Gate guards are part of military aviation history and tradition


The deployment of gate guards in the form of aircraft no longer in service is a time-honoured tradition in air forces around the world and the SA Air Force (SAAF) is no different.

With the airborne service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) this year marking (depending on interpretation) 25 or 100 years of existence the gate guards, most of them at air force bases and facilities, are a reminder of the types that have seen service.

There are also some SAAF aircraft not “doing duty” at air force facilities and these are, by and large, no longer SAAF property. Aircraft such as the Buccaneer and Sabre at AFB Waterkloof remain the property of the SAAF and are overseen by the SAAF Museum, headquartered at AFB Swartkop. It is the responsibility of the base or facility where the aircraft is to maintain it and ensuring this happens is a task assigned to the SAAF Museum as curator of the force’s history and traditions.

Stellenbosch Flying Club in Western Cape has a Mirage F1CZ on display which previously belonged to an engineering faculty at the town’s university. This fighter is the property of the club, unlike the Vampire on its premises which is listed on the inventory of the SAAF Museum.

A list of ex-SAAF aircraft airframes on display around the country is published on the Unofficial SAAF website, whose webmaster Dean Wingrin is an avid military aviation enthusiast and is a defenceWeb correspondent. He admits his list “might need updating”. defenceWeb approached the SAAF Museum for information on aircraft now “in service” as gate guards and was informed “it will be responded to later after consultation with higher authority”.

Wingrin’s list shows the Impala, in the Mark I and II types, as the most utilised gate guard with 15 on plinths around the country. One “Imp” now mounted at the Airport Company of SA’s Port Elizabeth Airport is a former Silver Falcons aircraft (serial 507).

Other aircraft on static display, not at the SAAF Museum at AFB Swartkop or the satellite branches in Cape Town (AFB Ysterplaat) and Port Elizabeth, include Bosbok, Cheetah E, Puma, Mirage (IIICZ and F1CZ), Vampire, Canberra, Ventura, Super Felon, Harvard and a Westland Wasp at the SA Navy Museum in Simon’s Town.