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The SAAF Celebrates its 99th Birthday

The South African Airforce was formed on the 1st February 1920 and has seen service in World War II, the Korean War and later the Rhodesian Bush War as well as the Angolan Bush War, known as the “Border War”. More recently the SAAF has been involved in peace keeping missions all over Africa on behalf of the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU).

In Celebration of its 99th Birthday the SAAF held a Prestige Day Parade on the 1st February at the historic Air Force Base Swartkop in Centurion Pretoria. AFB Swartkop is the proud holder of the title of “Oldest Operational Airforce Base” in the world, it was established in 1921.

The Parade marched on accompanied by the SAAF Band, after a brief dressing the review officer arrived to a flypast by two Agusta A109. The lead A109 was carrying the national followed by the second carrying SAAF Flag, Lt-Gen Zakes Msimang acknowledged the general salute as they flew by.

The parade was then opened with a scripture reading and prayer by the chaplain of the Airforce followed by the reading of the military code of conduct. Gen Msimang then inspected the parade.

The parade then marched past the podium, its always a proud momnent when the Colours Squadron displays the colours of all the active Squadrons in the SAAF.

After the march past a mass flypast of present and past SAAF aircraft had everyone look skywards. Heading up the flypast was a formation of ten present and past SAAF helicopters. In the lead was a Rooivalk, three Agusta A109 followed, joined by four Oryx’s and two Alouette III’s.

The second wave of the flypast was a SAAF Museum Cessna 185 and a Bosbok, they were followed by three Harvards. Next up was a two ship formation of King Airs from 41 Squadron followed by the ‘Cockpit Ambassadors” of the SAAF, the Silver Falcons in the PC7 Astras.

The formation was closed off with a two ship Hawk formation followed by a four ship Gripen formation.

The Officer Commanding Airforce Base Ysterplaat was called upon to accept the trophy for the prestige unit of the year for the 2018 cycle.

Gen Msimang then addressed the large crowd, He opened his speech by pay tribute to the brave men and woman who are currently deployed and those on the home front. Gen Msimang then explained the role of the SANDF and the SAAF function within the collective.

Gen Msimang highlighted “Focus Areas” for 2019, the first being the Collective heritage programme “Our museums, units and bases must integrate, capture, preserve and must be visual display of an all-inclusive history of the SAAF.

Secondly Recruitment “we have to tighten the accountability chain of recruitment” he said “ Recruitment will be decentralised to level 4 to ensure that Outreach Programmes are feeders in our endeavours to attract passionate and dedicated candidates into the Airforce”

Third focus point for 2019 is “4th Industrial Revolution” The CAF said “We must seek to work closely with higher education institutions, industry and other regional Airforces in search of interventions to maximize the value of technological advancements .”

And finally “Caring for our People” he said the SAAF must “Continue to look after our members and their families through the strengthening of the Spouses Forum, growing Skills and enterprise development programmes and perfecting our early childcare development centres.

Gen Msimang closed of his speech with the assurance that the SAAF “will always be at your service! This is your Airforce and we re-dedicate ourselves to serve the Nation and renew our pledge to do our sovereign duty.”

After the departure of the review officer the parade marched off and the invited guest were treated to snacks in Hangar 5.

In 2020 the SAAF will be Celebrating it Centenary and I certainly hope a big effort is made to make this a celebration that will long live in the memory of all who witness it.

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