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  South African Air Force Museum Zwartkop
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Text:

Urs Schnyder

Pictures:

Urs Schnyder

   
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An Air Force Museum is most likely not the first thing that comes to mind when planning a visit to South
Africa. Amazingly, South Africa has not only one but three different Air force museums that are located in
Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria. The South African Air Force was only the second Air Force after Britain that was independent of the Army or Navy.

This article focuses on the Pretoria branch of the museum which is situated at Zwartkop Air Force Base and has the majority of the exhibits.

Paterson Biplane No.2 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

The air base got its name from a farm that in 1920 was expropriated by the Government in order to build the airfield. This happened after no agreement could be reached with the owner on an acceptable price. Zwartkop was the first permanent airbase in the country and as such is the oldest permanently used base in South Africa. The first Aircraft stationed there were from the Imperial gift of 100 ex. RAF machines given to the dominions after the First World War. The gift also included 20 steel hangars. Amazingly, some of these hangars have survived and today contain some of the museum aircraft.

In the 1920ís and 30ís the base was used as a staging post for many RAF and SAAF Trans Africa flights. In 1935 Zwartkop lost its Monopoly when the building of the outstation of Waterkloof was started.  This was done in preparation for the expansion plan for the SAAF. Ironically today Waterkloof is the main air base and Zwartkop only secondary. There were plans by the SAAF to abandon Zwartkop completely and leave only the museum at the airbase. The Airfield was then declared a national heritage. However, the Air Force changed its mind and as a result it is still an active air base of the SAAF.

World War 2 brought with it a massive expansion of the base to accommodate the increased demand brought about by the Joint Air Training Scheme. Besides the Flying training schools, many operational squadrons formed up and trained at Zwartkop before being sent to the different theaters of war. 

In 1949 the name was changed to the English Swartkop only to be changed back again in 2012 to the original Name.

Fighter / Reconnaissance .
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North Amrican P-51D Mustang (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

North Amrican P-51D Mustang (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

De Havilland F Mk.52 Vampire (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

De Havilland F Mk.52 Vampire (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

 
 

De Havilland F Mk.52 Vampire (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

CANADAIR CL-13B SABRE Mk 6 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

CANADAIR CL-13B SABRE Mk 6 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

CANADAIR CL-13B SABRE Mk 6 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage III BZ (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage III BZ (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage III CZ (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage III CZ (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Mirage Hanger (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage III RZ (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage III RZ (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage III RZ (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

 
 

Dassault Mirage III DZ (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage III DZ (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage F1 CZ (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage F1CZ (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage F1CZ  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage F1 CZ (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Dassault Mirage F1AZ  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Atlas Cheetah E  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Atlas Cheetah E  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Atlas Cheetah E  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Atlas Cheetah E  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Atlas Cheetah C  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

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Atlas Cheetah C  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Atlas Cheetah C  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Atlas Cheetah C  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Atlas Cheetah C  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

 
 

The South African Air Force Museum was established in 1973. However, it was not until the 1980ís that the aircraft arrived at Zwartkop. Gradually they filled the old hangars.

Before that they had been accommodated at Snake Valley Air Force Station and at Lanseria Airport. The late start of the museum meant that the collection is mostly made up of post war aircraft, most of them jets.

Spare Wings, another future project for restauration (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Reorganisation of the Defense Force in the 1990ís meant that many aircraft found their way into the Museum. Some of them were the Mirage III, DC-4, Canberra, Kudu and Bosbock. The collection was now divided between Zwartkop and Lanseria. In 1991 however the last aircraft were moved from Lanseria to Zwartkop and the museum was officially opened in May of 1993. At the same time it received one of the C-160 Transall transports as well as Pumas, Impalas a Dakota and Harvards. 

The Museum also has a Historic flight, which is normally displaying at the Museums Air Show once a year. In addition there are flying training days on which the aircraft take to the air to keep the pilots rated on type. However, this is another story.

The museum has a lot of aircraft that are not on public display but stored in different locations.
The museum is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 09:00 to 15:00.
Entry is free.

ASW / Coastal Patrol .

Lockheed PV-1 VENTURA GR Mk 5 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Lockheed PV-1 VENTURA GR Mk 5 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Lockheed PV-1 VENTURA GR Mk 5 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Lockheed PV-1 VENTURA GR Mk 5 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

LockheedL18-08 LODESTAR (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

LockheedL18-08 LODESTAR (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

L-37 B-34 VENTURA Mk II (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

L-37 B-34 VENTURA Mk II (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Lockheed PV-1 VENTURA GR Mk 5 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Avro 716 Shackelton MR Mk 3 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Avro 716 Shackelton MR Mk 3 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Avro 716 Shackelton MR Mk 3 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

     
 

Avro 716 Shackelton MR Mk 3 (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

Strike / Bomber .
English Electra T-4 Canberry (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) English Electra T-4 Canberry (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) English Electra T-4 Canberry (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Blackburn S50 Buccaneer  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)
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Atlas MB326M Impala I (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Atlas MB326M Impala I (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Atlas MB326M Impala I (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Atlas MB326KC Impala II (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)
 
Atlas MB326KC Impala II (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)
Transport / Training .
 
De Haviland DH87b Hornet Moth (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Fairchild F-24R Argus Mk III (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Avro 652aT Mk.1 Anson (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) North American AT-6C Harvard Mk.II (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)
Transall C.160Z  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Transall C.160  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Z  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Boeing 707-328C (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Boeing 707-328C (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)
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Douglas DC-4-1009 Skymaster   (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Casa CN235  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)  
Helicopter .
 
  Sikorsky S-51 Dragonfly  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Sikorsky S-51 Dragonfly  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Westland HAS-1 Wasp  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Aerospatiale SE3160Alouette III  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)
Atlas XH-1 Alpha (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Aerospatiale SA-330 Puma  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Aerospatiale SA-330 Puma  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Aerospatiale SA-330 Puma  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)
Drones .
   
Meteor Target Drone (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Kentron Champion (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)
Foreign Aircraft .
Fieseler Fi-156C-7Storch (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Mig-21Bis Fishbed Angolan Air Force  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Mig-21Bis Fishbed Angolan Air Force  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder) Mil-24 Hind A Russian Air Force  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)
   
Mil-24 A Hind Russian Air Force  (Photo courtesy Urs Schnyder)

My thanks go to Walter Moll for helping to organize the visit to the museum and to Russel Dixon for taking me around.


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