Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria is set to host Gauteng’s biggest air show of 2011 on 1 October. Organisers say the event will show off not only the South African Air Force’s (SAAF) capabilities, but will also be a dry-run for the prestigious African Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition when it returns to its home ground in 2012.
AAD, which is held every two years, is the largest exhibition of air, land and sea capabilities on the African continent and showcases the most advanced technologies currently available. It was last held at Waterkloof in 2004 and for the past years has been held at Ysterplaat Air Force Base in the Cape, while Waterkloof was undergoing extensive upgrades. Officer Commanding AFB Waterkloof, Brigadier General Sam Madumane, said the base’s two runways had been upgraded and most of the hangars on the eastern side had been revamped.
General Madumane said the theme of the air show, “flying to serve and serving to fly”, reflected the work and capabilities of the SAAF. The airbase is home to a number of crucial squadrons as it handles presidential and very-very-important-person traffic in addition to being a hub for military and humanitarian operations. Several air servicing units are also based there, to ensure that the aircraft are able to fly when needed.
He pointed out that the weekly flights to Kinshasa and Somalia where SA had troops serving on peacekeeping missions, left from Waterkloof, as did the humanitarian flights bringing much-needed emergency aid to Somali famine victims. In the past days, a team of Navy, Air Force and Medical personnel left Waterkloof to assist Tanzania with search and recovery operations following the sinking of a ferry at the weekend, in which at least 240 people drowned.
As a practical demonstration of the SANDF’s capabilities, the public will also be treated to a “mini war” which will include spectacular pyrotechnics as the soldiers show off their air and ground attack skills. Spectators can expect to see the Gripen and Hawk fighters in action as well as the Rooivalk attack helicopter.
The US has indicated it will participateCivilian aerobatic experts are scheduled to fly the ever-popular Harvard aircraft and the Air Force Museum will contribute veteran crowd-pleasers like the Vampire fighter jet. Although several foreign countries were invited to attend, to date only the US has indicated it will participate.
It is expected to provide a C-130J Hercules transport aircraft and a C-17 heavy lift jet. Also expected is an Ukrainian Ilyushin IL-76 heavy transport aircraft and a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker used for aerial refueling of military aircraft will be on display. The Youth Development Programme will also be in evidence to promote awareness of the careers opportunities of the SAAF and the defence industry.
In keeping with the organisers’ assurances of a wide appeal and family fun and entertainment, the expo will also include retail facilities and a lifestyle expo and catering facilities and beer gardens.