Twice a year the SAAF (South African Air Force) host the media, military attaches, captains of industry, members of the military veterans associations and members of the SANDF (South African National Defence Force) to an airpower demonstration at the Roodewal Bombing Range in Limpopo.
Roodewal is not only a demonstration of the SAAF's capability but also serves as a joint training exercise with other branches of the defence force. I have been honoured to have been invited to attend for the last couple of years and am always impressed by the high standards that despite numerous problems still exist in the SAAF. Changing times have resulted in a much reduced force and the SAAF's commitment of assets to our forces engaged in peacekeeping duties in the trouble spots in Africa sometimes result in limited assets being available for the demonstrations.
Feted during the demo held on 16 September were Rooivalk and the launch of a book celebrating the proudly South African designed attack helicopter that has now served with distinction in the DRC. Copies of the book were signed by the Chief of the Air Force Lt. Gen. Masimang and Mr. Mike Kgobe, CEO of Denel.
Three Rooivalk's were deployed during November 2013 in support of the UN Intervention Brigade and has been engaged in combat with the M23 Rebels soon after deployment. The Rebels soon after ceased fighting and started negotiations. Gripen fighters were also deployed thought it is not known whether they were engaged in combat Oryx helicopters serve with the SA forces in Sudan and the DRC whilst the few remaining C130s are used for troop rotation and re-supply.
Air power on 16 September deviated from its normal format by only starting after 16.00 with the sun slowly setting behind the Koppies. Run with military precision it finished just after 19.00 with spectacular flare dispensing from an Oryx, Hercules and Gripen.
The late afternoon, setting sun and use of live ammunition by Gripen, Hawk and Rooivalk brought a surreal reality to the battle simulation and created a picture that was almost as real as an actual combat engagement.
Afterwards supper was served under the clear bushveld sky before our flight back to AFB Waterkloof.
The SAAF it must be stressed is well aware of the problems facing it but like all other departments are dependent on its budget allocation by Government. The SAAF like all branches of the SANDF are because of its external commitments over extended and because of budgetary constraints in a steady decline. In fact the Sate introduced Defence Review admits that there is a steady decline in the ability of our arm forces to fulfil their mandate. Ms. Mapisa-Nqkula Minister of Defence and Military Veterans stated that one of the major objectives of Government is to arrest the decline.
Whether Government will address the problem in the foreseeable future is an open question.
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