Admiral: We need the arms

2013-08-27 07:13
Willie Seriti (File, Sapa)

Willie Seriti (File, Sapa)

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Pretoria - South Africa needs the submarines, frigates and other military equipment acquired in the 1999 arms deal to deter possible attacks, SA Navy Rear Admiral Philip Schoultz told the Seriti Commission on Monday.

"[It is important to] provide sufficient credible deterrents that a would-be aggressor would look at us from a maritime perspective and say there is risk in attacking," he told the commission sitting in Pretoria.

"I believe that the purchases were well-justified and necessary.

"I have no doubt that it was a good decision by government to give South Africa this capability.

"I recognise that there are challenges in terms of financial constraints and that the nature of these vessels, from time-to-time, that there will be defects, but we do have the capacity in-house and also the support of the manufacturers to repair them.

"Therefore, I am confident that they will continue to serve the country into the future."

‘You don’t see an attack until it’s too late’

Schoultz told the commission, sitting in Pretoria, that these were "uncertain times" and that the country needed to be ready for any kind of attack.

"If there is a would-be aggressor out there, they will identify the area of weakness which will become the centre of gravity, so it was important to take a balanced approach and to provide a deterrent," he said.

"You often do not see an attack until it is too late."

He said defects in military and navy equipment occurred worldwide and were not unique to South Africa.

He said it was the duty of the SA Navy to defend and protect, and it was often more important to deter and prevent conflict.

The mere presence of military capability provided a deterrent.

"The military is about providing safety for us all at our borders. It is about us assisting government in its effort to bring peace to this continent of ours," he said.

"The frigates and submarines have had defects, but both are reliable for the tasks at hand," he told the commission.

‘Every commitment met’

The commission heard that the submarines and frigates the SA Navy acquired in the 1999 arms deal had been used.

"I believe that we have adequately utilised these assets. Every commitment that this country has made, we have met," said Schoultz.

"It is safe to say that the submarines have been reliable and [have] served us well.... As far as the frigates are concerned..., in the normal course of operating there have been certain defects, but... we continue to discharge them."

Schoultz said frigates were built with "redundancy" and that there were always risks at sea, but that the SA Navy was satisfied the security requirements had been met.

Schoultz took the commission through various reported "defects" in SA Navy equipment and said the battery life of a submarine was between seven and eight years.

"There have been defects both on the submarines and the ships," he said.

"Our experience is that the submarines have been more reliable than the frigates." Cancelling the contracts had immense complications, he said.

The commission resumes on Tuesday.

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