Funding deficits are severely affecting the South African Air Force (SAAF) performance and ability to put enough aircraft in the air.
Flying is an expensive business, and for air, forces to have sufficient serviceable and air-worthy aircraft requires significant financial investments.
A South African Department of Defence (DoD) progress report presented at a Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) meeting on 18 August shows that lack of aircraft availability fueled by budget constraints is negatively affecting flying hours.
“Constrained funding is also affecting the ability to provide enough serviceable aircraft, although serious efforts are being made to ensure availability is increased within the reduced budget,” the progress report quotes.
According to the DoD, “attention is being given to effective planning for spares procurement to try and compensate for long lead times. It is envisaged that this will aid the SA Air Force in obtaining higher levels of serviceability allowing more flying hours to be flown to achieve the stated goals as per the Annual Performance Plan.”
Since the beginning of the year, the SAAF has flown a total of 3,560.8 hours well below the target of 25,000 hours. 2,717 hours was for Force Preparation; 636.7 hours for Force Employment; and 207.1 hours for Very Very Important Person (VVIP) flying.
State-owned weapons manufacturer Denel cannot afford to supply spares to keep the South African Air Force’s (SAAF) aircraft operational. In addition, funding constraint is leading to long lead times in acquiring much-needed spares, coupled with the obsolescence of most of the SAAF’s equipment. These, the DoD explained is resulting in difficulties in maintaining aircraft are the main issues preventing achieving the flying hour targets.
“In addition to this, force employment flying hours are dependent on taskings by Chief Joint Operations and VVIP and this can mean targets are not met if taskings are below what was estimated.”
In 2019, the budget allocation for the SAAF was about 60% short of what was required, resulting in total flying hours of less than one-third of the target.