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African Aerospace and Defence (AAD) is cited as being Africa’s premier air, sea and land defence exhibition. The 2014 edition was set to be the biggest in its 14 year history, when it opened its doors from 17 – 21 September at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria. Irrespectively of what has been announced, AAD it is a great opportunity to see the South African Air Force (SAAF) live and in action.

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Where? Waterkloof AB, South Africa
When? 17-21/09/2014

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The bi-annual event in Pretoria, which is just some kilometers North of Johannesburg, is a combined trade exhibition and air show with around 300 local and international companies, including India, Russia, Brazil and China. The exhibition has settled itself strong in the African market as a big showcase of defense and security products that should solve every ‘problem’ you might encounter in your every-day-life. It doesn’t matter in this case if you are a rich guy, state government or warlord, the possibilities and gadgets that have been advertised were manifold...

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The ‘projection of power’ on the ground power was the top focus at AAD, with aerial power playing only a small part in the exhibition. Aerial displays were thus only a kind of accessory parts during the official trade days, but used in a big scale to entertain a large audience during the week-end.

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The big airshow, which is open to the public, was held during the week-end and attracted more than 10.000 tickets visitors. On these two days the Saturday was by far the better choice with more flying and great weather. Contrary to this Sunday morning started very different with a very cold wind and freezing temperatures. Hard to believe that after a sunburn the day before five layers of cloths were barely enough to keep warm! Due to these conditions flying was restrained, especially for the SAAF museum’s vintage aircraft in the morning. But luckily got better in the afternoon for the main part of the airshow. It featured South African civil and military displays, while unfortunately foreign flying display acts were not present during this edition of AAD.

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The main attraction of the flying display at Waterkloof was the SAAF “Mini War”, which simulated an intervention in a neighboring African country, overwhelming the leader and freeing hostages. It involved al of the flying assets of the SAAF, with the Gripen and Hawk doing airspace protection and air to ground attacks and the C-130 Hercules landing in to load of troops and armored vehicles. The main working load though was on the helicopters, with the Rooivalks, Bk117, Lynx and Oryx (Pumas) in heavy use while an A109 served as a command post hovering in the background.

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The action was even so close that the helicopters landing in covered the public completely into dust. Leaving your bags closed and not changing any camera lenses was a good idea at this point of time!

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Furthermore the Silver Falcons aerobatic Team on the Pilatus PC-7 Mk.II provided a spectacular display, which can also be said about the Hawk 120 formation flight. The Hawk is used as an advanced trainer and air-ground aircraft by the SAAF, but this routine made good use of its aerobatic capabilities during tight formations mixed with solo routines.

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Last but not least the greatest gadget on the flightline was the Atlas Cheetah D. It is not anymore within active SAAF service, but is used by the industry as a testbed. In the colours of South African flag this twin-seater example was a sight to behold and just great to see in front of the blue African sky! It even arrived at the show in formation with a single seat Cheetah E, but this escort did not land at Waterkloof and was never seen again.

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Vintage and veteran warbirds from the South African Air Force (SAAF) Museum flew in directly from their homebase AFB Swartkop, which is only a stone's throw away from Waterkloof. The flying branch of the museum arrived in the morning and showed amongst others in flight a Harvard formation, a formation of a Albatross and Bosbok, the venerable De Havilland DH-82A Tiger Moth and a “helicopter ballet” featuring several helicopters that have already been put out of service in the SAAF.

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Other aerial displays featured aerobatic flying by monoplanes, biplanes or helicopters, firefighting with a helicopter, or a demonstration to show the use of helicopters in the war against Rhino poachers.

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Also the Paramount Group put their "Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft" (AHRLAC) in the air, even if it was only twice during the whole show:

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The static display was ok, but nothing special. Many business jets and helicopters were dispersed around the apron, and nearly every aircraft type of the SAAF was present. But apart from a USAF C-17 and C-130 no other Air Forces were present, showing off maybe the somehow still strong division of African countries, or just the lack of money to participate in these kind of events. But for a round-up of the current status of the SAAF and their flying assets AAD 2014 was – as it promised to be - a great opportunity!

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