and Kudu light aircraft, an Albatross and two Harvards. A single Gripen flypast and fireworks concluded the ceremony.
Msimang inspected the Basic Military Training graduates and handed out various awards to individuals and units for athleticism, academic and all round performance. Air Force Base Hoedspruit was given the Prestige Unit award for 2015.
“I congratulate the graduates of the Basic Military Training 02 of 2015 and also recognise those who excelled and received trophies for their sterling efforts. May these accolades be but the first of many during your careers in the Air Force,” Msimang told the graduates.
131 recruits commenced the Basic Military Training Learning Programme in August 2015. Some of the BMT graduates will return to Hoedspruit to complete junior leadership and development programmes while others will join the Reserve Force and others will proceed to the officer forming programme at the SA Air Force College. After completion, they will start training to become pilots, navigators, technicians and support personnel.
Msimang emphasised the importance of discipline in the South African Air Force and noted that “sadly, today the air Force Command Council had to withdraw some members from the Passing Out Parade. This is a stern warning to the rest of the group still on probation, that ill-discipline will not be tolerated,” Msimang said. “If you have imbibed and embraced a culture of entitlement, then you are in the wrong outfit,” he cautioned.
The annual Air Force Day parade is held on the Friday closest to February 1, acknowledged as the day when what is now the SAAF came into being in 1920. This year marks 96 years of the SAAF being an independent Air Force.
Click here to view a gallery of Friday’s proceedings.