That the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is still operating in austerity mode is clear from information there will be only two fixed wing aircraft taking part in a capability demonstration at this year’s Rand Show, due to start on Friday.
Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang, current SA Air Force (SAAF) Chief, inherited a reign of austerity when he took over command from retiring chief Carlo Gagiano in 2012. Under his leadership the financial situation of the Air Force, as well as the SA Army, SA Military Health Service and SA Navy has not improved in the last seven years.
The presence of just two aircraft – a Gripen from 2 Squadron at AFB Makhado and a CASA C-212 Aviocar from AFB Waterkloof-based 44 Squadron – are further indications of the cash crunch facing not only the air force, but the rest of the national defence force.
Weather permitting, the Swedish jet fighter and Spanish light transport will perform a capability display above the arena of the Rand Show at the Johannesburg Expo Centre on the south-western side of the city.
The aircraft are set to rehearse flight routines over the venue tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday between 11h00 and 12h40 ahead of Friday’s official opening.
Other national defence force participation at this year’s Rand Show will be in the form of an arena activity programme and military static displays according to Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, Director: Defence Corporate Communication. No further information on the type of arena activity is given but the official Rand show website has it that “anti-terrorist mock attacks, an infantry soldier march and live mock rescue missions” will take place.What is termed “a semi-military parade” will be an integral part of the opening ceremony which will see “military bands from all arms of service and military musicians participating”.
SANDF demonstrations in the Nasrec arena between 19 and 22 April run from 11:00 to 13:00 and include parachuting into the arena, precision drills, bridge laying, Land Rover demonstration, sword drill, martial arts, gun run, motorcycle stunts, canine agility demonstration and flypast by the Silver Falcons, among others.
This year’s Rand Show opens on Good Friday (19 April) with Sunday 28 April the last day of the event which this year marks its 125th anniversary.