Piracy Drives Change

The spread of Somali piracy to the northern Mozambique Channel is one of the reasons why South Africa’s Navy has moved from a largely peacetime routine to a predominantly operational profile.

SA Navy reviews fleet needs as antipiracy patrol highlights capacity constraints

By: Keith Campbell, Engineering News
Largely unnoticed by the country’s people, the South African Navy (SAN) has moved from a largely peacetime routine to a predominantly operational profile. This change has been caused by two developments – one domestic, one foreign. The domestic development has been the adoption of the ‘back to the borders’ policy by government, under which the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been reassuming responsibility for the protection and patrolling of the country’s borders from the South African Police Service. As the country has a maritime frontier as well as a terrestrial one, this has affected the SAN as well as the army.

South Africa has territorial waters, in which the country has full, sovereign control, which extend 12 nautical miles (nm), or just over 22.22 km, from the shore. It also has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which extends for 200 nm (370.4 km) from the coastline and in which the country has control over all natural resources, in and under the sea. It is often forgotten that South African territorial and EEZ waters include those around the islands of the Prince Edward group (Prince Edward and Marion), which lie some 1 769 km south-east of the Eastern Cape. The new border policy has increased the number of patrols the fleet has to conduct.

The foreign development was the spread of Somali piracy to the northern Mozambique Channel, resulting in Mozambique, which was unable to meet the threat on its own, requesting naval and air support from South Africa to secure these waters. South Africa’s frigates are now, on a rotation basis, maintaining a permanent presence in the northern Mozambique Channel. This deployment also involves the South African Air Force (SAAF), with a Lynx maritime helicopter detachment on the frigate and a shore-based C-47TP maritime patrol aircraft and support detachment in northern Mozambique, as well as members of the South African Special Forces and South African Military Health Service. Members of the Mozambican Navy are also embarked on the patrolling frigate.

“Fighting maritime crime and piracy is not just a naval task,” points out SAN chief director: maritime strategy Rear Admiral Bernhard Teuteberg. “It needs surveillance from the air, from the land – it needs intel- ligence. We’ve got very good cooperation with Mozambique. It’s a joint patrol . . . a joint operation, fully in line with the Joint SADC (Southern African Development Community) Maritime Strategy. Mozambique is also providing facilities ashore.”

Fleet Review
Today, the SAN’s fleet comprises three diesel-electric-powered submarines, four frigates, three offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), four mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs), one fleet replenishment ship (called a combat support ship by the SAN), one hydrographic survey ship and a number of minor units, including three inshore patrol vessels (IPVs) and 26 harbour patrol boats (HPBs), as well as five tugs. The submarines are 1 400 t surfaced displacement German-designed and -built Type 209/1400SAN vessels, armed with eight 533 mm (21″) torpedo tubes, for which they can carry up to 14 torpedoes.

The frigates are also German-designed and -built, being 3 600 t Meko A-200SAN units, each armed with two fully automatic gun turrets, one mounting an Italian-designed 76 mm gun and the other a South African-designed twin 35 mm weapon, as well as 20 mm cannons and 12.7 mm machine guns; South African-designed and -built Umkhonto surface to air missiles and French Exocet surface to surface missiles. Each frigate can also carry and operate up to two Lynx helicopters.

The OPVs are converted 450 t strike craft, now armed with two 76 mm and two 20 mm guns. The MCMVs are also of German provenance – 380 t vessels with a light armament of one 20 mm gun and some ….[access full article]

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