Rooivalk stars at Air Capability DemoDate: 12 May 2011
By Dean Wingrin
The recently upgraded and redelivered Rooivalk attack helicopter participated in the simulated operational exercise during the Air Capability Demonstration held by the SAAF at the Roodewal weapons range today.
The Air Capability Demonstration (ACD) is normally held twice a year in which the SAAF is able to demonstrate its operational capabilities, including co-operation with the others arms of the SANDF. It is also the only time invited dignitaries and guests are able to witness live weapon firing at close range.
The Rooivalk has undergone a major revamp by Denel Aviation to bring its structure, systems and avionics up to a single standard acceptable to the airforce. The first five aircraft were handed back to the airforce at the end of March.
Differing from previous years, the ACD did not concentrate on humanitarian missions, but rather on what Chief of the Airforce, Lt. Gen. Carlo Gagiano, described as "speed and dust!"
Proceedings commenced with introductory speeches and background information, followed by 70 minutes of incredible noise caused by the live firing of rockets, mortars, cannon, machine gun fire and the dropping of bombs, all with the continuous clatter of rotor blades overhead.
A Gripen D fitted with a ‘reconnaissance pod' obtained tactical information over the battlefield, concluding its run with a pull up firing flares. Various simulated exercises, including a South African Army element, comprised scenarios ranging from mortar attacks, air supply drops and troop insertions. Three Gripens performed a 2v1 dogfight. A low-level supply drop by a CASA 212 was followed by two C-130 Hercules parachutinf supplies to the troops in the field..
Oryx medium-transport helicopters demonstrated water bombing with Bambi buckets and continuously dropped off and picked up troops while Agusta A109 Light Utility Helicopters performed surveillance and observation duties. The ensuing mock battle included the firing of 81mm motors.
The stars of the demonstration, however, where the three Rooivalk helicopters present. Not only did they provide continuous covering fire with their 20mm cannon, but they also performed numerous attack runs with their 70mm FFAR unguided rockets.
Not to be outdone, the Gripens also performed a number of bombing runs, dropping four 250kg HE bombs per run, creating some impressively huge explosions and accompanying vibrations.
The demonstration concluded with a flypast by all the participants. However, this was no ordinary flypast.
First three Rooivalks flew past, then a combined formation of three Agustas and three Oryx. This was followed by the CASA 212 and the two Hercules. A seven ship formation of Gripens flew over the crowd, where after an Oryx flew towards the crowd, firing flares. As if that was not enough, the two Hercules then returned for a low level pass from the rear. The final flypast was a Cessna 208 Caravan that had been performing surveillance duties during the demonstartion.
The SAAF showed that it is capable of performing the various missions that it may be called upon to perform within the African peacekeeping context. The SAAF has to be congratulated for organising a complicated demonstration in a safe and professional manner. The formation flying and coordination was excellent. It was just a pity that the Hawk could not participate because a grounding order following an engine surge at the end of April.