Destruction is our business, 85 Combat Flying School
Destruction is our business, 85 Combat Flying School
85 Combat Flying School located at AFB Makhado (Airforce Base Makhado) in the Northern part of the Limpopo province of South Africa.The town is known as Fighter Town South Africa,and keeps two of South Africas prime fighter aircraft that the SAAF (South African Airforce) has to offer to protect our airspace. The BAE Hawk Mk120 and SAAB Jas39 C/D aircraft, took over the the role of the Aermacchi MB236 Impala Mk1 and Mk11 and Denel Cheetah C/D from the begenning of 2006 and 2008.
Photo:Franz Dely,Impala MkII ‘1085’
The Bombing Gunnery and Air Navigation School (BGANS) came into being a Langebaanweg on 1 August 1946 following the re-designation of the Air Gunnery and Navigation School.The unit was equipped with Avro Ansons,this was to train pilots in the secondary roles that comprised the original observer qualification.
During the Korean War, South Africa’s commitment of 2 Squadron flying P51 Mustangs and F86 Sabres of the United Nations,Air Operations School(AOS) assumed the operational training of both permanent force and short-service commission pilots for service in the Far East as its primary role. Sabre’s were then sent to 85 Combat Flying school on 31 Octerber 1975.
In October 1952 the School was introduced to the jet age when the first four de Havilland Vampire FB.MK5s,Seven FB.MK6s and solitary T.MK11s trainers were taken on strength to be used for type conversion.
Photo:George Wiehehn, Spitfire MkIXes ‘5591’
At the end of World War Two, the various flying, bombing and gunnery schools were disbanded and a single Bombing, Gunnery and Navigation School was established at Langebaanweg in 1946. In the 1950’s, the name changed to Air Operations School, flying Harvards, Spitfire MkIXes, Vampire T11s, FB52s and T55s. The unit moved to Pietersburg in October 1967 and in 1970 the Vampires were replaced by the Impala Mk I.
Photo:Franz Dely,Impala MK1 ‘585’ over AFB Hoedspruit 2004.
Known for its flight-training and combat operations school,85 combat flying school was formed in 1982 at AFB Pieteresburg,now Polokwane Gateway International Airport,at that time the unit was operating de Havilland Vampires MK52s and Mk55.South African Airforce Museum has still got an airworthy Vampire T55 flying at AFB Zwartkop in Pretoria that can be seen at Museum Flying Days and Pretoria Airshows.The Impala MK1 replaced the Vampires 1972.The Mirage IIIEZ/DZ/D2Z were added to the unit in 1974 and Sabres from 1 Squadron in 1975.The Sabre was withdrawn from service in 1980 and replaced by the Impala MK2 aircraft.
Photo:SAAF,Airforce Base Hoedspruit 85 Combat Flying School Static display.
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Photo:SAAF,Dassualt Mirage IIID2Z.
Photo:Jarryd Sinovich,de Havilland Vampire T55 SAAF Museum Flying Day February 2018.
85 Combat Flying School recieved its Unit Colours at a parade on 4 October 1988,the 21st Anniversary of its formation and National Colours a year later.On the initiative of then Officer Commanding(OC) Cmdt John Bayne Impala MKII 1063 was painted up in the Units familiar Gannet Badge in blue and white for the 25th anniverasry of its Establishment in September 1992.The aircraft was a regular preformer at Airshows around South Africa.
83 Jet Flying School Langebaanweg was also closed and has become part of 85 Combat Flying School, previous home to the Silver Falcons Aerobatic Team. The Silver Falcons Aerobatic team is now part of Langebaanweg Central Flying School,flying the PC7MKII.The Silver Falcons operated from Langebaanweg until the early 1990s, when all the Impala training was moved to Air Force Base Hoedspruit, in the Lowveld region of South Africa, and formed part of 85 Combat Flying School. During 1994 with a new national flag, the aircraft were repainted to represent the colours of the SA Air Force: blue, light blue and white.
Top: Atlas Impala MKII 1063 ‘Gannet’ 1992.
Below:BAE Hawk MK120 267 ‘Gannet’2017.
The unit was then relocated to AFB Hoedspruit on January 1993 due to the closure of AFB Pietersburg.During this period the unit was using the Impala Mk1 and MkII aircraft,all mirages had been withdrawn from service..The Squadron carried out its role in the South African Airforce until the Impala both MKI and MKIIs were retired from service in 2005 and soon we had the introductory of the latest Hawk MK100 from BAE systems that got showcased to South Africa during the SAAFS 75th Anniveary Airshow at AFB Waterkloof in 1995.
Photo:BAE Systems,Bae Hawk 100 Demostrator seen in South Africa during 1995 and up to 2002.
BAE Systems Hawk is a British single-engine, jet-powered advanced trainer aircraft. It was first flown at Dunsfold, Surrey, in 1974 as the Hawker Siddeley Hawk, and subsequently produced by its successor companies, British Aerospace and BAE Systems, respectively. It has been used in a training capacity and as a low-cost combat aircraft.The Royal Airforce Aerobatic display team,The Red Arrows also use the Hawk as part of their aerobatic display assests and a training role.The Hawk MK120 is an upgraded Hawk T1,Aircraft number SA001, which was manufactured through to Final Assembly stages at Brough and flight-tested at Warton, successfully flew in South Africa early in 2004. Final Assembly of the remaining 23 aircraft was undertaken by Denel in South Africa, with flight-testing taking place in the South African Air Force’s Test Flight & Development Centre (TFDC) in Bredasdorp.
Photo:Franz Dely,first SAAF Hawk ‘250’ part of the TFDC unit in Bredasdorp.
Photo:Jarryd Sinovich, Hawk Mk120 ‘269’ landing at Airforce Base Zwartkop Pretoria May 2016,making use of the aircrafts drag chute.
Today 85 Combat Flying School still lives up to its vision ‘Fighter Training Excellence’where some of the best new generation fighter pilots are trained before moving onto the SAAB Jas39 Gripen.The equipment for pilots training, the unit has a state of the art simulator,Ground school Falicities and so more to offer.To this day the OC of 85CFS is Lt Col Craig’Shark’Leeson,who is also the Squadrons Hawk display pilot during South Africas Airtshow season.Shark last year celebrated his 1 000 flying hour achievment on the Hawk Mk120 on friday,20 January 2017,he has flown 9 different types of fighter jets and is a A-category instructor on Hawk and Gripen.
Photo:Jarryd Sinovich,Hawk MK120 ‘271’ at AFB Zwartkop May 2017.Lt Col.Craig ‘Shark’ Leeson,Officer Commanding 85 Combat Flying School Currently.
Photo:Jarryd Sinovich,Silver Falcons Hawk formation,Kishugu Lowveld Airshow 2015.
Some information on the Hawk MK120
Powerplant: 1 x 6,500 lb (2 950 kg) Rolls-Royce Adour 951 turbofan
Speed: 1 038 kph, 645mph mph
Range: 2 594km, 1,612miles
Length: 12.43m, 40ft 9in
Span: 9.94m, 7ft 7in
Empty Weight: 4 400kg, 9,700lb
Max T/O Weight: 9 100kg, 20,062lb
Period of Service: 2006 – Current
12.5 kg Practice Bomb, 120 kg Fragmentation Bomb, 120 kg Low-Drag Bomb, 145 kg Bomb, 4.5 kg Practice Bomb, 460 kg Bomb, Aden 30mm cannon, IRIS-T, Vicon 18-601E recce pod.
Photo:Jarryd Sinovich,Hawk ‘272’ making use of its 30mm Aden Cannon at Roodewal Bombing Range September 2016.
We wish 85 all the best for their future,Flying the flag and continuing to train world class fighter pilots..Noise from above is always a welcome in Gauteng skies,The sound of freedom fighter pilots would say!Below are some pictures of Hawk taken all over South Africa and a Video featuring Craig ‘Shark’ Leeson during his display at the Saaf Museum Airshow 2017 taken by Shawn Herbst.
Click to enlarge photos below