The South African Air Force celebrated their 93rd Birthday with the customary Air Force day parade. This year's parade, held at AFB Watrekloof was dedicated to the eleven members who lost their lives in service of their country in the Drakensburg C47TP disaster. Lt Gen Msimang, the Chief of the Air Force could unfortunately not attend the Parade due to commitments outside the country as he is currently on course in Cuba. Maj Gen Malinga, deputy CAF officiated the proceedings.
The day was kicked off by Maj Gen Malinga accepting an award from “Lead-SA”. The SAAF was chosen as the “Hero of the Month” for January 2013 for the outstanding work done in Limpopo and Mpumalanga during the recent floods, the Air Force are credited for saving many lives and operating in very difficult conditions during this time. Maj Gen Malinga assured all present that the SAAF were combat ready and to date have never failed to complete any task that the South African Public have set for them despite limited resources and budgetary restraints.
The formal parade was held on the 60 squadron hardstand and was well attended by South African and foreign military dignitaries and members of the public, including many former Chief's of the Air Force such as Lt Gen's Gagiano and Earp. Col A Burt, Chaplain of the Air Force opened the parade with a scripture reading and prayer, followed by the General Salute by two 17 Squadron Oryx's flying SAAF Flags. Gen Malinga inspected the Parade accompanied by Maj Gen Pelser and the Parade commander Lt Col April. In the usual Air Force precision, the parade marched past in columns of flights led by the flight carrying the colours of all the active Squadrons in the SAAF. Gen Malinga accepted the salute as the parade past the podium.
Gen Malinga made his address, congratulating all the recipients of awards presented the previous evening, on behalf of the Air Force Command Council. Col Rama Iyer, Director flight training had a particularly successful year with many of the accolades awarded to units under his command. Support unit of the Year was awarded to Lt Col Mike O'Connor OC SAAF Museum, the Best Flight Training Unit is CFS Langabaan Weg , and ultimately best Directorate. 44 Squadron was named best flying unit of the year under the command of Lt Col Ruan Potgieter. AFB Langebaan was named as AFB of the year.
Gen Malinga commended all members of the SAAF on their high level of service in response to operational, force preparation and training in spite of limited resources and sustainable support challenges. The SANDF commitments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Central African Republic and Mozambique were well supported by C208's and PC12's from 41 Squadron and C130's from 28 Squadron. There is currently a C47MP operating in the Mozambique Channel assisting the SA Navy in anti-piracy operations. Mention was also made of the rescue operations in Limpopo and Mozambique, the security support of the AFCON Cup, and the involvement of 15 Squadron's BK117 helicopters in the ongoing battle against Rhino poachers in the Kruger National Park.
Gen Malinga assured all that the Air Force will explore all possible means to rectify the imbalances between the Human Resource and Operating budget by developing the Air Force Reserves, professionalising the Protection capability and utilising MSD members more productively.
The address was followed by flypast groups and first up was the Helicopters led by the SAAF Museum Aloette III flanked by two Oryx's from 17Sqd and Two Rooivalk AH2's all the way from Bloemfontein's 16Sqd.
Two T6 Harvards from the SAAF Museum followed next with three C208 Caravans operated by 41Sqd and five PC7 Astras the SAAF's schoolmaster.
28Sqd made an appearance with a very low and fast flypast in the ever faithful Hercules C130BZ closely shadowed by two J-39 Gripen fighters from 2Sqd and three BAE Hawk Mk 120's operated by 85 Combat Flying School.
Capt Mark Gentles treated the spectators to a magnificent display of skill in a solo sequence in a PC7 Astra and Col “Blokkies” Joubert in a breathtaking display of high speed manoeuvring in the J-39 Gripen.
PER ASPERA AD ASTRA
(Through Hardship To The Stars) May the South African Air Force continue to overcome all difficulties on their path and continue to serve the people of South Africa with the Commitment and Diligence we have become accustomed to.