SAAF Air Power Capability Demonstration 2013

Posted on 26 June 2013, Report by Garth Calitz

The South African Air Force hosted an air power capability demonstration at the bombing range situated just north of Polokwane (Pietersburg). It was an early start for all the guests, arriving at AFB Base Waterkloof at 6:30 ready to fly out to Polokwane International airport in two DC9's, especially chartered for the day. After a short briefing by the deputy Chief of the Air Force snacks were served. The first of the DC9's departed followed closely by the second. On arrival at Polokwane all the guests were bussed to the range under escort of the Military Police.

The Event was opened in prayer and all other protocols were observed. General Bayne then gave a short summary of what can be expected for the day. Gen Malinga then addressed the guests reassuring all that the SAAF was ready and able to fulfil any requirement that South Africa may ask of them. Gen. van Heerden gave a short safety briefing and then the action began.

An Oryx kicked off the action with a well-placed water drop using the Bambi bucket. The SAAF often get tasked with fire control all over SA and for this reason Bambi buckets have become standard equipment in all operational Oryx's. Due to technical problems the C130 was slightly delayed, but as a war cannot be delayed due to technical problems, an Oryx dropped the South Special Forces pathfinders instead. The Pathfinders are used in a recon capacity to relay information to the rest of the forces from well beyond enemy lines.

Mortar teams were then deployed and the Special Forces Gecko was deployed cargo slung under an Oryx followed closely by two teams of soldiers to engage the enemy. One of them abseiled from an Oryx and the other was deployed very quickly after a spectacular operational landing, proving that the SAAF Pilots are ready to take on any challenge that may come their way.

Two Rooivalk attack helicopters joined the party, firing missiles at enemy positions before offering " top cover" for the troops on the ground by way of their 20mm cannons. Two Hawks entered the theatre strafing the remaining enemy positions with 40mm cannon fire, followed by a series of bombs dropped from up high behind our position resulting in a massive explosion clearly visible many kilometres away.

The "friendly forces" were then evacuated by helicopter followed by a flare demonstration by the Rooivalk and then the Hercules C130, which is celebrating its 50th year of service with the SAAF.

The SAAF and the supporting units showed that even with the challenges faced due to budget cuts they are still more than capable of performing their role as defender of South Africa.

A delicious lunch was served then we were all bussed back to Polokwane for the flight back to Waterkloof. A special thanks to all concerned for allowing us to experience the defence machine at work.

Many thanks to the SAAF for the opportunity to at first hand witness that despite defence budget cuts they and all the supporting units are still a force to be reckoned with.