The South African Air Force (SAAF) honoured its serving and fallen members and highlighted challenges and achievements during its annual Air Force Prestige Day parade and flypast at Air Force Base Zwartkop this morning.
Chief of the SAAF, Lieutenant General Fabian Zakes Msimang, presented the most prestigious unit of 2017 award to Air Force Base Langebaanweg after a helicopter flypast and parade of SAAF personnel.
Msimang highlighted some of the Air Force’s achievements over the last year, including participation in the opening of Parliament, Armed Forces Day in Durban, the air power demonstration at Roodewal, Exercise Winter Solstice, assisting the Navy comduct maritime security patrols in the Mozambique Channel, providing air support to the peacekeeping contingent in the Democratic Republic of Congo and fighting fires, particularly in Knysna and Port Elizabeth.
The SAAF took part in a couple of bilateral exercises, including the Southern African Development Community Exercise Blue Kunene in Namibia, which focussed on humanitarian assiatance, and an SADC exercise in Tanzania in August 2017. The SAAF also participated in Exercise Oxide in Reunion in November with the French Navy, contributing a C-47TP aircraft in support of the SA Navy.
In spite of its successes, Msimang acknowledged the SAAF is also facing challenges. “Although we did the best with the resources at our disposal I strongly believe that we can still do better. With the current resource constraints, we are forced to cut our cloth to size. To ensure that we continue to have the people with the necessary skills sets and equipment, we have had to instantly change the way we used to do business, by firstly changing our contracting models and engaging robustly with underperforming service providers. It has not been easy.”
Msimang said the SAAF was engaging with industry to reduce service delivery turnaround times and address aircraft support issues. Engagement with industry has resulted in the SAAF exploring the possibility of creating war rooms to track and monitor stock and components; establishing warehouses to reduce delivery times and developing in-house engineering skills.
“With the Rooivalk continuing to prove its prowess in deployments we are readying ourselves to work with the local industry partners to enhance this platform and thus ensure that it remains a renowned and world class combat helicopter to ever grace our airspace,” the Chief said.
Regarding the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition in September, Msimang said he looks forward to increased participation from African countries, both as exhibitors and in the air display programme. He said AAD contributes to defence diplomacy and promotes defence exports which sustain the South African defence industry. AAD also exposes people to aerospace careers and creates jobs.
Looking to the year ahead, Msimang said focus areas for 2018 include an ethics awareness campaign, which is currently being rolled out, continued chess workshops and tournaments, as this grooms leaders in decision-making, and the establishment of an Air Force Academy of Excellence where all graduates will be commissioned as officers. “Included in this vision is the creation of an Air Force school that is envisaged to become the feeder for the future Air Force Academy.”
The Chief of the SAAF also commended its outreach efforts and noted that the first African female combat pilot is currently undergoing training at 85 Combat Flying School.
“We are duty bound to pay tribute to all pur brave men and women in uniform who are in the deployment areas and in the home front, serving our people and safeguarding our national interests,” Msimang said. “This is also the time for us to remember our fallen heroes…My thoughts also go out…for the invaluable contrubutions made by our military veterans.
“The SANDF is the nation’s insurance policy – and we all have to take collective responsibility of not allowing this policy to lapse,” Msimang said in his speech. “In this time of great global tension, being ready will mean the difference between capitulating and maintaining sovereignty through deterrence or vicotry.
“What price are we willing to pay to protect this freedom that some seem to take for granted? Those who believe that we do not need a potent national defence force will one fine day learn afresh that indeed freedom is not free. It is unethical to expect commanders to train and prepare troops for battle ill-equipped and under-resourced.”
The highlight of Prestige Day was a mass flypast of current SAAF aircraft including C212, PC-12 and C-130 Hercules transports, A109, Rooivalk and Oryx helicopters and combat jets, amongst others.
Click here to view the gallery.