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The South African Air Force (SAAF) is the air force of South Africa, with headquarters in Pretoriamarker. 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.

History

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 Kimberleymarker 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).

World War I

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.

Inter-war period

SAAF roundel from 1927 until 1947.


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 Johannesburgmarker, 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.

World War II

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).

  • Home defence (1939-45): Patrols of South African waters, where German U-boats and Japanesemarker submarines were active.
  • East Africa (1940-41): 2 Wing fought in British-led operations against Italian Somaliland and Italian-occupied Ethiopia.
  • North Africa (1941-43): 3 and 7 Wings fought as part of the Desert Air Force, in operations in Egypt, Libya and Tunis.
  • Madagascarmarker (1942): A detachment took part in the British-led occupation of this French-ruled island.
  • Atlanticmarker (1943-45): Two squadrons patrolled convoy routes off West Africa and Gibraltar. (26 Squadron SAAF, Vickers Wellington XI's, Takoradimarker, Gold Coast, West Africa)
  • Sicily (1943): 3 Wing provided air support during the Allied seizure of the island.
  • Italy (1943-45): 2, 3 and 7 Wings fought in operations to liberate Italy from German occupation.
  • Yugoslavia (1943-44): 7 Wing supported partisan operations against German occupation forces.
  • France (1944): A detachment took part in the Franco-American invasion of southern France.
  • Balkans (1944-45): Some squadrons served with the Balkan Air Force in operations over Hungary, Romaniamarker and Albaniamarker.
  • Warsawmarker (1944): 2 Wing air-supplied Warsaw during Warsaw Uprising.
  • Greece (1944): 2 Wing supported British operations to liberate Greece and suppress the communist coup.


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.

Berlin airlift

Post-war, the SAAF also took part in the Berlin airlift of 1948 with 20 aircrews flying Royal Air Force Dakotas.

Korean War

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:

2 Sqn had a long and distinguished record of service in Korea flying P-51D Mustangs and later F-86F Sabres. Their role was mainly flying ground attack and interdiction missions as one of the squadrons making up the USAF's 18th Fighter Bomber Wing.


During the Korean conflict the squadron flew a grand total of 12 067 sorties for a loss of 34 pilots and two other ranks. Aircraft losses amounted to 74 out of 97 Mustangs and four out of 22 Sabres. Pilots and men of the squadron received a total of 797 medals including 2 Silver Stars - the highest award to non-American nationals - 3 Legions of Merit, 55 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 40 Bronze Stars. 8 pilots became POWs. Casualties: 20 KIA 16 WIA.


Independent status for the SAAF

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.

Border War

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.

Angola campaign

The SAAF provided air support to the army during the 1975-76 Angolamarker campaign, and in the many cross-border operations that were carried out against PLAN bases in Angola and Zambiamarker from 1977 onwards.

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-23 fielded by the Cubansmarker in the latter part of this conflict.

1994 elections

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).

21st century

Currently the SAAF is classified as a small air force.

Personnel

As of 2007 the SAAF has about 8000 regular uniformed members augmented by about 1500 civilians and roughly 900 reserves.

Budget

A budget of R9 billion (roughly US$1.1 billion at March 2008 exchange rates) was allocated for FY2008\2009.

(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.)

Strength

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.

Current order of battle

Aircraft Inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Versions In service Notes
Fighter Aircraft
JAS 39 Gripen multirole fighter C and D (single and twin seat) 9 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 service in early April 2008.
Trainer Aircraft
British Aerospace Hawk 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 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.
Helicopters
Atlas Oryx 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 and operate off 4 opv's, namely: Sarah Baartman, Ruth First, Lillian Ngoyi and Victoria Mxenge).
Denel Rooivalk attack helicopter 11 1 lost to accident.
MBB/Kawasaki BK 117
utility helicopter BK 117 6 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.
Agusta A109 light utility helicopter A109LUH 29 1 lost to accident; crashed into the Woodstock Dam.
Westland Super Lynx naval helicopter MK300 4 operated from South African Navy Valour class frigates.
Transports
Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport C-130BZ 9 upgraded with new avionics and glass cockpits. Completed March 2008.
Douglas C-47 Turbo Dakota maritime patrol / transport /electronic warfare C-47TP 10 5 maritime patrol, 3 transport, 2 electronic warfare.
Cessna 208 light utility / observation Caravan 12 fitted with Denel infrared observation system under project Koiler in 2008
Beechcraft Super King Air transport King Air 200/King Air 300 4
Pilatus PC-12 transport PC-12 1 mostly VIP transport.
CASA C-212 Aviocar transport 212-200 / 212-300 4
CASA CN-235 transport CN-235 1
Boeing BBJ presidential transport 1
Dassault Falcon 900 VIP transport 1
Dassault Falcon 50 VIP transport 2
Cessna 550 Citation VIP transport 2


Air Force Bases



Air Force Stations



Squadrons

Note: Squadron composition as seen below is incomplete.

Squadron Number
Base
Type of Aircraft
Versions
Objective
Composition
2 Squadron SAAF
AFB Makhadomarker
JAS 39 Gripen
C/D
Air-Defense
9 JAS-39 D
15 Squadron SAAF
AFB Durbanmarker
Atlas Oryx, MBB/Kawasaki BK 117
Oryx Mk-I and Mk-II
Transport
15 Squadron - C Flight
AFS Port Elizabethmarker
BK 117 - converting to Agusta A109 LUH.
Transport
16 Squadron SAAF
AFB Bloemspruitmarker
Denel AH-2 Rooivalk
Attack
17 Squadron SAAF
AFB Waterkloofmarker
Atlas Oryx, Agusta A109 LUH.
Transport
4 A109 LUH
19 Squadron SAAF
AFB Hoedspruitmarker
Atlas Oryx, Agusta A109 LUH
Transport
5 A109 LUH
21 Squadron SAAF
AFB Waterkloofmarker
Boeing BBJ, Cessna Citation I, Dassault Falcon 50, Dassault Falcon 900
VIP Transport
22 Squadron SAAF
AFB Ysterplaatmarker
Atlas Oryx, Westland Super Lynx 300
Transport
28 Squadron SAAF
AFB Waterkloofmarker
Lockheed C-130 Hercules
C-130B/BZ/F models
Medium Transport
35 Squadron
AFB Ysterplaatmarker
C-47 Skytrain
C-47TP version
Maritime patrol/Transport
41 Squadron SAAF
AFB Waterkloofmarker
Cessna 208, Pilatus PC-12, Beechcraft 200C King Air
Light Transport
44 Squadron SAAF
AFB Waterkloofmarker
CASA C-212 Aviocar, CASA CN-235, Cessna 185
Light Transport
60 Squadron SAAF
AFB Waterkloofmarker
no operational aircraft at this time. According to current plans, the unit will re-equip with Airbus A400Ms in 2011
Transport/Aerial refueling/EW/ELINT
80 Air Navigation School
AFB Ysterplaat
Navigation training
85 Combat Flying School
AFB Makhadomarker
BAe Hawk LIFT
Mk-120
Jet-flight training/Combat Operation
87 Helicopter Flying School
AFB Bloemspruitmarker
Atlas Oryx, Agusta A109 LUH, BK 117
Helicopter flight training
9 A109 LUH
Ab initio Helicopter Training, outsourced to Starlite Aviation (a civilian contractor)
Durbanmarker
Robinson R-22, Eurocopter EC-120 (civilian aircraft)
Central Flying School
AFB Langebaanwegmarker
Pilatus PC-7 Astra
Mk-II
Ab initio flight traing
Test Flight and Development Centremarker
AFB Overbergmarker
Various aircraft on test including 1x A109 LUH
Test flight and evaluation
SA Air Force College
Other locations
SAAF Museum Historic Flight
AFB Swartkopmarker
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


Reserves

Air Force Conventional Reserves

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.

Air Force Territorial Reserves

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.

Future Programmes

SAAB JAS 39 Gripen of the SAAF in Cape Town
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.

  • Project Assegaai: Development of a short-range air-to-air missile for the SAAF fighter stream. Being developed as a joint venture with Brazil by Denel Dynamics. Each country is said to have allocated R500 million to the missile development phase. It is not clear how much SA has spent additionally on the project between conceptualisation and 2006 when the JV was announced.


  • Project Bandsman: Upgrade and replacement of airport fire tenders. Phase 1 to upgrade existing fire tenders was completed in 2006. Phase 2 for the acquisition of further fire tenders is in progress with a completion date for 2010.


  • Project Continent: Acquisition of between 8-14 Airbus A400M Loadmaster future medium transports. Delivery was due from late 2010, but project now substantially delayed as a result of development problems. Cancellation announced on 5 November 2009.


  • Project Drummer: Midlife upgrade for the remaining Denel Oryx medium helicopters that came into service in 1989. About 38 out of 51 still fly.


  • Project Impose: Design, development and production of Denel CSH2A Rooivalk combat support helicopter and Mokopa heavy antitank guided missile. Development to be completed by 2009 after starting in 1984; R8.1bn spent on programme to 2007. Mokopa: R70m set aside to acquire missiles. R120m spent on development to FY2007, R4.6m to be spent in FY2007/8 and Denel to spend a further R98.25m.


  • Project Koiler: Acquisition of a day/night tactical intelligence (reconnaissance) system for the Cessna C208 light transport inclusive of a datalink. Acquisition of three sets of mission equipment and the modification of 11 aircraft have been contracted. Operational test and evaluation scheduled 2008. Release to service planned for late 2008.


  • Project Maulstic: Acquisition of four maritime helicopters for Navy Project Sitron (the frigate acquisition). Four Agusta-Westland 300 SuperLynx delivered July 2007. Option for two more.


  • Project Muggie: Replacement of a radio-switching network.


  • Project Simunye: "A technology project for defining, testing and evaluating Joint Air Defence Command and Control (C2) systems concepts and related systems architectures".


  • Project Ukhozi: Acquisition of an advanced lightweight fighter aircraft. Twenty-six Saab JAS39 Gripen C/D to be delivered by 2012 at a cost of R20 billion (2007 Treasury figure).


  • Not registered as a project in 2007: Acquisition of a future medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV. Still under consideration by SAAF not yet registered as a Required Operational Capability.


  • Not registered as a project in 2007: Acquisition of a future maritime patrol aircraft. Still under consideration by SAAF not yet registered as a Required Operational Capability.


  • Not known: Leasing of three Saab Erieye multirole airborne surveillance systems housed on Embraer platforms. Said to be a work in progress with system to be in place by June 2010, kick-off for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.


  • Not known: Avionics upgrade for the Pilatus PC7 MkII (M) ab initio trainer. Thirty-five aircraft to be upgraded at a budgeted cost of R400 million.


  • Not known: "Pavement management system" (runway upgrades, six sub-projects).


  • Not known: Reported military space satellite programme.


Aircraft fleet

Gallery of SAAF Aircraft

image:HawkMk120.jpg|South African Air Force Hawk Mk.120Image:Denel Rooivalk flying 2006.jpg|Denel CSH-2 Rooivalk flying at the Ysterplaat air show.



South African Air Force Memorial

The South African Air Force Memorial is located at Swartkop outside Pretoriamarker. 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.
  • A memorial to the 389 Royal Air Force pilots who have died in South Africa during the Joint Air Training Scheme between 1939 and 1945
  • An olive tree planted by the South African Korean War veterans in memory of the comrades they lost during that conflict.


See also



References

  1. http://www.theaerodrome.com/aces/by_score.php
  2. http://www.theaerodrome.com/aces/safrica/index.php?pageNum_names=3&totalRows_names=46
  3. [1]
  4. http://www.saairforce.co.za/news-and-events/731/saaf-rooivalk-fleet-nearing-operational-status
  5. Die Burger Oos-Kaap
  6. http://www.fin24.com/articles/default/display_article.aspx?ArticleId=1518-25_2560151


External links




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