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By Editorial staff

Journalist


It’s not too late to save the air force

Once the most powerful air force in sub-Saharan Africa, the SAAF is a shadow of its former self and can no longer carry out basic missions.


It may have looked impressive, but yesterday’s flypast at Air Force Base Swartkop in Centurion might well have been the swan song of the South African Air Force (SAAF)… because it can no longer carry out all the missions of a true air force. Once the most powerful air force in sub-Saharan Africa, it is a shadow of its former self. It would be unable to provide air defence – with only three flying Gripen fighters out of 26 originally purchased. In pictures: The SA Air Force Prestige Parade It would be unable to carry cargo into, or people out…

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It may have looked impressive, but yesterday’s flypast at Air Force Base Swartkop in Centurion might well have been the swan song of the South African Air Force (SAAF)… because it can no longer carry out all the missions of a true air force.

Once the most powerful air force in sub-Saharan Africa, it is a shadow of its former self. It would be unable to provide air defence – with only three flying Gripen fighters out of 26 originally purchased.

In pictures: The SA Air Force Prestige Parade

It would be unable to carry cargo into, or people out of disaster zones, because it no longer has a full fleet of operational C-130 freighters.

It has been unable to provide coastal patrols or maritime search-and-rescue off our coast for years, because its C-47 planes are grounded.

Even its helicopters, known for valiant rescues of people from floods or for firefighting, can only do a fraction of the missions they once did.

This is because the government has whittled away the SAAF’s budget, forcing air force commanders to tighten their belts further and further.

Apart from there being little money for maintenance or replacement, there is precious little for fuel, so pilots are struggling to get in enough flying hours to remain current.

Mind you, the SAAF’s two VIP jet aircraft – frequently used by President Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy, Paul Mashatile, for trips around the country and abroad – seem to have enough money for fuel, maintenance and crew training…

ALSO READ: SA Air Force aircraft damaged after crash landing at Lohatla

There may be those who argue that, in a country faced with huge problems of poverty, we can’t afford an air force.

But the SAAF is not only an offensive or defensive entity, it has multiple roles to play in supporting the civil power and the citizens of our country.

It is not to late to save it – if action is taken now.

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