In the lead up to celebrating Armed Forces Day the South African National Defence Force hosted a spectacular weapons capability at De Brug bombing range just outside Bloemfontein on 20 February 2018.
Armed Forces Day commemorates the SS Mendi which sank in the English Channel on February 21 1917, It resulted in the deaths of 600 soldiers from the South African Native Labour Corps, as well as commemorating all South African soldiers that paid the “ultimate price” to defend freedom‚ peace and justice.
The demonstration kicked off with a CASA 212 from 44 Squadron dropping six Special Forces “Path Finders” from altitude, one of the canopies was maned by a tandem master and a passenger, this method is used to insert essential non para trained personnel into the battle theatre.
No sooner had they landed when the silence was shattered by “The Sound of Freedom” two SAAB Gripen JAS39 fighter jets engaged a sole BAE Hawk in a simulated “Dog Fight”. The Hawk unfortunately didn’t stand a chance against the superior fire power of the Gripens and was soon neutralised.
SAAB Gripen JAS39
The Gripens and Hawks now joined by a few Squadron mates commenced a ground attack with live ammunition. The sound and shockwave created when full payload of eight Mk 82 bombs explode on their target is really something to behold even with the target area being close to 2000m away. The Hawks and Gripen treated all present to a cannon strafing run, this was the first time ever I have had the pleasure of seeing the Gripen fire its 27 mm Mauser BK-27 revolver cannon.
Mk 82 Bombs
27 mm Mauser BK-27 revolver cannon
Hawk Canon fire
We had just recovered from the massive explosion when the SANDF Engineering Corps detonated tow of their powerful bunker busting bombs; these really rattled the Free State earth.
Enter “Jumbo” Hercules C130BZ from 28 Squadron thundered overhead to supply the battle weary troops with a load of provisions in the form of a very large “Air Drop”, It is truly amazing that all the boxes landed in a very small area right on target.
Air Supply Drop
As soon as the boxes were all on the ground yet another C130 moved in to drop its human cargo of sixty paratroopers in a low-level “Drop and Pop”. Unfortunately two of the Jumpers got snagged together and landed a bit hard but seemed to be alright after the medics checked them out.
Everyone present was the treated to a display of force as the heavy armour rolled in supported by the mechanised infantry, soon the entire battlefield erupted in a wonderful cacophony of weapons firing. The “War” started with mortar fire from both 60mm and 82mm mortar teams firing at will.
The SAAF Air Defence units soon joined in with Anti-Aircraft fire from both their vehicle mounted and ground weapons. The mechanised infantry troops exited their vehicles and took on the enemy with R4, RPG and mortar fire.
While the ground battle was proceeding the SAAF were never far away, The Rooivalk AH2’s were offering the troops “Top-cover” with both missile and cannon fire. Wounded troops were being extracted while fresh legs were being deployed by Oryx Helicopters and the Agusta A109’s were keeping a keen eye on the progress, relaying information to the ground commanders.
After the battle the armoured vehicles formed up and drove past General S. Shoke the Chief of the SANDF. Gen Shoke acknowledged the salute, followed by fly-past of various SAAF aircraft including a display by the Silver Falcons, Gripens, Hawks and a flare drop by a C130. This brought the daylight proceedings to an end, everyone then enjoyed a scrumptious dinner.
General S. Shoke
Armoured Vehicle Parade
As the sun set over the Free State the stage was set for a wonderful night fire display. The display was kicked off by the mighty Rooivalk showing why it is one of the best attack helicopters in the world, Missiles, Cannons and a wonderful Flare display ended the flying displays for the day.
The heavy hitters then took centre stage with a magnificent display of pure explosive power. The firing line ranged from R4 rifle fire to the G5 artillery cannon and everything in between. The power of the Rooikat and Olifant tank could be felt as they shoot very close to the audience. Anti-Aircraft fire filled the night sky as missiles were launched, making anyone that was ever in the military have a moment of proud nostalgia
G5 Artillery Gun
Anti Aircraft Fire
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