New boss for the only fighter squadron in the SAAF
2 Squadron, the SA Air Force’s (SAAF’s) only jet fighter squadron, has a new officer commanding with the previous squadron boss currently assigned to flying duties at the AFB Makhado-based squadron, according to defence media liaison. Lieutenant Colonel Josias Mashaba earlier this month took over command of the Gripen squadron from Lieutenant Colonel Musa Mbhokota, who was appointed officer commanding in February 2011. At that time he was the first black officer to command a SAAF squadron. Mbhokota, known almost universally by his callsign “Midnight”, was one of six SAAF pilots selected for training on the Gripen in Sweden. At the time of his appointment he had accumulated well over two thousand flying hours on eight different types, including Gripen, Hawk Mk 120 and its Impala predecessor. He gained his flight instructor rating on the Hawk in 2002 and soon after added the same rating for Gripen to his CV. Speaking at the South African Joint Air Defence Symposium (SAJADS) in Pretoria in September 2013, Mbhokota said the SAAF needed to regain the beyond visual range (BVR) capability it lost in 2004 when the V4 missile was removed from the Gripen package, with obsolescence said to be the main reason. His experience at Exercise Lion Effort in Sweden had, according to him “proved, if you don’t have a BVR missile in a BVR environment, you are no factor”.
He was also reported as saying the German/South African Exercise Good Hope as well as American and Belgian exercises showed it was “clear the BVR is the weapon of choice if you want to have air superiority”. Responding to a defenceWeb inquiry as to Mbhokota’s future in the SAAF the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Directorate: Corporate Communications said: “He is still flying at 2 Squadron and waiting for instructions on his next deployment”. The new squadron boss joined the SAAF in 2001 and completed the ground school phase of pilot training in 2003 after basic military training and officer’s formative course. Mashaba qualified as a pilot in June 2004 and moved into the transport line. While based at 44 Squadron, AFB Waterkloof, he was involved in several crime prevention joint operations with the SA Police Service and SA Army. In 2006 Mashaba moved to the fighter line and was transferred to AFB Makhado where he completed the Hawk Mk 120 conversion course, followed by the operational training conversion, flight leader’s course and instructor’s course at Central Flying School at AFB Langebaanweg in September 2011. He returned to 85 Combat Flying School at the end of 2014 and completed his Hawk refresher course and started the Hawk instructor course. In May 2015 he started his pilot attack instructor (PAI) course on the Hawk. Mashaba was transferred to 2 Squadron in September last year and finished the Gripen operational conversion course. During his 15 year career to date in the SAAF he has flown Cessna 185, Cessna 208, Pilatus Astra, Hawk Mk 120 and Gripen aircraft. Mashaba rates his participation in Operation Kgwele during the 2010 Soccer World Cup as a career highlight to date.