The SAAF Air Capability Demonstration at Roodewal is unique in that it is the only demonstration for civilians that uses live ammunition. This year’s demonstration on 1 June at AFB Makhado was one of the most exhilarating ever.
SAAF 2 Squadron hosted the event in collaboration with the SA Army, SA Military Health Services, Department of Defence Joint Support and Special Forces Brigade.
The introduction speech was given by 2 Squadron’s commanding officer, Brigadier General Barends. Thereafter we were addressed by the Chief of the South African Air Force, Lt. Gen. Msimang, who gave a special welcome to the Air Chiefs of the Angolan and Nigerian Air Forces, General Francisco Lopes Gonçalves Afonso and Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar respectively, saying, “Some of us here today received our basic and advanced military training in your countries. We are leaders today because of the tools you gave us, and it behoves us to pay it forward.”
Recognising June as ‘Youth Month’, the SAAF dedicated the Air Capability Demonstration to the youth of South Africa, and on the day before the demonstration the Air Force welcomed a number of school pupils from the area to the air force base to expose them to “the exciting world of military aviation.”
The demonstration showcased the capabilities of the Gripen, Hawk, Hercules C130, Oryx, A109 Agusta, BK 117 and Agusta Super Lynx 300. It was the first demonstration at Roodewal of the maritime Agusta Super Lynx 300 helicopter, which was armed with a 12,7 mm machine gun.
In total there were six Gripens and four Hawks. The aircraft engaged in mock dogfights, the Hawks dropped bombs and fired their very impressive underslung 30 mm Aden cannon, and then the Gripens did low level damage inspections.
Ground troops were flown in by Oryx helicopters, with further support provided by the A109 Agusta Westland helicopters. The Agusta also demonstrated its capability to extract wounded soldiers fast and effectively.
It was, however, the Rooivalk which stole the show. It gave an unforgettable display with the red tracers from the 20 mm nose turret cannon, 70 mm rockets and flares. It must put the fear of death into those on the wrong end of this fighting machine, which deserves the respect it receives from all who are familiar with it.
Following the firing of weapons by troops and vehicles on the ground, mass fly-pasts, and flare releases by the Rooivalk and Gripen, the demonstration concluded with a wall of fire that lit up the evening sky.
This was a day to remember. As intended, it proved wrong those critics of the SAAF who say it has had its teeth pulled.