The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is concerned about the crashes of its aircrafts but most importantly the loss of lives of their officers, said BDF Air Arm Commander Major General Innocent Phatshwane. In a teleconference from Kasane where there was African Air Chiefs Symposium, General Phatshwane said air safety is very crucial, especially the runaway as it plays a pivotal role in aviation. “After an accident happens, investigations have to be carried out to make sure that the accident does not occur again. But the thing is, maybe the committee wants to know immediately what the cause of that accident is,”” he said, adding that is very laborious because it is maintained in the other area. He said South African Defence Force (SADF) is helping other armies within the region to address the issue of aviation safety. In February this year, a BDF Casa 212-300 aircraft crashed in the general area of Thebephatshwa claiming three lives. The aircraft was scheduled to transport Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi to Tsabong.
Helicopters making a difference
On the importance or the potential use of helicopters for humanitarian work, General Phatshwane said air mobility is very crucial for African armies taking into consideration the terrain they are in to undertake their operations. “If I take my country, for instance, you find that other areas are not accessible through fixed-wing transport. That is, maybe by means of C-1 type aircraft and such. So helicopter mobility is one of the crucial issues that are making our operations successful in this country,” he said. The Chief of the International Affairs Division for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa Colonel Ricardo Trimilos said continuous training is crucial in air safety. Through joint collaboration, African armies will be able to address some of the challenges they are facing in aviation. “It is very expensive to maintain an aviation training venue on your own so the army chiefs here are looking to either partner with other folks that are in the region to be able to cost-share. They’re looking for economical options to go with a contractor and they also are looking to partner with the United States,” he revealed. “Training is very foundational to ensuring safety. Because well-trained maintenance crews, well-trained air traffic controllers, well-trained air crews, contribute to a safer air domain,” said Colonel Trimilos.
He said the cooperation between the African militaries and US Army has led to a successful regional cooperation within AMISOM and Somali, the G-5 Sahel and the Multinational Joint Task Force of the Lake Chad Region. “We recognise the need for ISRs [Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance] to ground forces that are in those areas that are supporting peacekeeping operations,” said Colonel Trimilos. The Air forces Africa International Affairs Division Chief said that South Africa has discussed its training venue, their ability to bring in their regional partners and other members to train them. This, according to Colonel Trimilos, is part of contributing to interoperability and standards that are in the Southern region and that also contributes to the safety of the air domain. The African Air Chiefs Symposium is an annual forum for air chiefs from across the African continent to come together with the United States to discuss important regional and continental issues, and how African air forces can best work together to respond to challenges and create solutions. The two day event – held in Southern Africa for the first time – attracted a total of 29 nations and was regarded as the largest to date.