The mighty 28 Squadron was formed on the 1st of June 1943. The entry in the war diary for that date reads – “In humble surroundings at SAAF Base Depot Almaza, Cairo, Middle East, 28 Squadron is Born”. The first Officer Commanding was Maj A.A.D. McKellar and the bulk of the personnel were drafted from 34 and 35 Flight South African Air Force (Maritime Reconnaissance). As the first air transport squadron of the SAAF, operating under 216 Group RAF, the squadron was equipped with 7 Anson, 5 Dakota and 2 Wellington aircraft.
Douglas DC3 Dakota
During the Second World War the squadron supported the allied forces in North Africa, the islands of the Western Mediterranean, Italy and France. By April 1944 the squadron was equipped with 30 Dakotas and 14 Ansons and during that year flew a total of 35 859 flying hours, transporting 87 029 passengers and more than 33,6 million lbs of freight. At the end of the war, during the latter half of 1945 and early 1946, the squadron formed an integral part of the now famous “Shuttle Service” from Cairo to Pretoria.
During April 1946 the unit, based at Swartkop, was re-organised into a Permanent Force unit and was confined to internal service, occasional overseas flights and VIP flights. From 22 September 1948 to 25 September 1949 two contingents of the squadron participated in the Berlin Airlift and contributed 2 500 sorties during which 8 333 tons were transported. In 1956 the squadron was presented with the first SA Air Force Exceptional Flying Safety Award for its achievement of a truly remarkable safety record over a long period.
Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Early in January 1963 the SA Air Force’s new C-130 Hercules aircraft were flown from the USA to Waterkloof by members of 28 Squadron, to herald in a new era of transport flying in the SAAF. On the 25th August 1967 the squadron was presented with its Colours by the then Commandant General of the South African Defence Force, General R.C. Hiemstra SSA, SM. The squadron’s battle honours for its operations in the “Mediterranean 1942-1945”, “Sicily 1943” and “Italy 1943-1945” are depicted on its Colours. In August 1969 the squadron’s air transport capability of 7 x C 130B Hercules aircraft was expanded with the introduction into service of an additional 9 x C 160Z Transall aircraft.
During the 70’s and 80’s the squadron distinguished itself in numerous SADF operations in Namibia and Southern Angola. During Operations MODULAR, HOOPER and PACKER the squadron flew numerous sorties from Ondangwa, Rundu to Mavinga into Southern Angola and thus contributed largely to the successes of the SADF. A total of 19 squadron members were awarded Southern Cross Medals for their contributions to these operations.
C130 Para drop
With ever increasing pressure on the defence budget the decision was taken to phase out the squadron’s fleet of C-160Z Transall aircraft.
This was a traumatic experience for all the aircrews that flew this “transport aircraft that handled like a fighter”. The squadron’s tasks, together with most other transport squadrons, now changed with the emphasis being placed on peacetime tasks such as humanitarian support missions into Southern Africa. The squadron for example rendered support after the genocide in Burundi and Rwanda. Various search and rescue flights and flood relief flights were also conducted to destinations in Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Reunion and Zimbabwe.
Air Supply drop
In recent years the squadron has been involved in various humanitarian and benevolent gestures in Southern Africa, as well as involvement in various search and rescue missions on land and sea. With the floods in Mozambique during 2000 and 2001 the squadron flew numerous support missions to various destinations. During one such flight during February 2001 a total of 156 000 lbs of food and other relief aid was transported from Maputo to Quelimane in the north of Mozambique.
Over the years the squadron and its members have truly done justice to its motto “PORTAMUS” which means, “WE CARRY”. It has performed its task of supporting the RSA government and security forces unobtrusively and without great acclaim including transporting the mortal remains of the late President Nelson Mandela to his home in the Eastern Cape.
After 62 years of service to the people of the RSA, the squadron can look back with pride and give acknowledgement to all the air and ground crews who have so unselfishly served their squadron with love and dedication.
During September 1997 C-130 No 407 left for Marshalls Aerospace in the United Kingdom for a major avionics upgrade, in order to extend the aircraft’s service life with an additional 20 years. Two USAF C-130’s (EDA grant), No’s 408 and 409 were also upgraded at Marshalls thus increasing the SAAF fleet to 9 aircraft. The first of the upgraded aircraft (No 407) arrived back at AFB Waterkloof during September 2001, followed shortly afterwards by No’s 408 and 409. Denel Aviation has completed the upgrade of aircraft 401 and 406 with 402, 403, 404 and 405.
Original cockpit layout
28 Squadron is engaged in various operations & missions in support of African Union (AU), United Nations (UN) and NEPAD initiatives. Some of these missions includes:
Operations Fibre and Mistral in central Africa. The re-supply of food and equipment, changeover of personnel and providing a link back to the soldiers’ homeland was the main objective of these missions. Airfields frequented are Kinshasa, Kindu and Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bujumbura in Burundi.
·Support of the Comoros General elections.
·Support of the Mozambique Elections.
·Support to the Madagascar Flood Relief operation.
·Transporting government delegations to Walvis Bay in Namibia, Maputo, Mozambique and Maseru in Lesotho for conferences and seminars.
·Transporting military members to Kasane in Botswana for Exercise Themba.
·Support of Project Taurus, one of them the transportation of liquid oxygen to Ascension Island.
·Support in Pemba, Mozambique as part of Operation Copper.
·Transporting specialist teams from the SA Navy to Zanzibar as part of Operation Arabela and to Malawi.
·Strategic airlift of personnel and equipment to Uganda in support of Operation Ukuwa in Sudan.
.Resupplying Special Forces based in Central African Republic as part of Operation Vimbezela.
·Withdrawing South African Embassy Personnel out of Cote D’Ivoire after the elections in support of Operation Ikuala as well as flights to Libya and Malta.
28 Squadron have a long history of may the continue to make South Africa proud long into the future.