The South African Airforce (SAAF) will be reaching their 100 birthday on 1 February 2020, this major milestone unfortunately seems to have slipped the minds of the of the powers that be. In all official correspondence from the SAAF and the SANDF no mention of the Centenary has been made, they have opted for a meaningless slogan “Embracing our Collective Heritage” which in itself in implies division and not unity.
If it was truly a celebration of “Collective Heritage” one would think the decision makers would jump at the opportunity to celebrate the centenary of what is widely regarded as the second oldest independent Airforce in the world. This blatant disregard of “Heritage” smacks of political interference from the highest level. The SAAF members, from diverse backgrounds, that Flightline Weekly have spoken to all agree that they would love to see the SAAF receiving the honour it deserves on this auspicious occasion, not unlike the RAF 100 celebrations that were held last year in the UK.
Previous SAAF Milestone Celebration logos
The SAAF owes its existence to vision of a few great men, General Jan Smuts was the visionary behind the independent armed wing dedicated to airborne warfare. Gen Smuts is known throughout the Commonwealth and maybe the world as the “Father of the modern Airforce”, a point that was raised many time during RAF 100.
The story began as early as 1912 when Brig. Gen. C.F. Beyers, who at the time was the Commandant-General of the Defence Force, approached Gen Smuts with a report indicating that the future use of aircraft for military purposes would be extremely beneficial to bolster the Union Defence Force . Gen Smuts took this to heart and initiated an arrangement with private aviators in the Cape and established a flying school at Alexandersfontein near Kimberley, known as the Paterson Aviation Syndicate School, to train pilots for the proposed South African Aviation Corps. Flying training commenced in 1913 with students who excelled on the course being sent to the Central Flying School at Upavon in Great Britain for further training. The first South African military pilot qualified on 2 June 1914.
Paterson Biplane at Alexandersfontein
World War I broke out in August 1914, and one month later South African troops invaded German West Africa (Now Namibia). Early in the German West African campaign, the Union Defence Force had realised the need for air support, having frequently seen German reconnaissance aircraft above their advancing columns and later, having been strafed by German aircraft. This emphasised the urgency for the need of the long-discussed air corps and brought about the establishment of the South African Aviation Corps (SAAC) on 29 January 1915. Although the SAAC had been formally established, the lack of aircraft led Sir Abe Bailey to lead a delegation in an attempt to acquire American aircraft and pilots for the air corps. The Wright double-wing aircraft initially earmarked for purchase were found to be unsuitable after having been tested in Britain; British aircraft too (being of wooden construction), were considered unsuitable for the hot and dry conditions of German West Africa. It was finally decided to purchase twelve tubular steel framed French Henri Farman F-27 aircraft, powered by Canton-Unné radial engines. Capt. Wallace was recalled from the RFC and oversaw the purchase of the aircraft in France, while Lieutenants Turner and Emmett were recalled to co-ordinate the building of an airfield at Walvis Bay and to prepare for the recruitment of 75 prospective pilots.
Henri Farman F-27
The SAAC’s activities were limited to ground training at the Cape Town Drill Hall, while the pilots who had been detached to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) were grouped to form No. 26 Squadron RFC and later becoming an independent squadron on 8 October 1915. No. 26 Squadron was equipped with Henri Farman F-27's and B.E.2c's and was shipped to Kenya in support of the war effort in German East Africa, landing in Mombasa on 31 January 1916.
The squadron flew reconnaissance and observer missions throughout the campaign until February 1918 when the squadron returned to the UK via Cape Town and arrived at Blandford Camp on 8 July 1918 and was disbanded the same day. While the SAAC were engaged in German South West Africa and 26 Sqd RFC in East Africa, many South Africans travelled to the United Kingdom to enlist with the Royal Flying Corps. The number of South Africans in the RFC eventually reached approximately 3,000 men and suffered 260 active-duty fatalities over the Somme during the war. Forty-six pilots became fighter aces.
On conclusion of the First World War, the British Government donated surplus aircraft plus spares and sufficient equipment to provide the nucleus of a fledgling air force to each of its Dominions. As part of this donation, which was to become known as the Imperial Gift, South Africa received a total of 113 aircraft from both the British Government as well as from other sources. Hangars and other equipment were also part of the imperial gift, some of the hangars are still in use at AFB Swartkop to this day.
On the 1 February 1920 Colonel Pierre van Ryneveld was appointed as the Director Air Service with the task of forming an air force, the date is used to mark the founding of the South African Air Force. In December 1920 the South African National insignia was added to aircraft for the first time. An Orange, Green, Red and Blue roundel was added to an Avro 504K for trial purposes but the colours were found to be unsuitable and were replaced with a Green, Red, Lemon, Yellow and Blue roundel in December 1921. These colours remained until 1927 when they were replaced with the Orange, White and Blue roundels.
The first operational deployment of the newly formed Air Force was to quell internal dissent, when in 1922 a miner's strike on the Johannesburg gold mines turned violent and led to the declaration of martial law. 1 Squadron was called to fly reconnaissance missions and to bombard the strikers’ positions. Sorties in support of the police amounted to 127 flight hours between 10 and 15 March and this inauspicious start for the SAAF led to two pilot losses, two wounded and two aircraft lost to ground fire. The SAAF was again deployed to suppress the Bondelzwart Rebellion at Kalkfontein between 29 May and 3 July 1922.
At the outbreak of WWII, South Africa had no naval vessels and the UDF's first priority was to ensure the safety of the South African coastal waters as well as the strategically important Cape sea-route. For maritime patrol operations, the SAAF took over all 29 passenger aircraft of South African Airways: 18 Junkers Ju 86Z-ls for maritime patrols and eleven Junkers Ju 52s for transport purposes. SAAF maritime patrols commenced on 21 September 1939 with 16 Squadron flying three JU-86Z's from Walvis Bay had been established, eventually consisting of 6, 10, 22, 23, 25, 27 and 29 Squadrons.
Junkers Ju 52
In December 1939 the Duke of Aosta had sent a report to Mussolini recording the state of chronic unpreparedness of the Allied Forces in East Africa. The collapse of France in 1940 had prompted Mussolini to join the war on the side of the Axis and as a result, air force elements were moved to forward positions in occupied Abyssinia to mount air attacks on Allied forces before they could be re-enforced. These deployments prompted Allied action and on 13 May 1940, 1 Squadron pilots were sent to Cairo to take delivery of 18 Gloster Gladiators and to fly them south to Kenya, for operations in East Africa. 11 Squadron, equipped with Hawker Hartebeests, followed to Nairobi on 19 May 1940 and were joined by the Junkers Ju 86s of 12 Squadron on 22 May 1940.
By the end of World War II in August 1945, SAAF aircraft, in conjunction with British and Dutch aircraft stationed in South Africa, had intercepted 17 enemy ships, assisted in the rescue of 437 survivors of sunken ships, attacked 26 of the 36 enemy submarines that operated around the South African coast, and flown 15,000 coastal patrol sorties.
Italy declared war on 10 June 1940 and on the following day, the Ju 86s of 12 Squadron led the first air attack by the SAAF in World War II. During the campaign, numerous SAAF aircraft were involved in air combat with the Italian Regia Aeronautica and provided air support to South African and Allied forces in the ground war. By December 1940, ten SAAF squadrons plus 34 Flight, with a total of 94 aircraft, were operational in East Africa (1 Squadron, 2 Squadron, 3 Squadron, 11 Squadron, 12 Squadron, 14 Squadron, 40 Squadron, 41 Squadron, 50 Squadron and 60 Squadron). During this campaign, the SAAF formed a Close Support Flight of four Gladiators and four Hartebeests, with an autonomous air force commander operating with the land forces. This was the precursor of the Desert Air Force/Tactical Air Force "cab-rank" technique which were used extensively for close air support during 1943–1945. The last air combat took place on 29 October and the Italian forces surrendered on 27 November 1941. A reduced SAAF presence was maintained in East Africa for coastal patrols until May 1943.
SAAF fighter, bomber, and reconnaissance squadrons played a key role in the Western Desert and North African campaigns from 1941 to 1943. One memorable feat was the Boston bombers of 12 and 24 Squadrons dropping hundreds of tons of bombs on Axis forces pushing the Eighth Army back towards Egypt during the "Gazala Gallop" in mid-1942. SAAF bombers continually harassed retreating forces towards the Tunisian border after the Second Battle of El Alamein; the South African fighters of No. 223 Wing RAF helped the Desert Air Force gain air superiority over Axis air forces. Between April 1941 and May 1943, the eleven SAAF squadrons flew 33,991 sorties and destroyed 342 enemy aircraft.
Conditions were however not ideal and pilots and crew were required to operate under critical conditions at times. Pilots were frequently sent home to the Union after gaining experience and did not return for many months, after which conditions in the desert had changed significantly and they were required to regain experience on different aircraft, different tactics and operations from different bases. There were cases where experienced fighter pilots were sent back to the Western Desert as bomber pilots for their second tour – compounding the lack of continuity and experience. The South Africans did however command the respect of their German adversaries.
The South Africans had the distinction of dropping the first and last bombs in the African conflict – the first being on 11 June 1940 on Moyale in Abyssinia and the last being on the Italian 1st Army in Tunisia. The SAAF also produced a number of SAAF WWII air aces in the process.
In fear of Japanese occupation and subsequent operations in the Indian Ocean in close proximity to South African sea lanes, Field Marshal Smuts encouraged the pre-emptive Allied occupation of the island of Madagascar. After much debate and further encouragement by General de Gaulle (who was urging for a Free French operation against Madagascar), Churchill and the Chiefs of Staff agreed to an invasion by means of a strong fleet and adequate air support. In March and April 1942, the SAAF had been conducting reconnaissance flights over Diego-Suarez and 32, 36 and 37 Coastal Flights were withdrawn from South African maritime patrol operations and sent to Lindi on the Indian Ocean coast of Tanzania, with an additional eleven Bristol Beauforts and six Martin Marylands to provide ongoing reconnaissance and close air support for the planned operation – to be known as Operation Ironclad.
During the amphibious / air assault carried out by the Royal Navy and Air Force on 5 May, the Vichy French Air Force consisting mainly of Morane fighters and Potez bombers had attacked the Allied fleet but had been neutralised by the Fleet Air Arm aircraft from the two aircraft carriers. Those remaining aircraft not destroyed were withdrawn by the French and flown south to other airfields on the island. Once the main airfield at Arrachart aerodrome in Diego-Suarez had been secured, the SAAF Air Component flew from Lindi to Arrachart. The air component consisted of thirty-four aircraft, six Marylands, eleven Beaufort Bombers, twelve Lockheed Lodestars and six Ju 52's transports. By September 1942, the South African ground forces committed to Ironclad had been party to the capturing the southern half of Madagascar as well as the small island of Nossi Be with the SAAF air component supporting these operations. During the campaign which ended with an armistice on 4 November 1942, SAAF aircraft flew a total of 401 sorties with one pilot killed in action, one killed in an accident and one succumbing to disease. Seven aircraft were lost, only one as a result of enemy action.
By the end of May 1943, the SAAF had two Wings and sixteen squadrons in the Middle East and North Africa with 8,000 men. With the end of the North African campaign, the SAAF role underwent change, becoming more active in fighter bomber, bomber and PR operations as opposed to the fighter role performed in the desert.
Five SAAF squadrons were designated to support the July 1943 invasion of Sicily – 1 Squadron operated combat air patrols over the beaches for the Operation Husky landings while 2 and 5 Squadrons provided fighter bomber support during the Sicilian campaign. 30 Squadron, flying as No. 223 Squadron RAF during the campaign, provided light bomber support from Malta and 60 Squadron was responsible for photo reconnaissance flights in support of all Allied forces on the island. After successfully invading the island, a further three squadrons were moved to Sicily and the eight squadrons on the island were tasked with supporting the invasion of Italy: 12 and 24 Squadrons were responsible for medium bomber missions to "soften up" the enemy prior to the invasion while 40 Sqn was responsible for tactical photo-reconnaissance. 1 Squadron provided fighter cover for the 3 September 1943 landings while 2 and 4 Squadrons were responsible for bomber escort.
16th South African Air Force Squadron, stationed in then Italy, made dozens of air strikes against German forces and collaborators in then Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc. during 1944 and 1945. On 6 September 1944, the 16th Squadron bombed Zenica, focusing on bridges.
The Mobile Air Force Depot (MAFD) was based in Pretoria. Its role in World War II was a location where Air Crew could be stationed, on stand-by, prior to being posted to a more active squadron.
Post-war, the SAAF also took part in the Berlin airlift of 1948 with 20 aircrews flying Royal Air Force Dakotas. 4,133 tons of supplies were carried in 1,240 missions flown.
Royal Air Force Dakota
At the outbreak of the Korean War the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of North Korean forces in South Korea. A request was also made to all UN members for assistance. After a special Cabinet meeting on 20 July 1950 the Union Government announced that due to the long distance between South Africa and Korea, direct ground-based military participation in the conflict was impractical and unrealistic but that a SAAF fighter squadron would be made available to the UN effort. The 50 officers and 157 other ranks of 2 Sqn SAAF sailed from Durban on 26 September 1950, they had been selected from 1,426 members of the Permanent Force who had initially volunteered for service. This initial contingent was commanded by Cmdt S. van Breda Theron DSO, DFC, AFC and included many World War II SAAF veterans. The squadron was moved to Johnson Air Base near Tokyo on 25 September 1950 for conversion training on the F-51D Mustangs supplied by the US Air Force.
On completion of conversion training, the squadron was deployed as one of the four USAF 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing squadrons and on 16 November 1950 an advance detachment consisting of 13 officers and 21 other ranks, including the Squadron Commander and his four Flight Commanders who made the crossing in their own F-51D Mustangs, left Japan for Pusan East (K-9) Air Base within the Pusan Perimeter in Korea to fly with the USAF pilots in order to familiarise themselves with the local operational conditions. On the morning of 19 November 1950, Cmdt Theron and Capt G.B. Lipawsky took off with two USAF pilots to fly the first SAAF combat sorties of the Korean War from K-9 and K-24 airfields at Pyongyang.
On 30 November the squadron was moved further south to K-13 airfield due to North Korean and Chinese advances. It was again moved even further south after the UN forces lost additional ground to the North Koreans to K-10 airfield situated on the coast close to the town of Chinhae. This was to be the squadron's permanent base for the duration of their first Korean deployment. During this period, while equipped with F-51D Mustangs, the squadron flew 10,373 sorties and lost 74 aircraft out of the total 95 allocated. Twelve pilots were killed in action, 30 missing and four wounded.
Mustang and Sabre
In January 1953 the squadron returned to Japan for conversion to the USAF F-86F Sabre fighter-bombers. The first Sabre mission was flown on 16 March 1953 from the K-55 airfield in South Korea, being the first SAAF jet mission flown. 2 squadron was led by ace pilot, Major Jean de Wet from AFB Langebaanweg. The squadron was tasked with fighter sweeps along the Yalu and Chong-Chong rivers as well as close air support attack missions. The squadron flew 2,032 sorties in the Sabres losing four out of the 22 aircraft supplied.
The war ended on 27 July 1953, when the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed. During the first phase of the war, the main task of the squadron Mustangs was the interdiction of enemy supply routes which not only accounted for approximately 61.45% of SAAF combat sorties, but which reached an early peak from January to May 1951. A typical interdiction mission was an armed reconnaissance patrol usually undertaken by flights of two or four aircraft armed with two napalm bombs, 127 mm rockets and 12.7 mm machine guns. Later, after the introduction of the Sabres, the squadron was also called on to provide counter-air missions flying as fighter sweeps and interceptions against MiG-15's, but interdiction and close air support remained the primary mission. Losses were 34 SAAF pilots killed, eight taken prisoner, including the future Chief of the Air Force, General D Earp with 74 Mustangs and 4 Sabres lost. Pilots and men of the squadron received a total of 797 medals including 2 Silver Stars, the highest US military award given to foreigners, 3 Legions of Merit, 55 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 40 Bronze Stars. In recognition of their association with 2 Squadron, the OC of 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing issued a policy directive "that all retreat ceremonies shall be preceded by the introductory bars of the South African national anthem. All personnel will render the honour to this anthem as our own."
Silver Star Legion of Merit Flying Cross Bronze Star
The SAAF loaned aircraft and flew occasional covert reconnaissance, transport and combat sorties in support of the Royal Rhodesian Air Force, renamed the Rhodesian Air Force in 1970, and the rest of the Rhodesian Security Forces from 1966 onwards. Notable operations included Operation Uric and Operation Vanity in 1979.
SAAF Alouette III in Rhodesia
From 1966 to 1989, the SAAF was committed to the Border War, which was fought in northern South West Africa and surrounding states. At first, it provided limited air support to police operations against the People's Liberation Army of Namibia, the military wing of SWAPO, which was fighting to end South African rule of South West Africa. Operations intensified after the defence force took charge of the war in 1974.
In July 1964, South Africa placed a development contract with Thomson-CSF for a mobile, all-weather, low-altitude SAM system after a South African order for the Bloodhound SAM system was refused by the UK government. This became the Crotale, or 'Cactus' in South African service. The South African government paid 85% of the development costs of the system with the balance being paid for by France. The system was in service with 120 Squadron SAAF from 1970 until the late 1980's without any successful combat shoot-downs.
The SAAF provided air support to the army during the 1975–76 Angola campaign, and in the many cross-border operations that were carried out against PLAN bases in Angola and Zambia from 1977 onwards.
During the bush war period, South Africa manufactured six air-deliverable tactical nuclear weapons of the "gun-type" design between 1978 and 1993. Each of the devices contained 55 kilograms of HEU with an estimated yield of 10–18 kilotons designed for delivery by Blackburn Buccaneer or English Electric Canberra aircraft.
English Electric Canberra
From 1980 to 1984, the command structure was reorganised. Instead of units of the separate Strike Command, Transportation Command SAAF, and Maritime Air Command SAAF often being based at the same base but responsible to different chains of command, regional commands were established. Main Threat Air Command (MTAC) was made responsible for the northern half of the country, and Southern Air Command SAAF and Western Air Command SAAF for those areas. MTAC was co-located with the Air Force Command Post at Pretoria, with 20 subordinate squadrons (8 reserve). Southern Air Command at Silvermine was allocated nine squadrons (three reserve), based at AFS Port Elizabeth, Cape Town Airport, and AFB Ysterplaat, including 16 Squadron SAAF (Alouettes), 25 Squadron flying Dakotas frpom Ysterplaat, 27 Squadron SAAF, operating the Piaggio 166, 35 Squadron SAAF operating the Avro Shackleton, and 88 Maritime Training School. Western Air Command at Windhoek relied on aircraft temporarily detached from MTAC and SAC. Airspace Control Command, Training Command and Air Logistics Command remained largely unchanged.
Piaggio 166 Albatross
The SAAF was also heavily involved in the 1987–88 Angola campaign, before the New York Accords that ended the conflict. The international arms embargo imposed against the then-apartheid government of South Africa, meant that the SAAF was unable to procure modern fighter aircraft to compete with the sophisticated Soviet-supplied air defence network and Cuban Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23s fielded in the latter part of this conflict. South Africa was able to enter a partnership through the Israel–South Africa Agreement, thereby allowing the Cheetah derivative of the IAI Kfir to be produced by the then Atlas Aircraft Corporation.
From 1990 with the perceived reduction in threat, SAAF operational strength began to be reduced. The first short term steps entailed the withdrawal of several obsolete aircraft types from service, such as the Canberra B(1)12, the Super Frelon and Westland Wasp helicopters, the Kudu light aircraft and the P-166s Albatross coastal patrol aircraft. Other initial measures included the downgrading of Air Force Base Port Elizabeth and the disbanding of 12, 16, 24, 25, and 27 Squadrons. Two Commando squadrons – 103 Squadron SAAF at AFB Bloemspruit and 114 Squadron SAAF at AFB Swartkop – were also disbanded.
After the first South African democratic elections in 1994, the SAAF became part of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Severe financial cuts have brought about a number of operational limitations, compounded by the loss of experienced air-crews. This has placed strain on the bringing new types of aircraft into service, specifically the Gripen, Hawk, Rooivalk, A 109 and Lynx. The cancellation of the SAAF participation and procurement of the A400M in November 2009 has denied the SAAF the ability to upgrade their strategic airlift capability needed for domestic, regional and continent-wide transport operations. These functions are currently performed by 28 Squadron operating the aging fleet of C130BZ’s, one of which was lost in a landing crash earlier this year while on UN Peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
C130BZ Crash in Goma DRC
Current air combat capabilities are limited to the Gripen multi-role fighter and the Rooivalk attack helicopter although in insufficient number to allow regional deployments while maintaining national air security and current training commitments. To overcome this shortfall, the SAAF has designated the Hawk Mk 120 trainers for additional tactical reconnaissance and weapon delivery platforms for targets designated by the Gripens. Financial constraints have further limited flying hours on all aircraft; it was planned to keep Gripen pilots current flying the lower cost Hawk aircraft with "Gripenised" cockpits. It was reported in 2013 that the Gripen fleet wasn't fully manned with some pilots redesignated as reserve pilots and others being assigned instructor roles at Air Force Base Makhado. The SAAF stated that the Gripen fleet is being rotated between short term storage and active use by the regular active pilots to spread the limited flying hours among the whole fleet.
Despite all its setbacks and financial woes, the South African Air Force continues to undertake and complete the tasks and obligations assigned to it. The SAAF still plays a vital role in national security operations, United Nations peacekeeping missions, and other foreign deployments. The Air force has several aircraft, aircrew and ground crew on foreign deployments. Three Rooivalk attack helicopters from 16 Squadron SAAF and five or six 15, 17, 19 and/or 22 Squadron SAAF's Oryx transport helicopters were stationed in Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
Two SAAF Rooivalk Attack Helicopters
The Rooivalk and Oryx Helicopters are part of the South African contribution to the 3000-strong United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) and they have flown several sorties against rebel factions who are operating in North Kivu province, particularly the notorious M23 militia group who were routed from their strongholds after an offensive by the UN Force Intervention Brigade and the Military of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
28 Squadron SAAF C-130BZ Hercules aircraft also regularly flew to Sudan, DR Congo and Uganda, including Lubumbashi, Kinshasa, Goma, Beni, Bunia and Entebbe, as Entebbe is the logistic hub for MONUSCO in the eastern DR Congo. They mainly fly missions ranging from logistic support for SA National Defence Force continental peacekeeping and peace support operations, humanitarian operations, support to the South African Army, and general airlift. A C-47TP Turbo Dakota from 35 Squadron SAAF permanently based in the Mozambican city of Pemba to provide maritime patrol capability for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) counter-piracy mission in the Mozambique Channel, Operation Copper. There is also a Super Lynx from 22 Squadron SAAF operating from the South African Navy frigates whenever they are stationed in the Mozambican channel. The SAAF also assists Operation Corona from "time to time" by deploying either AgustaWestland AW109 or Atlas Oryx helicopters to its borders.
During the 2010 FIFA World Cup the South African National Defence Force was deployed in order to provide security for the event. The air force deployed armed Gripen Fighter aircraft and Hawk advanced trainer aircraft to conduct air patrols to monitor air traffic. Rooivalk, Atlas Oryx and AgustaWestland AW109 helicopters were also deployed during the event.
SAAF Agusta A109
On 23 March 2013 when the Séléka rebel group attempted to take power in the Central African Republic by invading the capital of Bangui, four armed Gripen Fighter aircraft from 2 Squadron SAAF were sent along with a C-130BZ transport aircraft (reportedly carrying a stock of bombs) in order to provide close air support to the 200-strong South African garrison who were still fighting in the city. The aircraft were, however, recalled shortly after, as the South Africans and the rebels agreed to a ceasefire and rather opted to withdraw peacefully from the country. Several flights made by C-130BZ aircraft evacuated the bodies of the 13 South African soldiers who were killed and the 27 who were wounded during the Battle of Bangui and also the remainder of the deployed soldiers and their equipment after the ceasefire was declared. The deployment of the Gripen fighter aircraft indicated that if the situation called for it, the country will deploy its fighter aircraft in order to ensure the protection of its assets.
The air force was also tasked with maintaining national security before and during the funeral procession of former president Nelson Mandela in December 2013. Several SAAF helicopters conducted patrols over Pretoria while the former president's body was lying in state in the days leading up to the funeral. Gripen fighter aircraft, armed with IRIS-T missiles and Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pods, conducted combat air patrols to enforce a no-fly zone for several days over certain areas in Gauteng province and later during the funeral itself over Qunu, in the Eastern Cape. Two Gripens were also tasked with escorting a C-130BZ aircraft, which was carrying President Mandela's body from Air Force Base Waterkloof to the Mthatha Airport. Five Gripens, three Oryx helicopters and the 6 Pilatus PC-7's of the Silver Falcons performed a flypast in a final salute to the late former president.
Despite the budget restraints the SAAF still manage to take part in The annual Armed Forces Day celebrations which are held in a different province each year, these Air Power Capability demonstrations usually entail live fire exercises.