15 Squadron SAAF

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15 Squadron
SAAF-15 Squadron-BK117-002.jpg
BK 117 in 15 Squadron service
Active 1939 to present
Country  South Africa
Branch Air Force Ensign of South Africa.svg South African Air Force
Role Light Transport
Garrison/HQ AFB Durban
Motto(s) "Aquila Petit Ardua" (The Eagle Seeks the Heights)
Equipment BK 117, Atlas Oryx
Squadron Identification Code ZP (1943)[1]
15 Squadron crest Crest 15 Squadron SAAF.jpg

15 Squadron SAAF is a squadron of the South African Air Force. It is currently a transport/utility helicopter squadron.


The squadron was formed on 18 September 1939 as a SAAF Coastal Command squadron based at Cape Town.[2] During the war it flew Junkers Ju-86, Bristol Blenheim and Martin Maryland aircraft.[3] The squadron suffered a tragedy in May 1942, when eleven out of twelve personnel perished when three Blenheims became lost during a training flight and had to make an emergency landing in the desert.[4]

The Squadron flew Baltimore 5 Light Bombers in May 1945 as part of 253 Wing of the Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force.[5] Other aircraft flown during and after the war included Bristol Blenheims, and Martin Baltimores. Notable Second World War members include Harry Schwarz, who in 1984 was made Honorary Colonel of the Squadron.

Post Second World War[edit]

Aircraft flown after the war included the Aérospatiale Super Frelon and the Aérospatiale Puma.

The current base is AFB Durban in Durban, it operates Atlas Oryx and BK 117 helicopters. Their primary role is maritime and landward search and rescue. Two flights of Oryx, A and B Flights, are based in Durban and C Flight, consisting of four BK 117s is detached to Port Elizabeth.

The current BK 117 aircraft of C Flight were originally inherited from the Apartheid-era "homelands", the Ciskei having acquired 3 in 1983, Venda 2 in 1985, Transkei 2 in 1986 and Bophuthatswana 2 in 1987, making a total of 10 with an extra delivered from Brazil. Two of the aircraft have already been mothballed at AFB Bloemspruit. Four remain in service with 15 Squadron. C Flight's conversion to AgustaWestland AW109 helicopters has been postponed due to delays in developing emergency flotation equipment for the type, thus precluding its use in a maritime environment.[6]

The Nkwe ya Selefera (Silver Leopard Decoration) was awarded to Flight Sergeant V. Selvan for conspicuous bravery during military operations. (15 Sqn, SAAF – 2004).


  • 2 Nov 1999: Bk117 384 Rolled over after emergency landing
  • March 2003: BK117 383 Involved in an accident, later declared Cat 5 and cannibalised
  • 20 Aug 2003: BK117 389 Written-off during Exercise Blue Angel

Roll of Honour[edit]

In respect of those recipients about whom it is available, the actions they were cited for follow below the table, since inclusion in the table itself is impractical.

Name Rank NS no. Date of action Unit Service
Selvan, Vasudevan [a] Sgt 001 20 Feb 2002 15 Sqn SAAF
F Sgt Vasudevan Selvan NS

Note 1:   denotes a posthumous award.

Actions cited for[edit]

  1. ^ Selvan, Vasudevan – Awarded for his action in saving the life of a SANDF Special Forces Officer during Operation FIBRE, while stationed in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Officer Commanding[edit]

List of Officers to have served as Commanding Officers at 15 Squadron, South African Air Force.

Name Rank From To Unit Service
Naik, Abel Lt Col ??? ??? 15 Sqn SAAF


  1. ^ Flintham, Vic (2003). Combat Codes. Barnesly: Pen & Sword Aviation. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-84415-691-7. 
  2. ^ Ambrose-Brown, James (1970). A Gathering of Eagles: South African forces World War II: Vol II. Cape Town: Purnell. p. 26. 
  3. ^ Martin, H.J. (Lt-Gen); Orpen, N.D. (1979). South Africa at War: Military and Industrial Organisation and Operations in connection with the conduct of War: 1939–1945 (South African Forces World War II: Volume VII). Cape Town: Purnell. p. 276 plate 7. ISBN 0-86843-025-0. 
  4. ^ Coetzee, J.J.M. (December 2001). "The Tragedy At Kufra". Military History Journal. The South African Military History Society. 12 (2). Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  5. ^ Shores, Christopher F. (1973). Pictorial History of the Mediterranean air War: Vol II: RAF 1943 – 1945. Ian Allan. p. 108. ISBN 0-7110-0433-1. 
  6. ^ "Retirement of SAAF BK117 may be further delayed". Saairforce.co.za. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 

External links[edit]