SAAF Prestige Day Parade 2022 - Free the Eagle

By Russell Dixon-Paver


The airspace around Pretoria had been busy with Astras, Hawks, Caravans and the Casa during the week and generated much interest amongst aviation enthusiasts. The Weather forecast during the week looked increasingly challenging, but heavy weather held off just long enough to complete the Prestige Evening fly-past on Thursday evening and the Prestige Parade on Friday morning, before the heavens opened and caused widespread flooding.

A substantial crowd of spectators and photographers had accumulated across the road from the main AFB Waterkloof gates on Thursday evening. Shortly before 18:30, the fixed wing aircraft participating rose into the stormy sky…

Astras and Hawks take to the skies in formation take-offs.

The Casa takes off with the Special Forces team and climbs in the windless, but cloudy air up to drop altitude.

Some of the Special Forces team open the proceedings as they descend under their canopies, while their Casa 212 returns to earth.

Astra fly-past.

The Rooivalk attack helicopter provided a spirited display of its maneuverability, followed by a spectacular flare drop.

Hawk fly-past.

One of the Hawks performed a solo capability display including two flare sequences, one descending and one ascending

A firework display, following all necessary protocols, rounded off the outdoor activities.

Weather predictions for the Parade on Friday morning did not look promising, but the rain held off until mid-afternoon, allowing the parade to proceed unhindered by rain.

The Prestige Parade was held in the form of a Ceremonial Wing in Review at AFB Swartkop, with the Chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Wiseman Simon Mbambo as the Review Officer.

The control tower at AFB Swartkop with the original tower, constructed from packing-case material from the Imperial Gift on top of Hangar 7, reminds us of the 102-year heritage of one of the oldest operational Air Force bases in the world.

Two 1942 Harvards form the SAAF Museum Historic Flight get airborne before the Parade begins.

An Augusta A109, BK 117 and Rooivalk operational helicopter types take off.

Two Alouette II and one Alouette III SAAF Museum helicopters take off to join the helicopter formation.

The helicopter formation settling into Snake Valley, to await their opening slot in the general fly-past, with the SAAF Museum Vampire on static display in the foreground on the edge of the parade area.

The Special Forces team member bearing the National Flag touches down, signaling the start of the parade.

The Air Force Band provided an excellent cultural backdrop with intricate figure marching while playing music before the formalities commenced and during the parade.

The Augusta A109's bearing the National and Air Force Flags, Artillery gun firing salute as General MBambo takes the General Salute, opening the parade.

The Special Forces team present the scroll to the Chief of the Air Force, General Mbambo to formally open proceedings.

Inspection party approaches the parade and Squadron Colour bearers.

The parade commander leads the marchpast of the dais, with some of the units on parade.

General Mbambo makes his address with the invited dignitaries seated behind him with a Super Frelon helicopter as a backdrop.

General Mbambo acknowledged the 102 years of the SAAF existence has provided many lessons the ability to navigate adversity successfully would remain a critical characteristic while agility and utilising opportunities of technological innovation would be vital to success. He reported on regional and humanitarian operations that the SAAF had undertaken, praising SAAF members for their service and expertise. The recent fire at AFB Waterkloof was referred to and the Air Force Board had decided to award appropriate medals to those members involved in minimizing damage to infrastructure and prevention of loss of life. General Mbambo had announced the new SAAF vision at the Prestige Evening on Thursday 04 February 2022 with the headline “Projective effective air and space power through innovation in the theatre of our operations”. It was acknowledged that we operate in Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) situation so forcefully demonstrated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequences of that. Because of the VUCA environment, the SAAF would have to adopt a “different template of thinking” to train and prepare for the future. Innovation would be required to “Free the Eagle” and wide ranging changes would be required, especially in adaptations to constraining policies. The SAAF had not been active in the area of Space and in order to remain relevant, this domain would require urgent development.

The helicopter formation rises out of Snake Valley with the SAAF Museum formation of Bosbok, C185 and Harvards approaching and the light transport formation in the background, and performs their fly-past.

Light transport Squadrons 44 and 41 were represented by their Casa 212 and Cessna 208 Caravans in their fly-past.

Central Flying School Langebaanweg Astras in their fly-past.

Hawk Mk120 fly-past representing 85 Combat Flying School in their fly-past.

A Solo Hawk provided a capability display, with vapour forming on the wings in the damp air.

A SAAF Museum Harvard and C185 land on the grass runway, most suitable for the wind direction, while an impressive demonstration by Security Squadron takes place.

Lt General Mbambo held a brief discussion with the media contingent afterwards, and kindly agreed to be “unmasked” for an impromptu portrait.

Pilots Post was honoured to again report on the 2022 SAAF Prestige Parade and thanks are extended to Captain Tshiwela Ramalapa for suitable media arrangements.

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