The only army aviation unit to serve in the South African forces during World War II, 42 AOP Flight was formed at Bari, Italy, on 23 January 1945, with an officer of the SA Artillery in command. Most of the pilots were drawn from the SAAF and were given special training for their artillery-spotting duties. Flying Austers, the squadron was kept busy until the end of the war in Europe, moving from one base to the next as the Germans retreated in Italy.
With the end of the war, 42 Flight and their Austers were shipped back to South Africa and were based at Potchefstroom, the home of the South African Artillery. Its first two purely Army pilots were trained at the SAAF's Central Flying School in 1949, with the flight flying various marques of Auster. For a while the Flight was placed under the control of the SAAF, but in 1953 it reverted back to the Army for a few years before being passed back to the SAAF as 42 Squadron. Auster AOP-6s and 9s entered service between 1953 and 1957.
In May 1962 the Austers were phased out by the Cessna 185, being joined by the Bosbok in 1974 and later by the Kudu. The Kudu was retired in 1991, followed by the Bosbok in 1992. In the last few months of service of the Bosbok, the squadron formed the 'Spikes' formation team to showcase the performance qualities of their much underrated aircraft. The squadron moved to AFB Swartkop in December 1992, flying the Cessna 185. A single Pilatus PC-6, formerly of the Bophuthatswana (homeland) Defence Force, joined the squadron following the 1994 elections. The squadron relocated to AFB Waterkloof in early 2000, wereafter it was disbanded.
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