Table Mountain-class Amphibious Assault Ship
From Canadian Power Wiki
- Type: Amphibious Assault Ship
- Nation of Origin: South Africa
- Service Period: 1983-
- Builders: Sandock Austal Shipbuilding, Durban, South Africa
- Length: 681 feet 10 inches (207.82 meters)
- Beam (Waterline): 112 feet 3 inches (34.22 meters)
- Beam (Extreme): 146 feet 6 inches (44.66 meters)
- Draft (Maximum): 27 feet (8.23 meters)
- Displacement: 25,760 tons (Full Load)
- Capacity: 800 marines and 32 vehicles
- Crew: 405 officers and enlisted
- Power: 92,000 shp
- Propulsion: 4 Wärtsilä 20V46F diesel marine engines, 2 Kamos Mechanics bow thrusters, 2 shafts
- Range: 12,700 miles (20,438.7 km)
- Speed: 24 Knots (44.45 km/h)
- Sensor Suite:
- 2 x Mark 14 SAM missile launchers (48 Umkhonto-IR surface-to-air missiles)
- 5 x Denel M21 Dual 35mm CIWS systems
- 6 x M2 Browning 12.7mm machine guns
- Auxiliary Craft:
- Aircraft: Atlas Oryx M2, Atlas/Dassault SA 365 Dauphin, Dassault SA 321 Super Frelon, Atlas AH-2B Rooivalk, AV-8B Harrier II
- Boats: 2 LCAC air-cushion landing craft, 2 Delta-120 LCVP landing craft, 3 Stingray RHIBs
- SAS Table Mountain (L303)
- SAS Transvaal (L304)
At one time called the most hated naval vessel in the world, SAS Table Mountain is in modern times one of the vessels best known in the South African Navy, and for a variety of reasons - some good, some bad.
The Table Mountain and sister ship Transvaal were the final result of the problems the apartheid state faced as time went on. After South Africa's formal takeover of South West Africa in 1955 and invasion of Bechuanaland in 1965, South Africa was well and truly detested by the world community, though the country's vast mineral resources and the wealth created by them made sure that the nation still had money flowing. Despite prosperity in the 1970s and early 1980s, South Africa still faced the not-insignificant problem of security form both outside and inside threats.
The Table Mountain-class was originally ordered in the final months of the Verwoerd government in July 1972, but the process of developing them took time and the Navy didn't have the greatest monetary priority, owing to the country's internal problems and land borders with openly-hostile Angola and Mozambique, and South Africa's troublesome problems in Rhodesia. But by the late 1970s, the SADF had come to think that the Table Mountain-class and a proper Navy could well be a useful deterrent tool, a pitch which ensured the ships were built.
Built at the huge Sandock Austal shipyards in Durban, Table Mountain and Transvaal were commissioned with some fanfare in June 1983, the ships were immediately shown off as South Africa's "response to the challenges we face in the world." Needless to say, they were not well liked by most, and for years they mostly operated in the area around South Africa. This didn't change until South African began coming out of its isolation as apartheid crumbled in the late 1980s.
Both ships were used in the audacious Luanda Raid in January 1988, where South African helicopter-borne commandos killed the head of Cuban forces in Angola, General Leopoldoe Cintras Frías, nicknamed "Polo", and in the process helped ensure the SADF's victory at Cuito Cuanavale. This victory, along with Cuba's withdrawal, ended the threats to the northern border of the RSA. But as apartheid crumbled, the ships themselves became elephants in their own right.
The 1991 South African elections ended apartheid, but despite that one of the critical wishes of the white minority was keeping the SADF potent, which new President Nelson Mandela had few objections to. Table Mountain made its first long-distance voyage in Operation Vision in June 1991, sailing from Simonstown and calling at Cape Verde, Lisbon, Rosyth, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, London, Brest and Dublin, before sailing across the Atlantic, calling at Halifax, New York, Norfolk and Miami before returning home to South Africa. (Transvaal simultaneously sailed to the Far East in Operation Futura.) The ship's first new combat operations were to assist South African, Canadian, Japanese, Kenyan and Tanzanian forces getting into the middle of the genocide in Rwanda in May 1994. Both ships, along with supply ships Tafleberg, Drakensberg and Kalahari, supplied thousands of tons of supplies as well as troop support. The ships were busy in the 1990s after that, including evacuating foreign nationals from Zaire in 1997 and several humanitarian missions.
By the 2000s, South Africa was well into the international affairs, and the two South African vessels were among the world's response to the September 11th attacks, being involved in Operation Enduring Freedom, and making some of the longest helicopter strikes in history when they ferried members of the 44th Parachute Brigade some 449 miles (722.6 kilometers) from the coast off Pakistan to an operations site outside of Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The early 2000s also saw ex-US Navy AV-8B Harrier II aircraft become part of the South African Navy, operating from the Table Mountain-class vessels, giving an extra flexibility that added to the ships' versatility. As of 2010, both remain in service, one based at Naval Base Simonstown near Cape Town and the other at Naval Base Durban.