The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) used a good part of its current arsenal to impress visitors on the second trade day of the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) expo.
Aiming at making the “Mini-War” as realistic as possible while keeping in mind that AAD is held at Waterkloof AFB in Pretoria, in essence a built-up area, the size of ordnance used was kept within strict limits. Legislation regulates the size of bombs or rockets that can be used, as large bombs can damage buildings nearby.
The “Mini-War” on Thursday was introduced by dropping of Special Forces parachutists, apparently from the Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartan transport plane, which has been reported as a possible replacement for the SAAF’s ageing fleet of C-130BZ Hercules transports. One of these did an impressive steep dive on landing and disgorged a large troop of paratroops, or “parabats” as they are colloquially known.
Two pairs of Saab JAS 39 Gripens and BAE Hawk 120s followed, which demonstrated the aircraft’s fighter capabilities. The Hawk is being deployed in its role as a light bomber as well as its original Lead-In-Fighter Trainer (LIFT). The Gripen is already configured to perform normal air-to-air combat, ground attack and aerial reconnaissance.
The Rooivalk impressed with its 2 0mm F2 rapid-fire cannon, preparing the way for the air assault. This comprised a number of Denel Oryx utility helicopters, which are a local upgrade of the Aerospatiale Puma to Super Puma standard as well as two Eurocopter BK 117 helicopters, one of which was equipped with a winch enabling it to take a wounded soldier on board or evacuate soldiers.
The airborne troops were equipped with an eight-wheeled rapid deployment logistical vehicle, the Gecko. These vehicles carry troops, as well as heavy weapons systems. Two 120 mm mortars were carried.
The Oryx and BK 117 helicopters then enacted a scene from “Apocalypse Now” where they carried out a simulated air assault using a combination of direct landing, rappelling and fast roping to get their airborne troops in position.
On another part of the runway, mechanised infantry were deployed in six-wheeled Ratel Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) accompanied by the eight-wheeled Rooikat, a locally-built combat reconnaissance vehicle.
The Rooivalks literally flew in circles over the drop zone, showing their mobility as well as their 20 mm cannon. The Oryx and BK 117 helicopters then returned and evacuated the troops in a timeous manner.
The SANDF is looking to replace a number of its ageing systems, including the Ratel, to be replaced by the Patria AMV, a Finnish design. The South African version, the Badger, will have local components, a South African turret and will be built locally according to reports.
The SA Army is also looking for a replacement for its ageing Olifant 1b Main Battle Tank (MBT), which is based on the 67–year old British Centurion tank design. South Africa first bought the type in 1957. The upgrade program from Centurion Mark V to Olifant standard began in the 1970s.