The SA Air Force (SAAF) has a shortfall in excess of R7 billion to provide “prepared and supported air defence capabilities for the defence and protection of South Africa,” according to the Department of Defence (DoD) 2018 Annual Performance Plan.
The 300-plus page document states R6 415 901 000 has been allocated for the air defence programme for the 2018 medium term expenditure framework (MTEF). Against this the full cost of the air defence programme the SAAF says it needs is estimated at R13 571 069 777, a shortfall of R7 155 168 777.
The limited funds available to the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force are, the document states, to provides four helicopter squadrons (15, 17, 19 and 22 squadrons flying Oryx, Agusta A109 and Super Lynx out of air force bases Durban, Hoedspruit, Zwartkop and Ysterplaat) and one combat support helicopter squadron (16 Squadron at AFB Bloemspruit and flying the Rooivalk) as well as an air combat squadron (2 Squadron based at AFB Makhado and flying the Gripen) and a round-the-clock command and control capability.
Flight training conducted at 85 Combat Flying School at AFB Makhado and Central Flying School at AFB Langebaanweg is not considered part of the national air defence programme.
Air defence takes up just over 13% of the total defence budget of R47.9 billion.
The lack of funding will impact on an existing maintenance backlog as well as planned and scheduled maintenance of capabilities.
Speaking at a Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) media briefing at AFB Waterkloof last year, SAAF Chief Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang said actions were being taken to minimise maintenance backlogs in the force. He expects the situation to change by mid-year, particularly as regards the availability of aircraft at 21 Squadron, the force’s VIP transport unit.
As far as performance indicators and targets for the SAAF are concerned, the performance plan gives no information. This is “classified” for the five-year strategic target as well as for the 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 financial years with medium-term targets for 2019/20 and 2020/21 also deemed “classified information”.