It took a few hours on 23 August 2017 for the South African Air Force contingent inclusive of elements from Defence Intelligence and the South African Military Health Service (SAMHS) to fly from Air Force Base Waterkloof, Pretoria, to Ondangwa Airport, Namibia. The smooth-landing by the SA Air Force's trusted operation bird, the C-130 Hercules, delivered personnel and equipment that would assist the execution of the Exercise Blue Kunene, a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Exercise. The exercise is aimed at preparing the airborne elements of member states' air forces and/or air wings for rapid deployments in catastrophic situations and the subsequent humanitarian air operations and assistance.
To wish the contingent well, the Chief of the South African Air Force, Lieutenant General (Lt Gen) Zimpande Msimang, emphasised the need for good ambassadorship and encouraged members to learn as much as they can. "Travel well, fly the national flag proudly. In our engagements with other regional Air Chiefs, we spoke extensively on how these exercises should evolve in the future. Hopefully, the new format would include us, South Africa as the hosts. To the SAMHS team, look after yourselves and look after our most prized possession, our human capital. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw two Casas parked here at the same time", said Lt Gen Msimang."
Lt Gen Msimang reiterated the fact that as the military, reacting to natural disasters in the SADC is unavoidable and it is a regional responsibility of all member states to lend a hand. He highlighted that the interconnectivity that these kind of Air Component Exercises, have thus far contributed significantly to economic growth, military education and better SADC doctrine. These exercises, according to the General, also assist citizens to participate in the understanding of what the military does and further strengthens ties with the neighbours.
The exercise follows a series of meetings amongst Air Force Chiefs/Wings of the SADC region whereupon they decided to organize a joint exercise in preparation for intervention in any disaster that might strike the member states. The exercise is conducted biennially with last installment having been organized in Botswana in 2015.
The air force has pledged two Casas 212, one King Air and three Oryx helicopters with approximately one hundred personnel of various specialists to the exercise.
The dependence of the daily functioning of the SADC society on military information communication and protection, has led to a concomitant need for the development of adequate security measures.
The recent situation in Sierra Leone wherein a mudslide killed approximately four hundred people has somewhat demonstrated the need for SADC Air Forces/Wings to intensify their preparations for any eventuality.
Issued by: South African Air Force, Directorate Corporate Staff Services