The History of the South African Air Force (SAAF)

The South African Air Force has a long and proud history, a history that has included a major role in securing victory for the Allied Forces during both World Wars.



The South African Aviation Corps

The earliest roots of the SAAF can be traced back to the early 1900’s when two men, McCompton Patterson and Driver made two successful flights in a Bleriot Monoplane and Patterson Biplane, flights which greatly aroused public interest in the possibilities of powered flight.


Replica Compton-Patterson 1911 bi-plane built in Cape Town in 2005

Following the visit by the Commandant-General of the Union Defence Force, General Beyers, to military maneuvers in Germany during June 1912, the South African Aviation Corps was formed, receiving Cabinet approval in 1913. A flying school, under the tutorship of Patterson, was formed at Alexanderfontein, near Kimberley.

Six officers of the Corps qualified in April 1914 and were sent to the Royal Flying Corps in England for a further year’s training. At the outbreak of World War One they were permitted to volunteer their services to the Royal Flying Corps.

At the outbreak of the war, Mr. DH Cutler owned a Curtiss seaplane and had the unique distinction of being the world’s only one man Coastal Command. He and his aircraft were commandeered by the British Admiralty to reconnoiter the South African Coastline. The aircraft was transported by man-of-war to East Africa where he spotted the German Cruiser ‘Koenigberg’. As a result it was sunk and the Defence authorities became conspicuous of the potential striking power an active Aviation Corps would have in South West Africa.

In November 1914, the Union decided the Aviation Corps was necessary to conduct a campaign against German South West Africa and a new squadron was formed including the six graduates from the Royal Flying School who were recalled from Europe. The South African Aviation Corps (SAAC) was formed 5 February 1915 and on 6 May 1915 the Corps commenced operations, mainly reconnaissance, in that area. General Botha, who had previously depended on mounted men for reconnaissance, declared ‘Now I can see for hundreds of miles’. The aircraft were also used on bombing raids and the South Africans were able to out manoeuver the Germans, leading to their surrender three months later after the South African Aviation Corps entered the campaign. The Corps was awarded the South West African battle honour, a unique award as battle honours are normally only awarded to units.

The South African Aviation Corps ceased to function as a separate unit from the end of the South West African campaign in October 1915, yet it was only officially disbanded in 1921. Members of the Corps were incorporated into 26 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. The Squadron saw service in East Africa in support of South African forces under General Jan Smuts. The main task of the squadron was reconnaissance. The bush was so thick it gave the enemy complete protection from aerial reconnaissance and bomb action that all they really could do was to report on the whereabouts of towns, railways, roads and rivers. The squadron was disbanded in July 1918, before the end of the First World War.

During the First World War, South Africans were recruited for service in the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service. Best known amongst them was the brilliant pilot, Capt. Andrew W Beauchamp-Proctor, who was awarded the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross and Bar, Distinguished Flying Cross, French Croix de Guerre and Legion of honour.

The South African Commander in Chief, General, Smuts, was a member of the Imperial War Cabinet and in 1917 was asked by the British Prime Minister to investigate the question of air defence against Zeppelin raids. The select committee he chaired recommended the creation of an Air Force as a separate arm of the service. Gen. Smuts was given much of the credit for the reorganisation of London’s air defence, the introduction of training and instruction for fighting in formations.

Formation of the SAAF

Having recommended to the British that they establish an Air force as a separate arm, it was only natural that Gen. Smuts would want to do the same for South Africa. This decision was taken in 1919 and Lt. Col. Pierre van Ryneveld was commissioned to evolve the organisation and procure the necessary equipment. Earlier that same year van Ryneveld and Major Quinton Brand carried out their epic flight from England to the Cape, pioneering the air route down Africa.

The Imperial Government gave 100 aircraft (including 30 Avro 504K’s, 22 SE.5a’s and 48 DH.9’s), together with spares, tools, hangers, etc., as a gift to start the Empire’s newest air force. The first batch arrived in September 1919 and on 1 January 1920 the Aircraft Depot was established at Roberts Heights, near Pretoria, under Capt. I Welch. It bacame known as the Aircraft and Artillery Depot. As a suitable airfield was required, the farm Zwartkop, near Roberts Heights, was acquired in April 1921, thus becoming South Africa’s first air force base. Swartkop is now the headquarters of the SAAF Museum which still uses the original Imperial Gift hangers as exhibition halls.

In June 1920 van Ryneveld was appointed Director of Air Services with the temporary rank of Colonel, which was backdated to 1 February 1920, with it’s headquarters at the present SAAF College Officers Mess, Voortrekkerhoogte. This date is acknowledged as marking the official birth of the SAAF. No 1 Flight was established at Zwartkop on 26 April 1921 and it was joined by a second flight. These flights formed the nucleus of 1 Sqn which was established by early 1922.

The title South African Air Force was first used officially on 1 February 1923 when the SAAF was listed under the provisions of the reconstituted SA Defence Act when it was listed as one of the corps of the Permanent Force.

Between the Wars

Training of cadets as flying officers and youths in technical trades began in 1925. The artisans were trained to equip them for their trades should they leave the Air Force. One main difficulty, which still exists today, was in regard to mechanics. As a trained engineer, Sir Pierre van Ryneveld realised the value of artisans, who were employed under the conditions of Public Service. This led to him battling with Defence Headquarters and the Public Service Commission to get them better rates of pay as no sooner were artisans trained that they were lured away by the trade through offers of better pay.

Sadly, the SAAF’s first operation was during the infamous 1922 industrial strike when it supported ground forces engaged in suppressing the striking (white) miners on the Witwatersrand. The Air Force flew reconnaissance missions and bombed the strikers positions. Between 10 and 15 March 1922, 1 Squadron lost two aircraft during the 127 hours flown during the operation. One was shot down in Benoni and the observer shot dead by a striker. The pilot saved his own life by shooting the striker. The other Air Force fatality was the driver of a Whippet tank from the Aircraft and Artillery Depot. He was killed in Fordsburg when a bullet pierced the visor of the vehicle.

The Air Force operated in South West Africa on three occasions: in 1922 against the Bondezwarts Hottentots, in 1925 during the Rehoboth rebellion and in 1939 in Ovamboland when a chief refused to surrender alleged murderers to the police. There were no casualties during these operations.

Apart from these operational tasks, the Air Force played a major role in the development of South Africa. Among the tasks were aerial photography, transporting diamonds from Oranjemund to Cape Town, spraying eucalyptus plantations and for a short period in 1925, an air mail service between Cape Town and Durban. A Central Flying School was established at Zwartkoops in 1925.

The depression was to take its toll on the Air Force. So severe was the rationalisation during 1929 that Sir Pierre van Ryneveld was in charge of the Air Force, officer commanding of the troops in Roberts Heights (Voortrekkerhoogte) and commandant of the Military College. On 30 April 1933 Sir Pierre van Ryneveld became Chief of General Staff as a Brigadier General when the post of Director of Air Services was abolished, but retained command of the Air Force.

The depression, however, did not stop the Air Force from acquiring new aircraft. The first locally produced aircraft for the Air Force was the Westland Wapiti, with the first licence built example of 27 built flew on 4 April 1931. This was followed by 65 Hawker Hartbees and 52 Avro Tutors, all built locally from imported materials.

In 1936 the Union Government approved the Air Force development programme which made provision for the expansion of the Air Force by training 100 pilots, establishing a photographic survey squadron, five service squadrons and the organisation of SA Airways into two bomber groups, one medium and one heavy. and for the establishment of a reserve.

Waterkloof Air Station was constructed and opened on 1 August 1938, with 1, 2 and later 3 Squadrons in residence. Outstations were established at Bloemfontein, Cape Town and Durban. Flying schools were established and pilot training was undertaken on SE 5’s and DH 9’s.

World War Two Arrives

When the Second World War broke out on 3 September 1939, the Commonwealth had no spare aircraft to sell and aircraft which were purchased or built in South Africa were obsolete, with only six Hurricane Mk1’s, a Fairey Battle and a Blenheim Mk1 being current operational types. On top of this, the 1936 plan for expansion had not materialised. The SAAF still only consisted of 160 permanent force officers, 35 cadets and 1 400 other ranks. No effort was made to procure modern aircraft from any other source. Technical knowledge was limited to fabric covered biplanes.

The SAAF consisted of a Central Flying School at Zwartkop, two light bomber squadrons which were equipped with Hartbees and based at Waterkloof, the Aircraft and Artillery Depot at Roberts Heights (Voortrekkerhoogte), and a number of detached flights operating at the out stations.

The inclusion of the entire South African Airways fleet of Junkers aircraft and the technical staff with experience in metal covered monoplanes was a boost to the SAAF, as were the civil aircraft taken over. The Junkers had been bought with a possible war in mind and the Ju-52s were used for transport and the Ju-86s as medium bombers, hastily converted for the purpose. The Ju-86s were pressed into service immediately in a maritime role and their first success was the interception of a German ship trying to run for home in December 1939.

In October 1939, Chief of the General Staff, Sir Pierre van Ryneveld, approved a plan known as the Peace Expansion Scheme, under which a total of 720 aircraft were acquired – 336 of which were fighters. When Italy entered the war in 1940, SAAF squadrons were deployed to East Africa with the aircraft available at the time, later to be supplemented by more modern aircraft. The SAAF played a tremendous part in the conquest Mussolini’s African Empire. Without air superiority, it may have taken months to move the Italians from their positions in the mountains. They were simply blasted out of their positions, impregnable from the ground, by bombs let loose upon them by the SAAF. Conditions were far from ideal, operations were from makeshift desert airfields or hacked out of bush. Then there was the tropical sun and the fine dust that got into motors, machine guns and food.

Nearer to home the SAAF supported the RAF in the British invasion on Vichy held Madagascar in May 1942. Two flights, equipped with Marylands and Beauforts, operated in ground support and reconnaissance roles. The SAAF played a vital role in photographing the island prior to the invasion. The operation ended in November 1942.

The SAAF did not enter into the Empire Air Training Scheme, but on 1 August 1940, a Joint Air Training Scheme was adopted and proved such a brilliant success throughout the British Commonwealth that it ultimately became a nemesis for the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica. The scheme provided for the establishment of 24 flying schools with a target of 3 000 and at least 2 000 observers by 1942. By the end of 1944 SAAF strength had reached 44 417 inclusive of 2 349 pilots, some 1 535 observers and gunners, 9 661 artisans and 6 595 basic trainees. As a result of the Joint Air Training Scheme, a total of 33 347 aircrews had been trained by thirty six Air Schools by 1945. There was little doubt that the ‘Battle of training’ as it became known, was being well and truly won.

SAAF squadrons moved on to Northern Africa in April 1942, now equipped with the latest aircraft. The SAAF was represented in the invasion of Sicily by 1, 12, 21 and 24 Squadrons operating from Malta. The SAAF supported the British Eighth Army and the American 5th Army, of which 6 Division was part. 25 and 30 Squadrons were part of the Balklands Air Force and operated in support of partisans in Yugoslavia. 60 Squadron, operating Mosquitoes, carried out strategic reconnaissance for the whole of the Mediterranean theater.

While based in Italy 31 and 34 Squadrons, as part of 205 Group RAF, undertook 181 sorties during August and September 1944 dropping supplies to the Polish patriots who were fighting desperately for their lives on the ground. Although very little was accomplished by these operations, they nevertheless represent one of the most outstanding achievements in the history of the SAAF.

The SAAF was at its peak strength at the end of the North African Campaign. There were 26 squadrons in North Africa, the personnel strength numbering 8 976. This included 2 789 Non-European Auxiliary Service and 83 Womens Auxiliary Air Force personnel. The SAAF made up a third of the RAF Operational Command in the theater. Approximately another 9 000 SAAF personnel served in other allied Air Forces. Including personnel in the Union and elsewhere, the total SAAF strength was 45 000. At the start of the war 33 squadrons were envisaged. At the end of the war there were 35 squadrons.

The Post War Years

After World War Two and demobilisation, the SAAF was reduced in size to essential Permanent Force units supported by Active Citizen Force units.

The change in Government in 1948 with the attainment of power by the National Party was to directly affect the Air Force. A plan was introduced that would restructure and reorientate the institutional culture of the Union Defence Force. In essence it involved the removal of Citizen Force regiments which were considered too British in terms of their institutional culture and identity, and eliminated advancement for women, blacks, coloured or indians. The first target was the Air Force, for it was perceived as being far too British. RAF personnel contracts were not renewed and a budgetary noose was placed around Air Force finances.

The SAAF counteracted the attempt to abolish foreign influence by developing a truly Air Force culture. In July 1949 a very significant step in the history of the SAAF took place, the conventional Army khaki gave way to a grey-blue uniform. At long last the SAAF had a uniform of which they were proud to wear. In November 1950 the SAAF adopted the Springbok for the centre of the roundel, giving the SAAF its own identity.

In 1948, against a backdrop of increasingly strained East/West relations, the Soviets blockaded West Berlin. As a result all supplies had to be airlifted into West Berlin. The SAAF supplied 20 aircrews for the Berlin Airlift, airlifting a total of 4 133 tons of supplies in 1 240 missions while flying RAF Dakotas.

The peace time role of the SAAF in the fifties included aerial photography for mapping purposes, combating mosquitoes in Zululand using newly acquired Sikorsky S-51 helicopters, early morning weather flights training of members for the Citizen Force.


War broke out in Korea on 25 June 1950 and on 4 August 1950 the Union Government announced its intention to place an all volunteer squadron at the disposal of the United Nations.

On 25 September 1950, 2 Squadron, the Flying Cheetahs, sailed for Japan. On arrival at Yokohama the squadron proceeded to Johnson Air Base near Tokyo where they completed their conversion and OTU on F-51D Mustangs supplied by the USAF. 2 Squadron served as one of the four squadrons of the USAF 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing and flew their first mission in Korea on 19 November 1950 from K-9 and K-24, Pyong Yang.

The SAAF flew with the distinctive Springbok in the centre of the roundel, introduced when 2 Squadron, was sent to Korea. Their role was close air support against enemy positions to soften them up for ground attacks, interdiction against the enemy’s logistic and communication lines, providing protective cover for rescue operations, reconnaissance flights and to a lesser extent, interception of enemy aircraft. During the southward advance of the Chinese Communist forces these pilots attacked enemy troops, trucks and supplies daily in near zero temperatures. On 30 November the squadron moved to further south to K-13 from where they were evacuated further back to K-10, an airfield situated on the edge of the little bay close to the town of Chinhae. This was to be their permanent base for the next two years.

While equipped with Mustangs, the squadron flew 10 373 sorties and out of a total 95 Mustangs acquired, no fewer than 74 were lost due to enemy action and accidents. Twelve pilots were killed in action, 30 missing and four wounded.

In January 1953 the squadron received USAF F-86F Sabre jet fighter-bombers. Pilots and ground crew had to undergo courses in Japan to adapt to the aircraft. The first Sabre mission was flown on 16 March 1953. This marked the entry of the SAAF into a new era of jet warfare. Operating from K-55, the Flying Cheetahs took part in fighter sweeps along the Yalu and Chong-Chong rivers as well as ground targets. The squadron flew a total of 2 032 sorties in the Sabres. Only four Sabres were lost out of 22 supplied.

Once again the SAAF proved its worth. Serviceability in 2 Squadron was better than that of the other three USAF squadrons in the wing. The SAAF ground crew were volunteers and mostly WWII veterans, while the USAF ground crew were drafted to Korea. When there was a shortage of aircraft, three Mustangs that had been written off were cannibalised to make one. The work took a month and as the SAAF paid for aircraft issued, this aircraft was ‘free’ to the SAAF.

The war ended on 27 July 1953. 34 SAAF pilots had lost their lives and eight taken prisoner of war, including the future Chief of the Air Force, General D Earp. 74 Mustangs and 4 Sabres were lost. Prior to returning to South Africa, the Sabres were returned to the USAF.

In recognition of their association with the Flying Cheetahs, 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’.

The Winds of Change

The Spitfires, Venturas and Sunderlands were phased out in the 1950’s, while the first DH Vampire, South Africa’s first jet fighter, was delivered in 1950. Other new aircraft brought into service in the late 1950’s included eight the Avro Shackleton MR3s (1957) and 34 CL-13B (Mk VI) Sabres (1956).

British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan delivered his famous ‘Winds of Change’ speech in South Africa’s parliament in 1960. It resulted in the acceleration of British decolonisation and the Sharpville riots preceded three decades of internal unrest. The SAAF underwent a period of modernisation in the 1960’s, with the receipt of Mirage III, Canberra, Buccaneer and C-130 aircraft. The helicopter force was not forgotten as Allouette 11 and III, Puma, Super Frelon and Wasps were delivered.

On 11 November 1965, Rhodesia defied Britain by declaring independence (UDI). Britain imposed sanctions and then an oil embargo. RAF Javelin fighters were flown into Zambia and the Royal Navy blockaded the Mozambique channel. When British forces withdrew from Rhodesia, the SA Police Counter Insurgency Unit assisted the Rhodesians against insurgents. SAAF helicopters, based in the Caprivi, flew in supplies for the unit via Victoria Falls.

As part of the modernisation program undertaken during the 1960’s, the SAAF chose the Aermacchi MB 326M as it’s new jet trainer. Atlas Aircraft corporation was established to produce the aircraft locally under licence. Named the Impala Mk1, this aircraft was to form the mainstay of the Air Force with the first aircraft to be delivered making it’s first flight on 8 November 1966. A few years later the single-seat MB 326KC (Impala MkII) was chosen for local production, with deliveries starting in 1974.

The Border War

South Africa still administered South West Africa in terms of its mandate received after the First War War. The South West African Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) became increasingly militant from 1959 and it’s military wing, Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) was formed in 1962.

In early 1966 SWAPO insurgents were based in Zambia. The first incursion into SWA occurred in September 1965, the second in March 1966. The first major clash between a unit of the South African Police, supported by SAAF helicopters, and SWAPO occurred on 26 August 1966. And so began the 23 year long ‘Border War’.

Late in 1966 Unita entered the struggle in Eastern Angola against Portugal, who were then fighting both the MPLA and FNLA in northern Angola. SAAF helicopters were sent to support the Portuguese against Unita in 1967. In May 1968 1 Air Component was established at Rundu to coordinate the operation. The helicopter crews, flying the Allouette III, bore the brunt of the increased activity. Their main role was to back-up SWA Police Counter Insurgency unit (‘Koevoet’) tracker teams. They operated in pairs, ranging ahead looking for insurgents, for the tracker teams, maintaining separation from the other Allouettes, talking on the radio and watching for ground fire. Pumas were also used to transport troops for fire force assignments.

Although not in the spotlight as much as their chopper brothers, the crews of the light aircraft flew really difficult missions in the bush and were never lacking in spirit. The tandem seat Bosbok was used as a general visual recce as well as for seven hour night flare dropping sorties to disturb the sleep of SWAPO. The Bosbok pilots stayed at tree top height and when flying along a road they would fly between the trees. The South African built Kudu was used as a light transport, while the Cessna 185 was employed in the Skyshout role.

Angola achieved independence on 11 November 1975 and by 29 February 1976 all the Portuguese forces had withdrawn. Cuban forces began to move into Angola in April 1975 and South Africa faced the prospect of communist state bordering SWA. South Africa, with the covert assistance of the CIA, began assisting Unita and the FNLA.

South Africa entered Angola during Operation Savannah and within thirty three days had covered 3 159 km, stopping within artillery range of Luanda, but was forced to withdraw when covert Western support was withdrawn. Helicopters, light aircraft and transports were used, while jets flew photo reconnaissance missions. Wasp helicopters, operating from frigates, evacuated South African troops north of Luanda. Unita was supported to the extent of ensuring that SWAPO did not establish springboards in southern Angola.

The jet squadrons first action since Korea occurred on 4 May 1978 at Cassinga in Angola. Canberras of 12 Squadron and the Buccaneers of 24 Squadron softened the target before parabats were dropped from C-130’s and Transalls. When reinforcements threatened the SA forces from the south, 2 Squadron Mirage III’s stopped the two dozen armoured cars before the Buccaneers destroyed the T-34 tanks that were threatening the helicopters.

Impalas were permanently deployed to provide a tactical recce and ground attack capability. Whenever there was major operation, Mirage F1 AZ’s were brought in for ground attack and F1 CZ’s and Mirage III CZ’s for air superiority. Mirage III RZ’s and Canberras were used for reconnaissance. Buccaneers were only used for special roles, such using laser guided weapons.

In September 1985, Impalas based at Rundu engaged Mi-25 and Mi-17 helicopters on two separate days, destroying six helicopters in all. Maj. Johan Rankin, flying 3 Squadron Mirage F1 CZ’s, holds the unique distinction of shooting down the only two MiG -21’s that were downed in the Bush War, on 6 November 1981 and 5 October 1982. The large transport crews showed exceptional skill and bravery by landing in impossibly small strips, hacked out of the bush, in the pitch black of an African night. The aircraft would land, off-load their cargo and take-off, all before the first rays of light appeared.

From the late 1970’s the SAAF participated in almost all military operations across SA borders into Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique. It was inevitable that South Africa would become involved in the conflict between Unita and MPLA forces assisted by Cuba, which by 1987 were equipped with the latest Soviet air defence weapons.

With the UN arms embargo preventing the Air Force from acquiring more modern combat aircraft, Angolan airspace was becoming an increasingly dangerous place to be and the use of the SAAF was restricted to operations which posed the least risk of losses. Following operations Modular and Hooper in 1987/88, negotiations finally paved the way for peace in SWA/Namibia. The final withdrawal of SA troops from Cuito Cuanavale was completed on 30 August 1988 and in 1989 the SAAF withdrew from Namibia.

‘The Peace Dividend’ Cuts Deep

With the end of the war in Angola and South Africa’s new political dispensation meant rationalisation and downsizing. With no real threat, the future role of the SAAF was envisioned as one of humanitarian assistance throughout Southern Africa. The ‘peace dividend’ cut deeply into the SAAF. The result was that only one squadron was retained in each role, with more than one if the role was in the broader interests of South Africa.

A considerable number of aircraft types were phased out of service. All the Mirage III versions, with the exception of those converted into the Cheetah, were withdrawn, together with the Mirage F1 CZ, Buccaneer, Canberra, Super Frelon, Bosbok, Kudu, Transall, Skymaster and P-166 Albatross.

Pumas were replaced by the Oryz, while the Harvard was replaced by the PC-7 MkII Astra. The Cessna Caravan fulfilled the light transport tasks of the Kudu, while the Dakotas were upgraded to ‘Turbo Dak’ status.

Many of the squadrons were closed, including 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 16, 22, 24, 25, 27, 31 and 40 Squadron. Numerous bases and depots were closed, including AFB’s Pietersburg, Port Elizabeth and Potchefstroom, Klippan Control and Reporting post and 402 Aerodrome Maintenance Unit.

In order to make up for some of these losses, 60 Squadron was reactivated in the late 1980’s with Boeing 707’s for use in the Elint, air-to-air refueling and long-range transport roles.

The SAAF into the Future

On 27 April 1994, the air wings of the ‘independent’ homelands of Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda were merged into the SAAF. The AH-2A Rooivalk attack helicopter was also ordered into production, with deliveries commencing in May 1998.
As part of a major re-equipment drive, the South African government signed a series of contracts in 1999 that will see it spending close on R30 billion on new weapons and equipment for the SA National Defence Force.

Nine British Aerospace/Saab-supplied JAS 39 dual-seat Gripens, customised to meet specific South African requirements to fulfil the role of an Advanced Light Fighter Aircraft (ALFA), were ordered. The nine dual-seat plus options for 19 single-seat Gripens will replace the dual-seat Cheetah D and the single-seat Cheetah C fighters currently in the inventory, and due to be phased out between January 2008 and December 2012. The nine dual-seat Gripens will be delivered between 2006 and 2008 and the next batch of 19 single-seat Gripens between 2009 and 2011.

12 Hawk Mk100 LIFT aircraft from British Aerospace are to replace the current  Impala aircraft. A further option has been taken for another 12 Hawks. All aircraft will be dual seat aircraft, and optimised for jet training as well as weapon-delivery training. The first 12 Hawks will be delivered by 2005 and the next batch by 2006.

30 A109  light utility helicopters were purchased from the Italian helicopter manufacturer, Augusta, which will replace the Alouette III helicopters which have been in service in the air force for over 40 years. The acquisition will be for a quantity of 30 and includes support equipment. A further 10 helicopters are on option.

In addition to the above, the Navy will be acquiring three Type209 Submarines and four MEKO A200 Corvettes from the Germany. Four Super Lynx maritime helicopters were also ordered for use on the Navy’s MEKO corvettes.

The various Forward Air Command Posts and Air Operations Teams were closed on 31 December 2003 and integrated in the new Joint Regional Task Groups under command of Chief of Joint Operations.

The years to come will see the final phasing out of the older types as newer aircraft and helicopters are acquired. Although the early 2000’s continue to be difficult years due to budgetary restrictions, the second oldest air force in the world, with a long and proud history, can look forward to an exciting future.

Copyright D Wingrin 1997 – 2004

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