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Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), Monyane Moleleki on Friday commissioned the parading of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) H125 helicopter and operationalised the rehabilitated main runway at Mejametalana Airbase.

The project is said to have had a capital budget amounting to just above M54 million allocated during the fiscal year 2013/2014 for the upgrade and rehabilitation phase only while additional funds are said to have been secured to pay consultancy fees and the construction of main taxiway accruing to the total of M70, 894, 474.00

The 1,300 metres long and 30 metres wide runway built by the EXR Cntsruction (Pty) Ltd is said to be capable of accommodating aircraft of medium class with all-up weight not exceeding 16,500kg for day and night flying operations. 

In his remarks, the Deputy Prime Minister described the initiative as an achievement for the LDF particularly the airwing. He recalled a tragic accident of April 13 when the LDF”s Mpolloane crashed at the Thaba-Putsoa Range where a pilot and one soldier died, therefore called on all to a moment of silence in their remembrance.

He said in the history of humanity, every nation has different needs for military forces, saying how such needs are determined by the civil authority forms the basis of their composition, equipment and the use as well as the maintenance of available facilities and services at their disposal.

He said the two events inaugurated truly define the objectives of the LDF strategic concept of establishment, saying it is against this background that the LDF Airwing deserves to be applauded for the significant and commendable role it plays in supporting the army, Lesotho Government and other individual clients in humanitarian and other operations both internally and externally.

Mr. Moleleki further reiterated his conviction that the LDF wing is today an indispensable service in the LDF because it occupies a strategic niche in the total National security spectrum of Lesotho and this he said ranges from defensive role capability to provision of an operational support in tactical and non-tactical situations.

“Our obligation is contained in the primary roles of the LDF and therefore has to be met at all times hence it is imperative for the Government to invest in this force capability whenever possible in supporting undertakings of this nature by striving to acquire more helicopters in the near future,” he asserted, saying the addition of the LDF-15 nicknamed 'Litsebe', to the current fleet is going to enhance operational capability of the LDF Airwing to continue providing airlift support for different functions and missions.

In the same vein, the Acting LDF Commander, Major General Lineo Poopa asserted that Litsebe was nicknamed after a prominent mountain in Berea district. He thanked the government of Lesotho for ensuring that the project sees the light of day, and that the helicopter will help address the issue of stock theft that has plagued Lesotho, adding that it alongside other things would help curb the offence along the Drakensberg range where a lot of animal thieves use over 144 kilometres of passes thereat as entry points for animal theft.

Adding to the benefits to be yielded, he mentioned the education material ferrying, the old-age pension payments and health outreaches, noting that they have never failed to help deliver the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)'s material nor failed to respond during times of crisis.

The Acting Airwing Commander, Major General Mojalefa Letsoela said the two milestone projects were achieved by the LDF Airwing over the fiscal years of 2013 to 2017 and that the newly acquired helicopter was acquired from Airbus Helicopters Southern Africa (AHZA). He said the pressing need to rehabilitate the runway was apparent as far back as 2008 at approximately 50 years of its service life.

Major general Letsoela said a feasibility study was conducted under the auspices of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Engineering Consultancy expertise employed at the inception of the project under the overall technical supervision of the Ministry of Defence and National Security, noting that last phase of the project was the construction of the taxiway lane adjoining the Fixed-wing and Rotor-wing Squadrons respectively.

At the same event, the General Manager of AHZA Mr. Arnold Montalvo said the event is the first in which Lesotho witnesses an incredible power aircraft, saying with more than 1, 600 units built so far, about 30 have been distributed in Africa where they operate with lesser emissions and fuel consumption.

Before handing over a token of appreciation to the DPM, Mr Montalvo asserted that H125 will be at home in Lesotho and expressed confidence that in the professional hands of the LDF the aircraft would contribute in delivering services to Basotho in various parts of the country.

Several challenges at the initial implementation phase particularly the budgetary constraints and prolonged procurement process roll-out formed part of the situation which caused delay in acquisition of material, procurement bidding processes and the moving of necessary resources to the construction site. 

Meanwhile, the DPM together with other ministers and officials present at the event had the opportunity to go on a joyride after inspecting the runway.


Source: LENA 14/10/2017



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