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27 mars 2015 5 27 /03 /mars /2015 08:45
SAS Strikecraft OPV

SAS Strikecraft OPV

 

26 March 2015 by Dean Wingrin/defenceWeb

 

Operation Copper, the anti-piracy deployment in the Mozambique Channel, is a demanding and expensive operation that is stretching the South African Navy, according to Flag Officer Fleet.

 

In his recent state of the Navy briefing, Rear Admiral Bravo Mhlana said that sustaining the seven day a week, 24 hour a day presence “is an extremely demanding operation in terms of logistic support and sustainment.”

 

The Navy has been involved in Operation Copper since SAS Mendi commenced patrols in January 2011. An operational pause was undertaken in July 2012 as the use of the frigates “was proving costly and expensive.” It was then decided to introduce the Warrior-class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) into Operation Copper. Since then, deployment duties have rotated between the frigates and the OPVs, “with OPVs typically spending six weeks on station and the frigates up to four months on station.”

 

The replenishment ship SAS Drakensberg has also been sent to patrol for pirates, and assisted European warships in apprehending seven Somali pirates in early 2012.

 

Operation Copper has accounted for the bulk of the Navy’s total sea days. Whilst no actual figures were available, Mhlana said that the frigates were meant to operate approximately 120 days at sea a year, but the intense nature of Operation Copper forced the Navy to operate the frigates at a rate of over 220 sea days a year for each frigate.

 

“I must indicate that the last financial year was dominated by the OPVs which came to us as a big relief as the frigates could focus on other deployments and international commitments that happened for us in this particular year,” Mhlana explained.

 

“(For) the OPVs themselves, the mileage they gained from Operation Copper is far higher than in any other period since the inception of democracy in 1994.” Despite the challenges “that puts a strain on the finances of the organisation, we have more days at sea now than we have had before.”

 

Whilst the current mandate for Exercise Copper expires at the end of March, the Navy is preparing a frigate to replace the OPV on station. “We have no indication that Operation Copper will be terminated in a short space of time,” Mhlana said, as the Navy always waited “until the last day to get confirmation of the continuation of Operation Copper.”

 

“SAS Isaac Dyobha will return towards the end of next week [this week] and by that time SAS Isandlwana will be ready to take over. They are currently undergoing workup and operational sea training evaluation before we can confirm them mission ready…Until such time as we receive any instruction to discontinue, we will get ourselves ready.”

 

Although Mozambique and Tanzania are the other two SADC nations who have committed to supporting Operation Copper, South Africa is the major contributor of both personnel and equipment – for instance, Mozambique only contributes a few personnel aboard South African Navy ships.

 

The South African Air Force contributed shore-based aircraft from Pemba but apparently this is no longer the case.

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24 mars 2014 1 24 /03 /mars /2014 17:45
Operation Copper now only with SA and Mozambique

 

20 March 2014 by Guy Martin - defenceWeb

 

Operation Copper, the mission to provide maritime security and prevent piracy in the Mozambique Channel, is now a bilateral operation between South Africa and Mozambique after Tanzania withdrew.

 

According to Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton of the SANDF's Joint Operations Division, Tanzania withdrew from the operation some 18 months ago.

 

During the height of piracy in 2011, Somali pirates ventured far south and began attacking vessels in the waters between Africa and Madagascar. In December 2010 two vessels were attacked off Mozambique and a Mozambique-flagged fishing vessel was hijacked.

These incidents prompted South Africa in 2011 to establish Operation Copper to patrol the Mozambique Channel and in early 2012 sign a memorandum of understanding with Southern African Development community (SADC) members Mozambique and Tanzania to maintain the anti-piracy watch and. Since then, frigates, offshore patrol vessels and maritime surveillance aircraft have been deployed to Mozambican waters.

 

The Navy frigate SAS Spioenkop with a Super Lynx helicopter is currently on station in the Mozambique Channel while a C-47TP maritime surveillance aircraft is based in Pemba. At the moment there are around 220 SANDF personnel on land and at sea as part of Copper, with the majority aboard the frigate. The frigate will be rotated sometime next month as it is due to depart for Simons Town on March 31.

 

Mozambique’s contribution to Operation Copper includes personnel stationed on the frigates or strike craft – usually a dozen personnel on the frigate and less than half a dozen aboard the strike craft.

 

Paxton said that Operation Copper has been very successful with no piracy incidents in the last three years that the South African Navy has been patrolling the region. If pirates get their foot in the door, then the busy Cape sea lane will be threatened. He said that South Africa will continue with Copper, until president and commander-in-chief Jacob Zuma decides that it is time to withdraw.

 

Speaking to the media in February, defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the reduction in piracy, “is as a result of our presence in the Mozambique Channel. Now they know they can’t go down that far,” she said. “The presence of the SANDF serves as a deterrent…if we go, the pirates may come back.”

 

SA Navy Fleet media liaison officer, Commander Adrian Dutton, said all four frigates – SAS Amatola, SAs Isandlwana, SAS Mendi and SAS Spioenkop – as well as the Navy’s replenishment vessel, SAS Drakensberg, and two of it its offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), SAS Galeshewe and SAS Isaac Dyobha, have done time on station in the Mozambique Channel.

 

These platforms have been supported by elements of the SA Air Force, notably a 35 Squadron C-47TP based at Pemba in Mozambique, as well as Oryx helicopters from the Durban, Hoedspruit and Zwartkop air force bases.

 

Drakensberg is the only SA Navy vessel to have been involved in a pirate incident when she was requested to take up a stopper position by the European Union Naval Force to prevent a suspected pirate ship from escaping EU pursuit in April 2012.

 

For the 2013/14 period, some R585 million was allocated for anti-piracy operations as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Maritime Security Strategy. Operation Copper cost R150 million in 2011 and 2012, according to a written parliamentary reply.

 

Note: After this story was published, Joy Peter, the defence minister's spokesperson, said the agreement between Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa was still in place.

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24 mars 2014 1 24 /03 /mars /2014 17:45
Operation Copper still up and running

 

 

24 March 2014 by Kim Helfrich

 

Any possible review of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) tri-nation agreement on counter-piracy operations in the Mozambique Channel could be an agenda item for next month’s Standing Maritime Committee meeting.

 

In the meantime it’s business as usual for SAS Spioenkop, the current SA Navy asset on station in the area, according to Defence and Military Veterans Ministerial spokesman Joy Peter.

 

She said the agreement, between Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa, remained “effective”.

 

“As recently as March 21 at a meeting of the Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security reform the governments of Mozambique and Tanzania stressed the importance of bringing into force the trilateral agreement on maritime security signed by South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania,” she added.

 

Peter also said no indication has been received for any request to review the tri-national agreement on counter-piracy operations off the lower east coast of Africa.

 

South Africa is by far the major contributor to Operation Copper, the code name given to the counter-piracy tasking, providing at least one maritime platform as well as a C-47TP maritime aircraft and rotary-winged aircraft including Super Lynx and Oryx. In addition to ship’s crews the Navy has also deployed elements of its Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) aboard vessels in the Mozambique Channel.

 

While the bulk of counter-piracy taskings have been given to the Navy’s Valour Class frigates, offshore patrol vessels and the Navy’s single replenishment vessel SAS Drakensberg have also spent time on station.

 

SA Air Force’s assets, with the exception of the Lynx maritime helicopters aboard the frigates, are based at Pemba.

 

The Mozambican contribution has been in the form of sea riders deployed on South African Navy vessels in the area of operations. Further assistance from South Africa’s eastern neighbour has been in the form of co-ordination, collaboration and information sharing in executing the mission objective she said.

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