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C47-TP TurboDak of 35 Squadron.

SAAF keeping its C47-TPs in service

Date: 17 June 2022

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The remaining handful of C-47TPs in service with 35 Squadron are in line for maintenance with Armscor seeking suitable suppliers of parts.

The venerable C-47s have been in service with the SA Air Force (SAAF) since 1943 in configurations ranging from transport (cargo and passengers) to jump aircraft for Parabats, and maritime patrol and surveillance.

The upgrade to turbine from piston engines in 1994 was seen as a short term replacement in the maritime role following retirement of the Shackletons, military aviation enthusiast and historian Dean Wingrin told defenceWeb.

That no replacement platform for maritime patrol and surveillance was ever acquired means the remaining nine C-47TPs, with the TP suffix indicating “turbo prop”, still fill that role to a certain extent today.

The limitations in maritime ability are made even more glaring when taking into consideration there are officially nine C-47TPs on the strength of 35 Squadron at Air Force Base (AFB) Ysterplaat with five “realistically available for use”. Wingrin paints an even gloomier picture saying only one is presently operational but is undergoing servicing. 

As to why Armscor, presumably at the request of the SAAF, is looking for parts, he is of the opinion it’s because the maintenance budget of the C-47TP fleet is the lowest of all types in service with the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

“Given its lack of sophistication, with no offence to the aircraft or those flying and maintaining them, the C-47TP is generally regarded as a cheap aircraft to maintain. The engines are popular and in service worldwide in large numbers with spares easy to acquire. The avionics, civilian in standard, are ageing and require replacement/upgrade, but still maintainable. As the fleet of Dakotas internationally becomes smaller, accessing spares will be progressively more difficult and expensive to acquire,” he told defenceWeb.

Taking what Wingrin calls “the dire financial situation” of the SAAF and the greater SANDF into account, he points out there is no budget for acquisition – either new or previously operated – to fulfil the roles “intended” for the C-47TP. 

“The SAAF has no option but to keep the C47-TP fleet in service for as long as possible.”

In late May, Armscor issued a tender for “maintenance support for the Dakota C-47TP aircraft fleet”. 

Republished with permission of defenceWeb. 


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