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Pretoria - The SA Air Force had to adapt to all budget cuts, SAAF director of combat systems Brig-Gen John William Bayne said on Monday.
“In 1997 when those budget cuts came into effect... the air force had to adapt to these budget cuts,” Bayne told the Seriti Commission of Inquiry in Pretoria.
“The target of the defence force and air force needs to cut its cloth to fit in with those realities and so the air force had a look at numerous options which were investigated and considered in order to fit in with the budget cuts and the new reality.”
He said after the 1994 elections, South Africa was seen as a highly successful and peaceful country.
This played a role in budgeting and the budget cuts in 1997 were in line at the time.
The commission heard that a review of systems happened every 10 to 15 years. So the fleet acquired had to be able to function for the period in between.
Bayne said it was important that the time taken to phase out an old fleet and acquire a new fleet was not too long.
He is in charge of the Hawk and Gripen systems in the SAAF including budgeting, resources and planning of the systems.
“The defence budget cut was drastic in the early nineties. Many squadrons closed and a lot of aircraft was phased out..”
These included the Canberra, Buccaneer, Mirage F1CZ, and some Impala/Cheetah aircraft.
More budget cuts in 1997 had shrunk the SAAF fleet even more.
Bayne highlighted the risks of putting a young pilot into a high performance and high cost aircraft, and said cost should be considered and this played a role in the continuation of the three-tier training system.
Bayne also touched on the ability of the fleet to be a deterrent and to project stability.
President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, in 2011 to investigate alleged corruption in the 1999 multi-billion rand arms deal.
The inquiry continues. - Sapa