35 Squadron


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 search-and-rescue operations.

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 Transport role.

Enter the Dakota, as reliable as ever

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 future

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 35 Squadron

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 convoy escorts.

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 big battleship.

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 aircraft.

Schakleton highlights

1957. Arrival of the first two Avro Shackleton Mk II, anti-submarine aircraft.
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 Elizabeth.

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 parade.

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 Dakota.

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.

Coming Home

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.


 Core Business

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:

  • Maritime Patrolling

  • Transport

  • Photo Reconnaissance

  • Electronic Warfare



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

Prestige Performers:

Senior Officer Floating Trophy 2004
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 Trophy 2004
LCpl G. Boloang


 Photo Gallery


 35 Squadron Social Responsibility

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 Army


 Vision, Mission

We aim towards a Recognised Authority in Fixed Wing Maritime Air Power Excellence

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:

Operational Readiness:
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 desires.

Human Dignity:
We will treat others the way we ourselves would like to be treated. Furthermore, we will respect the infinite dignity and worth of all individuals.

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 organisational performance.


 35 Squadron Contact Details

Postal Address
35 Squadron
Private Bag X4
AFB Ysterplaat

Telephone Number
(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:

  • Unit name.

  • Person’s name.

  • Short description of complaint.

  • Date of occurrence.

  • A contact number.

If possible, a suggested solution.

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