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Navy to introduce fleet to SANDF Commander in Chief

by Edwin Tshivhidzo
on 01 Sep 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

The South African Navy is expected to introduce the new Navy fleet to the Commander in Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), President Thabo Mbeki this week.

The event, in Simons Town, would be a culmination of more than a decade of work by members of the SA Navy to ensure that the vessels are operational and that the personnel are competent and professional to crew them.

Over the years, the Department of Defence has been engaged in a process of acquiring new frigates, submarines and state-of-the art helicopters.

The acquisition of the helicopters, including submarines and corvettes, is part of the Strategic Arms Procurement Package approved by Cabinet in 2001.

The first corvette, Amatola, was received in 2001. SAS Isandlwana was the second corvette which was received in Durban 2006 followed by the Spioenkop.

The then Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge named the SAS Isandlwana corvette in Kiel, Germany, in 2002.

SAS Mendi was the fourth and was named after the famous troopship SS Mendi that sank in the First World War in the English Channel; more than 600 black soldiers were killed in the tragedy.
Also as part of procurement, the department acquired three submarines, namely, Queen Modjadji 1, SAS Manthatisi and SAS Charlotte Maxeke.

As part of the deal, the Navy also received four new patrol frigates as part of the package, as well as four Super Linx helicopters to be operated by the South African Air Force from the ships.

According to the Navy, the submarine will be used for training purposes, peace support operations, maritime escorts, diplomatic missions, operational exercises with other African and overseas navies and to undertake any other duty that she may be assigned to perform.

The department has also over the years acquired state-of-the-art helicopters from Augusta, Italy, to replace the ageing Alouette III fleet, these were also bought as part of the arms deal.

These included state-of-the-art A109 Agusta Light Utility Helicopters.

The new machines were tested here in South Africa to see if they were adaptable to all weather conditions.

The department said the helicopters would be used for search and rescue operations and sometimes in operations conducted by the police.

In 2005, the late Secretary of Defence January Masilela said the acquisition was part of a broader plan to revamp the SANDF.

"We felt there was a need for the country to acquire new and advanced machines to defend and protect the country," he said at that time.

In terms of the arms deal, the SANDF was meant to acquire four corvettes, three submarines, 30 utility helicopters, 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainers and 28 Gripen advanced fighter aircraft. - BuaNews

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