The woeful state of the South African Air Force (SAAF) was again driven home during last month’s exercise Shared Accord when its Super Lynx 300 maritime helicopters were deployed as standby casevac aircraft, rather than some of the A109 Light Utility Helicopter fleet, which is mostly grounded.
The four 22 Squadron Super Lynx were acquired primarily for use aboard the SA Navy’s Valour Class frigates and its fleet replenishment vessel, SAS Drakensberg. The primary tasking of the Super Lynxes is in a search capability for anti-surface warfare, maritime search and rescue as well as maritime patrol.
During the joint South Africa/United States peacekeeping and humanitarian exercise in the Eastern Cape, the specialist maritime helicopters flew “10 or so hours”, a reliable source has indicated.
Local military watchers are of the opinion this deployment is another indicator of the precarious financial and personnel situation the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) finds itself in.
An almost total lack of flying hour allocation for the A109 light utility helicopters has seen the major part of the 30-strong fleet virtually grounded. This in turn means there are in the region of 18 pilots who stand to lose their currency ratings for the light utility helicopter.
Among the roles envisaged for the Italian manufactured, twin-engined helicopter are casevac and search and rescue. Other taskings include light passenger and cargo transport, patrol and reconnaissance, liaison and command, light attack and anti-tank, escort and area suppression.