The Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) has managed to survive under illegal sanctions by reducing its import bill through research and development with local companies that are manufacturing essential equipment for its operations, AFZ Commander Air Marshal Elson Moyo has said.
He was speaking during an interview ahead of the Defence Forces Day commemorations on Tuesday next week.
The 40th Defence Forces Day will be commemorated under the theme "Celebrating 40 years of Excellent Service to the People".
Air Marshal Moyo said the AFZ was trying to work with local universities and other institutions of higher learning to find local solutions to its challenges.
"The AFZ believes our industry is capable, albeit it may be under-capacitated in terms of equipment," he said. "But taking a leaf from the Rhodesians then, they were able to survive a situation under sanctions for almost 15 years.
"And we do believe that the way to go is for us to move away from the import of the basic commodities and start looking at research and development as the key driver to the recovery of the economy.
"We have gone into partnership with local industry in import substitution for some of our critical equipment. We operate equipment which is imported, but from the same equipment, we have been able to dismantle and we have found that our industry is also capable of producing some of the spare parts which we have been importing at very exorbitant prices, given the fact that the country is under sanctions, therefore, we have been using third parties and so forth.
"During the burial of Chief Air Marshal Perrance Shiri at the National Heroes Acre a week ago, we put up about six jets in the air to salute our gallant former commander and those aircraft are in service not because we have been importing things; it's mainly because we have utilised our own research and development activities. Research and development activities are now pushing the AFZ forward and they are going to be the main driving force as long as the economy remains under sanctions."
He added that AFZ had a huge role to play in the attainment of the national Vision 2030 and they were carrying out different trainings to equip their staff to become competent locally, regionally and internationally.