Written by Kim Helfrich
With approval, in principle at present from the National Treasury, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s unhappiness about “her people” flying in aircraft more than 60 years old seems set to end, if only in a few years.
During his national budget speech last month Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan approved the acquisition of new maritime surveillance aircraft (MSA) in the 2015/16 fiscal term for the South African Air Force (SAAF).
The new aircraft, the number of which was not stipulated by Gordhan, will replace 35 Squadron’s C-47TPs, now well over 60 years old and the mainstay of the SAAF’s maritime patrol and surveillance capability.
Mapisa-Nqakula specifically mentioned the age of aircraft in the wake of the C-47TP crash in the Drakensberg in December 2012 which left 11 dead.
With the door now open for MSAs, two of the potential suppliers have both stressed the importance of acquisitions that can fulfil multiple missions rather than be dedicated to the single tasking of maritime surveillance.