Kunene Region, 04 September 2017- Over 1000 members of SADC Air Forces/Arms and Wings with various types of aircraft ended a successful 10 days joint military exercise code named ‘BLUE KUNENE’ held in Kunene Region in the Republic of Namibia.
The exercise ended on a high note, having achieved the desired end-state of airlifting tonnage of food and distributing them in the drought affected Kunene Region. The aim was to exercise the SADC military air component in humanitarian aid relief support, to enable them to respond to humanitarian and natural calamities affecting the African indigenous lives and livelihoods.
The two (2) weeks intensive training has seen close to 23 military aircraft consisting of both fixed-wing and rotary-wing successfully airlifting and delivering 250 tonnage of food aid to the intended communities in the dusty and mountainous localities of Opuwo, Ruacana and Okangwati.
Despite food relief delivery, the exercise also provided medical services through the Field Mobile Hospital and also outreach program in which 1536 community members received treatment on different ailments.
The Air Forces Humanitarian Aid Relief and Support exercise-dubbed Blue Exercises are hosted biennially in various SADC Member States on a rotational basis under the auspices of the SADC Standby Force, informed by Article 13 of the Protocol of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union. The Article obligates all Africa Sub-Regional Standby Forces to establish a multidimensional and multidisciplinary capability comprised military, police and civilian components that stand ready for rapid deployment and swift response to any crisis including the provision of disaster relief support and humanitarian aid.
Speaking at the closing of the exercise at Oshakati Independence Stadium, Lt Gen John Mutwa, Chief of the Namibian Defence Force, expressed satisfaction over the operational preparedness of the SADC military air component and thanked them for braving the dusty and mountainous condition of the Kunene Region. “As is expected in any real life situation of this magnitude and scope, you faced many challenges along the way. However, at the end, you have reached a significant milestone in cooperation, coordination and interoperability through limited resources,” Gen Mutwa said.
Gen Mutwa also expressed confidence that the SADC air component have learnt valuable lessons, which they would be able to share in future exercises and in real life emergencies. “Most importantly, you have acquired new skills to operate your equipment and navigate your aircraft in other challenging situations,” he said.
Air Vice Marshal Martin Pinehas, the Namibian Air Force Commander commended the success of the exercise based on the number of tonnage airlifted to inaccessible communities with less or no aircraft infrastructure.
Even though Exercise Blue Kunene was aimed to exercise humanitarian aid relief support, Air Vice Marshall Pinehas stated the exercise also brought much needed economic benefits to local businesses in terms of aircraft fuel consumption while the hospitality industry received an appreciative financial injection. In addition, rehabilitation was done to several schools in the operational areas.
The Namibian Air Force Commander said, “I can confidently attest that the aim of the exercise was maintained throughout. The objectives of the exercise which most importantly included the interoperability of various human and material resources was evidently practiced and enhanced, although, we must continue to improve on this important area. Indications were clear that lessons learned from the previous Blue Exercises were incorporated.
Exercise Blue Kunene was the last of the blue exercises conducted in various member states on rotational basis ever since it was ratified by the SADC Regional Air Forces/Arms/ Wings Chiefs during the Standing Aviation Committee meeting held in Mozambique in 2010. Other exercises are: Blue Cluster hosted by South Africa in 2011, Blue Zambezi-2013 in Angola and Blue Okavango-2015 in Botswana.