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article imageChange and continuity the theme at SA Air Force Day Special

By Christopher Szabo     Feb 1, 2013 in World
Pretoria - The South African Air Force (SAAF), generally recognised as the second oldest air force after the British Royal Air Force, turned 93 on February 1, 2013.
After a colourful march past by a full Wing (equivalent of an Army battalion) and the Air Force Band, the Salute Flight of two Oryx helicopters flying the SAAF colours performed its fly past. The reading of the Code of Conduct, scripture reading and prayer followed, to the command of “caps off!”
Two SAAF Oryx helicopters show the flag.
Two SAAF Oryx helicopters show the flag.
The annual Prestige Award was handed over to Air Force Base (AFB) Langebaanweg, in the Cape by Deputy Air Force Chief Major General Jerry Malinga, whose address to the assembled South African National Defence Force (SANDF) general and flag officers (showing off lots of the proverbial brass) as well as the international military attaches, contrasted change with continuity (in his words) in the Air Force.
General Malinga hands over the coveted award.
General Malinga hands over the coveted award.
The SAAF made history when Lieutenant General Fabian “Zakes” Msimang became the first black Chief of the Air Force. The appointment became official on October 1, 2012.
A SAAF Oryx helicopter of 19 Squadron at AAD 2012.
A SAAF Oryx helicopter of 19 Squadron at AAD 2012.
General Msimang was out of the country and consequently unable to review the parade. Msimang has a background with the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) the former military wing of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). He was one of the few people from Africa to receive advanced flying training in the Soviet Union and attended the prestigious Frunze number 1 Central Officers Training Center now in Kirghizstan, from 1986 to 1991.
(The SAAF is the last arm of service to have someone appointed as chief who is not a “pale male”, as the saying goes. Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano was the previous Chief SAAF. He served for 44 years, and was Chief of the Air Force from 2005 until 2012.)
Previous Chief of the SAAF  Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano. Photo  Janet Szabo  used with permissi...
Previous Chief of the SAAF, Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano. Photo, Janet Szabo, used with permission.
Janet Szabo
Going from change to continuity, General Malinga proudly drew attention to work done by the SAAF’s helicopter squadrons in disaster relief. Last year 19 Squadron from AFB Hoedspruit in the north east of the country assisted people in the northern Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces; this year 17 Squadron based at Swartkop AFB in Pretoria were deployed to the flooded Limpopo River, which forms the border with Zimbabwe.
As the floods have extended into Mozambique, Oryx helicopters, as well as C-130 Hercules transport planes, C -208 Cessna Caravan observation aircraft and C-47TP Dakota planes are still being used to rescue flood victims.
Going from flood to fire, Malinga said Oryx helicopters were supporting Western Cape Disaster Management in the country’s Western Cape Province, where Cape Town is situated.
The Africa Cup of Nations is being supported by the SAAF in providing air space security, while BK 117 helicopters from 15 Squadron have been supporting Operation Rhino in combating rhino poaching, a vital matter for South Africa’s economy and a battle the poachers appear to be winning. The SAAF effort is ongoing.
Additionally, the SAAF supplies the SA Army’s training needs for 1 and 3 Parachute Battalions, as well as Special Forces training. The Deputy Chief also mentioned assistance to other African countries, including Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
85 Combat Flying School and 2 Squadron along with the Test Flight and Development Centre at Bredasdorp near Cape Town, reported that the Hawk Mark 120 Lead-in-Fighter-Trainer (LIFT) had reached the 10,000 flying hour milestone and both fighter trainer and fighter aircraft (SAAB Gripen C and D types) were performing very well.
He also pointed to the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2012 as a success of the SAAF, held at AFB Waterkloof last year.
General Malinga stressed the need for better financing for the SAAF, adding that:
“The pressure and challenges faced by the Air Force are as severe as never before in our history.”
He warned that lack of proper funding from government would hinder key areas, including maintenance of aircraft.
The Air Force Day concluded with the General Salute by the Parade Wing, while a single Pilatus PC-7 Astra trainer performed impressive aerobatics, followed by a lone Gripen twisting and turning its way through the sky.
A Pilatus Astra climbing in a clear blue sky.
A Pilatus Astra climbing in a clear blue sky.
While the SAAF may well be facing austerity, these two pilots were not saving aviation fuel!
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