The South African Dakota has retired after at least 81 years

The South African Dakota has retired after at least 81 years

The South African Air Force (SAAF) will soon retire its last operational Dakota aircraft. This concerns five C-47TP “Turbo Daks” aircraft based at Ysterplaat Air Base. This is what the official South African newspaper wrote Defense site.

The South African Air Force has been using C-47 Dakota aircraft since 1943, primarily as a transport aircraft. In the early 1980s, the SAF was the largest user of C-47s in the world. In total, the SAF had approximately 100 Dakotas in service. The South African Air Force flew the “original” Dakotas until 1994. Since then, a C-47 has flown at the SAAF Historical Flight, Aviation Museum at Swartkop Air Base.

C-47 Dakota from historic SAAF flight in formation with C-47TP © Leonard van den Broek

From 1989 onwards, more than 30 SAAF C-47 aircraft underwent Update to C-47TP. The fuselage was lengthened and the aircraft received new PT6A turboprop engines. New avionics have also been installed in modern “TurboDaks” and a number of C-47TPs have been equipped with radar. These aircraft were used for maritime patrol missions, after the outdated Shackleton was phased out.

In recent years, there have been problems with the deployability of South African TurboDaks. The last eight C-47TPs were based at Ysterplaat near Cape Town and had transport and maritime patrol duties. Of these eight TurboDaks, only five were still worth flying. These have not flown in the last two years. Armscor, which is responsible for South Africa’s defense equipment, told the government last year that the SAAF TurboDaks would remain grounded for the time being due to maintenance issues. Repeated attempts to outsource maintenance have yielded nothing. “The Dakota C-47TP is a very old aircraft type, and support for this aircraft is very limited both in South Africa and abroad.

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The South African Air Force did not respond to a request for comment. It is not known when the SAAF TurboDaks will be officially taken out of service.

SAAF C-47TP “Turbo Dakota” at Waterkloof Air Base in 1997 © Leonard van den Broek

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