THE news that the South African Air Force’s (SAAF’s) R2bn fleet of Agusta 109 helicopters has joined the Gripen fighter jets in cold storage due to a lack of funds to fly them while VIP helicopter flights continue, has sparked outrage.This follows Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s admission earlier this year that few of the Gripens are actually flying, with most of them being held in long-term storage. It has also been reported that the aircraft in storage are being cannibalised for spares to keep a handful of aircraft flying.Thirty Agusta helicopters and 26 Gripen jet fighters were bought in 1999 as part of the arms deal, which is now being probed by a judicial commission of inquiry.Democratic Alliance defence spokesman David Maynier on Wednesday demanded an explanation from Ms Mapisa-Nqakula."The budget for the SAAF’s ‘helicopter capability’ has been slashed from R915m in 2012-13 to R769m in 2013-14. Because of this only 71 flying hours have reportedly been allocated to t...

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