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‘No commitment to buy a new presidential jet… just yet’

Armscor chief executive Kevin Wakeford has dismissed reports about the R4 billion price tag.

SANDF senior officials at a media briefing giving details surrounding the proposed new VVIP jet for president Jacob Zuma on 10 November 2015, in Pretoria. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN.

PRETORIA - The South African Air Force(SAAF) and Armscor say government's VIP transport demands simply outstrip their current capability, which is why a new VIP aircraft is needed.

A briefing was held at the Waterkloof Air Force base in Pretoria today about the request for information on possible new aircraft.

Weekend reports revealed that plans are underway for the purchase of a new jet that could cost as much as R4 billion.

Air force chief lieutenant general Zimpande Msimang says over the past few years they've struggled to provide the intercontinental transport service.

"The current fleet of the VVIP aircraft cannot sustain the current transport requirements."

Armscor chief executive Kevin Wakeford dismissed reports about a R4 billion price tag, which he says they couldn't afford anyway.

"It's an RFI, a Request for information, and already people in the press are speaking about a purchase. We don't know what the form of ownership is going to be because we haven't got there yet."

A formal tender process will only start once a request for proposal has been issued.

WATCH: SAAF & Armscor set record straight on 'new' presidential jet

The SAAF says the request for information on possible new aircraft for its VIP fleet is not binding and has no financial implications.

Msimang says the request for information is to help Armscor identify possible options that meet their requirements.

"The RFI aims to obtain information on the affordability of different options and different finance options of the eventually selected option. It is not a binding document."

Wakeford says operating one intercontinental aircraft simply doesn't meet demand.

"There's a demand, particularly with our escalating role in Africa, and our growing trade with the East."

The two parties have also assured the public that there is no commitment to buy a new presidential jet yet.

The president's office yesterday said the public must be briefed on this matter as much as possible.

Msimang says the air force is required to be mission ready to provide VVIP transport.

But he says over the past few years this capability has been constrained.

"The quest for information is aimed at obtaining that which will assist Armscor in identifying possible options to satisfy the Air Forces' requirements to expand their current intercontinental VVIP transport capabilities."

Wakeford stressed that this process is simply a request for information.

"I don't know where the R4 billion comes from, because quite frankly, we can't afford that. We are looking at a whole variety of options, but we are seeking information to establish the facts. And we are not going to do anything irresponsible, that I can guarantee you."

Msimang says the air force is required to be 'mission ready' to provide VIP transport.

But he says over the past few years this capability has been constrained.

"Request for information is aimed at obtaining information that will assist Armscor in identifying possible options to satisfy the SAAF's requirements to expand their intercontinental VVIP transport capabilities.

The president's current jet, Inkwazi, is unable to carry more than 15 people and with the new purchase at least 30 passengers will be able to travel with the president.

The deadline for information has been set for early next year.

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