The third Warrior Class strike craft to be refitted as an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) – SAS Makhanda – is en route to the Mozambique Channel for Operation Copper counter-piracy duties.
Prior to becoming an OPV, her condition had deteriorated to such an extent she could not make own passage from Simon’s town to SA Shipyards in Durban and was towed to the east coast port for repair and refurbishment work.
The former SAS Magnus Malan completed harbour and sea acceptance trials in Durban before setting course for her home port last month. She was first spotted in the Simon’s town area on June 29 and was seen in the bay less than a week later sporting her 76 mm forward gun.
No official confirmation was forthcoming from the Navy but it has been reliably learnt the third revamped member of the SA Navy’s current offshore capability will replace sister ship, SAS Galeshewe, in the Mozambique Channel.
The other two converted strike craft are SAS Isaac Dyobha (P1565) and Galeshewe (P1567). Makhanda’s pennant number is (P1569).
The return to service of Makhanda means SA Shipyards has met its obligation to supply three serviceable and reliable vessels the Navy “will be able to use effectively for the next five years,” SA Shipyards marketing officer Lucinda Creamer said.
Just over a year ago then Director: Force Preparation for the Navy, Rear Admiral Bravo Mhlana (now Flag Officer Fleet), told defenceWeb the refurbishment of the strike craft was in line with the eventual acquisition of new offshore patrol vessels in terms of Project Biro.
“We have to keep these vessels (refurbished strike craft) as long as we can so crews can be transferred from them to the new OPVs.”
Recent indications from new Navy chief Rear Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwane are the renewal of the offshore patrol and hydrographic capabilities of the Navy remain on track.
In April he told defenceWeb projects Biro (OPVs) and Hotel (a new hydrographic vessel to replace the ageing SAS Protea) are in the final acquisition study phases.
“Once complete we will have a clearer indication of the capability we will receive and when delivery can be expected,” he said.
The upgrading of Naval Station Durban to a fully-fledged naval base housing the OPVs, both existing and to come, is also still on track according to Hlongwane.
“The re-establishment of the naval base on Salisbury Island is on track and the OPVs will be stationed in Durban. As this facility is in the heart of South Africa’s busiest harbour, a balance has to be found between commercial and defence requirements in the ever-growing Durban port.
“I cannot over-emphasise the importance of the Indian Ocean and our ability to conduct maritime security operations from South Africa’s eastern seaboard. Central to this is Naval Base Durban and the OPVs that will operate from there,” he said.