The SADF commemorates Armed Forces Day on 21 February each year. This date has been chosen in memory of the tragic sinking of the SS Mendi, and the even more tragic loss of life due to the sinking. This commemoration takes place in another province each year.
This year it was held in Limpopo with Polokwane chosen as the main point of activities.
One of these activities was the Armed Forces Capability Display held at the SAAF bombing range at Roodewal, north of Polokwane.
Although the arrangements made for the event was done by the SA Army, it was a combined demonstration of the capabilities of the SA Army and SAAF.
Although the range is about 5km by 7 km, it was not large enough to have a full firing power display. But as it was, it was still very impressive.
The display started the early afternoon with displays alternating between the SA Army, SAAF and combined displays. It was at times difficult to keep track of what to look at, action taking place simultaneously to the left, right and centre of the display area. This was compounded by the action taking place on the ground and in the sky at the same time.
The SA Army display consisted of airborne special forces landing by parachute, and troops being landed by helicopters of the SAAF.
These were complemented over the day by Olifant (Elephant) tanks, Rooikat Reconnaissance vehicles, various models of the Ratel AFV, and other armoured vehicles. These vehicles were also used to demonstrate the individual capabilities of the vehicles, with the Olifant tank also driving over a car wreck.
The SAAF display also lacked nothing in providing excitement to the invited guests. The SAAF component of four Hawks first coming in to release four bombs each. These were followed by the Gripens doing the same, with the Hawks again coming in with cannon fire.
The Rooivalk attack helicopter was also used twice to fire unguided rockets, and their last display of the day, demonstrating the use of its 20mm cannon and doing a flare release.
The daylight display was closed the late afternoon with an evening firing display starting at just after sundown. This consisted of a colourful if loud display by various elements of the SA Army, with the day being closed with a Gripen doing a low and fast flypast and a release of flares.
An Oryx helicopter doing the same followed and ended the day’s activities with a wall of fire.