It's not often we get to see the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) getting their feet wet. This being mostly the armed vehicle columns making their way to Muizenberg along the sunrise Beach area and showing off their firepower to most of the Western Cape folk who made their way to see their military assets in person on the evening of 19 February.
The purpose of the Night Shoot was to show the fire power to the people of South Africa and to interact with its people. Many Capetonians were not happy at all to having the military on its beaches as they believed there will be a long-term environmental impact. The SANDF insured that impact assessments were rigidly adhered to and all that was left behind were pristine rehabilitated beaches with no signs that they were there.
16 Squadron started the night shoot with a short aerial ballet display and ending off with a dual flare drop over the ocean in the amazing Rooivalk Attack Helicopter. The Rooivalk is operated by 16 Squadron based in Bloemfontein and have been used in peacekeeping efforts all over the African continent. One of the Rooivalk helicopters was flown by Suzanne Dempsey the first female Rooivalk Pilot in the SAAF.
As soon as the Roooivalk cleared the area the land-based forces commenced their display, the firing display was arranged from light weapons to the “Big Guns”. A 12.7mm gun used by 44 Parabat Regiment started the display followed by the capability of 40mm Automatic Grande Launcher.
The Mounted System were next on the firing list with the 12.7mm Browning mounted on a Ratel followed by a display of dancing tracers from the 20mm gun and the vehicle mounted 90mm quick fire gun with an effective range of 2km, all these weapons are used by 8 SA Infantry Battalion based in Upington.
From Infantry to Armour, the Rooikat armoured vehicle led the way firing its 76mm Quick-Fire Gun which is effective up to 4km. The mighty Olifant Tank was next on the list as Cape Town was shaken by the awesome power of this machine. The effectivity of its 105mm Gun has earned the Olifant the title of “Mainstay of SA fighting power”.
Air Defences were the next to show their might. The 23mm Bosvark and 35mm Anti-Aircraft guns gave Cape Town a beautiful display of light as their shells exploded over False Bay. The Mortar teams accompanied them with illuminating flares and High Explosive bombs shot from both the 81mm and the 120mm mortar tubes.
After the area declared safe the SAAF returned this time with an Oryx helicopter which deployed a full load of flares which lit up the whole area. The Hercules C130BZ flowed soon after with another wonderful lights display as it pitched up and dispensed its flares.
No sooner had the C130BZ left the airspace when the sound of fast jets could be heard approaching from behind the crowd. The BAE Hawk, SA’s leading Fighter Trainer pitched up and deployed its flares and as the local crowd cheered, were only to be wowed even more as two JAS39 Gripens followed suit and dropped their flares in formation, something I don’t believe I have seen before.
After all the aerial excitement it was back to the firing line on the beach, The G5 Towed Artillery System showed it dominance with a 40km range followed by the agile G6 Vehicle Mounted Artillery Gun which are the pinnacle of the SA Army’s long-range indirect fire power.
The individual firing of the SANDF Assets was concluded with something not often see by civilians, the 127mm Multiple Rocket Launcher fired three rockets high into the Cape Town sky.
Just when everyone thought the display was finished all the weaponry started a simultaneous fire plan. This must have brought back memories for anyone that ever served in combat and gave the civilian population an idea of what it sounds like to be in a battle situation.
The applause by the public at the detonation of the mighty “Wall of Fire”, which caught everyone by surprise, bore testament to the appreciation of the Capetonians for something that they were extremely privileged to witness first-hand.