SAAF’s 22 Squadron celebrates 80 years
The South African Air Force’s (SAAF) 22 Squadron, which currently serves as the air force’s only maritime helicopter squadron, celebrated its 80th birthday on 5 August
The occasion was marked by a formal cocktail party at the Ysterplaat Air Force Base in Cape Town, which included three of the squadron’s former Officers Commanding as star guests: Chris Stroebel, Manie Geldenhuys and Brian Bell. The current Officer Commanding, Lieutenant Colonel Kyle Jonker, as well as several other squadron members, were unable to attend due to their deployment as part of an ongoing United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The squadron provides all aircraft, air, and ground crew for maritime helicopter operations aboard South African Navy vessels, operating a mixed fleet of Oryx and Super Lynx helicopters. The squadron also provides a range of civilian support, including mountain and maritime search and rescue operations, aerial firefighting, and law enforcement, as well as providing humanitarian disaster relief.
The squadron has a close relationship with the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), a volunteer force which saves lives in South African waters. Hoist operator Kim Germishuys, formerly of NSRI, talked about a maritime rescue mission conducted alongside 22 Squadron in the December 2021 issue of AirMed&Rescue.
Formed during World War II, now playing a vital role on South Africa’s coasts
The 22 Squadron was formed in Durban on 1 July 1942 as part of the British Empire’s role in World War II, and was initially assigned to provide anti-submarine, coastal reconnaissance and convey escort work using ex-South African Airways Ju-86 and Anson aircraft. The Junkers were replaced with Venturas aircraft by August 1942. The squadron was transferred from patrolling the Indian Ocean to patrolling the Mediterranean in July 1944, and subsequently posted to Egypt in July 1945.
After the war, the squadron was briefly disbanded in 1945 after the war ended, before being reformed in 1954, and disbanded again in 1958.
The squadron was again reformed in 1964 in its current form, when it was stationed at its current base in Ysterplaat, where it initially flew a fleet of Westland Wasps. The Alouette III was later added to the fleet in 1978, with the Wasp fleet later retired in 1990.
Following the amalgamation of 30 Squadron into 22 Squadron in 1991, the squadron acquired a fleet of Puma helicopters – later replaced by the Oryx in 1994. Finally, the squadron later took delivery of four Super Lynx helicopters in 2007, operated from the South African Navy’s Meko A200SAN class frigates.