The dockyard facility at the SA navy ’s headquarters in Simon’s Town. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
The dockyard facility at the SA navy ’s headquarters in Simon’s Town. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

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

Improving effective communication between the navies was the objective in the 11th edition of the Atlasur‚ 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 by SA‚ Uruguay‚ Argentina and Brazil every three years.

TimesLIVE 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 its ability to effectively navigate combat situations such as air attacks and enemy fire.

Rising early‚ the 146-strong crew of the Amatola took 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 home port of Simon's Town before running tactical manoeuvres.

“The purpose is two-fold‚ first, 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.”

Improving effective communication between the navies of South Africa and two South American states was the objective in the 11th edition of the Atlasur “war games”, a military exercise that sees the three nations take their respective frigates to the open seas and engage in simulated combat in the first week of September 2018. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TimesLive

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 it 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 aircraft simulating active combat, while the navy’s submarine patrolled the 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," Sayed said. “We are looking towards an exciting time. We have some submarine exercises in the next week ito 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 its crew lined the starboard side of the ship and saluted their counterparts.

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