22 Squadron


At present 22 Squadron operates both Oryx and Alouette III helicopters in a maritime and landward role from AFB Ysterplaat. The M2 Oryx is specially equipped for Antarctic conditions.

In the absence of specialised helicopter squadrons, Search and Rescue has become an “over and above” role for 22 Squadron due to budgetary constraints of the South African Air Force . In addition to conventional military support to the Army, Navy and Special Forces, the following also falls within the squadron’s scope of operations:

  • Mountain Rescue

  • Air-Sea Rescue

  • Ship-borne helicopter support to the SA Navy and Hydrographer

  • Heli Aerial Fire Fighting

  • Crime Prevention

  • Support to SA National Antarctic Programme - Antarctica, Gough & Prince Edward Is.

  • Flood relief and similar humanitarian roles


 Vision, Mission, Motto


Ut Mare Liberum Sit - Let the seas be free


22 Squadron’s main function is to provide Combat Ready, Light and Medium Transport Helicopter systems for land and maritime deployments.


22 Squadron is the Military Supplier of Maritime and Landward Helicopter Capabilities.


The Leader in Helicopter Air Power Excellence.

Value System

22 Squadron has embraced the following easy-to-remember value system, in order to meet its commitments within an acceptable working environment:

R  Reliability
E  Excellence
S  Service before Self
C  Communication
U  Uniqueness
E  Empowerment



On 1 July 1942, 22 Torpedo Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron was formed in Durban out of the then 37 Coastal Flight. It was assigned role of coastal reconnaissance, ASR operations, convoy escort and anti-submarine patrols. It was equipped with the SAAF’s militarised Junkers (JU-86) airliners.

In August 1942 the Squadron was re-equipped with 8 Lockheed Ventura aircraft, with the new aircraft came 22 Squadron’s first war time success when a Vichy French Ship a Nazi-Germany calibrator, was captured. The years 1942-43 were occupied with anti submarine activities over the Indian Ocean, initially patrolling the Mozambique Channel. The Squadron’s number of aircraft was increased to 23 to cope with the demands.

In July 1944 the Squadron was relocated to Gibraltar till June 1944. It was here that the Squadron played a major role in the anti-submarine patrols. During this period 3 aircraft where lost in operations. Day and Night patrols were flown, some lasting up to 9 hours. After two further moves to Gianadis and Idku the Squadron was disbanded on 24 October 1945.

Post World War II
22 Squadron was revived on 1 January 1954 but was to operate as 22 Flight. Varied tasks, once again operating Venturas, were carried out before the Flight was again disbanded in 1958.

Upon the arrival of the Westland Wasp maritime helicopters to operate aboard the Navy’s President Class Frigates, a unit known as 22 Flight was formed on 1 January 1964. This later was changed to 22 Squadron in May 1976.

March 1966 saw the first of many trips for the Squadron to the different Islands, which are manned by the Department of Environmental Affairs. These early visits were carried out aboard the SAS RSA.

The first crew to operate aboard a Navy ship were Capt's Van der Lith and Van der Berg, Lt Schimmel, F Sgt Hammond, Air Cpl Hecker and Leading Air Mech Wolbeek. This ship was the SAS Simon van der Stel

Exercises with the NSRI have been taking place since 1966 on a regular basis and have contributed to the success of many Search and Rescue operations.

The first of many ship rescues took place on the 3rd of May 1968 when 14 people where rescued from the Phyllisia and then days later the well-known rescue of people off the stricken SA Seafearer.

The Alouette III helicopter came on strength in 1978. From this time onwards the Unit has been in operation at AFB Ysterplaat.

The 70s was a period during which there where a number of firsts. The Squadron won the first Chopper competition in Bloemfontein in 74 & 75, and was part of the crew to visit the USA aboard the SAS President Kruger. Marion Island was visited for the first time aboard the SAS Protea. This period also saw the delivery of the then new Alouette III helicopters to the Squadron in 1978.

The 80s started slowly but in January 1981 the Laingsburg floods changed all this when the Squadron was called upon to assist in the rescue and relief of the flood victims. The sinking of SAS President Kruger again saw the Squadron spring into action when crew of the stricken ship where plucked from the sinking ship by a helicopter of the Squadron in February 1982. 1983 is particularly memorable with the Squadron receiving the Freedom of both Hermanus and Cape Town and then the presentation of the Colours in September of that year. 1984 was marked by the fires on Table Mountain and the rescue of Mr Graham Clark from Marion Island.

The Squadron’s 21st year of existence was celebrated in September of 1985. The remainder of the decade calumniated with withdrawal from service of the Westland Wasp helicopters, a visit to Chile aboard the SAS Drakensberg and fires again on Table Mountain.

The 1990’s were a time of change for both the country as well as the Squadron. The Wasp helicopter was phased out in 1990 and the 30 Squadron Pumas were absorbed upon the disbanding of 30 Squadron on 31 December 1991. 1992 saw the amalgamation of 22 and 30 Squadron's to form a single Unit known as 22 Squadron equipped with Alo III and Puma helicopters. The Oceanos sank in 1991 when 30 Squadron was operational, but the award for Humanitarian services from Sikorsky was only presented in 1992 and 22 Squadron accepted the award as it was the new home of the Pumas. This year also saw the Squadron assist with the rescue of the penguins from Dyer Island after an oil spill. May 93 was the 50 year commemoration of D-Day and 22 Squadron was privileged to attend this celebration as part of the fleet review. The next year was again a Friendship cruise to Scotland and Europe and part of this trip was to celebrate the re-instatement of South Africa into the Commonwealth and showing the new flag.

The Squadron was called upon to assist with the visit of both Queen Elizabeth II of England and the Queen of Denmark in 1995 and 1996 respectively. In 1996 the squadron participated in Ops Unitas off the coast of the USA and the members aboard flew to the main land as part of the operation. This was the first Oryx helicopter in the USA.

The new SANAE IV base was opened in February 1997 and 22 Squadron was a proud participant to the building of this new facility. In June of 1998 the Squadron received its Oryx M2 Helicopters, which were specially equipped to fly in the sub-zero conditions of the Antarctic and neighbouring islands. That year in August was also the time when the last Puma helicopter fly-past was done. This ended an era and the Puma’s replacement, the Oryx, was finally in place throughout the SAAF.

The year 2000 got off to a hectic pace with the biggest fires the Western Cape had ever seen. This inferno was followed by the floods in Mozambique, during which the Squadron was able to assist in relief efforts.

In the past two years we have rescued two fishermen from Gough Island, a Norwegian in the Antarctic and two weathermen from Marion Island. When the Ikan Tanda ran aground off Scarborough, the Squadron rescued the crew in extremely difficult conditions again distinguishing itself as a world leader in the field of Aviation and Maritime Operations.

22 Squadron was once again in the spotlight at the end of 2002, with the dramatic rescue of 89 Russian scientists and German crew off the ice-bound Magdalena Oldendorff in Antarctic. For this brave rescue, both the flight crews of that operation received awards from the Ambassador of the Russian Federation in South Africa, Mr AndreI A. Kushakov on 13 February 2003.

Proud "firsts" for 22 Squadron:

  • First helicopter landing on Bouvet Eiland in 1966.

  • Members honoured in 1970 for taking part in the search of the Department of Transport personnel on Gough Island.

  • Rescueing 2 crewmembers of the barge, Shir Yib, which ran to ground at Cape Point in July 1970.

  • First SAAF flight crew to land on Tristan da Cunha in 1972.

  • A single helicopter helped with the transport of building material from a ship to Marion Island in 1974, in close co-operation with the SA Navy and the Department of Public Works.

  • Rescuing of 26 crewmembers off the Japanese fishing trawler, Ken Maro, which sank in 1978 on the Coast of the Death on the Namibian Coastline.

  • During 1976, the Squadron was again responsible for the first participation, whilst operating from the SAS Protea on a research mission, in conjunction with the Department of Sea Fisheries:

    First SAAF aircraft to operate over the Pacific Ocean.
    First SAAF aircraft to fly around Cape Horn.
    First SAAF aircraft to operate in Antarctica.


  • A mission to Antarctica on the SA Agulhas with two Wasp helicopters in 1980.

  • Rescue tasks and other services during the Laingsburg floods in 1981.

  • Many other rescue tasks and co-operation with other organisations, like the Parks Board, the Cape Fire Services, Metro Rescue Unit, Civil Protection units, the local Mountain Club, South African Police Riot Squad and other civil organisation and all armed forces.

22 Squadron has an excellent record during the SAAF helicopter competitions.

22 Squadron has an outstanding record in the South African Air Force helicopter competitions. Of the four competitions held to date, 22 Squadron has won three, demonstrating the dedication and effectiveness of the personnel.


 Photo Gallery



 Contact details

Postal Address
22 Squadron
AFB Ysterplaat
Private Bag X4

Telephone Number
(021) 508-6422

Fax Number
(021) 508-6110

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