SADC air chiefs attend forum after Exercise Blue Kunene
Chiefs of Southern African Development Community (SADC) air forces met in Ondangwa in a consultative forum at the end of Exercise Blue Kunene earlier this month. The forum, according to its chairman Air Vice Marshal Martin Pinehas, chief of the Namibian Air Force, is a consultative one seeking to reflect and build on progress made by SADC air forces/arms/wings since the inception of the regional humanitarian exercise in Zambia 12 years ago. Apart from what has been termed “positive deliberations, proposals and ways forward” on future exercises, the meeting produced recommendations that will be tabled at the SADC Standing Aviation Committee. A statement issued by the SA Air Force makes no mention of what the region’s military air commanders want the regional body’s aviation committee, which has civil and general aviation as its main commitments, to do. Those attending the Ondangwa meeting also “touched on particular matters requiring their particular attention to provide positive and constant guidance to forces tasked with executing exercises”. Speaking at the closing ceremony for this year’s iteration of Blue Kunene, Pinehas called it a success with 250 tons of food airlifted and 1 500 people provided with medical care. The two dozen aircraft involved flew some 350 hours.
Participating aircraft included Cheetah and Chetak helicopters and Y-12 transport aircraft from Namibia, a C-130 and CN235 transport and Bell 412 helicopter from Botswana, and a C212 from Zimbabwe. The Angolan Air Force flew in at least one An-72, one Il-76 and several Mi-171Sh helicopters while the South African Air Force contributed two C-212s, a King Air and three Oryx medium transport helicopters. A 28 Squadron C-130BZ was used for airlift to Ondangwa. About 100 South African personnel from various musterings travelled to Namibia for the exercise. Blue Kunene is the fifth of its type to be staged under SADC auspices. It aims to prepare airborne elements of member states’ air forces/air arms/air wings for rapid deployment in disaster situations and subsequent humanitarian relief operations, including medical and other aid. Participating air forces this year included those from Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.