By Michael Schmidt
The first of the SA Navy's new submarines, SAS Manthatisi, has arrived with great fanfare in Simon's Town. The German-built electric-powered Type 209 sub, named for the warrior queen Manthatisi Batlokwa, sailed into port, escorted by the newly-commissioned frigate SAS Amatola.
An attack submarine with the ability to strike surface ships, kill enemy subs and gather covert intelligence, the Manthatisi arrived after an epic 49-day, 6 600-nautical mile voyage from the shipyard at Kiel on the Baltic Sea.
Armed with 14 torpedoes tipped with 200kg RDX warheads, Type 209 subs can remain unassisted at sea for more than a month. The 62m quiet-running, deep-diving subs are also able to detect enemy targets at long range.
Captain Malcolm Farre, the senior officer in charge of the submarine flotilla, said that although the Manthatisi was "fully functional for war", the crew would be combat-ready only in about 12 to 18 months.
Farre said the South African flotilla had adopted the philosophy of "there are only two kinds of vessels at sea - submarines and targets" as its own.
With a top submerged speed of 21.5 knots, the new subs are likely to have the most sport with fishing trawlers illegally plundering the country's marine sources.
But Lekota said that with up to 100 oil tankers passing the Cape every month and needing protection, the submarines were a "regional, continental, and global asset".
The new subs will also be assisted in their hunter-killer roles by anti-submarine weapons on board the frigates' Lynx maritime helicopters, which arrive next year.