SAAF issues VIP lease RFQ – belatedly

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The South African Air Force has seemingly belatedly issued a request for quotation to five aviation companies for a VIP transport lease. The RFQ, EVLI/2011/131, was issued Monday with a return date of July 25.

The RFQ was issued to Execujet Maintenance (Pty) Ltd, SRS Aviation, Fortune Air, Interjet Maintenance (Pty) Ltd and Adoair Maintenance. Although details on the Armscor Bulletin System are perfunctory, the lease likely relates to the SAAF’s need to procure more modern VIP aircraft.

Beeld newspaper reported in April the SAAF was to lease two Embraer Linaege 1000 jets for VIP transport for five years at a cost of some US$120 million (about R808 million). The paper said the lease had been awarded in March to Embraer’s local agent, AdoAir; a small aviation company based at Lanseria airport and owned by Nigerian businessman Adegboyega Olulade. The Afrikaans daily adds five companies were asked to tender for the requirement, including Bombardier (Global Express), Gulfstream (G550) and Dassault (Falcon 7X).

Later that month it was reported the SAAF would not be leasing Embraer but would instead on July 1 take delivery of a second Boeing Business Jet similar to the current Presidential jet (“South Africa One”) and a slightly smaller Bombardier Global Express XRS. Since then defence spokespeople have been mum on the subject.
21 Squadron currently flies an all-jet VIP fleet consisting of two eight-seat Dassault Falcon 50 acquired second-hand in 1982 and 1985, a single 19-seat Dassault Falcon 900 bought in 1992 and two nine-seat Cessna 550 Citation IIs purchased in 1983. The 18-seat B737-7ED BBJ was delivered in January 2003.

Following adverse media reporting Chief of the Air Force Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano – also in April – said it took “a lot of tender loving care” to maintain the current fleet. Finding new aircraft for VIPs, he said, had become “a necessity”, he explained at a briefing on April 13. Explaining the lease of the initial two aircraft, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu added at the same briefing, “Quite clearly we reached a point where it became not economically viable to continue with the ongoing expensive lease operations that would ensure an increase in those costs without sustaining what is really a viable service that needs to be provided.”

The Mail & Guardian reported some days before that Sisulu in a confidential memorandum argued for two Boeing 767 VIP transports for the dedicated use of President Jacob Zuma, two Boeing 737s for his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, and two smaller Challenger or Bombardier Global Express XRS jets for “former presidents and ministers”. “One aircraft for intercontinental presidential travel is woefully inadequate,” Sisulu argued in the memo. “In the event that the BBJ [Boeing Business Jet] is unserviceable or in servicing, there is not another kind of aircraft that is able to fulfil presidential air transport requirements.”

Secretary for Defence Mpumi Mpofu said the price of the lease had to be offset against the ever-increasing cost of maintaining the ever-more-elderly VIP-transport fleet as well as the cost of leasing when the BBJ, Falcon 900, two Falcon 50s and assorted smaller aircraft were either unavailable or unsuitable. She described the costs as increasingly “untenable.”.