Dennys Plessas, Vice President Business Initiatives at Lockheed Martin, has reason to feel better about what the American aerospace giant is getting from its South African maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) agent than it is from those holding the purse strings of the national Defence budget.
He and a group of high-powered colleagues are this week again in South Africa keeping a weather eye on local Lockheed interests – primarily 28 Squadron of the SA Air Force (SAAF) and Denel Aviation.
He told defenceWeb there are currently 120 of the company’s best known product – the C-130 Hercules – in service on the African continent with only Tunisia, at this stage, operating the latest J model Super Hercules.
“That many aircraft need maintenance and I’m happy with what our MRO, Denel Aviation, is achieving in this regards,” he said adding he had “only last week” referred another operator to the Ekurhuleni-based Lockheed Martin approved maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) provider.
“I obviously followed that up with a call to Denel to ensure they follow up as well,” he said in Pretoria, adding the next operator of the latest model of the C-130 in Africa would be Egypt.
“Egypt will receive two C-130Js in about three years.”
While in South Africa he and his colleagues are holding yet another round of meetings with the South African Air Force (SAAF), Armscor and the Department of Defence in an effort to establish exactly what the situation is as regards replacement of the medium airlift capacity - the only airlift in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
“The SAAF has been operating C-130BZs for 52 years and is one of 63 countries worldwide who operate the aircraft. We as Lockheed Martin know, as does the SAAF, that the older aircraft become the more expensive they become to operate and there is always a chance of something breaking,” he said, adding this thinking had seen Lockheed Martin in contact with not only the SAAF as the operator of the aircraft, but also procurement and funding agencies to seek the best possible solution in terms of cost, maintenance, training and other aspects of military aircraft ownership.
“As Lockheed Martin we firmly believe the C-130J is a 95% solution to airlift for the SAAF and we would like to think it is better to look at a 95% win than the additional five percent for a potentially complete package.
“We have pointed it out before and do so again – the C-130J is a true multi-mission aircraft and this will have cost advantages for the air force.”
As of yesterday he could not with any certainty say the visit could be tagged “mission achieved”, but stressed “we will keep on trying”.
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