The just completed naval Exercise Oxide off Maputo saw the first ever utilisation and deployment of the Special Forces submarine parachute action group (SPAG) jumping from a C-130 to ‘rescue’ the submarine SAS Queen Modjadji.
The South African Air Force (SAAF), SA Navy (SAN) and Special Forces (SF) all worked together in real-time to locate the submarine ‘in distress’ and launch a rescue operation. Once the vessel was located, the special forces team parachuted from the C-130 at around 4 000 feet and landed around 50 metres from the submarine, with inflatable boats.
The entire submarine search and rescue operation was successfully completed in just over two hours with airlift provided by a 28 Squadron C-130, working from South Africa, and a 35 Squadron C-47TP based in Maputo, Mozambique.
The air assets were brought into action after the three vessels comprising the exercise fleet – SAS Isandlwana, SAS Isaac Dyobha and the French light surveillance frigate FS Nivose – had successfully tracked down SAS Queen Modjadji, one of the Navy’s three Type 209 submarines and marked as the vessel in distress for this part of the exercise.
Speaking at the exercise debrief aboard SAS Isandlwana in Maputo harbour, task group commander (CTG) Captain (SAN) Jabu Mbotho said all participating elements didn’t just go through the motions.
“All participated actively in the dynamics of conducting the various evolutions which made up Exercise Oxide. This was further proof that experience is not bought but learnt. Overall I would say the experience gained was invaluable.”
Supporting him was SAN Chief Director: Maritime Strategy, Rear Admiral Hanno Teuteberg, who said there was no substitute for training.
“Exercise Oxide provided an ideal opportunity to do this by sending and keeping our ships at sea.”
Another welcome opportunity was for the SAAF Super Lynx maritime helicopter to use its direction finding equipment in a real-time scenario using actual distress frequencies. This gave the 22 Squadron aircrew an improved overall understanding of the essential capabilities of this equipment in a search and rescue environment.
Also on the credit side of the exercise’s ledger was the opportunity for French forces to work with a variety of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) assets in the southern Indian Ocean region, as no other country can provide this, the CTG said.
South African elements involved in the week-long exercise also used it to benchmark operational procedures against those of French armed forces operating in the region.
Apart from the submarine search and rescue, Oxide also saw basic and advanced interdiction and boarding operations, an essential part of counter-piracy taskings, which was the primary objective of the exercise. This involved the SAN’s maritime reaction squadron and French commandos working from rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) launched from frigates and the offshore patrol vessel (OPV) deployed for the exercise.
Vertical replenishment using both French and South African helicopters, multi-ship manoeuvring and gunnery firing were other skills fine-tuned during the exercise.
Click here to view the Exercise Oxide gallery.