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Air force not coping with govt’s travel demands: SAAF chief

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The South African Air Force is not coping with the demand for intercontinental travel by government officials – and that is why it needed to buy a new jet.

“The current fleet of VIP aircraft cannot sustain the current air transport requests from the SAAF VIP clients as tasked,” SAAF Chief Fabian Msimang told reporters in Pretoria on Tuesday.

“The SA Air Force therefore has a need to increase their capacity to provide intercontinental air transportation to members of the SA Government.”

Msimang made the announcement during a media briefing to clarify the issue regarding the procurement of a new jet which was speculated to cost over R4bn. He said over the years, the availability of the inter-continental aircraft of SAAF has been problematic, making it difficult for them to fulfil their responsibility.

“The absence of the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) and other VIP aircraft for four months during its scheduled maintenance periods aggregates the vulnerability of the SAAF in providing the indicated service,” said Msimang.

CEO of the Armaments Corporation of South Africa SOC (Armscor) CEO Kevin Wakeford has rubbished reports that they would be spending R4bn on the plane. He said they were still seeking information.

“We can’t afford the R4bn being speculated on. We are requesting information. We don’t know what the form of ownership is going to be because we have not gotten there yet. The affordability will determine the selection of the eventual solution and financing options,” he said.

Wakeford further explained that the current request for information was to determine what type of permutations met the requirements and the platform requirements.

“We are not going to be irresponsible. Once we have the full details, we will liaise with SAAF and go forward. A Request For Information (RFI) is to test the market in terms of availability and product options and is not binding,” said Wakeford.

He added that he had not ruled out the possibility of the new aeroplane being used as a multipurpose jet. He categorically denied that a price had already been set for the plane.

“The budget will be determined by what’s out there and what’s available,” he said. News24


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