SAS Spioenkop suffered “a major mechanical defect” while deployed in the Mozambique Channel in August, with indications that repairs are progressing and she will start with sea acceptance trials in November.
The Valour Class frigate stopped in Durban en route to taking up station in the busy sea lane in August for what at the time was said to be minor work. She departed Naval Base Durban and was due to spend 40 days on station as the major South African contribution to Operation Copper, the Southern African Development Community counter-piracy tasking.
About four weeks later defenceWeb was reliably informed Spioenkop was “limping” back to Durban after experiencing operational defects. The SA Navy only responded to a defenceWeb enquiry yesterday on the status of the vessel.
Navy media relations officer Captain Zamo Sithole said Spioenkop is busy with maintenance and repairs are “being undertaken”.
“The present schedule, provided all goes according to plan, is that Spioenkop will commence sea acceptance trails in early November,” he said adding the next scheduled deployment of a Navy vessel for Operation Copper is “over the festive period”.
The Armscor tender bulletin has been carrying basic information on a requirement issued in terms of reference ENLS/2016/163 for a “feasibility study requirement on frigate waterjet system”. The closing date for submission was October 12 and to date no more information has been put into the public domain.
Unconfirmed reports at the time of Spioenkop going unserviceable had it there were problems with the vessel’s propulsion system, possible confirmation of which is the Armscor tender.
Spioenkop is the third of the Valour class frigates acquired by the SA Navy to enhance its blue water capability as part of the 1998 multi-billion Rand arms deal. Her keel was laid down in February 2002, she was launched in August 2003 and commissioned in March the following year.
Spioenkop has to date this year been to India to participate in that country’s International Fleet Review and was also the SA Navy’s sole representative in the Ibsamar exercise that followed the review. She also took an active part in the mid-year naval exercise Red Lion, part of the defence force-wide Exercise Ndlovu.
The next deployment of a maritime platform to the Mozambique Channel for Operation Copper in December ties in with the revised approach to the operation. This has seen with withdrawal of a vessel on station 24/7, 365 as well as the withdrawal of SAAF assets from bases in Mozambique. The operation now runs of the basis of ship/aircraft/ship with a short period of both on station to forward on the ground intelligence and other operational information.
This has seen the deployment of an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) for three weeks followed by a C-130BZ after it. The OPV was preceded by a C-47TP.
Indications are one of the two serving offshore patrol vessels will be the next maritime platform to take up station in the Mozambique Channel, probably also for 40 days.