Port Elizabeth - A mock warfare along Kings Beach in Nelson Mandela Bay saw thousands of people flock to the beachfront on Thursday night.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is celebrating Armed Forces Week in Port Elizabeth.

The national event has generated a buzz of activity and is drawing in numbers of people interested in the military and its battle capabilities.

On Thursday evening the public were treated to soldiers launching synchronised SA Army artillery fire, the Air Forces anti-missile flares and the banging sound of cannon fire.

Sumaiyah Abrahams, 23, said that she was very excited to attend an once-off event of this magnitude. Her excitement howeverturned to sadness when she thought about the plight of the Syrian children who live in fear of the sound of warfare.

“When I got here, all I could think about was countries especially Syria that have to go through this – not as a show but as part of their reality. Each time the canon went off I got a fright, I just imagined how Syrian kids must feel when they hear that sound,” lamented Abrahams.

Meanwhile, navy vessels launched a defensive gun salvo aimed at flares, which illuminated the night skies into golden light.

The biggest drawing card for the crowds were low-flying aircrafts from the SA Air Force which included 3 Gripen fighter jets that dropped off flares simultaneously.

SA Navy vessels, the Majestic SAS Drakensberg and SA Galeshewe, also launched their guns and fired at the flares.

In addition a G5 long range artillery gun fired illumination shells.

The night shooting demonstration was a real family affair with a picnic setting. Even though it was held during a school night several children were at the beach.

Louise Visser, 59, said that the event was huge for PE.

“In 1975, I was at Waterkloof employed at the SA Airforce. I’m longing to go back, not that I can at my age. It’s nice to come out and see how they have progressed. The military is good in that it teaches you to be independent. It’s a pity young people are not exposed to it like before,” said Visser.

Andre van Greunen, 36, said that he came to the viewing for his six-year-old daughter to enjoy.

“This is a first for PE. It’s good publicity for the city. We don’t usually see the army so it’s nice to see them in the flesh,” said Van Greunen.

The main event is the Armed Forces Parade on February 21, which will see Marine Drive temporarily closed.

President Jacob Zuma and various ministers will watch a 40-minute display.

Fighter jets and helicopters will again light up the sky, firing into the sea off Kings Beach.

Zuma is also expected to hand out medals to deserving SANDF members.

The parade will consist of about 1 000 SANDF members and over 100 vehicles and aircraft.

African News Agency