Funding difficulties for air force’s C-130sDate: 3 October 2011
LIMITED funding was adversely affecting the operations of the South African Air Force, Carlo Gagiano, chief of the air force, said in Pretoria on Friday.
Inadequate funding has derailed plans to replace the 48- year old fleet of seven C-130 four- engine turbo transport aircraft with an upgraded C-130-J model that would cost a total of R7,4bn — funds the military do not have.
The average cost of a C-130 aircraft is R1bn, which excludes servicing and maintenance . Military spending accounts for 1,2% of gross domestic product for which the air force has to compete with other arms of the defence force.
"The fact is worldwide this economic situation has got a huge effect on the military because where can you cut (funding)? But the reality is the moment you cut (funding) the next moment you are needed as was very clear with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s campaign in Libya," Lt- Gen Gagiano said.
Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu last year cancelled a multi- billion rand order to acquire eight Airbus A400M military transport planes due to the soaring costs of the deal. Each aircraft was valued at R6bn.
Despite these operational difficulties, Lt-Gen Gagiano was optimistic the air force would be able to respond to requests by the authorities to assist with peace missions on the continent.
"It is very important that we are focused on the initiatives of our government and we try to prepare ourselves and position ourselves so that we can at all times be available and ready ... whether it’s peacekeeping or support to diplomatic initiatives," he said.
Lt-Gen Gagiano was speaking in Pretoria at a media briefing on the future of the C-130 aircraft. Calculations by the air force indicate that, through continuous maintenance, the C-130 s could be kept in service until 2020 . The turnaround time on minor service has been reduced to an average of 84 days instead of 182 .
The C-130 is used in more than 60 countries and is the only military aircraft in continuous production for more than 50 years. Between April and last month, SA’s C-130 aircraft have flown to 15 mostly African countries. SA has been involved in emergency assistance, conflict prevention and postconflict reconstruction efforts.
Less funding also had the potential to reduce the air force’s capability to assist with SA’s peacekeeping missions on the continent. Last month one C-130 aircraft with emergency personnel was sent to Tanzania to assist with efforts to recover bodies after an overloaded ferry sank.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Sudan, Comores and Côte d’Ivoire are countries in which SA’s defence force had in the past been deployed to promote peace efforts.
The aircraft was also used to assist with relief efforts in Somalia, which has been devastated by drought and famine.
During an official visit to SA in July, Tanzania’s President Jikaya Kikwete encouraged SA to use its political and economic status on the continent.
SA’s navy has been deployed to patrol the Mozambique Channel to pre-empt piracy .
Source: Business Day