The absence of pirates and associated activity in the Mozambique Channel has seen a downscaling of Operation Copper, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) counter-piracy tasking to where either an airborne or maritime asset is deployed at any one time.
The operation is now at the stage where it has become more intelligence driven and the lack of any pirate activity for at least three years has made it possible to minimise the use of assets deployed and at the same time maintain a continuously updated intelligence picture of what is happening in this busy sea lane, one of the major carrier of goods to and from South Africa.
This weekend will see the Valour Class frigate SAS Spioenkop (F147) take up station in the Mozambique Channel after departure from Naval Base Durban.
“She will spend 40 days on deployment before being replaced by an air asset,” Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, Staff Officer, Operational Communications at Joint Operations Division HQ, said.
The frigate was scheduled to have moved into the Channel today (Friday) but developed a propulsion system problem which was attended into in Durban in transit from Simon’s Town. If deemed necessary, the ship will first port in Maputo for extra water and fuel before taking up the counter-piracy watch.
“The Operation Copper deployment has for the past few months been on the basis of ship/aircraft/ship with a short period of both on station to forward ‘on the ground’ intelligence and other operational information,” Paxton said.
This has seen the deployment of an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) for three weeks followed by a C-130BZ after it. The OPV was preceded by a C-47TP.
Aircraft designated for maritime patrol are no longer based in Pemba as was previously done. They fly to Mozambique doing maritime patrolling en route if the tasked aircraft is from 35 Squadron, stopping to refuel in Mozambique and using the closest Mozambican airport as a temporary base. In the case of 28 Squadron, the aircraft flies direct to Maputo from AFB Waterkloof and then takes up its maritime duties.