On 24 September the SAAF held the second of its yearly Weapons Capability Demonstration at Roodewal bombing range in Limpopo. Prior to departure a media briefing was held at AFB Waterkloof when Lt. Gen. Masimang and others in the top structures of the SAAF outlined the current state of the SAAF and answered questions posed by the media.
Lt. Gen Masimang, Chief of the Air Force.
The vision of the Air Force, Gen. Masimang stated, is to inspire confidence and is based on five strategic goals; readiness, sustainability, safety, compliance and image. The SAAF, he stated, has embarked on an extensive capability plan which includes measures to recruit, develop and retain certain scare skilled human resources.
In reply to a question as to the rumoured grounding of almost half the Gripen fleet Gen Malinga the Deputy Chief, replied that no aircraft have been grounded but that aircraft in the Gripen fleet are used on a rotational basis so as to ensure optimal usage and to guarantee that the whole fleet remains air worthy. As far as the problems with electrical supplies to AFB Makhado are concerned the SAAF has deployed its own generating equipment to the base whilst the Department of Public Works are in the process of addressing the problem. The board of enquiry into the fatal C47TP and Agusta A109 crashes are expected to be released by the end of November.
After breakfast the guests and media departed for Polokwane Airport and the short bus drive to Roodewal. The weather unfortunately did not play along with low clouds filling the skies above the range. In the interest of safety it was decided to only present the low level component of the demonstration, high level work to commence after lunch when it was anticipated that the clouds would have dissipated. Gen Malinga stated that in a real threat situation the weather would not have been a factor.
Roodewal is not only a bombing range but also the habitat for a large number of game and ensure their safety from fires resulting from the firing of live ammunition two Oryx Helicopters with Bambi Buckets as well as fully equipped fire tenders are on standby.
A low level supply drop from the C130 that this year celebrates its 50th anniversary of service in the SAAF followed. The accuracy of the drop was amazing.
A BK 117 that normally operates from Port Elizabeth where it does duty in the maritime search and rescue role but that is currently deployed in the Kruger National Park on anti-Rhino poaching duties then arrived and deployed an advance party of troops to reconnoitre the strength of enemy forces that has invaded. The BK as well as the Oryx Helicopters that would deploy additional manpower would be accompanied by Rooivalk that would offer protection from the invaders. The Rooivalk's were not present, having been deployed on operational duties elsewhere.
The BK drew fire and had to make an emergency landing and a Agusta 109 arrived to investigate the situation and Oryx helicopters were deployed with additional troops, a Gecko and mortar peloton were deployed to engage and repel the invaders.
A delicious lunch was served under the trees and green grass adjacent to the thatched Lapa and everybody was anxiously watching the clouds that had during the mornings proceedings lifted and were slowly being burned away by the hot Bushveld sun. By the time lunch was over the sky was clear with only the odd cloud still lingering and it was time for the surprise that General Masimang had alluded to during breakfast.
Five Gripens and five Hawks demonstrated their fighting skills and firepower and the sound of canon and bombs filled the air in the normally peaceful bushveld. The rounds from the canons and all bombs were on target.
The SAAF, like most Air Forces worldwide, might be underfunded but it is none the less is still a force to be reckoned with. The good news is that provision for additional funding was made available in the interim budget presented to parliament earlier this month.
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