Written by Kim Helfrich
The three combat arms of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) will all, to a greater or lesser extent, be part of an intensive five day multi-national exercise concentrating on counter-piracy operations starting on Monday.
The basic premise of Exercise Oxide is the promotion of co-operation and improved inter-operability between the French, Mozambican and South African navies with the emphasis on keeping pirates away from the Indian Ocean seaboard off East Africa.
The sea off the Mozambican capital of Maputo is the designated exercise area.
The SA Navy (SAN) is the lead nation in the exercise and will deploy a Valour Class frigate (SAS Islandwana), a Type 209 submarine (SAS Queen Modjadji), the offshore patrol vessel SAS Isaac Dyoba, and a platoon from its Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS).
Last weekend Islandwana underwent final work-up in False Bay in preparation for the exercise, after which she will take up station in the Mozambique Channel replacing the OPV SAS Galeshewe on the Operation Copper counter-piracy tasking.
French forces taking part include the FS Nivose, a light surveillance frigate, and French commando boarding teams.
The airborne component for Exercise Oxide will be in the form of a C-130 Hercules from 28 Squadron and a 35 Squadron C-47TP, also used regularly in Operation Copper as a maritime patrol asset.
During the exercise, search and rescue, basic and advanced interdiction and boarding operations, vertical replenishment as well as tactical exercises and gunnery practice disciplines will all be undertaken.
The search and rescue component will use a submarine in distress as its central point with ships from both participating navies conducting a co-ordinated search for the underwater craft. Once the submarine‚Äôs location has been established a Special Forces parachute action group will use the C-130 as an airborne platform to speedily access it.
All vessels deployed for Exercise Oxide will take an active part in the interdiction and boarding operations phase. This will include location of ‚Äúcontacts of interest‚Äù (ships and vessels suspected of piracy and/or smuggling) and challenging them. Both French commandos and SAN MRS will exercise procedures for boarding, interrogation and search of suspicious vessels.
Helicopters from French and South African vessels will launch to airlift and drop crew.
The exercise will also see conventional naval procedures such as gunnery, multi-ship manoeuvring at sea and various communication methods practised.
The SAN will host nine ‚Äúsea riders‚Äù, officers from the Mozambican and Tanzanian navies, aboard participating vessels to facilitate training and exposure among Southern African Development Community (SADC) maritime forces.