Still no official word on new naval platforms
Indications are the three revamped SA Navy strikecraft now doing duty as offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) are going to be in service for at least another four to five years. They are due to be replaced by three new OPVs with the maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) also due to receive a similar number of inshore patrol vessels (IPVs) in terms of Project Biro. Tender submissions for both have been received by Armscor which is keeping its cards close to the chest on the new platforms, expected to be major players in the maritime component of Operation Phakisa. Late last year Armscor said in response to a defenceWeb enquiry it was “busy with a multisource tender” for Project Biro and Project Hotel, a new hydrographic vessel to replace the ageing SAS Protea. The South African shipbuilding industry, earmarked as one of Operation Phakisa’s bigger beneficiaries, as well as representatives of foreign shipbuilders in South Africa, feel a decision has been made on the successful tenderer for the OPVs and IPVs. This was reinforced by a retired admiral who told defenceWeb the Durban-based company, SA Shipyards (SAS), would be named as the senior contractor for the OPV’s with the Cape Town operation of Dutch-headquartered Damen getting the nod for the IPVs. Neither company had made any announcement at the time of publication.
The SA Navy is currently using three converted strikecraft as OPVs. In addition to patrol duties in South African waters the platforms are also deployed in the Mozambique Channel as the major deterrent in the South African Development Community (SADC) counter-piracy tasking, Operation Copper. In addition to shipbuilding and maintenance, the maritime part of Operation Phakisa sees added impetus being given to sustainable utilisation of ocean resources including fish, minerals, gas and oil. Protection of these resources will be the task of the SA Navy, one which military analyst Helmoed Heitman believes will not be possible in a few years. “Deferring Biro will see the Navy run out of ships to meet its commitments – or rather those government makes for it – particularly if African west coast operations are added,” he said. As part of its deployment to the site of the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi in the English Channel 100 years ago the Valour Class frigate SAS Amatola (F145) will conduct a border patrol of the South African west coast under the auspices of Operation Corona en route. There are also indications she will take part in anti-piracy operations off the continent’s west coast on her return voyage to Simon’s town. Amatola is due to depart Simon’s town later this month and is set to return to her home port on April 19 following a three month foreign deployment.