No OPVs for Armed Forces Day

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The harbour at Port Elizabeth is this week home to a submarine, frigate and other classes of naval vessels as the Eastern Cape capital gears itself for a week’s worth of military events culminating in Armed Forces Day on Sunday.

With the exception of the SA Navy’s offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), all other seagoing vessels operated by the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) are safely in harbour for the first ever commemoration of Armed Forces Day at a coastal venue.

As is to be expected with a maritime venue, this year’s iteration of Armed Forces Day will be hosted by the SA Navy. Previous Armed Forces Day events have been hosted by the SANDF Logistics Division, the SA Air Force and the SA Army.

Naval vessels alongside in Port Elizabeth are the SAS Drakensberg (replenishment vessel), SAS Amatola (Valour Class frigate), SAS Queen Modjadji (Heroine Class submarine), SAS Umhloti (mine counter-measures) and SAS Protea (hydrographic vessel). The OPV SAS Galeshewe was originally tasked to make the transit to Port Elizabeth for Armed Forces Day but she has been side-lined by “technical problems”, defenceWeb has been unofficially informed.

A marchpast on Sunday through the streets of Port Elizabeth will feature a variety of the equipment operated by the SA Army and SA Military Health Services and there will also be a flypast of SA Air Force aircraft. No details have yet been made available but indications are residents of the Windy City can expect to see at least one Gripen fighter jet along with a number of BK-117 helicopters from 15 Squadron Charlie Flight based at AFB Port Elizabeth.

There is also currently no indication of whether Amatola has a Super Lynx maritime helicopter aboard or whether one of these specialist rotary-winged aircraft will be flying to Port Elizabeth for the event.

President Jacob Zuma, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF, will take the salute during the marchpast after laying a wreath at the New Brighton SS Mendi memorial on Sunday.
“Armed Forces Day is to be a day on which the South African population honours the men and women of the South African National Defence Force by affirming their support and gratitude to them for upholding the Constitution of the Republic and defending the territorial integrity of the Republic and protecting its people. It is for this reason that Armed Forces Day coincides with the commemoration of the sinking of the SS Mendi on February 21, 1917,” the President said.