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Rooivalk on UN duty in the DR Congo.

SAAF helicopter squadrons top the Sword of Peace recipient list

Date: 19 November 2020

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Recent recipients of the SA Air Force’s (SAAF) highest operational honour – the Sword of Peace – are largely confined to the force’s helicopter squadrons.

This is due mainly to the specific abilities of rotary-winged aircraft, particularly in the search and rescue function. It’s not only this aspect of helicopter operations that has seen the Sword of Peace awarded to, among others, 15 and 22 squadrons at AFBs Durban and Ysterplaat, but also to the sole combat support helicopter unit in the force.

16 Squadron based at AFB Bloemspruit was named sole recipient of the Sword of Peace on two occasions in 2015 and the following year. In 2019 the Directorate: Helicopter Systems was named Sword of Peace recipient for work done in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by its composite helicopter unit (CHU) as part of the UN peace mission in the central African country. 16 Squadron Rooivalk combat support helicopters, along with medium transport Oryxes from either 17, 19 or 22 squadrons or 87 Helicopter Flying School, are the backbone of the CHU.

Other recent Sword of Peace recipients include AFB Waterkloof-based 28 Squadron (2011), VIP transport unit 21 Squadron, also from Waterkloof, in 2005 and 35 Squadron in 2013. This unit is the only dedicated SAAF maritime patrol and reconnaissance one flying C-47TPs from AFB Ysterplaat.

The award generally goes to efforts in the humanitarian field and includes search and rescue (on land and at sea), delivering aid to far-flung sites and evacuating people from life-threatening situations.

As far as can be ascertained no Sword of Peace recipient was named at this year’s SAAF prestige awards event preceding Prestige Day, which this year marked the centenary of airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

Attempts by defenceWeb over the past three weeks to obtain a comprehensive list of Sword of Peace recipients from the air force’s corporate service directorate had not yielded any response by the time of publication. Information used was kindly provided by Dean Wingrin, military aviation enthusiast and historian. He told defenceWeb attempts to obtain information from the air force proved “difficult” making his list incomplete.

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