SAS President Kruger (F150)

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SAS President Kruger in New York.jpg
SAS President Kruger leaving New York City in July 1976 after the United States Bicentennial celebrations
Career (South Africa)
Namesake: Paul Kruger
Builder: Yarrow Shipbuilders, Scotstoun 6 April 1960[1]
Yard number: 21686[1]
Laid down: 6 April 1960[1]
Launched: 20 October 1960[1]
Christened: President Kruger, F150
Commissioned: 3 October 1962 at Scotstoun, Glasgow
Homeport: Simonstown
Nickname: 'PK'
Fate: Sunk in 1982 in a collision with SAS Tafelberg
General characteristics
Class & type: President-class frigate[2]
Displacement: 2144 tons (2557 tons loaded)
Length: 370 ft (110 m)
Beam: 41 ft (12.5 m)
Draught: 18 ft (5.5 m)
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 2 steam turbines, 2 boilers, 25,000 shp (19 MW)
Speed: 28 knots (52 km/h)
Range: 4,500 nmi (8,300 km) at 12 knots (22 km/h)
Complement: 250
Sensors and
processing systems:
Sonar, Radar

Limbo mortar (originally 6 barrels, 3 barrels subsequently removed to make space for helicopter deck)
2 twin mount x 4.5 in (114 mm) guns
2 x Bofors 40 mm guns

2 x Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
Aircraft carried: 1 × Westland Wasp helicopter

The SAS President Kruger was a frigate of the South African Navy. She sank in 1982 with the loss of 16 lives after colliding with her replenishment ship, the SAS Tafelberg, in the South Atlantic.


SAS President Kruger was one of three President-class type 12 frigates obtained by the South African Navy in the 1960s following the Simonstown Agreement with the Royal Navy. She was christened upon launch by the wife of Admiral Hugo Biermann; her home port was Simonstown, near Cape Town.

On 5 August 1969, she was recommissioned after an extensive refit and modernization.[3]

She participated in various operations during the South African Border War, including the Ambrizete Incident.[4]

USA visit[edit]

In 1976, this flagship of the South African Navy participated in an International Naval Review in New York as part of the bicentennial independence celebrations of the United States. In the process, she became the first South African naval vessel to visit the USA. She departed Simonstown on 3 June 1976, sailing via Walvis Bay, Abidjan and Las Palmas to Norfolk, Virginia. From there, she sailed in a fleet of 53 warships from 22 countries to New York for the Naval Review on 4 July. On 6 July, members of the ship's company paraded through the streets of New York, after which the President Kruger sailed home to Simonstown via Charleston, South Carolina and Las Palmas.[3] Politician Tony Leon was the official photographer for this journey.[5]

End of life[edit]

The aging President Class frigates were earmarked for disposal in 1978, with newer D'Estienne d'Orves class vessels scheduled to replace them. However the imposition of United Nations Security Council Resolution 418 put an end to both the sale of the replacement corvettes, as well as any refurbishment of the President Class frigates.[6]

Accident and sinking[edit]

SAS President Kruger (F150) is located in South Africa
SAS President Kruger (F150)
Accident site off the coast of southern Africa

On 18 February 1982, while under the command of Captain de Lange,[6] the President Kruger was conducting complex exercises with her sister ship the SAS President Pretorius, the submarine SAS Emily Hobhouse and the replenishment ship SAS Tafelberg. The high-intensity exercises progressed from 6 am to 11 pm over several days, with different candidate submarine captains being given an opportunity of executing a mock attack against the Tafelberg. From 11 pm until 6 am, the ships followed a narrow zip-zag course that allowed the submarine repeated opportunities to engage the surface ships in lower-intensity exercises while the bulk of the crew rested.[7]

The frigates too were using the opportunity to carry out anti-submarine exercises, with each ship given a patrol sector ahead of the Tafelberg. The escorts were expected to patrol their areas in a random fashion, between 2,000 feet (610 m) and 5,000 feet (1,500 m) from Tafelberg. The President Kruger's station was on Tafelberg's port side between 10 and 330 degrees. The President Steyn had a reciprocal box on the starboard side.[8]

At approximately 4 am, the whole formation had to change direction by 154 degrees, a near complete reversal in direction. The frigates had to change direction first to maintain their protective positions ahead of Tafelberg on the new heading. President Kruger's options were to turn 200 degrees to port, or 154 degrees to starboard. While the latter turn was smaller and tactically sound, it was more dangerous as it involved turning towards the other two ships. Critically, the officer of the watch (OOW) elected to turn to starboard, and initiated a 10 degree turn. A 10 degree turn had a larger radius and would take longer to execute than a 15 degree turn, thereby allowing Tafelberg more time to close on the ship turning in front of her.[9] Partway through the turn, the operations room lost radar contact with the Tafelberg in the clutter. At that point, an argument ensued between the OOW and the Principal Warfare Officer over the degree of wheel to apply. The OOW was unable to recover the situation, and the bows of the Tafelberg impacted the President Kruger on her port side at the senior ratings' mess. The President Kruger sank 78 nautical miles (144 km) south west of Cape Point,[10]killing 16 people.[11]

A Westland Wasp helicopter, operated by 22 Squadron SAAF from the other frigate, rescued crew members from the water.[12]


Model of the SAS President Kruger at the South African Naval Museum in Simonstown

A naval board of inquiry was commissioned, leading to a finding of a lack of seamanship by the captain and officers of the ship. The Minister of Justice introduced a retrospective change in law to allow him to hold an inquest into the death of one of the seamen. The inquest aportioned blame on the captain and PWO. However none of the officers was court-martialled.[13]

As a result of an international arms embargo against apartheid South Africa, the ship could not be replaced, and was therefore a great loss to the capability and morale of the navy for many years afterwards.[14]

The Navy's prestigious 'Cock of the Fleet' trophy, which had been won by her ship's crew in the annual rowing regatta, was lost with the ship.[15]

Coordinates: 35°15′S 17°21′E / 35.250°S 17.350°E / -35.250; 17.350 (SAS President Kruger sinking)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Friedman 2006, p. 337.
  2. ^ Kemble 1974.
  3. ^ a b Wessels 2012.
  4. ^ Steenkamp 1983, p. 107.
  5. ^ M&G-2006.
  6. ^ a b Bennett 2009.
  7. ^ Bennett 2009, p. 2.
  8. ^ Bennett 2009, p. 3.
  9. ^ Bennett 2009, p. 4.
  10. ^ Wessels 2007.
  11. ^ Bennett 2006.
  12. ^ "22 Squadron". 30 October 2007. Retrieved 6 December 2007. 
  13. ^ Bennett 2009, p. 7.
  14. ^ Bennett 2009, p. 10.
  15. ^ Steenkamp 1983, p. 115.


External links[edit]

External images
Paintings of SAS President Kruger
Photographs of the SAS President Kruger
Photograph at SAAF museum