SAAF awards wings to new pilots and navigators

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Thirteen young men and women of the South African Air Force (SAAF) were awarded their coveted Wings at a Commission and Wings Insignia Parade held at Air Force Base (AFB) Langebaanweg outside Cape Town on Wednesday.

Under a cool blue sky and traditional West Coast breeze, Chief of the South African Air Force, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo, awarded the Wing brevet to the proud students of Pilot Wing Course 129B and Navigator Wings Course 70. Immediately prior to having their Wings pinned to their chest, the Candidate Officers were promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant.

Following their basic training and officers forming course, then attending the Military Academy in Saldanha, the pupil pilots moved to AFB Langebaanweg for their survival, ground, and flying phases on the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II. The navigator pupils attended 80 Air Navigation School at AFB Ysterplaat.

The journey for both courses was not smooth however, as the impact of Covid and aircraft availability delayed and prolonged the training.

In his address, Mbambo noted the “complexities of the world within which we operate and the ever-evolving challenges we face as humanity, as Africans, and as an organization.”

To this, Mbambo referenced the conflict between Russia and Ukraine (including that “a South African Airways plane was grounded in Warsaw, Poland, during the recent African peace mission), the Sudan conflict, SANDF forces acting for the UN in the DRC, and the flooding in the Western Cape.

“What has become increasingly clear,” Mbambo stated, “is that we, as a Defence Force, must be prepared to swiftly mobilize, coordinate, and provide critical assistance during times of catastrophe. Our posture as an organisation must be one of acquiring capabilities and resources that enable us to save lives, alleviate suffering, while providing adequate support to other government departments when required.”

These events, Mbambo continued, “are a reminder to the military aviators we graduate today that the environment where they will be operating still remains volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The answer to such situation is a clear vision, understanding and agility with unshakable resilience. The SAAF is on this pathway.”

Mbambo observed that the primary mandate of the South African National Defence Force is to defend and protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the republic of South Africa, including safeguarding its land, air and maritime borders against external threats.

“However,” Mbambo remarked, “there exist inconsistency between the defence allocation and its mandate. The Department of Defence currently receives less than 1% percent of GDP as its budget. Compared to other militaries in the region, this is miniscule and places an untenable burden on our ability to effectively fulfil our mandate.”

Mbambo stressed that understanding the true nature of the “professions of arms” is of the utmost importance for South Africa.

“Despite the various competing demands for funding from the national purse, it is essential to recognize that the Department of Defence serves as a crucial insurance policy for South Africa,” he continued.

In order to redefine its purpose and direction, Mbambo says that the Air Force has been heavily invested in the development and implementation of a new strategic direction, outlined in the SAAF long term development plan, which focuses on the following strategic goals:

  • Developing a safe, healthy, secure, innovative resilient, compliant, and ethical workforce.
  • Developing an integrated, agile, and modernised Order of Battle shaped to provide effective and efficient air and space power capabilities as per the Joint Force Employment strategy and requirements (combat readiness).
  • Executing innovative, resilient, and cost -effective sustainment programs, adaptable to the fluid environment of operational requirements.
  • Ensuring the Air Force is a major player in the development of military space power on the African continent (space power).
  • Ensuring that the Air Force is a major contributor towards National Government’s nation -building project.

Concluding, Mbambo urged the new pilots and navigators to stay abreast of the latest innovations, refine their skills and be prepared to confront the unexpected.

The SAAF Association floating trophy for the student who showed the greatest overall improvement was awarded to 2nd Lt C Dixon.

The Air Command floating trophy, awarded to the student who obtained the highest percentage during the theoretical phase of the Pilots Wings Course, was awarded to 2nd Lt C Visagie, whilst the Air Force Board floating trophy for the student who obtained the highest overall percentage during the flying phase of the Course was awarded to 2n Lt H Vuma.

The prestigious Inkwazi Floating Trophy, awarded to the student who obtained the highest overall percentage on the Pilot’s Wings Course, was awarded to 2nd Lt J Perold.

The Air Navigation School Academic trophy, awarded to the student who obtained the highest average percentage during the theoretical phase of the Navigator’s Wings Course, was awarded to 2nd Lt C Wessels, who also received the 5th Dimension Technologies Simulator Floating Trophy.

The Community of Hopefield Flying trophy for the student who obtained the highest overall percentage during the flying phase of the Course was awarded to 2n Lt A Adam.

The Air Navigation School Floating Trophy for the best overall navigation student on the Navigator’s Wings Course, was awarded to 2nd Lt A Adam.

The newly minted pilots and navigators will now undergo additional line training, in the fighter, transport, or helicopter lines.