Tag Archives: SAAF 100

SAAF C-47 77 years and counting!

Originally written by Dean Wingrin in 2015 for the 80th celebration. Edited by Ryno Joubert in 2020 for the 85th anniversary!

Known by such names as the Dakota, Dak, Gooney Bird, TurboDak and even Vomit Comet, 2020 commemorates the 85th anniversary of the first flight of the venerable Douglas DC-3 / C-47 forbearer, the Douglas Sleeper Transport (DST) passenger airliner which evolved into the 21-seater DC-3, on 17 December 1935.

35 Squadron Badge “SHAYA AMANZI”- STRIKE THE WATER

According to The Dakota Association of South Africa, the DC-3, as the DST was to become known, was the first commercial transport aircraft capable of making a profit from carrying passengers only. Most aeroplanes of its vintage were being subsidised by the carriage of mail and freight, whilst air-travel was only for the daring and the affluent.

With the war clouds of World War Two looming on the horizon, the civilian DC-3 was developed into the military C-47 Dakota, powered by two Pratt and Whitney radial engines, with an enlarged cargo door and strengthened fuselage. Along with the Jeep and the Bazooka, General Patton announced it to be one of the major contributors to the victory in the Second World War.

The C-47 was capable of transporting 10,000 lbs (4 536 kg) of cargo or 27 passengers in permanent seats or configured for 28 paratroopers. By the time the last Dakota left the assembly line in 1946, a total of 10 655 DC-3, C-47 and associated variants has been produced.

The Dakota has seen over 77 years of military service in South Africa. The aircraft entered SAAF service in 1943 when the RAF passed a number of their fleet onto the SAAF. By the end of World War Two, a total of 84 Lend-Lease Dakotas had been transferred to the SAAF.

At the cessation of hostilities in 1945, a large number of surplus Dakotas were disposed of, including transferring some to South African Airways. The survivors of the SAA fleet later found their way back to the SAAF in 1971.

When sanctions were imposed on South Africa in the mid-70s, a number of Dakotas were purchased from various sources to supplement those still in SAAF service. In total 16 were added to the SAAF strength. At one stage, the SAAF had the distinction of operating the largest remaining fleet of Dakotas in the world.

The Dakota performed yeoman service during the Border War from the 1960’s through to the end of hostilities in 1988, performing such roles as troop transport, resupply, medical evacuation, Para -trooping and other ancillary activities. Her toughness stood her in good stead.

During one particular mission near the South West African/Angolan border on 1 May 1986, a Dakota of 44 Squadron, commanded by Captain Colin Green, was hit by a SAM-7 surface-to-air missile while transporting high-ranking officials. The missile strike resulted in the loss of most of the rudder and a large proportion of the elevators. The pilot managed to keep the aircraft in the air and on course to AFB Ondangwa, where it was landed safely with no injuries to its crew or passengers.

Following the end of the Border War, the number of squadrons operating the Dakota was reduced, along with the disposal of airframes.

SAAF Museum C47 & AFB Swartkop resident!


The early 1990s saw a large number of Dakotas upgraded to ‘TurboDak’ configuration under Project Felstone. This conversion involved replacing the piston engines of the classic Dakota with two Pratt and Whitney PT6A 65R turboprop engines, lengthening of the fuselage and the installation of modern avionics. Thereafter, the aircraft were re-designated as the C-47TP TurboDak. Between 1989 and 1994, twelve aircraft were converted to C-47TP standard.

35 Squadron C47TP “6884” at AFB Swartkop
The Newly upgraded SAAF C47TP

35 Squadron has been associated with the Dakota since 1985, when several C-47s were acquired to replace the recently retired Avro Shackleton MR3 in the maritime surveillance role.

When 25 and 27 Squadrons were amalgamated with 35 Squadron on 31 December 1990, additional Dakotas were utilised for air transport, leaving the Squadron responsible for both the Maritime and Transport roles. The classic piston-engine workhorses were finally withdrawn in September 1994 and replaced with the modified turbine engine C47TP Dakota.

Apart from the Squadron’s maritime role and transport role (consisting of Para- trooping, target towing, scheduled passenger services, aero medical evacuation and logistical support), the Squadron also performs other support functions. These include electronic intelligent gathering, tactical image (photo) reconnaissance and numerous training functions, such as navigator and telecommunication operator training.

Langebaanweg Airshow 2017-Picture by Jarryd Sinovich
35 Squadron C47TP “6887” at the 50th Anniversary of the Silver Falcons Aerobatic Team at a Airshow at AFB Langebaanweg December 2017
35 Squadron C47TP “6825”
Airforce Day 2020, AFB Swartkop
35 Squadron C47TP “6825”
Airforce Day 2020, AFB Swartkop

As a result of rationalisation that has taken place over the last few years, only eight C-47TPs remain in SAAF service, where they serve with 35 Squadron in Cape Town in a variety of roles. The variants operated are: five maritime surveillance configured aircraft, two in transport configuration and one as an Electronic Warfare (EW) training platform.

C47TP leads the light transport formation making up of 41 Squadron Cessna 208As and 44 Squadron Casa 212s.

The SAAF has the distinction of operating the largest remaining fleet of Dakotas used by the military in the world:

Colombia: 6 (FAC1654, FAC1658, FAC1667, FAC1681, FAC1683, FAC1686)
Guatemala: 2 (FAG530, FAG590)
Mauritania: 1 (5T-MAH)
Thailand: 7 (RTAF46151, RTAF46153, RTAF46154, RTAF46156, RTAF46157, RTAF46158, RTAF46159)
South Africa 35 Squadron: 8 (6814, 6825, 6828, 6839, 6852, 6854, 6885, 6887)

SAAF Oryx Helicopter in the Big Apple

The year was 1996,it was a combined exercise with the North Atlantic Fleet, held in the Caribbean, there after a visit to Northfolk, New York and Newport R.I.

Who would ever think the SAAF would have an oryx flying over the statue of liberty. Well that is now one of the memories of the crew of Oryx 1238 can remember for times to come!

22 Squadron Oryx

In 1996, Drakensberg became the first SAN vessel in over 20 years to visit the United States, when it called at the ports of Norfolk, Newport and New York City, which followed a naval exercise with over 25 other vessels at the US Navy’s base at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

SAS DRAKENSBERG

In 1996 the Navy’s most respected grey diplomat, SAS Drakensberg would return to the USA.

The Drakensberg left Simon’s Town on 14 June 1996 and participated with approximately 25 other warships from seventeen countries in naval manoeuvres, referred to as “Operation Unitas”, the ship visited the large US naval base at Norfolk, Virginia, as well as New York and Newport. Here she is seen alongside Staten Island in 1996.

Oryx 1238 was onboard SAS Drakensberg as she sailed the seas and played a vital role in the combined exercise with other navy vessals.

22 Squadron is a helicopter Squadron based at Airforce Base Ysterplaat in the Western Cape. The squadron has operated the Oryx Helicopter for many years now, and recently took delivery of the four Westland Super Lynx Mk64s helicopters for use aboard the South African Navy’s new Valour Class Frigates that were delivered on 13 July 2007. 

The squadron was formed in Durban on 1 July 1942 by renaming 31 Flight to 22 (Torpedo-Bomber-Reconnaissance) Squadron. It was equipped with ex-SAA Ju52 Junkers as well as a number of Avro Ansons and was assigned to anti-submarine, coastal reconnaissance and convoy support duties

22 Squadron insignia

SAAF Museum Airshow Date set for 9th May 2020

Swartkop Airshow 2020
SAAF Museum Airshow Date set for 9th May 2020

Note, This is not the official poster for the 2020 SAAF museum Airshow

Join the Facebook event page for the SAAF Museum Airshow 2020

And so a century is made with the South African Airforce (SAAF) turning 100 years old. “Through hardships to the stars” of gracing the skies over South Africa, the latin motto explains the Per Aspera Ad Astra phrase.

The South African Air Force was established on 1 February 1920. The Air Force has seen service in World War II and the Korean War as well as the Bush War.

The date is set for the annual SAAF Museum Airshow with a Theme not 100% confirmed yet, but sources has it as “Embracing our Collective Heritage” and “100 years of Air Power, through 25 years of Democracy” on the 9th May 2020 at Airforce Base Swartkop in the City of Tshwane.

The Centenary of this magnificent milestone will start from the 31st January 2020, as Airforce Day will be the first of the glimpses of the 100 years of Air Power celebrations with an invited guests and media parade which will also be held at AFB Swartkop.

Note to the public that the SAAF Museum Airshow 2020 will only see local aircraft and another show will be held later in the year at another base which should see potential international participation.

Pay attention to our social media platforms for more information on the show closer to the time!

Photos below is from the 2019 SAAF Museum Airshow

Join the Facebook event page for the SAAF Museum Airshow 2020

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