Lieutenant Colonel Musa Mbhokota, the first black Gripen pilot in the SA Air Force (SAAF) and a former 2 Squadron Officer Commanding, will next month assume his first base command when he becomes Officer Commanding AFB Overberg.
In addition to being a fighter pilot the 48-year-old is also a qualified test pilot and being at Overberg, home of the SAAF’s Test Flight and Development Centre (TFDC), will see him use these skills on a more regular basis.
Mbhokota was one of six SAAF pilots selected to go to Sweden when the acquisition of the Gripen fighters was finalised as part of the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages (SDPP) in the late nineties.
In 2002 he flew a joint sortie with then SAAF Chief, Lieutenant General Roelf Beukes, during an exercise in Sweden. Then a captain, he told a BAE Systems/SAAB in-house publication the flight with Beukes, a former jet fighter pilot, was “an important milestone” for South Africa air defence capabilities.
He was given command of the AFB Makhado-based squadron, the only jet fighter squadron in the SAAF, early in 2011 and relinquished this post to Lieutenant Colonel Josias Mashaba in October this year.
Mbhokota, known almost universally by his callsign “Midnight”, had accumulated well over two thousand flying hours on eight different aircraft types including Gripen, Hawk Mk 120 and its predecessor the Impala. In addition to his test pilot rating, he is also instructor rated on both Gripen and Hawk.
The SAAF component of the southern Cape base became reality in 1987 when TFDC, originally located at AFB Waterkloof, moved to the same location as what was then the Overberg Test Range, now the Denel Overberg Test Range. TFDC was declared an air force base in 2004 and has since been known as AFB Overberg.
The base is, according to the SAAF website, responsible for all experimental, research and development flight testing conducted in the air force.
It is strategically positioned with a large volume of airspace allowing for maximum flexibility during flight testing.