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Submarine docks for public to take a peek inside


Posted : 20 May 2013

THE SA Navy’s attack submarine SAS Charlotte Maxeke docked in the Port Elizabeth harbour yesterday as part of a three-day multi-purpose stay.

The Type 209 Hunter Killer submarine, armed with 14 torpedos, is one of three used by the National Defence Force to safeguard our waters.

The 65m submarine docked at about 6am after spending three days out at sea after having travelled from the Simon’s Town naval base.

Port Elizabeth navy spokesman Chief Petty Officer Byron Lombard said the submarine would be open for public viewing from 9am to 3pm today and tomorrow. “We want people who have never been on a submarine to see what it is like. People can interact with real submariners and maritime specialists,” he said.

“This also forms part of the recruitment drive to gather interest within communities. We need people to know what we do at the navy.”

Commanding officer Captain Russell Beattie, 39, said that the multi-purpose visit formed part of a training exercise for new recruits onboard the submarine as well as to display the navy’s assets to Port Elizabeth.

“Of the 44 crew members on board, a portion of them are undergoing practical tests after recently finishing their theory modules. We have to take them on practical training exercises and while doing this it was decided to dock in Port Elizabeth,” he said.

“We did various drills while en route to Port Elizabeth and ran the new recruits through their paces. It went well.”

Beattie explained that the main function of the submarine was to gather intelligence on a variety of surveillance operations along the coastline.

“Our main function is surveillance operations for national security. This includes doing routine patrols up and down the coastline. We also conduct anti-piracy patrols around the southern African coastline as well as working closely with other countries to filter information relating to maritime threats,” he said.

“We also use our vessel to detect illegal activity in South African waters, from poachers to illegal vessels. Once we gather that information, we filter it through to the onshore authorities who react on it.”

The high-tech submarine, which can dive to 250m, was designed to conduct stealth operations and, during combat, is used specifically to detect and destroy other submarines.

During a brief tour of the submarine, Beattie, who lives in the Western Cape, described the life of a submariner as “great” and “action packed”.

“You must have a passion for submarines to do what we do. I have always been interested in submarines which is why I joined the navy about 20 years ago. After many years of training and attending various courses I was finally given command of this submarine in June last year.

“Everyone on board has a specific role with some being radio operators, others artisans and engineers to chefs and combat officers, ” he said.

Beattie said during practical training exercises, battery operated torpedoes that could be navigated from the submarine were also used to allow recruits to get used to real-life scenarios.

The submarine will leave for Simon’s Town naval base on Monday morning.

This is a version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, May 18, 2013.




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