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SA armed forces in dire straits

Nov 29 2012 13:36 *James-Brent Styan
SANDF

Picture: Sapa

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Cape Town – The South African armed forces are so financially cash strapped that the combat readiness of the SANDF is currently under serious threat.

Admiral Alan Green, director for strategy in the SANDF told parliamentarians yesterday that the Air Force currently does not have sufficient budget to keep all 26 its new Gripen fighter planes in the air.

Documents in Fin24’s possession, shows that the SAAF Gripens only flew 173 hours during the three months between 1 July and 30 September. That amounts to about 2 hours of flying time per plane per month.

Green said the SANDF is working on a strategy to determine how the planes can all be kept airworthy.

The airforce's nine reserve squadrons have also been grounded.

The Navy is also struggling to keep afloat.

Ongoing operations in the Indian Ocean have exhausted the budgets of the Navy and have placed such strain on the naval forces that operations are currently severely limited.

The Navy has four frigates that were purchased with the arms deal. Only one is currently operating. Two others are in for maintenance and the fourth needs a new engine.

This engine can only be installed in Germany.

Green says the maintainence on the two frigates can take up to nine months.

Operation Copper, the SANDF’s anti-piracy actions in the Indian Ocean only got half its requested budget this past three months.

According to Green, the navy requested R126m but only received R63m.

Helmoed Römer-Heitman, military expert, says for the anti piracy operations South Africa is involved in, all four frigates are necessary.

“It has to do with relieving each other and that sort of thing.”

Green said one frigate is sufficient at the moment.

Römer-Heitman says the SA government is playing at defence.

“They’re just playing around really. They go and buy a lot of good stuff and then give no money to operate them. That’s pointless. We are in serious trouble what concerns defense readiness.”

David Maynier, DA MP and spokesperson on defence, says the department is not forthcoming about the defence forces combat readiness.

“The last time parliament had a proper briefing on this matter was in 2008.”

Dr Thobs Gamede, chief of strategy in the SANDF was asked yesterday about the SANDF’s combat readiness status.

“We can’t discuss that in open forums,” she said. 

 - Fin24

*Follow James-Brent Styan on Twitter @jamesstyan

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