SAAF CHU medal parade in DR Congo


The cloud hanging over the future of the SA Air Force (SAAF) composite helicopter unit (CHU) deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was nowhere to be seen during a medal parade this month addressed by the MONUSCO Force Commander.

Lieutenant General Elias Rodrigues Martins Filho presented 61 SAAF members deployed in the DRC as part of the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) with medals.

Addressing the parade Filho said it was the international community’s recognition of the sterling contribution the SAAF had made to peace and security in the DRC.

The parade took place against a background of fewer missions being flown by particularly 16 Squadron’s combat support Rooivalk helicopters with the possibility of them being withdrawn from theatre. This is a possible outcome of a US intention to cut funding to the UN, resulting in less money being available to fund the world body’s 14 peacekeeping and peace support missions around the world.

A decision on the future deployment of Rooivalk as well as that of SAAF Oryx medium transport helicopters is expected during the course of next month. SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Chief, Lieutenant General Barney Hlatshwayo was at UN headquarters in New York earlier this year as part of a Southern African Development community (SADC) delegation to discuss the future employment of South African and SADC military assets in the FIB, currently the only UN force with an offensive mandate. South African Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has hinted at the possible withdrawal of South African elements if Rooivalk is deemed surplus to requirements in the DRC.

Addressing the parade, the Brazilian three star general said the South African contingent contributed “a lot, either as staff officers, as military observers or as troops”.
“The South African aviation unit (as he referred to the CHU) has made possible the continuous use of the air assets of this mission. This is even more relevant when one considers large portions of this country are only accessible by air. It is relevant when, before a crisis or an emergency that our troops will be deployed; it will be by air that medevacs casevacs will happen; it will be by air that lives will be saved and it has been by air that South African attack helicopters have provided operational support to our troops, in particular the FIB,” Filho said.