The South African Air Force plans to relocate a number of its BAE Systems Hawk Mk120s lead in fighter trainers from 85 Combat Flying School, its sole fast jet and advanced fighter training unit, from Air Force Base Makhado in Limpopo to Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria.
The announcement was made at a flypast in Pretoria on 1 September 2015 by the Chief of the Air Force, Lt Gen Fabian Msimang. An initial three aircraft will move to AFB Waterkloof on a more or less permanent basis, with more following should the deployment prove successful. The majority of the squadron, as well as all training, will remain at AFB Makhado.
AFB Waterkloof has provided a hardstand, office space, a hangar and accommodation for the aircraft and crew, but no additional infrastructure as the aircraft will return to AFB Makhado for major servicing and other needs.
The reasoning behind the move has not been made public and the Air Force had not responded to a request for more information at the time of publication, but sources within the Air Force have stated that it’s part of a broader set of changes and reorganisations, likely in response to the Defence Review’s recommendations.
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UPDATE – The initial version of this article wrongly claimed that 85 Combat Flying School would be relocating to AFB Waterkloof, a fact now known to be incorrect. We have amended the article to reflect the latest information and apologise for the error.