The bite of the defence force budget bug seems to have claimed another victim. This time it’s the South African Air Force’s Silver Falcons elite aerobatic team, which has been grounded.
“While there is no official paperwork yet to confirm, we have been informed by our superiors there is a very high probability the Silver Falcons, and any other SAAF participation, will be withdrawn from airshows and public events for the 2013 financial year,” a statement on the official Silver Falcons website reads.
“This scenario follows the trend of larger air forces worldwide, to scale down or withdraw participation in public displays due to budget constraints. Earlier this year, both the US Navy’s Blue Angels and the US Air Force’s Thunderbirds display teams were withdrawn from public appearances for the 2013 season.
“As with these two teams in particular, we will continue to maintain a state of readiness should this situation change, in the expectation that next year we will be back up to speed with a full year of commitments.
“One exception to this likely withdrawal, which has already been made, is the Swartkop Air Show in May at the SAAF Museum, which we will still be attending.
“While we are bitterly disappointed by this eventuality, we must understand the global economic situation and particularly the reduction of defence budgets worldwide are going to have ramifications and the operational side of the SAAF must obviously take priority.
“We trust in our leaders to make the right decisions to ensure the best outcome for the SAAF as a whole and we pledge ourselves as a team to play whatever part in it we can.
“As a team, we will endeavour to spend this time wisely by focusing on developing new routines and keeping you entertained with new videos and updates/insights and some historical articles via our website and Facebook/Twitter network,” the statement signed by the team reads.
Last weekend’s Navy Festival at Simon’s town was the first indication of the airborne arm of the SANDF’s withdrawal from public events. Organisers were informed 24 hours ahead of the event starting there would be no SAAF participation.
The current Silver Falcons team, under the command of Major Roy Sproul (callsign Cougar), is the 73rd of its type. His team members are Major Werner Vermaak (Cruncher), Lieutenant Jacques Poolman (Blackjack), Major Heybrecht van Niekerk (Valiant), Major Beau Skarda (Dusky) and Captain Mark Gentles (Katana).
When at their home base, AFB Langebaanweg, the Silver Falcons are supported by 2 Air Servicing Unit. On deployment a team of between eight and 12 technicians are integral to the overall success of each aerial display.