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SA Air Force, Navy financials in 'dire straits'

They’ve told Parliament budget constraints have made the maintenance and repair of aircraft and vessels unaffordable and are also threatening the viability of the local defence industry.

FILE: Members of the South African Navy in Simons Town. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The chiefs of the South African Air Force and the Navy have painted a grim picture of how crippling budget cuts are hollowing out air and sea capabilities.

They’ve told Parliament budget constraints have made the maintenance and repair of aircraft and vessels unaffordable and are also threatening the viability of the local defence industry.

Details were spelt out at a meeting of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence on Thursday afternoon.

There was an attempt to exclude reporters from the briefing, on the grounds that the information was classified confidential, but this was resolved and media were allowed to attend.

The chief of the South African Air Force Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang did not mince his words: “I would like to state that the SA Air Force is in dire straits.”

He said the budget allocation was about 60% shy of what was needed, on the current trajectory, the country could be left with an air wing, rather than air force – with personnel but no assets.

“This budget allocation is not near the figures required for us to ensure that we are also building for the future, which is key for us – currently, we are in survival mode.”

The navy had a similar tale to tell as chief of the SA Navy Vice Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane warned the navy was set to lose its frigates and submarines in the next four years as urgent refits were unaffordable.

“It is shocking to show the status of the defence force when people thought that we – you know, sometimes you think that you have a tiger, and find that you don’t have a tiger, you’ve got a donkey.”

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