SAAF APCD 2017- Control the Sky-Control the Ground
By Juri Keyter and Willie Bodenstein
This week 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.
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.
A Super Lynx maritime helicopter took part for the first time
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.
Delegations from Cuba, Angola and Nigeria that included the chiefs of the Angolan and Nigerian air forces as well a large contingent of Military Attaches, Media and representatives of other foreign military forces and invited guests assembled and AFB Waterkloof where they were briefed by the commander of the Lockheed Martin C-130 that was used to Polokwane Airport. A short bus ride in a coach then took us to Roodewal Bombing Range. The VIP's and other invited guest travelled in style in a Boeing 737.
Lieutenant General Fabian Zimpande Msimang opened the days demonstration and welcomed all and thanked the members of the force for their dedication and loyally. Gen. Msimang also paid tribute to the soldiers that are deployed on peace keeping missions in the African continent.
The Africa Truck that is set to replace the SANDF's current fleet of Samil trucks was revealed to the public for the first time during the demonstration.
It was also the first time that a Ratel was part of the demonstration.
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 ACD is therefore not a just 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.
Live munitions are used during the demonstration and as the sun set the normally peaceful bombing range resembled a war zone. Bombs were dropped from the Gripens and Hawks whilst rockets were fired from the Rooivalk's whilst the ground forces repelled the attacking forces. Troops were deployed and casualties evacuated by the Oryx and Agusta helicopters.
The simulated dusk attack, dropping of flares from a number of aircraft and the huge wall of fire, was truly spectacular and was a fitting finale to another air capability demonstration.
However, before being bussed back to Polokwane we were all treated to dinner in the open under a clear crisp Bushveld sky.
Many thanks to the SAAF for having again invited us. Attending the APCD is not only a 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.