SA Air Force in crisis - DA

2013-07-24 15:32
The Agusta A109 helicopter (Johann Hattingh, Beeld)

The Agusta A109 helicopter (Johann Hattingh, Beeld)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town - The DA will ask Parliament's defence joint standing committee to schedule a meeting to discuss the "crisis" in the SA Air Force (SAAF), spokesperson David Maynier said on Wednesday.

He was responding to a news report that 18 Agusta A109 helicopters had been grounded because there was no money to operate them.

"The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula must explain why things have been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that the SAAF Agusta A109 light utility helicopters have effectively been grounded," the DA MP said.

The aircraft were purchased at a cost of close to R2bn as part of the controversial arms deal.

"The budget for the SAAF’s 'helicopter capability' has been slashed from R915m in 2012/13 to R769m in 2013/14," Maynier said.

"Because of this only 71 flying hours have reportedly been allocated to the operational fleet of approximately 20 Agusta A109 helicopters."

This meant the helicopter pilots could lose their qualifications as a result of not being able to fly the minimum number of hours needed.

"Ironically, there seems to be no shortage of funds to transport VIPs -including President Jacob Zuma and the minister - on helicopters operated by the SAAF," said Maynier.

The cost of flying VIP's since 2009 stood at at least R50m.

"The SAAF are in danger of being reduced to an airborne taxi service for VIPs."


Earlier on Wednesday the defence department refused to comment on the allegations.

"My comment is very clear: We do not discuss operational matters and [the defence force's] state of readiness," said department spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini.

Beeld newspaper reported an anonymous source stating that the helicopters were occasionally enabled, but did not ascend.

Beeld reported that the SAAF's 26 Gripen fighter aircraft, which were also bought in the multi-billion rand arms deal a few years ago, were also rarely used.

A senior SA National Defence Force (SANDF) officer reportedly told the newspaper the situation was grim.

Amid a 60% budget cut, it was considering selling the Gripens and not just the A109 helicopters, but all helicopter operations.

Military expert Helmoed Romer-Heitman reportedly said the SAAF was suffering from government's indecision about what it expected from the army.

"An air force without fighter aircraft is a dead duck in Africa's military context. An army without helicopters and transport aircraft is a dinosaur in a swamp," he was quoted as saying.

Read more on:    saaf  |  da  |  sandf  |  nosiviwe mapisa-nqakula  |  jacob zuma  |  cape town  |  parliament 2013

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Financial advisors – Do you need one and should you get one?

The good, the bad, and everything else you need to know when considering hiring a financial advisor.


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
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.