test flight

Test Flight and Development Centre SAAF

Test Flight and Development Centre

BAe Hawk Mk.120 at the TFDC
Role Aircraft test flying and development
Aircraft Operated Various (current types include BAe Hawk Mk.120 and Cheetah C)
Home Base AFB Overberg
Motto Alerte (Alert)
Date Founded 10 August 1975

The Test Flight and Development Centre is a unit of the South African Air Force. It is currently a test flight and evaluation centre.


Due to South Africa's apartheid policies of the time, a number of countries instituted an arms boycott against it in the 1960s. This forced the SAAF to create an indigenous flight testing and development capability to research new technologies and methods and update old ones, and in this light a former graduate of the Empire Test Pilots' School (ETPS) was appointed the SAAF's Chief Test Pilot in 1967 and tasked with improving and expanding the air force's test flying and evaluation capabilities. In 1974 another ETPS graduate took over, and was tasked with creating a specialised test flying and evaluation unit within the SAAF. The end result was that the Test Flight and Development Centre was officially established on 10 August 1975 at AFB Waterkloof.

Over the next few years until the imposition of the mandatory United Nations arms embargo against South Africa in 1977, additional pilots were sent to the ETPS and to EPNER in France to gain flight test experience and expertise. By 1979, the TFDC had grown large enough to merit the allocation of one of the hangar complexes at AFB Waterkloof, and in 1980 it established a satellite unit at Van Ryneveld Airfield in Upington to conduct weapons release tests. Once the Overberg Test Range near Bredasdorp on the southern Cape coast had been completed, the TFDC moved to an adjacent airfield, now known as AFB Overberg.

Aircraft Fleet

Various SAAF types on loan and permanently on strength Hawk, Gripen, Cheetah C, Oryx, A 109 LUH.


Hawk trainer

The TFDC's largest running project was the operational evaluation of the BAe Hawk Mk.120 and certification of its Adour 951 turbofan engine.
Weapons integration was also performed, with the SAAF's series of pre-fragmented bombs. The programme is now largely complete, with one Hawk airframe remaining on strength with TFDC, for further tests. Hawk has entered SAAF service as of 2006.

Taurus missile

In 2001 and 2002 it assisted the Luftwaffe in the testing of the Taurus stand-off missile, for which two Panavia Tornado aircraft have deployed a number of times to AFB Overberg from Germany with the help of a SAAF Boeing 707 aerial tanker.


The TFDC received the SAAF's first JAS 39 Gripen in 2006. The aircraft is flown through an extensive test programme, integrating weapons and SAAF spesific avionics etc. During November 2007, the Gripen was shown publicly taking off loaded with eight 'dumb' bombs during weapons integration trials. The major part of the programme is expected to be complete by May 2007, when Gripen will formally be accepted into SAAF service.

Luftwaffe Kormoran Anti Ship missile firings

During 2006 the Luftwaffe deployed six Panavia Tornado aircraft to TFDC for live Kormoran anti ship missile firings with a German Navy task group in joint exercises with South African forces.

A400M Project

Associated with the acquisition by the SAAF of the A400M military transport, TFDC will be responsible for the integration of this aircraft into SAAF service. This is the major upcoming project for the unit, with the first SAAF A400M due by 2011.

See also

External links

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