SAS Amatola (F145) is currently steaming up the east coast ahead of taking up station in the Mozambique Channel for an anti-piracy tasking in terms of Operation Copper.
The Valour Class frigate departed Simon’s Town on 22 February and is due back in her home port on 14 March.
The previous Operation Copper deployment saw two SA Navy platforms – the offshore patrol vessel (OPV) SAS Galeshewe (P1567) and the hydrographic vessel SAS Protea (A324) – on station for three weeks.
Operation Copper is a Southern African Development Community (SADC) approved tasking supported by South Africa, Mozambique and, to a lesser extent, Tanzania.
The August 2018 deployment saw 57 vessels ranging in size from fishing trawlers to a tanker approached and hailed. The deployment, Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton of SANDF Joint Operations Division said at the time, paid good dividends in tactical execution and opened doors for operational improvements. At least some of these improvements are expected to be utilised by the crew of SAS Amatola during her three week tour in the Mozambique Channel.
The maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was on the receiving end of some largesse from National Treasury during last week’s budget.
In the 2017/18 financial year Treasury allocated sufficient funding for over six thousand hours at sea for both operations and training. For the current financial term (2018/19) the Navy has been allocated 12 000 sea hours, which drops to 10 000 for the following three financial terms.
According to the Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) “the SA Navy will continue to prepare naval forces for operations in support of the maritime security strategy. These operations involve ongoing maritime border patrols along the Mozambican channel to combat piracy. Provision is made in the Maritime Defence programme over the MTEF period to finalise the acquisition of a new hydrographic survey vessel at an estimated cost of R2.1 billion. The vessel will be used to conduct hydrographic research to produce nautical charts, and ensure safe navigation for military and civilian shipping.
“The acquisition of this vessel forms part of Operation Phakisa, an initiative of the Department of Environmental Affairs intended to unlock the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans. Over the medium term, R1.6 billion is allocated, mainly in the Maritime Defence programme, for implementation of the maritime security strategy along the east coast of Africa.”
Navy OPV SAS Makhanda (P1569) last month completed a two week deployment off Port Elizabeth in support of Operation Phakisa performing maritime fisheries protection duties. The Navy has previously deployed assets including harbour patrol craft and elements of its Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) in support of Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) inspection staff and police on anti-poaching operations in the Gansbaai area of the Western Cape.