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Fun and war games as SA Navy tests its mettle

It was a show of force and teamwork as the navies of South Africa and its South American counterparts took part in “war games” military exercises.

Improving effective communication between the navies was the objective in the 11th edition of the Atlasur “war games”‚ a military exercise that sees military allies take their respective frigates to the open seas and engage in simulated combat.

“Combined‚ we can combat illegal trade” was the theme of the Atlasur exercises‚ which are hosted in rotation between South Africa‚ Uruguay‚ Argentina and Brazil every three years.

This publication  was invited aboard the SAS Amatola‚ one of four valour-class frigates in the South African navy‚ to participate in a unique opportunity to see the navy demonstrate their ability to effectively navigate combat situations such as air attacks and enemy fire.

Rising from their cabins in the early morning‚ the 146-strong crew of the Amatola enjoyed a healthy breakfast of eggs‚ bacon and kippers before taking their stations in the operations centre and the control rooms. The 121m-long frigate then joined a convoy with the Uruguayan and Brazilian ships off the coast of her homeport of Simons Town before running tactical manoeuvres.

“The purpose is two-fold‚ firstly a military dimension of a strategy we have with the countries of South America‚ and secondly it is an opportunity to train and prepare with the navies across the world‚” said South African Navy Captain Cebo Gwala.

“The South American navies are ones that we look up to and can learn from. It’s all about diplomacy and communication.”

The SAS Amatola‚ launched in 2002‚ is currently in active service together with the South African Navy’s three other valour ships deployed to the Mozambique Channel‚ where she engages in anti-piracy efforts and the fight against human trafficking and the trade of illicit substances.

Commanding Officer Abdul Sayed said that the Atlasur exercises provided a valuable opportunity for junior officers to gain combat experience.

“We get to exercise our abilities with each other in a show of force in terms of good brotherhood. The purpose of the exercise is for the ships to get accustomed to one another and to provide training for our junior officers of the watch and navigation officers.”

A day of action saw live rounds fired by the Brazilian frigate and low flying aircrafts simulating active combat while the navy’s submarine patrolled the dark waters around the ships.

“Air defence exercises test our abilities in terms of countering aircraft‚ using life assets. We used the PC-7 aircraft provided by the South African Air Force.

“We are looking towards an exciting time. We have some submarine exercises in the next week in order to test our abilities in the event of real life combat scenarios.”

The day concluded with a “three cheer” ceremonious farewell to the Uruguayans‚ who sailed parallel to the Amatola while her crew lined the starboard side of the ship and saluted their counterparts.

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