The South African Police Service (SAPS), the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and other government departments will next week conduct “Exercise Shield 3” in Gauteng and the North West Province to further prepare for June’s Confederations Cup and next year’s Soccer World Cup.
The police, who are the lead agency for soccer security, say the exercise will “take place around four stadia and certain airfields between 16 and 20 March.”
Spokeswoman Director Sally de Beer says this “specific exercise is aimed at honing our security-related skills to ensure a safe environment in host cities during major events, including securing the national airspace.
“From 16 to 20 March there will be a great deal of aerial activity in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Rustenburg areas, particularly over the Soccer City, Ellis Park, Loftus and Royal Bafokeng stadiums.
“Our activities will be very intensive on Wednesday, 18 March and Thursday, 19 March with aerial simulations both during the day and night. We ask people residing in those areas to exercise patience and we regret any inconvenience, especially in terms of noise, that it may cause to some individuals.
“Some of the most elite members and units within the security forces will engage in simulated scenarios and enact certain aspects of our emergency contingency plans in order to neutralise any form of airborne threat.”
De Beer says the operation is considered to be an excellent training opportunity for security personnel who will be deployed to protect both events.
“The SAPS units to be utilised during this exercise include the special task force, the national intervention unit, the national air wing, the dog unit, bomb disposal experts, hostage negotiators as well as borderline and ports of entry components.”
As this exercise aims to ensure the security of the airspace, the South African Air Force, in close co-operation with the Air Traffic Navigation Services (ATNS) will play a pivotal role.
“These departments will be closely supported by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and various other elements of the SANDF and government co-ordination structures, thereby ensuring integrated inter-departmental support to the police.”
The police add SACAA has already issued a Notice to all Airmen (NOTAM) which restricts – but does not ban – flights in certain airspaces in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Rustenburg.
With the exception of scheduled or state flights, all other aircraft wishing to enter into the stipulated airspace between 16 and 19 March must conform to the restrictions.
“This entails applying for flight authorisation at least 24 hours in advance, submitting a flight plan, being equipped with a transponder and being subjected to a vetting process. Any aircraft observed entering the temporarily restricted airspace without the prescribed authority may be subjected to interception”.
Detailed information can be obtained from the ATNS and SACAA. “Effective co-operation will ensure a secure airspace without negatively impacting on the aviation sector, De Beer says.
The police director further explains that the “security forces wish to advise the communities of Gauteng and the North West Province that Exercise Shield 3 is an essential exercise to allow our … forces to merge their expertise to ensure that we can deal with any crime or terror related threat, as well as any natural or non-crime related disaster, during major events.