International air exercise to be held in South Africa?Date: 1 May 2012
By Kim Helfrich
APART from planning and training with the three other current Gripen user countries, the SA Air Force's (SAAF) new generation of jet pilots were able to demonstrate their flying skills in an environment far different to that they are used to at the just concluded Exercise Lion Effort.
"A lot of valuable lessons were learnt," said Brigadier General John Bain, director: combat systems, of the exercise hosted by the Swedish Air Force at Ronneby on the south eastern cost of the Scandinavian country this month(SUBS:APR).
"Chief among these was the opportunity for us to benchmark training and utilisation, doctrine and aircrew standards. All these lessons will be put into good use at AFB Makhado (home of 2 Squadron, the SAAF's only current jet fighter capability, along with 85 Combat Flying School's Hawk Mark 120 lead-in fighter trainers)."
While the man responsible for the country's overall jet fighter capability would not be drawn on actual flying performance (it has been reported SAAF Gripens earned nine "kills" during the exercise) he said both air- and ground-crews deployed for the exercise had "performed well".
This against a logistic background last experienced by the SAAF 60 years ago during World War 11. "We did not have to move aircraft to Sweden as the final tranche of SAAF Gripens was specifically held back for the exercise but everything else had to come from South Africa, specifically Makhado and that took plenty of planning."
"It all came together and all 29 2 Squadron members and the 11 SAAF support staff members contributed to us being able to do what we were asked. For the SAAF the logistical move was one we will benchmark for future deployments."
Bain said there were operational aspects of SAAF doctrine well received by other members of the Gripen User Group (Sweden, Hungary and the Czech Republic).
"We learnt from them and they were able to learn from us. That is what this type of exercise is all about and we are already planning for the next one in the Czech Republic in 2015, funds permitting."
Making the one star general particularly happy was that South Africa was asked to "consider" hosting the 2018 edition of Exercise Lion Effort.
"While we, as South Africa, would see it as further acceptance of our return to the international military aviation family it's a long way away and we must also be very aware of the financial constraints facing us as part of the SA National Defence Force".
"I believe South Africa has expertise to offer the other Gripen User Group members and I am sure they will enjoy flying in South Africa."
Aircrew of the German Luftwaffe has previously had nothing but praise for local military aviation operations, control and airspace following the joint exercises Good Hope 111 and 1V.
Colonel Pierre Venter, who headed up the SAAF contingent at Exercise Lion Effort, said the success of the exercise from a 2 Squadron point of view was twofold.
"In the first instance the size of the exercise was new to us and the fact we were able not only to contribute in terms of planning, briefing and actual flying was also a massive morale booster for our people.
"The lessons learnt at Ronneby will be ploughed back at Makhado," he said.
Source: The New Age