Liduma Lidlule The storm shall pass SAAF Prestige Parade 2024

By Jaco Kotze

The South African Air Force held their annual Prestige Parade on Thursday 1 February 2024 at the Mobile Deployment Wing, formerly known as Swartkop Air Force Base. Various high-ranking officers and dignitaries of the SANDF were present to witness the parade and to receive the key note address given by the Head of the South African Air Force, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo.

The parade was officially opened by the high-speed overhead flypast of one of the 2 Squadron Gripens followed by the traditional inspection parade.

The award for the best South African Air Force base was then awarded, with AFB Overberg receiving this coveted award this year.

Lt. General Mbambo then took to the podium and continued with his keynote address. After the salutation to all SAAF dignitaries, he welcomed all present and invited all to celebrate in the collective heritage of the SAAF, which this year is at 104 years.

The General then discussed the current world socio-economic situation, highlighting tensions, instabilities and conflict which is currently on-going around the globe. Of particular concern to South Africa is the on-going extremist group activities in Mozambique as well as the DRC. At the time of writing, one of the UN peacekeeping SAAF Oryx helicopters in the DRC suffered an attack by small arms fire with some of the crew members suffering injuries. Pilot's Post is thankful to report no fatalities occurred and wish the speedy recovery to the injured members.

He then carried on to discuss the importance of the strategic lifting capability to the SAAF and the current lack thereof; in light of natural disasters, we are very much exposed in that regard, without being able to provided the critically important support needed, not just in Southern Africa, but also to our neighbouring countries. General Mbambo also stressed the importance of the defence budget funding, noting that it cannot be at the bottom of the priority list whilst acknowledging the fact that the economic situation is not good.

Kitplanes for Africa

Finishing this part of his speech, he noted that we do not have time to postpone implementation actions any longer and quoted George Herbert who said: “Do not wait, the time will never be just right”.

He then carried on to discuss the current status of his “Free the Eagle” vision timeline. The deliverables outlined were:

l Self-confidence conscience
l Air and space power
l Sweating the assets
l Space command establishment
l SAAF strategy development
l Fuelling both man and machine

He acknowledged that achieving these objectives would not happen overnight and again stressed the conundrum they are facing regarding the lack of funding to the defence function. He noted the fact that the SAAF is a technologically driven organisation with the price on maintaining it at the appropriate combat readiness being very high. He concluded that they would remain optimistic and hopeful that this storm will pass away, as per the old Zula saying: “Liduma Lidlule” and committed that in the interim they would continue to work diligently with what is available.

The General discussed each of the points above in detail and concluded his speech with sharing a final guiding principle: “Be brave enough to take a chance, strong enough to endure and fearless enough to recognize every opportunity.

Following his speech the mass fly-past of SAAF aircraft was done. First up was the helicopter formation consisting of the Rooivalk, Alouette 2, BK117, Alouette 3 and the Oryx.

This was followed by the 5-ship formation of PC7's trainers.

Next up was the presidential aircraft formation consisting of the Boeing 737-700 and the Dassault Falcon 900A.

The 4 ship Hawk MK120's thundered overhead in a perfectly flown diamond formation.

The conclusion of the fly pasts was done by the 3-ship formation of the JAS39 Gripens.

The final act of the parade was a solo Hawk display, expertly flown by Lt. Col. Scott “Prowler” Logie, showcasing the dynamic capabilities of the Hawk perfectly.

The 2024 SAAF Prestige Parade was one of mixed emotions - the realisation that we are on the brink of a total capability collapse if drastic actions are not taken soon to increase the funding to the SAAF to enable them to perform their critical functions. On the other side, it was hearting to still hear the passion and commitment by those who have dedicated their lives to serve to protect our nation and our interests - for that, we salute you all!

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