|South African Air Force|
The SAAF Ensign
|Active||Aviation Corps founded: 1912
Became independent: 1920
|Part of||South African National Defence Force|
|Motto||Per Aspera Ad Astra|
|Chief of the Air Force||Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano|
|Oryx stand off radar jammer, Oryx stand off communications jammer, ELINT C-47 Turbo Dakota|
|Patrol||C-47 Turbo Dakota, Super Lynx 300|
|Trainer||PC-7 MKII Astra, Hawk Mk 120|
|Transport||C-47TP, C-130BZ Hercules, Oryx, Agusta A109, CASA 212 Aviocar, CASA CN-235, Cessna Caravan|
The South African Air Force (SAAF) is the air force of South Africa, with headquarters in Pretoria. It is the world's second oldest independent air force, and its motto is Per Aspera Ad Astra (Through Adversity to the Stars). An official slogan, Through Diversity To Airpower Excellence, is also used.
The origin of the South African Air Force can be traced back to 1912, when the Union Defence Force (UDF) was formed. The first flying school in South Africa was started that year in Kimberley using a Compton-Paterson biplane. This formation included the South African Aviation Corps (SAAC), which was formed as part of the Active Citizen Force (ACF).
In April 1914 six pupils (with the probationary ranks of lieutenant in the ACF) were sent to England to undergo further training. Five of them eventually qualified.
When World War I broke out in August 1914, these pilots were granted permission to join the newly formed Royal Flying Corps (RFC). The number of South Africans in the RFC eventually reached approximately 3,000, with 260 active-duty fatalities. They took part in aerial reconnaissance and artillery spotting missions over France during the war. No fewer than 46 of them became fighter aces shooting down five or more enemy aircraft, with the most successful, Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor being the British Empire's fourth most successful ace with 54 victories.
On February 1, 1920 the South African Air Force was established with Col. Pierre van Ryneveld as the Director Air Services. Its first operation was in 1922, when it helped to crush the Rand Revolt, an armed uprising by white mineworkers. The SAAF bombed targets around Johannesburg, and lost some aircraft to ground fire. Col. Sir Pierre van Ryneveld himself was shot down, but survived.
In 1934 a significant increase in the defence budget was approved and in 1935 the Minister of Defence announced that the UDF was to be expanded.
Despite the expansions, the start of World War II in 1939 caught the SAAF unprepared. This caused the establishment of the Joint Air Training Scheme (JATS) in order to train Royal Air Force, SAAF and other allied air and ground crews at 38 South African-based air schools. This expanded the number of military aircraft in the SAAF to 1,709 by September 1941, with a personnel strength of 31,204 (956 pilots).
In particular, the SAAF played a major role in North Africa, where its fighter, bomber and reconnaissance squadrons enabled the Allied Desert Air Force to attain air superiority over the Axis air forces by the beginning of 1942. Between April 1941 and May 1943 the eleven squadrons of the SAAF flew 33,991 sorties and destroyed 342 enemy aircraft, producing a number of SAAF WWII air aces in the process, including John Frost, Sailor Malan, Gerald Stapleton and Marmaduke Pattle.
In the Korean War, the famous 2 Squadron ("The Flying Cheetahs") took part as South Africa's contribution. It won many American decorations, including the unusual honour of a United States Presidential Unit Citation in 1952:
When the Union Defence Forces were reorganised into individual services in 1951, the SAAF became an arm of service in its own right, under an Air Chief of Staff (who was renamed "Chief of the Air Force" in 1966). It adopted a blue uniform, to replace the army khaki it had previously worn.
The SAAF was scaled down in the 1950s, and rebuilt in the 1960s, after South Africa had become a republic, and diplomatic isolation and the United Nations arms embargo had begun to have an effect.
From 1966 to 1989, the SAAF was committed to the Border War, which was fought in northern South West Africa and surrounding states. At first, it provided limited air support to police operations against the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (the military wing of SWAPO, which was fighting to end South African rule of South West Africa). Operations intensified after the defence force took charge of the war in 1974.
At least one maybe two MIG-21s of the Angolan Airforce where shot down by SAAF Mirage F1s.
It was also heavily involved in the 1987-88 Angola campaign, before the peace settlement that ended the conflict. Due to the international arms embargo imposed against the-then apartheid government of South Africa, the SAAF was unable to procure modern fighter aircraft to compete with the MiG-23s fielded by the Cubans in the latter part of this conflict.
After the first multi-racial elections were held in 1994, the SAAF became an integrated air force as part of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
Currently the SAAF is classified as a small air force.
As of 2007 the SAAF has about 8 000 regular uniformed members augmented by about 1 500 civilians and roughly 900 reserves.
In 2002 the Air Force officer rank insignia was changed from one which was shared with the Army to a new pattern based on stripes. The Air Force stated that this was "in order to bring it more in line with international forms of rank".
|NATO Code||OF-10||OF-9||OF-8||OF-7||OF-6||OF-5||OF-4||OF-3||OF-2||OF-1||OF(D)||Student Officer|
|General||Lieutenant General||Major General||Brigadier General||Colonel||Lieutenant Colonel||Major||Captain||Lieutenant||Second Lieutenant||No equivalent||Candidate Officer|
(The reason for the apparent large increase over the previous financial year's amount of roughly US$350 million, is the fact that in the 2008/2009 budget documents, the payments for new aircraft acquisitions have been included in the regular air force budget and then again, in the special defence account budget.)
The SAAF does suffer from a severe shortage of pilots and technical personnel. The impact of this is that the combat force is in effect smaller than it appears on paper. There are currently 60 posts for combat pilots, of which only 34 are filled. Other numbers include: Helicopter Pilots; 167 with 58 vacant posts. Transport Pilots; 156 with 48 vacant posts. SAAF also has currently 12 vip and 7 maritime pilots.
Tech Support Crew: Of the 1630 posts for support crew, only 763 are filled. Engineers are down too from 122 posts with only 52 filled.
However, the South African National Defence Force is to recruit 11 000 new soldiers, airmen, sailors and medics next year(2010), taking advantage of a R700 million allocation for that purpose in Finance Minister Trevor Manuel’s February budget.
|JAS 39 Gripen||Sweden||multirole fighter||C and D (single and twin seat)||11||9 JAS-39D twin seat and 17 JAS-39C single seat Gripens are being delivered between 2008 and 2012, the Gripens are replacing the Atlas Cheetahs which were taken out of active service in early April 2008.|
|British Aerospace Hawk||United Kingdom||lead in fighter trainer||Mk120||24||"With the exception of South Africa's initial Hawk (SA 250) flight test and development aircraft, which was built in the United Kingdom, all of its other Hawks were assembled at Denel's aircraft factory at Johannesburg International Airport in Kempton Park near Johannesburg."|
|Pilatus PC-7||Switzerland||trainer||PC-7 MKII||52||October 15, 2009 The South African Air Force (SAAF) has contracted Pilatus to integrate an avionics upgrade on 35 of their Pilatus Astra PC-7 MkII fleet.|
|Atlas Oryx||South Africa||medium transport helicopter||MKI and MKII||40||Denel Aviation is planning to upgrade the on-board communication and navigation systems of Oryx helicopters under SAAF's Drummer project launched in 2008. The Drummer is a mid-life upgrade programme to extend the service life of 40 Oryx helicopters in the SAAF's inventory (the MKII version helicopters were specifically build for use by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism).|
|Denel AH-2 Rooivalk||South Africa||attack helicopter||11||1 lost to accident.|
|MBB/Kawasaki BK 117|| Germany
|utility helicopter||BK 117||4||Original aircraft were inherited from the Apartheid-era "homelands", the Ciskei having acquired 3 in 1983, Venda 2 in 1985, Transkei 2 in 1986 and Bophuthatswana 2 in 1987, making a total of 10 with an extra delivered from Brazil. Two of the aircraft have already been mothballed at AFB Bloemspruit. 4 remain in service with 15 SQ. Attrition: 02/11/99 Bk117 384 Rolled over after emergency landing. March 2003 BK117 383 Involved in an accident, later declared Cat 5 and cannibalised. 20/08/03 BK117 389 Written-off during Excercise Blue Angel.|
|Agusta A109||Italy||light utility helicopter||A109LUH||29||1 lost to accident; crashed into the Woodstock Dam.|
|Westland Super Lynx||United Kingdom||naval helicopter||MK300||4||operated from South African Navy Valour class frigates.|
|Lockheed C-130 Hercules||United States||transport||C-130BZ||9||upgraded with new avionics and glass cockpits under project Ebb. Completed March 2008.|
|Douglas C-47 Turbo Dakota||United States||maritime patrol / transport /
|C-47TP||10||Under Project Felstone,(need to improve current fleet under embargo) the first C-47TP "TurboDak" serial number 6835, was unveiled at Swartkops Air Force Base on 26 August '91. This aircraft took four years to complete. The Project was completed by 1997 with two production lines - one at AFB Swartkop and the other at AFB Ysterplaat. However, the fleet has been constantly refined and updated over the years. The latest version being a dedicated EW platform. 5 maritime patrol, 3 transport, 2 electronic warfare.|
|Cessna 208||United States||light utility / observation||208B||11||fitted with Denel infrared observation system under project Koiler in 2008|
|Beechcraft Super King Air||United States||transport||King Air 200/King Air 300||4|
|Pilatus PC-12||Switzerland||transport||PC-12||1||mostly VIP transport.|
|CASA C-212 Aviocar||Spain||transport||212-200 / 212-300||4|
|CASA CN-235||Spain||transport||CN-235||1||The SAAF inherited its CN235 in 1994 from the Bophuthatswana Defence Force Air Wing, who acquired theirs in 1991.|
|Boeing BBJ||United States||presidential transport||1|
|Dassault Falcon 900||France||VIP transport||1|
|Dassault Falcon 50||France||VIP transport||2|
|Cessna 550 Citation||United States||VIP transport||2|
Note: Squadron composition as seen below is incomplete.
|Squadron Number||Base||Type of Aircraft||Versions||Objective||Composition|
|2 Squadron SAAF||AFB Makhado||JAS 39 Gripen||C/D||Air-Defense||8 JAS-39D,
|15 Squadron SAAF||AFB Durban||Atlas Oryx, MBB/Kawasaki BK 117||Oryx Mk-I and Mk-II||Transport|
|15 Squadron - C Flight||AFS Port Elizabeth||BK 117 - converting to Agusta A109 LUH.||Transport|
|16 Squadron SAAF||AFB Bloemspruit||Denel AH-2 Rooivalk||Attack||11 AH-2|
|17 Squadron SAAF||AFB Waterkloof||Atlas Oryx, Agusta A109 LUH.||Transport||4 A109 LUH|
|19 Squadron SAAF||AFB Hoedspruit||Atlas Oryx, Agusta A109 LUH||Transport||5 A109 LUH|
|21 Squadron SAAF||AFB Waterkloof||Boeing BBJ, Cessna Citation I, Dassault Falcon 50, Dassault Falcon 900||VIP Transport|
|22 Squadron SAAF||AFB Ysterplaat||Atlas Oryx, Westland Super Lynx 300||Transport|
|28 Squadron SAAF||AFB Waterkloof||Lockheed C-130 Hercules||C-130B/BZ/F models||Medium Transport|
|35 Squadron SAAF||AFB Ysterplaat||C-47 Dakota||C-47TP version||Maritime patrol/Transport|
|41 Squadron SAAF||AFB Waterkloof||Cessna 208, Pilatus PC-12, Beechcraft 200C King Air||Light Transport|
|44 Squadron SAAF||AFB Waterkloof||CASA C-212 Aviocar, CASA CN-235, Cessna 185||Light Transport|
|60 Squadron SAAF||AFB Waterkloof||No operational aircraft at this time. The planned acquisition of Airbus A400Ms was cancelled in November 2009||Transport/Aerial refueling/EW/ELINT|
|80 Air Navigation School||AFB Ysterplaat||Navigation training|
|85 Combat Flying School||AFB Makhado||BAe Hawk LIFT||Mk-120||Jet-flight training/Combat Operation|
|87 Helicopter Flying School||AFB Bloemspruit||Atlas Oryx, Agusta A109 LUH, BK 117||Helicopter flight training||9 A109 LUH|
|Ab initio Helicopter Training, outsourced to Starlite Aviation (a civilian contractor)||Durban||Robinson R-22, Eurocopter EC-120 (civilian aircraft)|
|Central Flying School||AFB Langebaanweg||Pilatus PC-7 Astra||Mk-II||Flight training. Ab initio training is outsourced to a civilian school, Babcock Central Flying Academy of Grand Central Airport using Cessna 172s.|
|Test Flight and Development Centre||AFB Overberg||Various aircraft on test including 1x A109 LUH||Test flight and evaluation|
|SA Air Force College||Other locations|
|SAAF Museum Historic Flight||AFB Swartkop|
|Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre||AFB Waterkloof||Responsible for Air Intelligence and Counter Intelligence training in the SANDF|
|101 Squadron||AFB Hoedspruit||Light Transport (Reserve)|
|102 Squadron||AFB Makhado||Light Transport (Reserve)|
|104 Squadron||AFB Waterkloof||Light Transport (Reserve)|
|105 Squadron||AFB Durban||Light Transport (Reserve)|
|106 Squadron||AFB Bloemspruit||Light Transport (Reserve)|
|107 Squadron||AFB Bloemspruit||Light Transport (Reserve)|
|108 Squadron||AFB Port Elizabeth||Light Transport (Reserve)|
|110 Squadron||AFB Ysterplaat||Light Transport (Reserve)|
|111 Squadron||AFB Waterkloof||Light Transport (Reserve)|
|1 Air Servicing Unit||AFS Thaba Tshwane||This unit performs maintenance and support functions|
|2 Air Servicing Unit||AFB Ysterplaat||This unit performs maintenance and support functions|
|3 Air Servicing Unit||AFB Makhado||This unit performs maintenance and support functions|
|4 Air Servicing Unit||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing||This unit performs maintenance and support functions|
|5 Air Servicing Unit||AFB Waterkloof||This unit performs maintenance and support functions|
|7 Air Servicing Unit||AFB Hoedspruit||This unit performs maintenance and support functions|
|10 Air Depot||AFS Thaba Tshwane||Logistic support services|
|68 Air School||TEK Base||This unit is responsible for technical aviation training in the SAAF|
|18 Deployment Support Unit||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing (Logistic support services)|
|92 Tactical Airfield Unit||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing|
|97 Tactical Airfield Unit||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing (Logistic support services)|
|140 Squadron||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing (Long Range 3D Mobile Radar)|
|141 Squadron||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing (Tactical Mobile Radar)|
|500 Squadron||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing (Special Operations Task Force)|
|501 Squadron||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing (Security services)|
|502 Squadron||TEK Base||Security services|
|503 Squadron||Valhalla||Security services|
|504 Squadron||AFB Waterkloof||Security services|
|505 Squadron||AFB Ysterplaat||Security services|
|506 Squadron||AFB Bloemspruit||Security services|
|508 Squadron||AFB Durban||Security services|
|514 Squadron||AFB Hoedspruit||Security services|
|515 Squadron||AFB Makhado||Security services|
|525 Squadron||AFB Overberg||Security services|
|526 Squadron||AFB Langebaanweg||Security services|
|Air Force Gymnasium||Valhalla||The primary task of the Gymnasium is basic training of all new airforce members|
|Bushveld Airspace Control Sector||Other||Training (Air defense)|
|Lowveld Airspace Control Sector||AFB Hoedspruit||Training (Air defense)|
|Mobile Communications Unit||Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing||Provide operationally deployable communications for SAAF|
|Rapid Deployment Air Operations Team 43||Wonderboom||Logistic support services|
|Rapid Deployment Air Operations Team 46||Johannesburg||Logistic support services|
|Air Publications Service Centre||AFS Thaba Tshwane||Custodian for the master and key copies of all SAAF documentation and publications in terms of aviation regulations and acts|
|SA Air Force Band||Valhalla||The SAAF Band lends a certain quality and sophistication to SAAF and Defence Force parades, performing as marching band|
|Command and Control School||AFB Waterkloof||Training|
|School of Cookery||Valhalla||The SAAF School of Cookery is the sole training institution for all Chefs and Waiters in the SA Air Force|
|Fire Training School||Valhalla||The SANDF Fire Training School is a provider of Fire Fighting and Rescue training in the SANDF|
|Air Force Command and Control School||AFB Hoedspruit||Provides courses in Command and Control, Airspace Control and Telecommunications|
|Airspace Control Unit||AFB Swartkop||Logistics support services (Air defense)|
|Central Photographic Institute||AFB Waterkloof||Provision of photographic services|
|Combined Auction Centre||Other||Logistic support services|
|Ellisras Reporting Post||Other||The Ellisras Reporting Post is a SAAF Early Warning Radar installation|
|SAAF Police||Other||Security services|
|SAAF Telecommunications Centre||AFB Waterkloof||Logistics support services|
|Electronic Warfare Centre||AFB Waterkloof||Logistics support services|
A pool of reserve posts were created to serve the SAAF and augment regular units as and when needed. All trades in the SAAF are represented in the reserves, e.g. pilots, security squadron personnel etc.
Currently consists of nine squadrons of privately owned aircraft operated by reserve pilots on behalf of the SAAF.
These squadrons fulfill a very valuable role in light transport and observation, especially due to low direct operating costs.
The SAAF is planning to transition to a tactical air force, fully deployable internationally. This will have to happen within the constraints of a very limited budget.
South African Air Force Hawk Mk.120
Denel CSH-2 Rooivalk flying at the Ysterplaat air show.
|South African Air Force Memorial|
The SAAF Memorial at Swartkop, Tshwane
|For All South African Air Force casualties
Joint Air Training Scheme casualties
South African casualties of the Korean War
|Statistics source: |
The South African Air Force Memorial is located at Swartkop outside Pretoria. It contains an honour roll of SAAF personnel who have been killed on duty.
In addition to the main memorial site, there are also a number of smaller memorials.