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 CAF thanks CDFP for 40 - years of service excellence

By CO Solomon M. Kotane, Ad Astra magazine and Photo courtesy Dave Becker.

The Chief of the Air Force (CAF), Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano, today thanked Maj Gen, D.E. (Des) Barker for his forty-years of devoted service to the South African National Defence Force, particularly in South African Air Force.

The occasion was the Quarterly Air Force Headquarters Unit (AFHQU) parade held at Swartkop on 29 May 2008, where CAF officiated as main functionary. All members of the AFHQ attended the parade, which commenced at 08h00.

Maj Gen Barker started his career in the SAAF in 1968. He qualified himself as a fighter pilot, with a passion for aviation over a broad spectrum - an asset which is also clearly visible in his interest in flying safety and broad knowledge of aircraft and aviation related topics.

Among numerous highlights during his professional career, let alone having been a qualified fixed wing experimental test pilot, he was appointed Officer Commanding of TFDC in 1996, assigned Air Advisor to the South African High Commission in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2000, after which, on completion of the ENSP in 2003, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and appointed Officer Commanding of AFB Makhado in January 2004. After this tour, in June 2006, he was promoted to the rank of Maj Gen and appointed Chief Director Force Preparation at the Air Command, a position that he held until his retirement from the Air Force at the end of May 2008 after a career that spanned 40 years of dedication and unselfish service towards a cause that he so firmly believed in himself.

Ad Astra will soon publish an interview with Maj Gen Barker with specific questions posed to this remarkable career officer in addition to the input provided above.

Herewith though, an abbreviated CV of Maj Gen Des Barker, Chief Director Force Preparation.


Maj Gen Barker was born in Pretoria on 25 August 1949. He was educated at Lyttelton Manor High School and joined the SAAF in 1968, qualifying as a pilot at FTS Langebaanweg in 1969. He is third generation Air Force, his grandfather being the twentieth member of the SAAF.

From 1970 to 1983 he was assigned to the Advanced Combat Flying School flying Vampires and then to FTS Langebaanweg as a QFI flying Impalas and eventually qualifying as an A1 Category flying instructor. He served time at Research and Development (AFHQ) as a Project Officer and Production Test Pilot at Atlas Aircraft Corporation, and also as an Operational Pilot at 12 Squadron flying Canberras. General Barker served as a member of the Silver Falcons while at FTS Langebaanweg and completed a total of 82 operational sorties while at 12 Squadron, being awarded the Military Merit Medal for participation in operations.

He was accepted for test pilot training in 1984 and graduated as a fixed wing experimental test pilot in 1985. During the period 1986 to 2000, he spent a period at 1 Sqn flying the Mirage F1AZ, was seconded to Armscor on an overseas assignment for approximately two years as the project test pilot on the Cheetah C and paid a short visit to the Russian Air Force’s Flight Test Centre (Vladimarovka) flying the MiG-29. He was appointed Chief Test Pilot at TFDC in 1991, a post he occupied for five years.

During his tour at TFDC he was involved in most of the fixed wing fighter programmes and weapons development testing. Firsts include being the first SAAF pilot to fly the Cheetah C, first flight of the Cheetah D in South Africa, the first flight of the Mirage IIIRZ/Atar 09K50 engine integration and the first flight of the Mirage F1 fitted with the Russian RD-33 engine derivative. He has a unique distinction of having fired more than sixty-five air-to-air missiles in development programmes.

He served as the evaluation pilot on the strategic defence package evaluation team flying the Mirage 2000, the Hawk 100, the Aerovodochody L-159 and the Aermacchi AM-339. As an original member of TFDC’s establishment in the Overberg, he was closely involved in establishing the flight test management and standard operating procedures at TFDC. To date he has flown some forty-five different aircraft types and variants of military aircraft, nearly all in the flight-test environment and has a total of more than 6 650 flying hours of which more than 6 000 are fast jet flying hours. In 1990, he was awarded the Southern Cross Medal for his contribution to flight-testing in the SAAF.

He successfully completed the Senior Command and Staff Course in 1995, being elected as the Course Leader (Eagle) and achieving the award for Best Student. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel on 30 January 1996 and was appointed as Officer Commanding TFDC.

The highlight as Commanding Officer was the recognition of TFDC as the SAAF Prestige Base and SAAF Prestige Unit in 1999 and also the award of the Frank Carnell Gold Medal by the South African Institute of Aerospace Engineering to TFDC for the strategic contribution to Aerospace Engineering in the RSA. In addition, TFDC was also awarded the SANDF Productivity Award Gold in 1998. He has been involved in project management and flight test engineering for twenty-four years and besides the publication of more than fifty papers internationally, has also published a flight safety book on demonstration flying in December 2003 entitled “Zero Error Margin – Display Flying Analysed”.

In 2000, General Barker was assigned as the Air Adviser to the South African High Commission in London for a period of three years. On completion of the ENSP in 2003, he was appointed to the post of General Officer Commanding, Air Force Base Makhado as from January 2004. In June 2006, he was promoted to the rank of Major General and assigned the position of Chief Director Force Preparation.

He is married to Bennie Viljoen, who holds a Masters Degree in Education, and has two sons, one a commercial pilot and one a Computer Scientist working as a programmer for an international software house

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