This week, for the second time this year, the South African Air Force (SAAF) together with elements of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) again demonstrated its airpower and readiness to defend the country against attack by a hostile force.
In February the SAAF played a major role during 'The Pride of Lions-Weapons Demonstration' that formed part of the annual defence force week that this year was hosted in the Northern Cape by the City of Kimberley. The weapons demonstration was held at De Brug in the Free State.
Coinciding with Africa Aerospace and Defence a large number of foreign visitors were invited and flown together with the media and SAAF staff members and others from AFB Waterkloof to Gateway International Airport in Polokwane to attend the Air Power Capability Demonstration (APCD).
Two of the Oryx helicopters that were in action fighting fires in the days preceding the APCD were in action and started the day's program.
Planning for each demonstration takes approximately two months and moving all the assets is a costly exercise. The SAAF therefore needs to get and does get the most from the exercise. The annual APCD is therefore not just a demonstration of the SAAF's air power capability but also serves as a joint training exercise with the South African Military Health Service and the Special Forces as well as the SANDF's Joint Senior Command Staff Course and the Defence Studies Programme.
The Chief of Airforce Lieutenant General Fabian Zimpande Msimang during his opening event welcomes all to the Roodewal Weapons Range and outlined the vision off and challenges facing the SAAF.
Supplies were dropped by a C-130 and a Casa.
Airpower that, is a function of air supremacy and numbers, is defined as "the ability to project power from the air and space to influence the behaviour of people or the course of events. Roughly speaking, a combatant side that has 100% or near 100% control of the skies has air supremacy; an advantage of some 70-90% would indicate air superiority. A 50/50 split is air parity.
Two Gripens flew a dogfight sequence against a Hawk.
The rapid arrival and build-up of aircraft near or in trouble spots provides a visible sign of presence and intent. Modern air operations are extremely flexible and can be switched between reconnaissance, attack, defence and support depending on the needs of the moment.
Pathfinders parachuted into the battle scene.
Assault troops were inserted to engage the enemy.
Two Rooivalk flew top cover.
It was during this part of the exercise when an Oryx with troops on board impacted the ground heavily. Despite the crash the combat troops deployed around the helicopter in a defensive circle and the crew instantly initiated shutdown procedures. In a media statement issued minutes after the accident a spokesperson for the SAAF stated that mechanical failure can be ruled out and that those onboard suffered only minor injuries. The injured were rapidly attended to.
The rest of the exercises were cancelled and the days preceding ended with flares dispensed by a C-130 and Gripen.
As darkness decedent armoured personnel carriers that were to take part collected troops still in the field whilst we sat down for a delicious meal before departing for our return flight.
Many thanks to the SAAF for once again inviting Pilot's Post to attend. Attending the APCD is not only an honour but also an eye opener. The SAAF might not be the best resourced and largest air force on the continent but it is still a force to be reckoned with.