French and South African military co-operation will in September see Exercise Oxide hosted in Richards Bay, with an emphasis on naval operations particularly search and rescue and a high value target extraction.
The biannual exercise between the two countries will this year be headquartered in the South African east coast port of Richards Bay with the sea stage taking place from September 21 to October 2. This will be preceded by mobilisation and familiarisation with demobilisation set to happen from October 5 to 9.
South Africa, as host nation, will supply the bulk of the platforms and manpower for the exercise. The SA Navy has indicated it will deploy one of two of its Valour Class frigates, either SAS Isandlwana or SAS Spioenkop, as well as the Heroine Class submarine SAS Queen Modjadji, the OPV SAS Isaac Dyobha and the hydrographic vessel, SAS Protea.
French maritime forces will be represented by the light surveillance frigate FNS Floreal with a maritime helicopter. The vessel is based at Reunion Island and visited Cape Town in March this year. Other French force elements taking part include a commando group, a seaborne group and a CASA CN235 carrying an infantry section or a C-130 carrying two to three infantry sections.
Other South African military elements that will take part in Exercise Oxide include the air force (a C-130BZ, a C-47TP, a Super Lynx embarked on the deployed frigate and an Oryx medium transport helicopter), Special Forces including a submarine team, a submarine parachute action group and an airborne team as well as SA Military Health Service task teams ashore and aboard with an operational emergency care practitioner aboard each SAN vessel.
The search and rescue component will be co-ordinated by the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Cape Town and the Maritime Rescue Sub-regional Centre on La Reunion. It will centre around a distressed passenger liner scenario about 20 kilometres offshore from Richards Bay and will see all Exercise Oxide forces involved as well as the Richards Bay Port Authority and other government departments and agencies.
Military operations to be exercised include establishing an airhead either at Mtubatuba or Richards Bay airport, moving to Naval Island for the simulated high value extraction. Combat swimmers, attack divers, kayaks, inflatables, and delta boats will be utilised by Special Forces and the Maritime Reaction Squadron detachment.
The first week of sea operations coincide with World Maritime Day on September 24 and a number of events are planned for Richards Bay to mark the day.