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The South African Air Force (SAAF) is the air force of South Africa, with headquarters in Pretoria.The South African Air Force was established on 1 February 1920.The Air Force has seen service in World War II and the Korean War.
At the outbreak of World War I, the Union Defence Force had realised the urgent need for air support which brought about the establishment of the South African Aviation Corps (SAAC) on 29 January 1915.
Aircraft were purchased from France (Henri Farman F-27) while the building of an airfield at Walvis Bay commenced in earnest in order to support operations against German forces in German South West Africa.
By June 1915 the SAAC was deployed to its first operational airfield at Karabib in German South West Africa in support of Gen. The SAAC flew reconnaissance and leaflet dropping missions from Karbib and later from Omaruru, where improvised bombing missions were added when pilots started dropping hand grenades and rudimentary bombs by hand.
On 9 July 1915, the German forces capitulated and most of the pilots and aircraft of the SAAC were sent to Britain in support of the Commonwealth war effort.
As the war progressed, the intensity of air operations increased until in the late 1980s, the SAAF were compelled to fly fighter missions against Angolan aircraft in order to maintain tactical air superiority.
On conclusion of the Border War in 1990, aircraft numbers were severely reduced due to economic pressures as well as the cessation of hostilities with neighboring states. Beyers (who was then Commandant-General of the Defence Force) gave an extremely positive report on the future use of aircraft for military purposes to General Smuts.Today the SAAF has a limited air combat capability and has been structured towards regional peace-keeping, disaster relief and maritime patrol operations. Smuts initiated an arrangement with private fliers in the Cape and established a flying school at Alexandersfontein Flying training commenced in 1913 with students who excelled on the course being sent to the Central Flying School at Upavon in Great Britain for further training.After a visit to observe the 1912 military manoeuvres in Europe, Brig. The first South African military pilot qualified on 2 June 1914.Although the SAAC remained active, its activities were limited to ground training at the Cape Town Drill Hall, while the pilots who had been detached to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) were grouped to form No.26 Squadron RFC and later becoming an independent squadron on 8 October 1915. 26 Squadron was equipped with Henri Farman F-27's and B.E.2c's and was shipped to Kenya in support of the war effort in German East Africa, landing in Mombasa on 31 January 1916.