The SA Air Force (SAAF) left nearly 20% of its allocated flying hours unused for the 2016/16 financial year.
The latest annual report of the Department of Defence, made public late in November, indicates 4 032.4 hours were flown by the SAAF against a target of five thousand.
The shortfall is explained as force employment hours being dependent on “operational taskings and the number of deployable aircraft available”.
“The under-achievement on force employment flying hours is largely due to less taskings than estimated.”
During the year under review, the SAAF’s VIP transport squadron logged 340.4 hours moving senior government officials, including President Jacob Zuma, to various destinations internally, continentally and internationally.
The balance of hours flown – 3 692.1 – was in support of joint force requirements and included humanitarian and search and rescue taskings. Other taskings were in support of Operation Copper in the Mozambique Channel, deployments onto SA Navy platforms and in Swaziland. This particularly tasking saw a MAOT (mobile air operations team) take up position in the landlocked country to boost security for a Southern African Development community (SADC) Council of Ministers, Extraordinary Summit and Heads of States and Government meetings on two occasions during the reporting period.
The report also notes the “most prominent international involvement” the SAAF had during the period under review was Operation Mistral, the South African equipment and troop contribution to MONUSCO, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“There was a constant SAAF presence in the form of a composite helicopter unit. Together with the deployment of five Oryx helicopters and three Rooivalk combat support helicopters, as well as numerous support personnel.
“Missions were conducted under the auspices of MONUSCO and resulted in various successes against belligerents. The firepower provided by Rooivalk in support of ground forces in the north-eastern DRC, resulted in safer environments for the local communities. Efforts in the DRC were supported on a continuous basis through the application of sustainment and crew rotation flights. Although the C-130 capability was placed under pressure in this task, more than 12 sustainment flights were flown with SA Air Force assets, in support of this operational requirement,” according to the report.