Friday, January 30, is Air Force Day and the South African Air Force (SAAF) will use AFB Waterkloof in Centurion to mark the start of its 95 years of existence, making it one of the world’s oldest independent air forces.
The annual Air Force Day parade is held on the Friday closest to February 1, acknowledged as the day when what is now the SAAF came into being in 1920. That was the date when Colonel Pierre van Ryneveld was appointed Director: Air Services with instructions to establish an air force for the then Union of South Africa.
The following year saw a site at Zwartkop (just east of what is now Thaba Tshwane and was then Roberts Heights before becoming Voortrekkerhoogte) selected as the fledgling force’s first aerodrome. AFB Zwartkop is today still a working base and is home to 17 Squadron and the SAAF Museum.
Brigadier General Marthie Visser said the final programme for SAAF 95 was still being worked on as far as format and the sequence of events was concerned. She was, however, hopeful a special SAAF 95 logo would be unveiled during the Air Force Day parade.
The closing date for 95th anniversary logo submissions is January 21 which leaves the judging panel only seven working days to decide on a winner.
No details of the January 30 parade have yet been made public but it is customary for the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to use the event to showcase as many of the aircraft it has in service as possible. In past years Gripen and Hawk jets have been the highlight of the flypast with Oryx, Agusta and Rooivalk helicopters taking part as well as transport aircraft ranging from the C-130BZ down to the Cessna 208 Caravan.
Traditionally the parade provides an opportunity for the Chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang, to give an overview of what the SAAF plans for the year ahead as well as reflecting on the achievements of the previous year.