In today’s ever-changing political,
economical and social environment, one often yearns for a
bit of good news amongst all the turmoil. The men and women
of 35 Squadron provide just that, good news at a time when
you need it most. A sight for sore eyes to many a seafarer…
35 Squadron has a proud history spanning over fifty-nine
years. It started on 15 February 1945 when 262 Squadron RAF
was re-designated as 35 Squadron SAAF. The Squadron was at
this stage based at Congela, at the top end of Durban
harbour. During January 1957, the Squadron, then equipped
with Schakleton Mk 3s, moved to AFB Ysterplaat near Cape
Town. However, because of their weight the Schakletons had
to operate from the then DF Malan Airport (now Cape Town
International) as Ysterplaat’s runway was not long enough.
This meant that the crews had to be bussed to and from their
squadron headquarters at Ysterplaat and DF Malan every
morning and afternoon. This situation lasted for fourteen
years until 1971, when the necessary Air Force facilities
were completed and the Squadron finally moved to DF Malan –
a step that re-united man and machine. However, a
transformation inspired Air Force Board decision saw the
Squadron moving back to Ysterplaat in November 2002.
Over the years the Squadron operated a range of aircraft,
from the Catalina (1945 – 1957) and Sunderland (also 1945 –
1957), both Flying Boats, in the early days to the Avro
Shackleton MR3 (1957 – 1984) and C47 Dakota (1985 – 1994).
Up to the end of 1990, the Squadron was utilized in the
maritime role only. The Schackleton provided an offensive
capability, which stood in good stead when one considers the
RSA’s vast coastal borders – a total of more than 3 200 km.
Specific maritime missions included electronic surveillance,
coastal reconnaissance, coastal patrols, naval support,
anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface unit warfare and
However, as the result of the initial reduction in SAAF
assets and personnel, 25 Squadron and 27 Squadron were
amalgamated with 35 Squadron on 31 December 1990. This move
entrusted 35 Squadron with the extra responsibility of air
transport, employing both the modified C47TP Turbine Dakota
and BE20 King Air aircraft. The King Airs have been
re-allocated to 41 Squadron in 1998, leaving the Squadron
with only the Turbine Dakota in both the Maritime and
Enter the Dakota, as reliable as
The 35 Squadron Dakotas have an illustrious history of their
own. After the Schakleton was withdrawn from service in
1984, piston engine C47 Dakotas fulfilled a somewhat
depleted maritime role in the sense that the Dakota had no
offensive capability. In September 1994 these workhorses
were finally withdrawn and replaced with the modified
turbine engine C47TP Dakota. This move further depleted the
Squadron’s maritime capability, as these aircraft were in
essence transport aircraft used in the maritime role. The
C47TP carries no maritime specific systems, such as
acoustics, electronic support measures or weapons, thus
relying solely on the capability of the crew for the success
of the mission. For this reason the Squadron can only assist
the Navy in limited anti-submarine and anti-surface unit
warfare. However, recent successes during joint
anti-submarine training exercises, where the crew was able
to spot the “enemy” submarine’s periscope using only the
aircraft radar and their eyes, are proof of the Squadron’s
persistence in maritime excellence.
Current Roles and Missions
Unlike the age-old saying Jack-of-all-trades, master of
none, 35 Squadron can be seen as master of all. Apart from
the Squadron’s maritime role, which includes the missions
mentioned earlier, and their transport role, consisting of
paratrooping, target towing, scheduled passenger services,
aero medical evacuation and logistical support, the Squadron
also performs other support functions. These include
electronic intelligent gathering, tactical image (photo)
reconnaissance and numerous training functions, such as
navigator and telecommunication operator training.
The obvious lack of offensive clout has been the Achilles
heel of the Squadron for quite a few years. Nevertheless, 35
Squadron maintained an immense tenacity in their endeavors
to remain a viable force in the maritime environment. In the
face of a perceived reduced maritime threat, the Squadron
has been able to successfully stay abreast with its
“warfare” related missions. However, they were also able to
shift their focus towards their collateral functions – a
service to the citizens of the RSA, so to speak. These
functions include the monitoring of commercial shipping
activities and assisting Marine and Coastal Management in
detecting red tide, oil pollution, abalone smuggling, etc,
as well as monitoring illegal fishing activities in the
RSA’s 200nm Exclusive Economic Zone. Frequent 35 Squadron
patrols over our vast ocean, where they cover an average of
20 000 nm2 per day, assists in detecting and reporting any
suspicious activities, thus freeing a largely unaware South
African public to carry on with their daily lives… The
Squadron also assists the South African Search-and-Rescue
Organisation (SASAR) by supplying a 24-hour around the clock
Land and Sea Search-and-Rescue service to the country. One
of their more notable contributions in this arena was their
share in the rescue of people from the Greek liner Oceanos
near the East London coast in August 1991.
From the above it is obvious that 35 Squadron is a very
diverse squadron, not only in terms of their roles and
missions, but also as far as their aircrew is concerned.
They pride themselves in the fact that they give meaning to
the term multi-crew, as they at any one time carry crews
consisting of pilots, navigators, flight engineers,
telecommunication operators, photographers, air loadmasters,
electronic warfare operators, and, should the need arise,
even air hostesses.
The Squadron has accepted the additional role as the
Maritime Champions of the SAAF. This means that they see
themselves as the authority in terms of maritime procedures
and tactics. It is heart warming to note that the members of
35 Squadron have remained dedicated to their tasks, even
though they are rather limited in performing the full
spectrum of maritime operations. We are currently in a
relatively peaceful period in South Africa’s history, yet 35
Squadron has so much to offer in terms of humanitarian and
economic benefits to the country. The fact is, the RSA is a
maritime dependant nation. Not many people know this, but
more than 80% of our imports arrive by ship – thus making
our economy dependant on stable and secure sea lines of
communication. Add to this the increase in piracy along the
northeastern African coast, and it is easy to work out that
an unguarded ocean may present a threat to our economy.
Furthermore, the illegal fishing and abalone smuggling
activities place a further burden on the economy, as South
Africa’s vast maritime resources are a very desirable
commodity to people with less than noble intentions. Once
the people of this great country realises that the military
threat has long been replaced by a maritime economic threat,
the men and woman of 35 Squadron will be ready, able and
willing to perform their tasks with vigor.
Origin and formation of
262 Squadron RAF was the fore-runner of 35 Squadron and was formed
on 29 September 1942. This was to form the basis of a South African
Catalina squadron operating out of the end of Durban harbour, an
area known as Congella. On 21 February 1943, the first Catalinas
arrived; five days later patrols over the Indian Ocean commenced.
Other aircraft soon followed enabling the Squadron to extend it’s
patrol area around the Cape of Good Hope. Langebaan was used by
combined RAF and SAAF crews as an operational base for forays
against U-boats. St Lucia became the Indian Ocean operational base.
In November 1944 a new base was opened until 262 Squadron was
transferred from the Royal Air Force and re-designated 35 Squadron
of the South African Air Force.
On 15 February 1945 the Squadron completed the take-over from 262
Squadron RAF and was re-designated 35 Squadron SAAF.
Later in April the same year, three Short S25 Sunderland GR Mk 5
aircraft were flown out from England to enhance the Squadron’s
effectiveness. The main tasks of this newly formed maritime squadron
were anti-submarine patrols, coastal reconnaissance and acting as
In November 1946, the Squadron was informed that Sunderlands would
be required for escort duties such as transporting King George VI
and the British Royal Family on an official visit to South Africa.
One aircraft was detailed to fly out and intercept the HMS VANGUARD
while she was still nearly 1000 miles out, in order to drop
canisters. Unfortunately, after 15 hours of flying in bad
visibility, the Sunderland was unable to locate the warship.
However, the next morning at 10:00 the canisters were safely
delivered. The Sunderland then provided a constant escort for the
As well as their primary duties, Sunderlands were later used as
navigation trainers. On 8 October 1956, the last test flight of a
Sunderland took off after a major overhaul.
Enter the Shakleton
Five years earlier, in April 1952, three RAF Shackleton MR2s from 42
Squadron RAF visited South Africa. As a result of this visit a
decision was taken to purchase eight Avro Shackleton MR3s
(manufactured by AV Roe) to re-equip the Squadron. This was to be
the start of an era that spanned 27 years. The Shackleton was
considered to be the most modern and sophisticated anti-submarine
platform of its time.
In February 1957, Commandant M.J. Uys, AFC, Commanding Officer, 35
Squadron, visited AV Roe’s Woodford aerodrome as part of a
delegation to accept the first Shackletons into the South African
Air Force. Commandant Uys, a veteran of World War II and Korea , was
the first South African pilot to fly the new aircraft.
Director and General Manager of AV Roe, Mr J.A.R. Kay, handed over
the first two Shackletons MR3s in the presence of South African High
Commissioner, Mr W.D. Van Schalkwyk and Commandant Uys. Over from
South Africa, 61 members of the Squadron spent six months at
Woodford undergoing a comprehensive conversion course on the new
1957. Arrival of the first two Avro Shackleton Mk II, anti-submarine
1958. First border patrol.
1963. A year of disaster – some minor, involving a number of ‘wheels
up’ landings and undercarriage failures. Worst single disaster (8
August) when Shackleton 1718 crashed in the mountains at Steynskloof
Dam near Rawsonville with total loss of life. The Aircraft was on
it’s way to join a Royal Navy ship taking part in ‘Capex’ off Port
1980. In January a freighter, ‘Pep-Ice’ ran aground on a coral reef
near Mozambique Channel. A Shackleton located the stranded vessel
and stood by while 21 crew were lifted off and transported back to
AFB Waterkloof by two Puma helicopters.
On Wednesday, 19 November 35 Squadron received the Freedom of the
City of Cape Town, in recognition of all the good work it had done
in the past. Interestingly, the current Commanding Officer,
Lieutenant Colonel André Swart, was one of the airmen on that
1984. On 23 November 1984, the Shackletons were officially withdrawn
from active service. In Cape Town a parade and fly past was held to
mark their passing.
In the same year, 35 Squadron was awarded the Sword of Peace in
recognition of their countless Search and Rescue Missions undertaken
during the previous 27 years.
As the eighties drew to a close, 35 Squadron was working towards
implementing a sophisticated Dakota upgrade programme which would
start early in 1990.
The coming of the “Dakleton”
It was only short after the withdrawal of the Shackleton that the
doughty Dakota celebrated 50 years of service. In an effort to
retain some of the maritime expertise built-up by the Squadron over
the years, we received four Douglas DC3 Dakotas that had originally
been converted for training navigators, in January 1985.
By 1986 the Dakotas were a familiar sight in their search and rescue
capacities. On Friday 11 June, a Dakota was tasked to lead a
Squirrel helicopter to the German Antarctic research ship ‘
Polarstern’, lying 190 miles SW of Cape Point. An American scientist
who had a detached retina was taken off by the Squirrel helicopter
with the Dakota acting as an escort back to Ysterplaat.
Later in the same month, a Dakota went to the assistance of a
Russian sailor who had suffered a serious accident whilst in transit
from their fishing grounds off South Georgia, in the South Atlantic.
The SAS Tafelberg equipped with Puma helicopters intercepted the
trawler. When they were within 350nm of Cape Town, the critically
ill seaman was transferred by Puma to Cape Town escorted by the
35 Squadron enters the 90’s
With the closing 25 and 27 Squadrons on 31 December 1990, 35
Squadron took over the extra responsibility of the air transport
role. Air transport operations were carried out using the Dakota as
well as King Air aircraft from the now defunct 25 Squadron.
On 4 March 1991 the Sword of Peace was awarded to AFB Ysterplaat.
Colonel D.W.K. Lynch, Commanding Officer, officially thanked 35
Squadron for their contribution to this success, whilst expressing
his appreciation of the excellent humanitarian work undertaken by
the Squadron throughout the year.
No doubt the most publicized rescue of the 90’s was that of the
Greek liner ‘Oceanos’, which foundered off the coast near East
London on 4 August 1991. 35 Squadron, in company with other
squadrons, became involved in the large and highly successful rescue
project by acting as ‘the eye in the sky’ for the people in the
water whom no one had yet spotted.
A typical example was when one of the Dakotas pinpointed someone
floating in the water several miles from the doomed vessel; a Puma
helicopter was notified and brought in to uplift them. The rescued
man apparently worked in the casino and when rescued was found to be
carrying an enormous amount of money strapped to his waist.
The C47-TP Dakota era
Since 1991 the Turbo Prop Dakota has been the work horse of air
transport operations and will continue to do so in the foreseeable
future. Piston-engined Dakotas performed maritime operations up to 9
September 1994. However, a Project has been launched to modify all
Dakota aircraft to turbo prop status.
All the Squadron's tasks are now being undertaken by turbo-engined
aircraft. These "TP Daks" increased their cruising speed from 250 to
330 kph with their range extended from 2500 to 4000 kms together
with an increased payload of 1000 kg.
The Squadron will ultimately be equipped with eleven TP Dakotas.
This will include transport, maritime, photo and electronic warfare
variants. In order to keep up with the needs of the client, the
Squadron's roles and functions have evolved during recent years. In
the past, we focused on maritime patrol work. In the early 90's we
accepted the transport role. Now, in the 21st century, we even
provide a tactical image and electronic warfare capability as well.
The Squadron left Ysterplaat and moved to the then D.F Malan Airport
(now Cape Town International) in 1971. This was to better
accommodate Shackleton operations. However, the Squadron moved back
to Ysterplaat at the end of 2002. We are now fully operational from
Ysterplaat, operating from the same facilities that we occupied
before 1971, so it would be appropriate to say we have come home.
35 Squadron is the only unit
operating the C47-TP Dakota. It must be remembered that this Dakota
is not the "old Gooney Bird", it is in fact a brand new variant of
this trusted old aircraft. This aircraft is used in various roles
and applications, with the main role of the Squadron being maritime
patrolling. The following capabilities of the aircraft will be
discussed in brief:
The Squadron received the following positions
during the Inspector Generals yearly audit:
2002. Gold for the best Flying Unit
2003. Silver for the best Flying Unit
2004. Silver for the best Flying Unit
Rewarding personnel is one of the most important factors in any
business. The Squadron implemented a Quality Incentive Scheme to
identify personnel as Prestige Performers.
The responsibility of the Squadron towards the public is very
important as it will give an impression of what the organization
(military) is willing to give towards the community. The result of
our public responsibility contribution is solely driven by our own
personnel using their own time and own resources.
35 Squadron Personnel Recognition
Senior Officer Floating
Maj J.J. van der Westhuizen
Junior Officer Floating Trophy 2004
Capt A.M. Burger
Senior Non Commission Office Floating 2004
F Sgt A.J. Otto
Junior Non- Commission Officer Floating
LCpl G. Boloang
35 Squadron is striving to be regarded as having
the best social investment programme within the SAAF. To this end we
have supported mainstream schools, previously disadvantaged schools,
schools for the disabled, children homes as well centers for
battered women. We were also actively involved in promoting the SAAF
within the general aviation community of Cape Town. The Squadron
included Fisantekraal Community Health Centre as one of our projects
for the last few years.
Gala 2002 - R5 000 Donated to the Durbanville Children Home
2003 - R5 000 Donation was handed over to the Carehaven Salvation
We aim towards a Recognised Authority in Fixed Wing Maritime Air
We supply Mission Ready Maritime Air Patrol, Air Transport, Aerial
Photo Reconnaissance, Air Electronic Warfare and Air Navigator
Training capabilities to our Stakeholders
Our Vision will be realised by means of the following strategy:
The optimum integration of Human
and Technical resources that will result in proper utilisation
of current capabilities.
The optimisation of the current
maritime capability (with emphasis on the platform) in the short
to medium term.
Frequent benchmarking with other
Maritime Air Authorities of note.
Re-establishing a dedicated
offensive maritime capability as soon as practical.
We fully subscribe to the value system of the SAAF. As such we adopt
the SAAF’s values with the exception of adding a value of our own:
We will be proactive in our attitudes and actions to ensure
adherence to the Squadron Output Objectives.
Service before Self:
Our Professional SAAF duties will take preference over our personal
We will treat others the way we ourselves would like to be treated.
Furthermore, we will respect the infinite dignity and worth of all
We will be faithful to our convictions. We will practice what we
preach. We will be honourable and will follow ethical principles –
“by always doing the right things even though the wrong things seem
to be the right thing at the time”.
Excellence in all we Do:
We will constantly endeavour to improve both personal and
Squadron Contact Details
Private Bag X4
(021) 508 6911 x6308
(021) 508 6035
35 Squadron has introduced a formal
complaint system. As it is possible to be both supplier and client
on any given day, this system is open for use by any unit or
individual who made use of a 35 Squadron service. The complaint
system will work as follows:
Send an email or fax with the
following information is needed:
If possible, a suggested solution.
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