Air force, navy 'just for show'

2010-03-04 08:53
Cape Town - The expensive Gripen fighter jets, frigates and submarines which cost South African taxpayers billions of rands will mainly be on the ground and in port over the next three years, because there's no money to operate them.

The DA has called this a disgrace, while the department of defence's excuse is that its budget is hopelessly inadequate.

According to the department's strategic plan for the next three years, which was submitted to Parliament on Wednesday, their budgeting allows for the following:
- That the Gripens will spend 550 hours in flight in the current financial year, after which this will be scaled down to 250 flight hours per year for the next two years; and
- That the navy's 18 ships will have 10 000 hours at sea in 2011-2012 and 9 000 hours at sea per year in 2012 and 2013.

Operational capabilities

DA MP David Maynier said at a meeting between the parliamentary portfolio committee for defence and the department that it's clear "the defence force is being stripped of its operational capabilities".

"Look at maritime defence: Taking into account what we have at our disposal and the hours at sea which have been budgeted for, the navy's ships will spend 23 days at sea and 328 days in port. Perhaps eight ships - including the frigates at the submarines - would be more realistic: That would mean they'd spend 55 days at sea and 299 in port.

"Concerning the air force: We have 11 Gripens and 550 flight hours available this year, which means they are flying less than half of the hours required to comply with Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) standards. Most of these hours will be used during the 2010 World Cup, and between July and the end of the financial year, these fighter jets will be standing in their hangars," he said.

"It gets worse in the following years: Once all 26 Gripens have been delivered, they'll spend an average of 9.6 hours in flight per year."

Helmoed-Römer Heitman, a defence expert, described this budget as ludicrous and said if this is the way the navy and air force are run, the defence force might as well shut its doors.

According to him, Nato requires that fighter pilots log 20 flight hours per month (240 flight hours per year per fighter pilot, compared to the air force's budget of 550 flight hours) to remain operationally functional.

Bought for show

"According to these standards our air force is only barely going to be able to keep two fighter pilots in business.

"As far as our navy is concerned, it is now clear that the frigates and submarines were only bought for show."

Thabang Makwetla, deputy minister of defence, said it isn't the department's fault and that the problem lies with the inadequate defence budget.

According to Professor Renfrew Christie from the University of the Western Cape, South Africa is currently spending about 1.2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defence, compared to 4.5% in 1989.

The World Bank recommends that a functional defence force should be allocated no less than 2% of the GDP.

Read more on:    military

Read News24’s Comments Policy


Inside News24


11 things men don’t know about their clothes

There’s actually a logical explanation for that little button under your collar.

Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!
This is how the Top Gear presenters spend their £55 million!
Thirty and still single? There’s hope!
SA’s Playboy Playmate of the year in action!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

Good Morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda la Grange

Good Morning, Mr Mandela tells the extraordinary story of how a young woman had her life, beliefs, prejudices and everything she once believed in utterly transformed by the greatest man of her time. Now R221. Pre-order now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


It may be hard to stay cool, calm and collected. Your emotions can get quite heated in the moment. You may benefit from finding more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.