Navy demonstrates its World Cup capabilities


The South African Navy has hosted a Maritime Capability Demonstration to demonstrate its capability and readiness for June’s soccer World Cup.

Captain (SAN) Jimmy “JJ” Schutte is the officer responsible for the Navy’s operations in preparing the fleet to conduct its specific tasks for the World Cup. Schutte was previously the commanding officer of SAS Mendi, the last of the four Valour class frigates acquired by the Navy.

In order to demonstrate their readiness and capabilities, the Navy invited the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla, members of the Defence Portfolio Committee and the press to a briefing aboard SAS Mendi, whereafter a maritime capability demonstration was conducted.

Schutte explained that the Navy is primarily responsible for the Maritime Mission Area, namely the Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban harbours. The tasks given to the Navy comprises the following:

  • Combating of criminality at sea
  • Inshore/offshore patrols
  • Escort duties for high risk vessels approaching harbours
  • Maritime interception tasks
  • Support to special operations
  • Escort and protection of civilian ships
  • Protection of offshore assets
  • Underwater security
    • Monitoring harbour approaches
    • Pre-clearing of harbour seabeds/walls
    • Conducting of hull searches
    • Harbour patrols
    • Landward harbour protection
  • Search and rescue
    • Natural disasters
    • Maritime disasters

In order to discharge its duties, the Navy is committing over 1000 naval personal to support its World Cup security plan. Of these, only 240 personnel will be deployed ashore. “We are, however, surging at the moment,” explained Schutte. Where necessary, the Navy is taking people from shore bases to man their vessels.

Three frigates, SAS Amatola, SAS Mendi and SAS Spioenkop, will be deployed to support Special Forces and the Maritime Reaction Squadron as well as to provide radar coverage for the SA Air Force. A frigate will be position off Cape Town and Durban, while the third will be patrolling at sea.

SAS Isandlwana will not be part of the World Cup naval force as it is in a maintenance period in accordance with the predetermined plan, but it would be capable of going to sea in a case of emergency.

Navy Flag Officer Fleet, Rear Admiral Robert “Rusty” Higgs explained that the Navy is “very confident we can continue with that plan. That is in accordance with international naval norms.” “There is absolutely nothing abnormal about it.”

Admiral Bernie Teuteberg, Chief Director for Maritime Strategy expanded further: “We have scheduled the maintenance in such a way that if there was an escalation in the threat levels and we needed to act in a relatively short time and we needed to get the fourth frigate into a form of readiness required for the task, we would be able to do so”.

The two submarines, SAS Queen Modjadji and SAS Charlotte Maxeke, will also be deployed on patrol for the entire period. SAS Protea will be used as the Underwater Security HQ, while SAS Umkomaas ans SAS Umzimkulu act as support platforms. SAS Drakensberg will provide combat support duties as required.

Chemical, Biological and Radiation (CBR) teams will be based at Cape Town and Durban, together with Maritime Reaction Squadron protection elements. While the frigates will perform a number of functions, one of their primary tasks is to transmit their radar-pictures real-time to the Air Force using the Link ZA digital datalink. In this way, the Air Force will have a complete radar picture of the airspace over South Africa, using a combination of static, mobile and seaborne radars.

The Navy has had the capability of feeding into the air defence picture for over three years. This was ably demonstrated during an exercise in Port Elizabeth. “All other (radar) pictures failed and the only picture that was available was from the frigate,” Teutenberg disclosed. No mention was made of the frigates being used to shoot down wayward aircraft as the SAAF is tasked with maintaining a 50km “no-fly” zone around each stadium on match days.

The Maritime Capability Demonstration entailed the SAS Mendi sailing into False Bay, accompanied by SAS Spioenkop. The demonstrations included a surface exercise and an air defence demonstration in which two SAAF Hawk aircraft performed several mock attacks on both the SAS Mendi and the accompanying SAS Spioenkop. The Maritime Reaction Squadron boarded the frigate by a small craft and via Oryx helicopter, performing a search of the vessel and subduing a ‘confrontational” crewmember.

Pic: Deputy minister Makwetla, Minister Sisulu and Rear Admiral “Rusty” Higgs aboard SAS Mendi.

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