Department Of Defence South African Air Force
Department Of Defence South African Air Force; Although military aviation was still in its infancy at the time that the Union Defence Force (UDF) was formed, the South African Defence Act (1912) made provision for the establishment of the South African Aviation Corps (SAAC) as part of the Active Citizen Force (ACF). In August 1912 the Commandant-General of the Citizen Force, Brig Gen C.F. Beyers, was sent to England and Europe by General Smuts to observe and report on the use of aircraft in military operations.
Brig Gen Beyers was so impressed by what he saw, that when he returned to the Union, he strongly recommended setting up a school of aviation. The Government subsequently contracted Mr Cecil Compton Paterson to provide flying training to a select group of ten aviators at his flying school at Alexanderfontein near Kimberley.
Training and War
In April 1914 six of the initial ten pupils were appointed as probationary lieutenants in the ACF and sent to England to undergo further training at the Central Flying School at Upavon where five of them eventually qualified. On the outbreak of war in August 1914, the South Africans were granted permission to join the newly formed Royal Flying Corps (RFC). They were to participate in the first aerial reconnaissance and artillery spotting missions over France during the closing months of 1914.
The SAAC in South West Africa
In January 1915 the South African pilots were appointed in the Permanent Force an recalled to the Union to help man the SAAC established on 29 January 1915 for service in German South West Africa. By May six Henri Farman F-27 and two B.E.2C aircraft were able to take to the air in support of General Botha’s forces. Within a very short space of time the SAAC pilots had proven their worth, flying regular reconnaissance patrols to keep Gen Botha constantly informed of the enemy’s movements and positions. The Farmans also carried out a number of bombing missions.
Volunteers in East Africa and Europe
After the German South West Africa campaign, the majority of the SAAC pilots volunteered for further service in England, where they were to form the nucleus of 26 (South African) Squadron (Sqn) of the RFC. This unit was dispatched to East Africa in December 1915 to carry out reconnaissance, bombing and communication missions in support of Gen Smuts’ forces. The squadron was eventually recalled to England and disbanded in 1918.
Apart from the South Africans who served with 26 Sqn, many others volunteered for service with other RFC squadrons in the course of the war. Among the most famous of these were Maj Allister Miller, Capt Andrew W. Beauchamp-Proctor, Capt H.A. (Pierre) van Ryneveld, Maj Arthur E. Harris and Capt Sam Kinkead.
The Eastern Front
A number of South African airmen saw active service in the Russian Civil War (1917 – 1920). The North Russian Expeditionary Force had an RAF and RNAS detachment and following it landing at Murmansk in June 1918, commenced operations. This was followed by a second Allied Expeditionary Force in 1919.
Caption: Among the South Africans who served with distinction in Russia were Capt Sam Kinkead, commander of a Sopwith Camel equipped flight of 47 Sqn, Lt Col K.R. van der Spuy who commanded a RAF unit and Lt Col H.A. van Ryneveld. Van der Spuy was taken prisoner and was only released in 1920.
The South African Air Force is the air force of South Africa, with headquarters in Pretoria. The South African Air Force was established on 1 February 1920. The Air Force has seen service in World War II and the Korean War. From 1966 the SAAF was involved in providing infantry support in a low intensity war (“The Border War”) in Angola, South-West Africa (Namibia) and Rhodesia. As the war progressed, the intensity of air operations increased until in the late 1980s, the SAAF were compelled to fly fighter missions against Angolan aircraft in order to maintain tactical air superiority.
On conclusion of the Border War in 1990, aircraft numbers were severely reduced due to economic pressures as well as the cessation of hostilities with neighbouring states. Today the SAAF has a limited air combat capability and has been structured towards regional peace-keeping, disaster relief and maritime patrol operations.
Department Of Defence South African Air Force Vision 2012 was compiled and published in 2002 as the Air Force’s ten-year strategic plan. As a strategy, it serves as an intellectual construct linking where we are today with where we want to be ten years’ time in a substantive and concrete manner. During the past three years Vision 2012 has achieved a remarkable level of acceptance at all levels of the Air Force, and its long-term objectives have permeated the organisation to the point where even the most junior of our members are able to relate their daily tasks to the Air Force’s strategy.
Once an organisation has adopted a strategy to transform itself over an extended period, the question arises of how frequently such a strategy should be updated to ensure that it remains valid. If the strategy is updated and changed too often, one runs the risk of creating an apathetic attitude in the organisation where some people do nothing and simply wait for the next update in the hope that their responsibilities will be overtaken by the new strategy. If, on the other hand, the strategy is updated too infrequently, it runs the risk of ageing to the point where it is largely outdated and people stop referring to it in the knowledge that real events have already overtaken much of its contents.
To find a workable solution, the Air Force Board decided to conduct a comprehensive strategic revision of Vision 2012 every third year, or whenever a major strategic event triggers such an update. In alternate years, the validity of the strategy is maintained through a process of technical reviews where the fundamental strategy is assumed to be still valid and the only changes made are at the technical level, such as dates, aircraft numbers (to account for losses) and budget amounts.
This year marks the first comprehensive update of Vision 2012, being the third year of its existence. The planning process will follow roughly the same approach as used for the current version of Vision 2012, namely to first review the current status of the organisation, then define the desired future state of the SA Air Force, perform an in-depth analysis of the strategic environment, compare where we are today with where we want to be in ten years and, finally, define a planning framework with tasks and responsibilities to ensure that the objectives are achieved. Planning staff in the Air Force Office are working closely with all stakeholders in the DOD and the SA Air Force to ensure that the updated strategy is an accurate reflection of the desired future state of the organisation, and that our plan to get there is realistic and achievable.
As we then embark on this critical step in creating a viable, vibrant Air Force for the future, it is perhaps wise to consider these inspiring words by futurist John Schaar:
The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created – created first in the mind and will, created next in activity.
The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating.
We provide deployable multi-role air capabilities for the SANDF in service of our country.