SAS Drakensberg

SAS Drakensberg (A301) is a fleet replenishment ship (AOR) of the South African Navy (SAN), with the primary role of assisting and supporting the SAN's combat vessels at sea. Built by the (now defunct) Sandock Austral shipyard in Durban,[2] it is the largest and most sophisticated warship to have been built in South Africa.

SAS Drakensberg
South Africa
Name: SAS Drakensberg
Namesake: Drakensberg mountain range
Operator: South African Navy
Builder: Sandock Austral, Durban
Laid down: 30 August 1984
Launched: 24 April 1986
Commissioned: 11 November 1987
Status: in active service
General characteristics
Class and type: Replenishment oiler (AOR)
Displacement: 12,500 tons full load (6,000 tons light)
Length: 147 m (482 ft)[1]
Beam: 19.5 m (64 ft)
Draft: 7.9 m (25.9 ft)
Propulsion: 2×6600 kW B&W[Notes 1] V12 engines driving a single variable-pitch propeller. Bow thruster
Speed: 21+ knots
Range: 8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h)
Complement: 14 officers, 101 enlisted
Armament:Oerlikon 20 mm cannon; 6 × 12,7 mm Browning machine guns
Aircraft carried:Atlas Oryx helicopters
Aviation facilities: 2 hangars


The design and shortcomings of Tafelberg heavily influenced the designers of Drakensberg. Drakensberg is able to carry 5,500 tons of diesel fuel, 210 tons of fresh water, 100 tons of dry provisions, over 30 tons of frozen food, 230 tons of containerized cargo or 1,000 tons of palletized and general cargo. The loading and offloading of this cargo is made possible with one 20-ton crane, four 2-ton cranes and a 5-ton hoist, assisted by two lifts of 2.5 and 7.5 tons respectively. Replenishment at sea (RAS) is from two abeam positions or from the RAS deck astern, with the ability to pump 40 tons of fuel per hour and 15 tons of fresh water per hour. In addition, an on-board plant enables the ship to produce 50,000 litres (11,000 imp gal; 13,000 US gal) of fresh water from sea water daily.

The ship carries two rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) called 'Stingrays' for small-craft duties, as well as two Delta-80 LCUs for limited amphibious use.

Operational history

In 1988 Drakensberg set sail along with SAS Frans Erasmus for Chile on 15 February, returning to South Africa on 15 April. This was followed two years later in May 1990, when Drakensberg accompanied the strike craft SAS Jan Smuts and Hendrik Mentz on a voyage to Keelung in the Republic of China (Taiwan), without stopping at any ports along the way (a procedure necessitated by South Africa's political isolation at the time). This was the first time since 1945 that a South African naval vessel had "shown the flag" in the Far East;[3] it also provided an opportunity for joint exercises with the Taiwanese Navy.

Under Operation Pullen in 1990, Drakensberg became the first South African naval vessel to visit the then-Zaire in over 30 years, laying the groundwork for a series of additional visits to African nations, signifying South Africa's gradual return from isolation. The next year, it set sail on a humanitarian relief mission, offloading 630 tons of supplies in Chittagong, Bangladesh and 35 tons of supplies in Mersin, Turkey. In 1992, it became the first SAN vessel to proceed further south than 54 degrees south latitude, in a mission to assist the damaged S. A. Agulhas.[4]

Operation Narsau in May 1994, followed South Africa's first fully democratic elections and the election of Nelson Mandela. In three months, it visited Lisbon, Rosyth, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Zeebrugge, Rouen, London, Cadiz, São Tomé and Príncipe, Bioko Island and Gabon in the process becoming the first SAN vessel to visit Denmark and Belgium. While not quite living up to the high standards set by the 1994 voyage, the 1995 voyage to Abu Dhabi, Karachi, Mumbai and Muscat is also notable for its diversity in destinations.

In 1996, Drakensberg became the first SAN vessel in over 20 years to visit the United States, when it called at the ports of Norfolk, Newport and New York City, which followed a naval exercise with over 25 other vessels at the US Navy's base at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. Three years later Drakensberg embarked on another long-range voyage, this time to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay to partake in the Atlasur IV naval manoeuvres.[5]

In 2006, Drakensberg was sent to Antwerpen Belgium by President Thabo Mbeki to collect a giant rotor to replace the damaged rotor at Koeberg nuclear power station.[6]

In 2011, Drakensberg was sent to West Africa, officially for training purposes. The deployment drew criticism from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), who claimed that the deployment was related to ongoing conflict in Cote d'Ivoire.[7][8]


  1. The SA Navy website incorrectly lists the engine manufacturer as BMW


  1. "SAS Drakensberg Specifications". South African Navy.
  2. "Auxiliary Equipment". Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  3. Wessels, Andre. "Unlikely Ambassadors". South African Navy. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  4. "SA Navy in the regional context". South African Navy. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  5. "Navy on Exercises". Mail and Guardian. March 31, 1999. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  6. Mawson, Nicola (April 14, 2006). "Koeberg rotor arrives in Cape Town". Engineering News. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  7. "S.African ship at I.Coast complicates crisis: ECOWAS". Reuters.
  8. "ECOWAS criticizes S.Africa warship off West Africa". Associated Press.
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