The South African Air Force (SAAF) showcased its air power capability to delegates and foreign airforce personnel during its yearly Air Power Capability Demonstration 2017 (APCD 2017) event – a live fire capability demonstration held at Roodewal Weapons Range, near Polokwane, in Limpopo, earlier this month.
Various foreign military personnel were in attendance, including from Botswana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Korea, the UK and Angola.
The purpose of APCD 2017 was to showcase the SAAF’s key equipment and its operational capability and combat readiness, as well as the role it can play in peace support missions in volatile or war-torn African countries. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) performed this role in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, as well as in the Mozambique Channel where it was involved in piracy deterrence.
Equipment demonstrations included the SAAF’s primary fighter jet, the Saab JAS39 Gripen (pronounced ‘griffin’, in reference to the legendary half-lion, half-eagle creature), performing strafing runs using its 27 mm cannon bombs. The SAAF’s advanced jet trainer and lead-in fighter – the BAE Hawk mk.120 – performed similar runs using its 30 mm cannon and bombs.
As part of a “never seen before” surprise demonstration, the SAAF showcased its navy helicopter – the Westland Super Lynx mk.64 – in a typical maritime antipiracy patrol role. In this instance, the SAAF installed and operated a M3M .50 caliber heavy machine gun to demonstrate its naval support capability. The Super Lynx, although operated and maintained by the SAAF, is commissioned to be operated in conjunction with the South African Navy, primarily on board the navy’s four Valour- class frigates.
In terms of airforce helicopter operations, the SAAF also showcased how its Rooivalk attack helicopter could be used in a battlefield scenario using flares to countermeasure an enemy’s use of heat-seeking missiles and firing its 20 mm cannon and FZ 90 rockets.
The Denel Oryx (locally updated Puma helicopters) were also showcased in troop support roles, transporting soldiers and evacuating battlefield casualties, as well as providing light armed support using its door-mounted machine gun. Also showcased was the use of the Oryx to water-bomb fires, as it has been frequently commissioned to do in assisting with the aerial water-bombing of several wildfires in the Western Cape.
The SAAF’s Augusta A109 and MBB/Kawasaki BK117 were also showcased in troop support roles.
The logistics and maritime support aircraft of 28 Squadron and 44 Squadron also operated their cargo aircraft – the Lockheed Martin C130BZ Hercules (known in 28 Squadron as Flossie) and medium transport aircraft the Casa 212 respectively – in cargo-dropping and tactical battlefield-support roles.
Various military departments that fall under the umbrella of the SANDF, including the army, the military health service and the special forces brigade, collaborated during APCD 2017. In this regard, the army demonstrated its newest asset – the Africa Truck – in a scenario where it could be used to retrieve cargo dropped by a C130 Hercules near a front line. The Africa Truck is equipped with a remote-controlled 7.62 mm machine gun for attack deterrence purposes.