LDF shores up Air Force

Sunday Express - - NEWS - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

NEW Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) he­li­copter H125, nick­named Lit­sebe, was un­veiled at the Me­jamet­a­lana Air­wing in Maseru on Fri­day. The un­veil­ing cer­e­mony also saw the LDF in­au­gu­rat­ing its up­graded main ser­vice run­way ex­ten­sion and main taxi way, a mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment worth M70.8 mil­lion, funded by the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho. This up­grade will en­sure safer op­er­a­tions and ef­fi­ciency of the Air­wing ser­vices.

Speak­ing at the cer­e­mony, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Monyane Moleleki com­mended the LDF, and in par­tic­u­lar the Air­wing, for its re­mark­able work in avi­a­tion devel­op­ment.

Mr Moleleki said the role by the Air­wing in sup­port­ing stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing the LDF, the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho and clients in hu­man­i­tar­ian and other op­er­a­tions both in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally, should be ap­plauded.

“The mul­ti­tude of roles you ex­e­cute have proved your strate­gic im­por­tance, hence the need to main­tain the Air­wing as a vi­able Air Force within the LDF which pro­vides crit­i­cal ser­vices to Ba­sotho and in the re­gion,” Mr Moleleki said.

He ex­plained the Air­wing was an es­sen­tial ser­vice provider in the LDF as it oc­cu­pied a strate­gic niche in the to­tal na­tional se­cu­rity spec­trum of Le­sotho through pro­vi­sion of ser­vices rang­ing from de­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­ity to op­er­a­tional sup­port in tac­ti­cal and non-tac­ti­cal sit­u­a­tions.

Mr Moleleki said the Air­wing’s mas­sive obli­ga­tions are con­tained in the pri­mary roles of LDF, which must be met at all times.

“It is there­fore im­per­a­tive for gov­ern­ment to in­vest in that force ca­pa­bil­ity which is demon­strated by un­der­tak­ings of this na­ture and ac­quir­ing of more he­li­copters in fu­ture.”

The ad­di­tion of Lit­sebe to the cur­rent fleet, Mr Moleleki said, was go­ing to en­hance op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the LDF Air­wing to con­tinue pro­vid­ing air­lift sup­port for dif­fer­ent func­tions and mis­sions.

“While this mea­sure is go­ing to help im­prove ex­ist­ing fleet on the side of the light trans­port he­li­copters, LDF will still face a chal­lenge of rapidly age­ing air­craft in the medium util­ity class.”

He said the gov­ern­ment was aware of

Athe chal­lenges and un­der­stands the need for pe­ri­odic and timely re­view of op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance costs aris­ing from re­pairs and main­te­nance of the age­ing fleet.

Mr Moleleki added there was also ur­gent need for par­lia­ment to con­vince the Min­istry of Fi­nance to de­cen­tralise funds ap­pro­pri­ated by na­tional assem­bly to dif­fer­ent en­ti­ties.

He said both the Le­sotho De­fence Force and the Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice had com­plained that the so­phis­ti­cated, long pro­cure­ment pro­cesses within dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment struc­tures were heav­ily af­fect­ing their ef­fec­tive­ness to carry-out their man­date.

“It is def­i­nitely clear to us in gov­ern­ment that some­thing needs to be done about this prob­lem ren­der­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in re­leas­ing fund­ing ap­pro­pri­ated by par­lia­ment to dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment struc­tures.

There is no need to keep the funds locked-up in the Min­istry of Fi­nance when ap­pro­pri­a­tion had al­ready been done by the par­lia­ment,” Mr Moleleki said.

Also speak­ing at the cer­e­mony, the Air­wing Act­ing Com­man­der Ma­jor Gen­eral Mo­jalefa Let­soela said as far back as 2008, there were clear signs that the main ser­vice runaway was due for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion af­ter 50 years of ser­vice.

The run­way length which is 1,300 me­tres in length and 30 me­tres wide has a load clas­si­fi­ca­tion bear­ing strength ca­pa­ble to ac­com­mo­date air­craft of medium class with all-up weight not ex­ceed­ing 16,500 kilo­gram for day and night fly­ing op­er­a­tions.

“A fea­si­bil­ity study was con­ducted un­der the aus­pices of Min­istry of Pub­lic Works and Trans­port and en­gi­neer­ing con­sul­tancy ex­per­tise em­ployed at the in­cep­tion of the project un­der the over­all tech­ni­cal su­per­vi­sion of the Min­istry of De­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity,” Maj Gen Let­soepa said.

He ex­plained the last phase of the project was the con­struc­tion of the taxi­way lane ad­join­ing the fixed-wing and the ro­tor-wing squadrons.

“We en­coun­tered sev­eral chal­lenges at the ini­tial im­ple­men­ta­tion phase par­tic­u­larly bud­getary con­straints and pro­longed pro­cure­ment process roll-out.

“This sit­u­a­tion caused an ap­par­ent de­lay in ac­qui­si­tion of ma­te­rial, pro­cure­ment bid­ding pro­cesses and mov­ing of nec­es­sary re­sources to the con­struc­tion site,” he said.

He added: “It is worth men­tion­ing that, even­tu­ally the ap­proved cap­i­tal bud­get amount­ing to M54, 903, 340 was al­lo­cated dur­ing the fi­nan­cial year 2013/14 for the up­grad­ing and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion phase only.

Ad­di­tional funds were also se­cured to pay con­sul­tancy fees and the con­struc­tion of main taxi­way ac­cru­ing to the grand to­tal of the project to ap­prox­i­mately M70, 894, 474.”

He said the re­fur­bished run­way and its up­grade ground-based aero­nau­ti­cal lo­gis­tics in­fra­struc­ture will en­sure the Air­wing ful­fils its manda­tory aerial strate­gic and tac­ti­cal tasks in the longer-term.

THE LDF’s new he­li­copter H125 is nick­named Lit­sebe.

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