Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) has heard there is “a steady deterioration” of capability in the maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
Additionally, a recent question session revealed the fleet has numerous operational defects affecting availability of platforms, both surface and sub-surface.
Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party MP Kobus Marais was told “the SA Navy has accumulated a significant backlog in the conduct of vessel refits as well as the maintenance and repair required to ensure sufficient platforms are available in a safe sea-going condition for force preparation and employment.
“Only one frigate SAS Amatola (F145) and one submarine SAS Manthatisi (S101) have undergone a refit”.
These platforms were also the first to be taken into service as part of the multi-billion Arms Deal. Amatola was launched in June 2002 and commissioned in September 2005 while Manthatisi, the first of three Type 209 submarines acquired, was launched in June 2004 and commissioned more than a year later in November 2005.
The response to the shadow defence and military veterans minister also indicates other platforms acquired as part of the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP) require “full refits/midlife upgrades in accordance with planned maintenance schedules”.
“The cost of a frigate refit amounts to R550 million and a submarine to R350 million.
“For the financial year 2017/18, the SA Navy’s total refit and vessel maintenance and repair full cost requirement, including other SA Navy vessels, was R3.295 billion compared to the actual vessel maintenance and repair allocation of R393 million, amounting to only 11.9% of the maintenance and repair funding requirement. This allowed for only basic and minimal maintenance and repair to be conducted to keeps vessels afloat and, where possible move (being able to register hours at sea).”
The “challenges” as regards the Navy’s “new” platforms meant the maritime service was “largely dependent on the three obsolete offshore patrol vessels SAS Galeshewe (P1567), SAS Isaac Dyobha (P1565) and SAS Makhanda (P1569) to conduct force preparation and employment, including Operation Copper anti-piracy patrols and Operation Corona border safeguarding patrols”.
“The vessels are 40 years old, but were built for a design lifespan of between 15 and 20 years. Hence constant operational defects are experienced which limited participation of these vessels for more training and patrols.
“Due to obsolescence and repairs in progress neither of the two active inshore patrol vessels (IPVs) could be utilised operationally.
“Further the SA Navy did not have any submarine operationally available for deployment while it awaited procurement of spare parts (new ball valves) required for diving operations.
“Only three Operation Copper deployments and four Operation Corona deployments could be undertaken.”