01 October 2015 by Kim Helfrich - defencceWeb
85 Combat Flying School (CFS) of the SA Air Force (SAAF) is staying put at Fighter Town – AFB Makhado – but an investigation into an operational Hawk squadron at AFB Waterkloof is underway.
This was the official response from the Air Office of the SAAF when asked if there were plans in place for 85 CFS to move to the Centurion air force base, generally seen as the SAAF’s transport hub.
“The SAAF is currently investigating and testing the feasibility to re-open an operational Hawk squadron at AFB Waterkloof,” the statement said.
With a total of 24 Hawk Mk120s in its inventory, of which three are believed to be unserviceable thanks to accidents, the SAAF could set up a separate Hawk squadron with 12 aircraft. This would leave nine aircraft at the Limpopo base for training purposes.
AFB Makhado is also home to the SAAF’s only other fast jet squadron – 2 – which flies the Gripen. According to the Air Office there are “no plans for any relocation of 2 Squadron at the moment”.
Military aviation watchers generally maintain it would not be good to split the Hawk fleet into two because of the extra resources that would be required at AFB Waterkloof to maintain and keep the aircraft operational. They also point to the noise factor being a problem with the base surrounded by suburbia as well as AFB Waterkloof being almost in the centre of South Africa’s largest and busiest chunk of controlled airspace.
As far as actual flying training is concerned any Hawks based at AFB Waterkloof will have to “commute” to suitable airspace, the closest being north-east of Pretoria over the Wallmannsthal military area, before training can start. A commute to and from usable airspace will also add unneeded hours to airframes.
Another military aviation watcher asked if the possible move of assets and resources to AFB Waterkloof was not part of an improved defence system for Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative and diplomatic capital.