On Tuesday 20 February the SANDF flew invited guests and the media on a chartered Boeing 737-500 to AFB Bloemspruit in Bloemfontein in the Freestate to witness a weapons demonstration at the De Brug base outside the city which showcased the capabilities of the Defence Force.
The demonstration formed part of the annual defence force week, which this year was hosted in the Northern Cape by the City of Kimberley. A total of 6 525 SANDF members participated along with 41 aircraft from SA Air Force, 222 specialised vehicles, 374 operational vehicles, 66 buses and 60 motorcycles. SA Air Force (SAAF) aircraft that participated included the Hawk and Gripen, Lockheed C-130, CASA 212, a King Air, Rooivalk, Agusta A109 and BK 117 helicopters as well as Pilatus PC-7 trainers flown and displayed by the Silver Falcons.
Initially set to take place at Lohatla, the SANDF Practise Range, in the Northern Cape it was soon realised that the venue will not be big enough to host all the guests who will attend and the Weapons Demonstration was moved to De Burg in the Freestate.
On arrival we immediately saw that this capability demonstration was going to be a truly spectacular event. Unlike the regular SAAF Weapons Demonstrations that takes place at Roodewal in Limpopo. The De Brug demonstration that included all branches of the SANDF, sketched a scenario of the repelling by the SANDF of an enemy invasion force.
In his opening address, referring to the SANDF as 'the pride of lions' General Solly Shoke of the SANDF said: "We train hard in peacetime so that we can bleed less in times of war, and when we train we ensure that we should be ready at all material times, when needed."
The demonstration started with the insertion of a pathfinder group that parachuted from a C212. Once the enemy was detected the battle started with a mock dogfight between SAAF Hawk jets, representing the opposing forces, and Saab Gripens intercepting and eventually destroying the enemy fighter aircraft. This was followed by earth-shattering explosions as Army engineers destroyed the opposing forces infrastructure.
Additional reinforcements were parachuted onto the battlefield when a large force of paratroopers joined the battle after having parachuted from a C130. Additional supplies were also para-dropped to supply the forces on the ground.
Oryx helicopters airlifted in more troops whilst casualties, including a downed SAAF pilot, were evacuated by an Agusta.
Two Rooivalk that launched rockets and fired their canon supplied top cover in support to the forces ground.
The battle, by then joined by a large contingent of additional ground forces in Ratels, Rooikats and Olifant tanks, continued.
Hawks and Gripens joined into the fray dropping bombs and firing their canons while the artillery formation fired G5 and G6 155 mm howitzers as well as Bateleur rockets. Keeping the sky safe for the Rooivalks and other SAAF material were two anti-aircraft guns whose salvos of rounds streaked across the sky.
The enemy defeated, the battle was at an end and the forces withdrew to receive the salute from General Shoke.
During the day the C130 as well as two Rooivalk dispensed flares. A formation of five Gripens and four Hawks as well as the Silver Falcons did displays.
The best though was yet to come when each weapon used during the demonstration was fired individually followed by a mass firing exercise of all the weapons as the sun set; a truly spectacular culmination of what indeed was without a doubt the best public display of the capability of the SANDF that we have ever attended.
On Wednesday the Defence Force week culminated with a parade and fly past in the streets of Kimberley.
Photos by Carien Viljoen
Photos by Carel Kruger
The annual Defence Force week this year was dedicated to the memory of Nelson Mandela who would have celebrated his 100th birthday as well to all those who have lost their lives in service off the country.