Exercise Oxide underway off Mozambique


Exercise Oxide, currently being conducted by South Africa, Mozambique and France off the Mozambican coast, is expected to further deter pirates from venturing to that area of the world, a senior diplomat said.

Before the exercise proper getting underway yesterday, acting South African ambassador to Mozambique Marvin Lawack said the exercise was a further development in joint efforts to combat piracy.

He was speaking during a courtesy visit to the South African Embassy in Maputo attended by South African Rear Admiral MS Hlongwane and the commanding officers of SAS Isandlwana and SAS Isaac Dyobha. Also present was Cyril Gerardon, first counsellor of the French Embassy in Mozambique, and the officer commanding FNS Nivose.

Lawack said the exercise would add “immeasurably” to future mutual efforts to stop the scourge of piracy in the Indian Ocean.

The intense five day exercise is further proof of South Africa’s commitment to halting piracy through Operation Copper along with Southern African Development Community partners, Mozambique and Tanzania, as well as the international maritime community.

The key aim of Exercise Oxide is to promote co-operation and inter-operability between the French, Mozambican and South African maritime forces.

French forces taking part include the FS Nivose, a light surveillance frigate, and French commando boarding teams. The SA Navy (SAN) is the lead nation in the exercise and will deploy a Valour Class frigate (SAS Islandwana), a Type 209 submarine (SAS Queen Modjadji), the offshore patrol vessel SAS Isaac Dyoba, and a platoon from its Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS).

The airborne component for Exercise Oxide will be in the form of a C-130 Hercules from 28 Squadron and a 35 Squadron C-47TP, also used regularly in Operation Copper as a maritime patrol asset.

During the exercise, search and rescue, basic and advanced interdiction and boarding operations, vertical replenishment as well as tactical exercises and gunnery practice disciplines will all be undertaken.

The search and rescue component will use a submarine in distress as its central point with ships from both participating navies conducting a co-ordinated search for the underwater craft. Once the submarine’s location has been established a Special Forces parachute action group will use the C-130 as an airborne platform to speedily access it.

All vessels deployed for Exercise Oxide will take an active part in the interdiction and boarding operations phase. This will include location of “contacts of interest” (ships and vessels suspected of piracy and/or smuggling) and challenging them. Both French commandos and SAN MRS will exercise procedures for boarding, interrogation and search of suspicious vessels.

Helicopters from French and South African vessels will launch to airlift and drop crew.

The SAN will host nine “sea riders”, officers from the Mozambican and Tanzanian navies, aboard participating vessels to facilitate training and exposure among Southern African Development Community (SADC) maritime forces.

At the conclusion of the exercise on Friday, SAS Isandlwana will replace the offshore patrol vessel SAS Galeshewe in the Mozambique Channel as the next prime contributor to Operation Copper.

President Jacob Zuma has authorised the South African navy to continue anti-piracy patrols in the Mozambique Channel until at least the end of March next year. South Africa’s involvement in anti-piracy operations off the east coast of the continent was formalised by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into with Mozambique and Tanzania. The MOU is part of the Southern African Development Community’s contribution to end piracy off the East African coast.

This has seen the maritime arm of the SANDF as the main contributor to anti-piracy patrols in the Mozambique Channel with support from the SA Air Force and the SA Army, based at Pemba. The airborne elements involved have centred round the ageing C-47TP maritime patrol aircraft and the single-engined Cessna 208 Caravan. Land-based forces have supported the Navy’s Maritime Reaction Squadron in boarding and search operations of ships classified as “suspicious”.

The Presidency indicated 220 South African Navy sailors, supported by various SA Air Force musterings and elements of the SA Army have been active in Operation Copper between November last year and the end of March this year.

While the anti-piracy tasking is normally assigned to one of the Navy’s Valour Class frigates, this has not always been possible due to non-availability of ships. The fleet replenishment ship, SAS Drakensberg, has completed two tours of duty in the Channel.

She is, to date, the only SA Navy vessel to have been part of a successful patrol sortie. This saw her take on the stopper role to prevent a pirate vessel sailing south to escape an EU Navfor patrol further up the east coast.