The air show opened its gates at 06:00 on Saturday, with the official programme beginning at 08:15. The day was filled with thrilling performances by big names in the aviation world. Among the many exhibitions and performances, the most attention-grabbing were probably the Gripen and Hawk displays. South Africa currently owns 26 Gripen fighter jets, and alongside the Hawk there is no question as to whether they stole the crowd’s attention or not.

Another grand display was the mobility track. Exhibitors were given the opportunity to display their land-based vehicles during two one-hour sessions every day. The terrain was created to test military vehicles and included a water trough, ditches, steep inclines and tight turns. Tanks, heavy duty vehicles, armoured and amphibious vehicles and personnel carriers all had their turn in wowing the crowd.

Seven of the Air Force Base’s hangars were converted into temporary exhibition halls. Housed inside these halls were 347 exhibitors from 26 countries from both public and private domains in the defence and security sector. Perhaps the most prominent exhibitors were Russia’s UralVagonZavod (UVZ), China’s Shipping Building Trading Co. Ltd (CSTC) and the American Technologies Network (ATN), all boasting world class technology. Denel – South Africa’s largest manufacturer of defence equipment and Armscor, one of the country’s largest single exporters of South African produced armaments, proudly boasted SA’s achievements in this sector as well.

Then there was the main event, an epic, simulated battle involving 50 soldiers, several dozen helicopters, the giant C-130 Hercules, two fighter jets and a hundred or so sticks of dynamite. The battle scenario illustrated South Africa’s defence capabilities and showed that the military is still a force to be reckoned with. This was probably the dirtiest event of the day and aside from the constant explosions, which triggered a wave of crying children, the helicopter landings stirred up a storm of burnt grass, sending most spectators home in a layer of grass and ash camouflage.

The highlight of the air show, and the most eye-catching display. was without a doubt “Parabot.” Standing 9.7 metres tall, the Paramount Group Parabot Transformer towered over the Air Force Base. Aside from promoting Paramount Group, the one-tonne “transformer” had another purpose – to raise awareness of Africa’s endangered wildlife, especially the rhino.

According to exhibition stand supplier HOTT3D, 61 official delegations from 26 countries were present at AAD and an estimated 92 982 members of the public visited the Air Force Base over the two-day period. Clearly AAD 2014 was a success and a thrilling display of the achievements in aerospace and military technology. The next AAD will take place at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in 2016. 

 

Photos: Marko Svicevic

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