The most recent Operation Copper deployment paid good dividends in tactical execution and also opened new doors for operational improvements.
The multi-platform deployment – two SA Navy vessels and a SA Air Force (SAAF) maritime patrol aircraft – ensured a far wider wide spread of patrolling which contributed to the large number of vessels hailed. The three week-long deployment saw more than 50 vessels hailed.
The hydrographic vessel SAS Protea (A324), in addition to performing patrol duties, was the replenishment vessel for the OPV (offshore patrol vessel) SAS Galeshewe (P1567). This arrangement meant Galeshewe did not have to port once during the deployment giving the revamped strikecraft a lot more time on target according to Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, SO1, Operational Communication at SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Division.
Two replenishment at sea (RAS) exercises were performed during the deployment. One was mobile and at sea with the other a stationary RAS in Pemba Bay.
“Operating closer inshore the Galeshewe approached and hailed 13 vessels with Protea, working in deeper offshore waters, hailed 44 vessels of varying size ranging from fishing trawlers to a tanker,” he said.
The Navy platforms were supported by a C-47TP from AFB Ysterplaat-based 35 Squadron.
“Having three assets dedicated to the tasking was an achievement and it paid off,” Paxton said adding among the bonuses of the deployment was recording a large increase in fishing activity, particularly off Beira.
“This will be taken further at government level in terms of the Mozambique/South Africa bilateral which makes provision for Operation Copper. With more information available to both parties there is room for improving certain aspects of the deployment to the advantage of both countries as well as the Southern African Development Community (SADC).”