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Operationally stretched SAAF flying fewer hours

Date: 5 November 2014

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By Guy Martin

 he South African Air Force saw a significant increase in operational demands and external commitments in the last financial year, including its first fighter and helicopter operational deployments since democracy, but flew 5 000 fewer hours than the previous year, according to the Department of Defence.

The Department of Defence’s 2013/14 annual report noted that the SAAF flew a total of 18 454 hours, or 87.65% of the planned flying hours for the year ending March 31. Of the targeted 6 300 force employment hours that were planned, only 4 471 were actually flown as “the requirements of force employment were less than predicted.”

Last year’s total SAAF flying hours is in stark contrast to the 23 636 flight hours for the FY2012/13 year, during which the SAAF flew 94.8% of its planned flying hours. In the 2011/2012 period, the SAAF’s helicopter, transport, maritime surveillance and fighter fleets flew 22 729 flight hours.

The reduction in flight hours came as, “During the year under review [2013/14], the South African Air Force saw a significant increase in operational demands and commitments externally as well as internally. Additional outputs included the deployment of more aircraft to the operational areas as well as increased participation in internal operations and exercises,” the Department of Defence report said.

For the first time the SAAF deployed fighter aircraft to what the Annual Report called the “operational area” for several days during April 2013. Rooivalk combat helicopters and four Gripen fighter jets were sent to countries neighbouring the Central African Republic to assist South African troops there after 13 were killed during a firefight with Seleka rebels but they arrived too late to stop the rebels overthrowing the Republic’s government. “Although no operational flying took place, valuable deployment lessons were learnt,” the Annual Report noted.


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