SAAF celebrates 90 years


The South African Air Force turned 90 in style with a parade held on Friday at the Swartkop airfield near Pretoria. The Parade is held on or as close to 1 February, the day the SAAF was established in 1920.

As befitting the anniversary, the flypasts included aircraft from the SAAF Museum Historical Flight as well as current front-line aircraft. Despite threatening clouds, the rain held at bay.

In order to shorten the time spent on parade, the presentation of the annual air force Prestige Awards was bestowed upon the winners at a function on Thursday evening, with the presentation of the Prestige Trophy at the Parade on the Friday.

The balance of the Parade followed the same pattern as in previous years, i.e. to have both a formal parade, fly pasts and an air capability demonstration, providing the general public the benefit of viewing the proceedings.

Due to the low cloud, the decision was made to cancel the opening display by the Golden Eagles parachute team. Similarly, the presence of Hawk aircraft was cancelled due to weather conditions at AFB Makhado.

Coinciding with the arrival of the Chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano, the General Salute and Salute Flight took place with three Agusta A109 helicopters, two bearing the Air Force flag and the rear helicopter carrying the SAAF 90 flag.

In his address, Gagiano recognised the negative impact the recent global economic downturn has had on air force programmes. However, the Chief of the Air Force mentioned numerous highlights of the past year, which included the upgrade of the runway and VVIP facilities at AFB Waterkloof, the commencement of the PC-7 MkII Astra cockpit avionic upgrade at AFB Langebaanweg, the receipt of nine Gripen D dual seater aircraft and the immanent arrival of the first single-seat Gripen C. It was highlighted that the Gripen aircraft in the flypast were equipped with the state-of the-art Diehl Defence IRIS-T missile.

Also mentioned were the various military exercises, humanitarian and peace-keeping missions undertaken by the SAAF over the past year. These exercises included support for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Meaningful progress had also been made in various projects and training programes between the SAAF and the civilian aviation industries.

Gagiano recognised that once again, the airforce was being requested to do more with less. He said that “the current SAAF, in terms of human resources and hardware, cannot be adequately supported by the present budget”. As a result, the SAAF needed to be “super-innovative in our efforts to streamline processes and to cut out red tape at all levels”.

With most transport aircraft ranging in age from 21 to 75 years old, the SAAF was also reconsidering their fixed wing mobility capability. This capability includes VIP, strategic airlift and medium range transport down to battlefield air transport.

There, however, positive challenges as well, including the decision to once again employ the SAAF in borderline protection. ‘This will provide an opportunity for our young pilots to do more tactical flying and to enhance their operational skills,” Gagiano said.

While the parade commenced with a drive-past of SAAF rescue, support and mobile-radar vehicles, the Parade ended with very impressive mass formation flypasts. In tribute to the past, the first formation consisted of the SAAF Museum Historic Flight Alouette II, Alouette III and Puma. This was followed by a mass formation of six Oryx and nine Agusta A-109 helicopters.

Next was a SAAF Museum Historic Flight formation of a C-47 Dakota, Kudu, Bosbok and Harvard, followed closely by a formation of six Cessna Caravans, two King Airs and the PC-12.

Three Gripen aircraft then performed a break, with the centre Gripen performing before the crowd, showing of the new IRIS-T air-to-air missile. The Gripen then proceeded to land. As the Gripen taxied to park next to the crowd, an Agusta 109 fired its flares, looking very impressive against the dark cloud backdrop.

The display then concluded with an Air Capability Demonstration, highlighting the close cooperation between the SAAF and the SA Police in various hostage scenarios. This included a ‘hijacked’ King Air which was forced to land at the base by the ‘non-visible’ Hawks, but the ever present Oryx and Agusta A109 provided top-cover and support forces.

The scenario then changed to that of a hijacked bus, with the Oryx and Agusta A109 once again providing support.

The SAAF is to be congratulated, not only for going ahead with the mass flypasts in these economically restricted times, but for also allowing the general public to view the Parade and associated activities.

Prestige Awards

The aim of the SAAF annual awards competition is to give recognition to those SAAF units and personnel who have achieved the best results within a given period.

The Air Force Prestige Unit of the year for 2009 went to 2 Air Servicing Unit, headquartered at AFB Langebaanweg. 2 ASU were the winners in 2008 as well.
22 Squadron of AFB Ysterplaat was awarded the Air Force Sword of Peace, while the Silver went to 15 Squadron (AFB Durban) and Bronze to 17 Squadron (AFB Waterkloof).

Other Award winners where:

The South African Air Force Aviation Safety Award:

AFB Makhado

The Royal Air Force Training Award:

Air Force Gymnasium Protection Training Wing

Air Force Protection Squadron of the Year:

502 Squadron (68 Air School)

Fire & Rescue Services of the Year:

AFB Langebaanweg

Air Force Reserve Squadron of the Year:

104 Squadron (AFB Waterkloof)

Air Force Support Unit of the Year:


Air Force Air Servicing Unit of the Year:

2 ASU (AFB Langebaanweg)

Air Command Directorate of the Year:


Air Force Operational Support Unit of the Year:

142 Squadron AF Mobile Deployment Wing

Air Force Training Unit of the Year:

SAAF College

Air Force Base of the Year:

AFB Durban

Air Force Permanent Flying Unit of the Year:

15 Sqn (AFB Durban)

Safety, Health, Environment, Risk & Quality Award:

22 Squadron (AFB Ysterplaat)

Myrnel Floating Trophy:

AFB Overberg Combined Mess