WINDHOEK - Grootfontein air force base, which is mandated to monitor the Namibian airspace among other national duties, is faced with a shortage of accommodation for its members.
It has been reported that the four barracks at the airbase are fully occupied above carrying capacity.
This was revealed by a parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and security that undertook a visit to inquire into the security situation at the port of Walvis Bay, and airports and aerodromes in Erongo, Khomas, Zambezi, Kunene and Otjozondjupa regions last year.
The 17-member committee chaired by Swapo member of parliament Leevi Katoma was informed that the Grootfontein airbase has a staff complement of 606 males and 154 females, which is not enough according to top management.
The committee learned that the airbase is overstretched on accommodation and kitchen facilities due to the increasing number of members.
The committee found that two electric cooking pots are dysfunctional and need to be repaired or replaced.
The committee therefore recommended that there is a need to renovate accommodation facilities as well as the kitchen facility.
Equally, the committee was informed that aircraft at the base is not enough, considering the national duty entrusted upon the Namibian Air Force such as surveillance of the Namibian airspace and other important duties, including training and transport of personnel, supplies and equipment, support to civil authorities or civil community and training.
“Aircraft capacity is below average compared to the international requirement which is 75 percent. There is need to have more helicopters to increase Namibian Air Force operational capacity. Most aircraft standing at the workshops were grounded because of unavailability of spare parts,” the committee said in a report tabled in the National Assembly late last year. In addition, the committee established that vehicle capacity, both operational and administrative, is not adequate. They say the fleet is non-roadworthy because of wear and tear making it difficult to provide general mechanical service.
Many of the vehicles were found to be unreliable and need to be auctioned.
Air force management informed the parliamentary committee that budget challenges hamper the airbase to do very minor repairs.
The committee however found that the airport runway and apron are safe to use but there were other shortcomings and challenges.
These include the runway lights that were found unserviceable as the software needs to be serviced by the supplier that is based in South Africa.
Lights were also found to have to be switched on manually which is not a convenient practice in aviation.
Tall grass of approximately one metre in height on the runway was found to pose a security and safety risk, while tractors are also insufficient to mow the grass.
The committee recorded some achievements which include general security at the airbase being satisfactory and that morale of men and women in uniform was high.
Furthermore, the base, control room and workshops were also found neat at the time of inspection.
With limited resources, the committee reported, members receive regular meals, while training of personnel as pilots, technicians and support service staff is ongoing.
The parliamentarians were also informed that the air force carried out missions in collaboration with their SADC counterparts.
The air wing of the Namibian Defence Force was established in 1994 and the Namibian Air Force was officially commissioned on May 13, 2005.