AAD 2016 to feature USAF aircraft never seen before in SA?


Whilst the primary focus of the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition is to allow defence and security companies the opportunity to showcase their products, it is the array of static and flying aircraft that draws the crowds on the open days.

The exhibition trade days run from September 14 to 16 at AFB Waterkloof in Centurion, with the public airs how taking place on September 17 and 18. Whilst it is far too soon to obtain a reliable indication of what aircraft will be in attendance, the number of civilian and military aircraft on static display at AAD 2014 was 104. However, besides the home-based South African Air Force (SAAF) and SAAF Museum aircraft, the only international air force to participant in the static line-up was the United States Air Force (USAF). Participation by the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) was cancelled at the last minute when an AFZ training aircraft crashed a few days before AAD was to be held.

The USAF has been a loyal supporter of AAD, particularly so since 2003 when the New York Air National Guard (NY ANG) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) engaged in partnership events. The State Partnership Program links a US state’s National Guard with the armed forces of a partner nation in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.

This year, the New York ANG hopes to bring to AAD a mix of aircraft never seen in South Africa before as well as familiar aircraft.

Chief amongst the new display aircraft expected to appear is the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). With a 20 metre wingspan, the MQ-9 is a larger, heavier, and more capable aircraft than the earlier General Atomics MQ-1 Predator and is operated by the 174th Attack Wing of the NY ANG.

Other smaller UAVs may also be on show, such as the RQ-7 Shadow as displayed at AAD in 2014, plus models of the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle mini-UAV and the Northrop Grumman X-47B demonstrator designed for aircraft carrier-based operations.

These will be brought out to South Africa to show how certain mission sets can be performed with unmanned aircraft. Such missions include border patrol, maritime security and surveillance, persistent ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), counter-poaching and protection of resources. The uses of UAVs are particularly attractive when working with a limited budget.

Familiar exhibits on the static ramp will once again include the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III from the 105th Airlift Wing, NY ANG, and a C-130J Hercules from the 86th Airlift Wing, US Air Forces in Europe, based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Unfortunately, it does not look like the KC-130J inflight-refuelling capable version will be available for the trip down south.

Whilst hopes were high that a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber would make an appearance at AAD 2014, operational commitments once again preclude the aircraft from arriving for AAD 2016. However, there is a chance that the Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing strategic bomber will once again grace the skies of South Africa. This impressive aircraft has visited AFB Waterkloof before, having made very welcome appearances at both the AAD 2000 (two aircraft) and AAD 2002 (one aircraft) shows.

Should the B-1B arrive, then it is likely that it will be accompanied by one or more Boeing KC-135R air-refuelling tankers.