Air Force Cross (South Africa)

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Air Force Cross
Air Force Cross (CA).jpg
Awarded by the State President and, from 1994, the President
CountrySouth Africa  South Africa
TypeMilitary decoration for bravery
EligibilitySouth African Air Force members
Awarded forExceptional courage, leadership, or skill in dangerous or critical situations
StatusDiscontinued in 2003
First awarded1991
SADF pre-1994 & SANDF post-2002 orders of wear
Next (higher)
SADF precedence:
SANDF precedence:
Next (lower)
SADF succession:
SANDF succession:
Ribbon - Air Force Cross (South Africa).gif
Ribbon bar

The Air Force Cross, post-nominal letters CA (Crux Aeronautica), is a South African military decoration which was instituted by the Republic of South Africa in 1987. It was awarded to members of the South African Air Force for bravery. The decoration was discontinued in 2003, but backdated awards can still be made for acts of bravery during this period.[1][2]

The South African military[edit]

The Union Defence Forces (UDF) were established in 1912 and renamed the South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1958. On 27 April 1994, it was integrated with six other independent forces into the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).[2][3][4]

The Air Force Cross[edit]

When a new South African set of decorations and medals was instituted on 6 April 1952, to replace most of the British awards which had been used to date, South African equivalents of, amongst others, the British Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Air Force Cross (AFC), were omitted. This omission was only belatedly addressed near the end of the 1966-1989 Border War, when the institution of the Air Force Cross (CA) was proposed.[3][5]

As proposed, the decoration was intended for award only to air crew, who displayed exceptional courage and leadership during dangerous or critical situations while airborne, where an award for bravery was not suitable, based on the premise that bravery involves knowingly entering mortal danger from a position of relative safety, as opposed to skillfully reacting to an unforeseen situation of mortal danger. The proposed criteria were described in the draft warrant as excellent airmanship or outstanding ingenuity or skill during emergencies or unusual situations in the air.[5]

  • One incident which eventually led to the proposed decoration, was an in-flight malfunction in a Canberra B(1) Mk. 12 which disabled the aircraft's control column. In spite of advice from the ground to ditch the aircraft, since the pilot would be unlikely to be able to land it safely, he managed to land it at Air Force Base Waterkloof with minimal damage, while having only trim, rudder and engine power adjustments as controls.[5]
  • Another example was a Dakota C-47, which lost its rudder and elevators when struck by a surface-to-air missile, whose commander managed to land safely at Air Force Base Grootfontein by having his passengers, most of them serving General and Flag Officers, move forward and backward in the cabin, as required, to alter the aircraft's centre of gravity.[5]

When the other three Arms of the Service subsequently proposed that an Army Cross (CM), a Navy Cross (CN) and a Medical Service Cross (CC) should be instituted simultaneously, the proposed award criteria of all four crosses were amended to outstanding ingenuity or skill in the utilisation and control of personnel, weaponry or other equipment in dangerous situations and, in the case of the Air Force Cross, not necessarily restricted to flying.[5]


The Air Force Cross, post-nominal letters CA (Crux Aeronautica), was instituted by the State President in 1987.[6]

Award criteria[edit]

The cross was initially awarded for exceptional ingenuity, resourcefulness and skill, and extraordinary leadership, dedication, sense of duty and personal example and courage in mortal danger, in non-combatant situations. After 1993, the Cross was awarded for exceptional courage, leadership, skill, ingenuity or tenacity in dangerous or critical situations. A Bar, instituted in 1993, could be awarded in recognition of further similar displays of courage, leadership, skill, ingenuity or tenacity in danger.[2]

The Air Force Cross was first awarded in 1991, to 27 Puma helicopter pilots and flight engineers who were involved in the rescue operation to airlift passengers and crew from the listing and sinking ship MTS Oceanos, on the Transkei Wild Coast on 4 August 1991.[2][7][8]

Order of wear[edit]

The position of the Air Force Cross in the official order of precedence was revised three times, to accommodate the institution or addition of new decorations and medals, first upon the integration into the South African National Defence Force on 27 April 1994, again when decorations and medals were belatedly instituted in April 1996 for the two former non-statutory forces, the Azanian People's Liberation Army and Umkhonto we Sizwe, and again when a new series of military decorations and medals was instituted in South Africa on 27 April 2003, but it remained unchanged on all three occasions.[9][10]

Army Cross (CM) Air Force Cross (CA) Navy Cross (CN)

Official SANDF order of precedence
Official national order of precedence
  • Preceded by the Army Cross (CM).
  • Succeeded by the Navy Cross (CN).[9][10]



The Air Force Cross is a pointed cross, struck in silver, to fit in a circle 45 millimetres in diameter, with the South African Air Force emblem in the centre on a light blue roundel, 18 millimetres in diameter.


The reverse has the pre-1994 South African Coat of Arms, with the decoration number impressed underneath.

Air Force Cross and Bar

The bar was struck in silver and has a Protea emblem embossed in the centre. The same bar was used to indicate multiple awards of the Pro Virtute Medal, Army Cross, Air Force Cross, Navy Cross, Medical Service Cross, Southern Cross Medal (1975) and Pro Merito Medal (1975).[11]


The ribbon is 32 millimetres wide and white, with a 12 millimetres wide centre band consisting of a 5 millimetres wide light blue band, a 2 millimetres wide yellow band and a 5 millimetres wide light blue band.


Conferment of the decoration was discontinued in respect of services performed on or after 27 April 2003.[4]


Since inclusion in the table itself is impractical, the actions cited for follow below the table. The list of recipients is not complete.

CA no. Name Rank Unit Date of action
Elphick, Eric Brennan [a] Cmdt 15 Sqn 4 Aug 1991
Hunter, Anthony Charles [a] Cmdt 4 Aug 1991
Fenwick, Phillip [a] Maj 4 Aug 1991
Johnson, Anthony Wright [a] Maj 4 Aug 1991
Louw, Martin Johannes Hugo [a] Maj 4 Aug 1991
Steyn, Hermanus Frederik [a] Maj 4 Aug 1991
Stroebel, André [a] Maj 4 Aug 1991
Botha, Anton [a] Capt 19 Sqn 4 Aug 1991
Coulon, René Martin [a] Capt 4 Aug 1991
Goatly, Charles Glen [a] Capt 4 Aug 1991
Hanes, Peter Evans [a] Capt 4 Aug 1991
Hugo, Jacques [a] Capt 19 Sqn 4 Aug 1991
Jooste, Tarri [a] Capt 19 Sqn 4 Aug 1991
Meintjies, Hendrik Johannes [a] Capt 4 Aug 1991
Pienaar, Len [a] Capt 19 Sqn 4 Aug 1991
Thomas, Slade Christoper [a] Capt 4 Aug 1991
Weyers, Francois Johann [a] Capt 4 Aug 1991
Fairley, Mark Craig [a] Lt 4 Aug 1991
Riley, William James [a] WO2 4 Aug 1991
Askew-Hull, Norman Herbert [a] F Sgt 4 Aug 1991
Bezuidenhout, Daniël Francois [a] F Sgt 4 Aug 1991
Campher, Frans [a] F Sgt 19 Sqn 4 Aug 1991
Jacobs, Daniël Roedolf [a] F Sgt 4 Aug 1991
Pedlar, Christoffel Jacobus [a] F Sgt 4 Aug 1991
Schutte, Frans [a] F Sgt 19 Sqn 4 Aug 1991
Scott, Philip Davey Joseph [a] F Sgt 4 Aug 1991
Steyn, Willem Hendrik [a] F Sgt 4 Aug 1991

Actions cited for[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa MTS Oceanos, 4 August 1991 – Awarded to Puma pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers who executed the rescue operation to airlift passengers and crew from the listing and sinking ship MTS Oceanos and from the sea, with no lives lost.[7][8] Six Puma helicopters had been on standby, equipped with hoisting apparatus, and were tasked for the operation, two each from AFB Durban, AFB Swartkop in Pretoria and AFB Ysterplaat in Cape Town. Three more Puma crews decided to take part of their own accord, even though their helicopters were not configured for hoisting. Without the participation of all nine crews, the rescue operation may well have been less than 100% successful.


  1. ^ South African Medal Website - Post-nominal Letters (Accessed 28 April 2015)
  2. ^ a b c d South African Medal Website - SA Defence Force : 1975-2003 (Accessed 30 April 2015)
  3. ^ a b South African Medal Website - SA Defence Force : 1952-1975 (Accessed 30 April 2015)
  4. ^ a b Republic of South Africa Government Gazette Vol. 457, no. 25213, Pretoria, 25 July 2003
  5. ^ a b c d e Air Force Cross (CA) (as approved) - Summary
  6. ^ a b Die Burger, 31 Aug 1991 - Dié helde word met medaljes vereer Archived 19 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ a b "Lugmagkruis vir Oceanos-helde" (Air Force Cross for Oceanos Heroes) Paratus (In Afrikaans). November 1991, p.25
  8. ^ a b c Republic of South Africa Government Gazette no. 15093, Pretoria, 3 September 1993
  9. ^ a b c Republic of South Africa Government Gazette Vol. 477, no. 27376, Pretoria, 11 March 2005, OCLC 72827981
  10. ^ Mussell, John W.; Editorial Team of Medal News (2004). Mackay, James, ed. The Medal Yearbook 2004. Devon, UK: Token Publishing Ltd. p. 380. ISBN 978-1-870192-62-0.