Exercise Blue Kunene to be hosted in May
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will be taking part in Exercise Blue Kunene in Namibia in May this year, and will deploy personnel and aircraft. The exercise is an initiative of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) standby force and will take place from 3 to 24 May. The first week will see forces being deployed and a command post exercise being held. The main thrust of the event will be a humanitarian assistance exercise taking place in the last week before withdrawal on 24 May. According to Chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Zimpande Msimang, speaking at the Air Force Prestige Day parade on 3 February, “The South African Air Force will be participating in the SADC interoperability air power exercise called Exercise Blue Kunene which will be hosted in Namibia in the coming months. This exercise is held under the auspices of the SADC Standby Force informed by Article 13 of the Protocol of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union. “Each of the five African sub-regional standby forces should be capacitated with the ability to respond swiftly and timeously to any crisis including the provision of disaster relief support and humanitarian assistance,” he said. AFB Bloemspruit’s Colonel Padi Khoase said that Oryx and BK 117 helicopters will be deployed, with South African Air Force instructors to gain experience from the exercise.
A planning session ahead of Blue Kunene was held in Namibia in November last year. SADC air force chiefs took a decision to hold a biennial SADC air exercise involving all regional air forces/arms/ wings during a Standing Aviation Committee meeting held in Maputo in March 2010. The first exercise concentrating solely on humanitarian aid in times of disaster was hosted by South Africa a year later (Blue Cluster). Angola hosted the second in 2013 (Blue Zambezi) and Botswana hosted the third iteration, Blue Okavango, in 2015. Previous similar exercises include Blue Angel in Zambia in 2005, Blue Ruvuma in Tanzania in 2007 and Blue Hungue in Zimbabwe in 2009. Previous participants have included Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. “To our African brothers, all our armed forces have a vital role to play in protecting our territorial integrity and sovereignty, so as to create stability, and thus promote economic growth and development of our people, in our region and the African continent,” Msimang said.