The jets making up the sharp point of the SA Air Force (SAAF) recently stretched their wings, as it were, and at least 11 of them logged over 138 hours during an air-to-air training camp at AFB Overberg.
This is according to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) publication SA Soldier quoting camp commander, Captain Geoffrey Cooper.
The hours were logged during what is an annual training event for the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), battling as does the rest of the force under budgetary constraints.
The purpose of the camp was to test the competency of pilots, both recently qualified and experienced, to qualify as air-to-air gunners. In addition to the actual firing, pilots also concentrated on navigation, battle formations and general flying skills during the camp.
Four sorties of either Gripen or Hawk were flown each day of the camp for about an hour in a flying programme starting at 08h30 and ending at 18h00.
“At least six Gripens and five Hawks were utilised for the duration of the camp. The area between Arniston and Infanta was used as the firing range. Cooper mentioned that out of 70 hours budgeted for 2 Squadron, a total of 69.4 hours were flown by the Gripens, while 69.39 hours were recorded by the Hawks from 85 combat flying School,” the SANDF publication reported.
Cooper is also reported as saying the camp achieved its objectives even though they were “a few challenges”.
Major Unathi Makoba, detached at AFB Overberg as an approach controller for the camp, suggested the air-to-air camps be held twice a year.
“This would not only boost the morale and confidence of pilots, air traffic controllers, mission controllers and technicians but would also require them to work to ensure the necessary flying hours were available for any mission.”
In addition to these musterings, ground crew, firefighters, media liaison officers, medical and chaplain services as well as human resource and protection personnel were detached to the southern Cape air force base for the camp, which was held in April.