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Profile of: The SAAF (CD)

Interactive multimedia CD-ROM

Reviewed By: Dean Wingrin

First launched two years ago at Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2000 and actively promoted at AAD 2002, I have eagerly been looking forward to reviewing this CD. However, as webmaster of The Unofficial SAAF Website, I must declare beforehand a slight bias towards my website! However, I did submit this review to other independent persons for their comment prior to publication.

This multimedia CD, part of a series that includes the SA Army and SA Navy, comes in an attractive CD case with an insert detailing installation instructions. Features of the CD include animation, slide shows, sound, video clips, photos and text on 71 aircraft, 52 armaments and over 200 side views in colour. The CD also claims to include detailed armament configurations, markings, schematic drawings, history, development and specifications for each item.

Well, on to the installation ...

A 6 digit key is printed on the CD itself, so a note must be made of this prior to installation. An auto-launch window appears and if Macromedia Shockwave 8 is not present on the computer, it will be installed. Next, the system tries to install Windows Media Player, but you have the choice of full install or only those files required. However, at the same time, the installation dialogue screen for the actual SAAF program also appears, requiring some switching between the two installation screens. I suggest completing the installation of Media Player first before proceeding to install the SAAF program.

Once installed, you must enter the six digit code to proceed to the opening screen. You have full use of the program for 7 days from installation before obtaining an activation key from AVA Systems in order to continue using the program. The instructions say this may be done on-line or by phoning AVA Systems (a Johannesburg number). The on-line automated activation service was off-line at the time of installation (early October 2002), but the website did give the option of emailing AVA Systems. 

Now for the data itself. The main menu is divided into History, Ranks & Insignia, Aircraft and Armament. A very brief, concise history of the SAAF is given. For example, World War II is retold in one short paragraph, while both the Berlin Airlift and the Korean War get two sentences each. Unfortunately, the SAAF rank insignia changed at the beginning of September 2002 and thus the CD has the old rank structure for officers and chaplains. Non-commissioned officers are ignored. 'Insignias', in this case, refers to squadron badges and not musterings as I expected.

The Aircraft section is divided into several sections: Fighters, bombers & light strike aircraft, Trainers, Observation, Transport, Maritime and Helicopters. Each aircraft has four topics: Colouring, Schematics, Armament and Markings. In addition, most aircraft have a section on history, development, specifications, two pictures and a video. However, some of the information appears a little suspect. Does the Cheetah C really use the R-530, R-550 and V-3B air-to-air missiles? I thought all had been taken out of SAAF service by the time the Cheetah C appeared. Even the still to be delivered Gripen is shown as using these weapons. The P-166S Albatross is also shown as using a variety of gun pods, bombs and torpedoes! Not only is the PC-7 mixed up with the PC-7 Mk2 Astra, but the Astra is also shown as carrying a large variety of gun pods, bombs and rockets. The South African PC-7 Mk2s had all provisions for underwing pylons removed as they were ordered when the arms embargo was still in place. Of surprise was the inclusion of the Cessna 172(M). On investigation, these are various privately owned Cessna 172, 185 and 210 aircraft that were/are used by members of the Reserve Force squadrons. 

The unguided air-to-ground rockets of the Rooivalk are 70mm, not 68mm, while many of the other weapons appear to be incorrectly assigned to aircraft. Many of the weapons included in the CD appear to have come straight out of the respective aircraft manufacturers marketing brochures, without any any verification to see if the SAAF actually uses that weapon or system. All this information is, dare I say it, correctly and freely available on this website. Although I could not access the videos from the program itself, manual viewing of many of the (silent) videos of the older aircraft were a joy to watch. 

No provision is made to print out any of the schematics, pictures, etc. Navigation was fairly easy and the background classical music was actually quite pleasant. A glossary of abbreviations used is also provided.

The CD is a great idea, and while a lot of thought went into the actual design of the CD, it has been let down by the quality of the research. Because of these and numerous other errors, and a cost of R295, the choice is yours.

System requirements are: Pentium III, 32Mb RAM, 4x CD-ROM drive, 20Mb hard disk space, SVGA Screen, SVGA screen card (800x600), sound card and Windows 95/98/2000/ME/XP. The laptop used for this review was a Pentium II 300Mhz with 128Mb RAM running Win98. Performance was slow, but acceptable.

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