The South African National Defence Force members came under fire while flying an Oryx helicopter in the Democratic Republic of Congo as they supported the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
The attack resulted in one fatality and one other crew member was slightly injured. The combat support Oryx helicopter (UN 821) was operating in DR Congo as a MONUSCO asset, flying from Beni to Goma, North Kivu when it was hit by small arms fire on 5 February.
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has confirmed the incident, Spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said, “A crew member was fatally shot. Another suffered injuries, but continued flying the helicopter and landed safely at Goma Airport. The SANDF is in the process of informing family members of the soldiers involved in this unfortunate incident.”
The Crew managed to land safely at Goma Airport, before another medevac Oryx (819) took off from Goma to Level 3 Hospital to transport the crew members. One crew member was was critically injured and passed away on his way to a Level-3 facility while another received a bullet injury to his shoulder.
The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Miss Thandi Modise, the Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Mr Thabang Makwetla, the Acting Secretary for Defence, Dr Thobekile Gamede and the Chief of the SANDF, General Rudzani Maphwanya express their heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased and wish the wounded soldier a speedy recovery.
South Africa Air Force’ Oryxes with MONUSCO in the DRC have been hit by small arms fire on a number of occasions, and typically, they operate with a Rooivalk or Mi-24 escorts providing cover, however, budget cuts and reduced funding means that MONUSCO can no longer call on attack helicopters to protect them from ground fire.
The new reality is that MONUSCO transport helicopters are having to operate in hostile areas without sufficient top cover from supporting assets. Especially with M23 so resurgent and well-equipped.
Last year March 29, eight UN peacekeepers; six Pakistanis, one Russian and one Serb were killed when their helicopter crashed over a combat zone between the Congolese army and M23 rebels. The helicopter came down in an area controlled by the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels.
The Zimbabwean Armed Forces have been struggling with old and obsolete platforms for several years, similarly, in September 2014, the AFZ lost another SF-260 in a fatal crash during a routine training mission.
In 1997 Paris Salon, Zimbabwe ordered six SF.260F aircraft, becoming the first operator of this new model. All six aircraft were delivered in 1998.