Leased aircraft may combat piratesDate: 13 May 2011
The following is a very rough translation from the Afrikaans Beeld newspaper:
The airforce could again fully perform its role in maritime patrols, including action against pirates.
The hiring of at least two light maritime patrol aircraft is being considered to take over the role from the defunct Dakotas, which are almost 70 year old
According to Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano, Chief of the Air Force, one of the options being investigated is to base a plane with crew and ground staff from at least four locations on the South African coast to undertake maritime patrols.
Currently, a Dakota is operating with the SAS Mendi, involved in anti-piracy patrols on the north coast of Mozambique.
The operation officially commenced at the beginning of the year after Mozambique requested assistance from South Africa. This followed several ship hijackings just north of Mozambican territorial waters.
The Mendi with a Lynx helicopter on board are equipped with the best and newest radar equipment. A patrol aircraft higher in the air needed in needed to obtain a complete picture.
"You can not do it with technology that is 60 years old. The program for the procurement of maritime aircraft has since become a greater priority. "
According to Gagiano, the compilation of the documentation is almost complete and then the process can be handed over to a higher authority for execution.
It is hoped to hire two light aircraft like the Beechcraft King Air 350 with the necessary sensor equipment onboard.
According to Mr Helmoet-Römer Heitman, a military expert, it can later be supplemented with another aircraft. At the same time, the airforce can determine whether the plane meets expectations.
The Airforce already operates King Airs, so it would be easy to use pilots in the maritime role.
"The air force has lagged so far in the maritime surveillance role that the lease of the smaller planes will enable training to commence," Heitman said.
The King Air 350 can fly about nine hours without fuel. According Gagiano maritime patrols are not only required against pirates, but also to stop poachers and smugglers along South Africa's long coastline.
He said several models of operations are beng examined. It is even possible that a kind of coast guard in which part-time and retired pilots could be used.