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Sectors of the South African Government with its security apparatus, namely the South African Police (SAP) and the South African Defence Force, (SADF). Select a Security Sector above by clicking on the image for more details.




The SA Army consists of a Full-time and a Part-time Force. The Full-time Force is made up of a relatively small core of career soldiers called the Permanent Force which is augmented by national servicemen in their initial period of service. The Part-time Force, which constitutes the bulk of the Army's strength, consists of two elements, namely the Citizen Force and the Commando Force.


The SA Army is therefore in essence a militia force with three primary missions: the defence of South Africa on land; co-operation with the SA Police in maintaining law and order inside the RSA; and assistance to civic authori­ties in disaster relief work.


To carry out these missions, the SA Army has been organised into two major components, namely a Conven­tional Force and a Territorial Force.

The Conventional Force

The Conventional Force comprises two divisions and one independent parachute brigade. Each division has three mechanized brigades. If circumstances require it, an additional full-time force brigade can be composed to operate either independently or with the part-time forces.

Each brigade consists of one tank regiment, two mechanized infantry battalions, an armoured car regiment, an artillery regiment, an engineer regiment, a field workshop and signals and maintenance units.

The parachute brigade has three battalions and a light artillery regiment equipped with 120 mm mortars as well as the appropriate support units.

The Conventional Force is manned almost entirely by Citizen Force members, with Permanent Force members found mainly in the top command and staff posts and some key administrative posts.

As its name and structure implies, this force is geared to wage conventional but highly mobile operations, often over long distances and on terrain with poorly developed roads and amenities. Its mechanized strength lies in the tough Ratel Infantry Combat Vehicle, the powerful Olifant tank, the agile Rooikat Armoured Car and the sophisticated G-5 and G-6 artillery systems, all of them backed up by a family of high-endurance logistic vehicles.

The Territorial Force

The Territorial Force operates within the ten regional Commands and one military area into which the RSA has been divided.

These commands, with their headquarters shown in brackets, are: Western Province (Cape Town); Eastern Province (Port Elizabeth); Northern Cape (Kimberley); Orange Free State (Bloemfontein); Northern Transvaal (Pretoria); Witwatersrand (Johannesburg); Northwestern Command (Potchefstroom); Eastern Transvaal (Nelspruit); Natal (Durban), and Far North (Pietersburg). The Territo­rial Force also operates in the military area of Walvis Bay.

The Territorial Force is a mixture of areabound militia units called Commandos, Citizen Force units and a number of training units with combat capability. Almost all of these units are equipped and trained as light infantry for their primary counter-insurgency role. This includes the prevention of terrorist infiltration into their area of respon­sibility and the regional protection of all sections of the population against acts of terrorism and sabotage.

For the necessary mobility needed in counter insur­gency operations, the Territorial Force units rely heavily on mine-protected vehicles such as the Buffel personnel carrier, helicopters, and, in some instances, even motor­cycles and horses. A few units - e.g. 4 and 8 SA Infantry Battalion are equipped with Ratel Infantry Combat Vehi­cles and therefore classified as mechanized infantry and some Commands also have armoured car units for area patrol tasks.

The Commands are also responsible for relief opera­tions during emergencies or after natural disasters. Another important task of the Commands is the upliftment of the local population in underdeveloped regions within their areas of responsibility.

Two Commands, viz Far North and Eastern Transvaal, which are responsible for the protection of the greater part of the RSA's northern and eastern borders, are classified as operational sub-theatres. They are responsible for the protection of their respective areas against any external conventional threat. To this end, elements of the Conven­tional Force are placed under the Commands. There is also a third sub-theatre, viz the Western Sub-Theatre which is responsible for all operations in and from the western part of the RSA.

It is therefore quite clear that the actual execution of the SA Army's missions currently is mainly the task of the Territorial Force and the various Commands.

SA Army Headquarters

The Chief of the Army and his General Staff exercise overall command of both the Conventional and Territorial Force. SA Army Headquarters in Pretoria has five staff divisions responsible for, respectively, personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics and finance. The Inspector General of the Army ensures that uniform high standards of training and operational readiness are maintained.

Military Service

In terms of the Defence Amendment Act (Act 103 of 1982) all white male citizens are liable to military service at the age of 18, and they remain liable for service until age 55. There are two intakes every year, one in February and one in August, and the majority of these new conscripts are allocated to the SA Army, the largest of the four arms of the service.

They are allocated to various bases and installations with their first ten weeks being devoted to basic training. This is followed by specialist instruction appropriate to the trainees' particular corps or unit.

After six to eleven months training they are posted to operational and other units and headquarters for the rest of their initial service of two years.

These conscript soldiers undergoing their initial two years military service are known as national servicemen, and counted as part of the Army's Full-time Force.


Success in battle is dependent on well trained leaders and soldiers.

National servicemen receive their basic, individual and collective training at their respective units. In the Part-time Force training is done on a continuous or non-continuous basis with an annual maximum of twelve days in the Commandos and thirty days in the Citizen Force. Mem­bers in the Counter-insurgency Force do their training in their respective commands whereas those in the Conven­tional Force are trained by their formation headquarters, normally at the Army Battle School at Lohatlha in the North Western Cape.

This school with its huge training area and excellent facilities is ideal for all types of conven­tional exercises. Leaders and specialists of all ranks are trained at the respective corps schools. The SA Army College at Voortrekkerhoogte provides command and staff training for officers of the Permanent Force, Citizen Force and Commandos as well as qualifying courses for senior NCOs and warrant officers.

Coloured and Black Soldiers

There is also a large complement of non-white soldiers serving in the SA Army as volunteers, and their service conditions and career opportunities are the same as those of their white comrades-in-arms.

Coloured soldiers serve in most of the corps of the Army. Their service in the Army dates back to the First World War. There are at present two coloured infantry units based in the Cape, where volunteers serve for a minimum period of two years. A third coloured infantry unit, based at Midlands near Kimberley, will begin training in 1990. After basic training they are mainly used in the counter-insurgency role.

A maintenance unit near Cape Town trains coloured members for the Ordnance Corps. Selected members are also given the opportunity to qualify themselves as officers at either the Infantry School or the Ordnance Services School. After completing their initial two year voluntary service, those wishing to continue their career in the Army can do so in either the Cape Regiment, a Citizen Force unit, or they can join the Permanent Force in one of the various corps.

At 1 Special Training Unit in Kimberley, volunteers are also trained, for a period of six months, in various trades such as masonry, panelbeating and motormechanics.

There are also a number of black area units in the RSA: 21 Battalion at Lenz on the Witwatersrand, 111 Battalion in Eastern Transvaal, 113 Battalion in the eastern part of Far North Command, 115 Battalion near KwaNdebele, 116 Battalion at Messina, 117 Battalion at Soekmekaar in Northern Transvaal, 121 Battalion in Northern Zululand and 151 Battalion in Qwa-Qwa. The famous 32 Battalion, which had fought with distinction against SWAPO in Namibia, moved to its new base at Pomfret in the Northern Cape during the first half of 1989.

Black soldiers are assigned to the various corps and undergo relevant training at the various corps schools. Those with the necessary qualification (minimum matric) are also given the opportunity to qualify themselves as officers.

A notable feature of the Black units is the adult education centres established there in co-operation with the Department of Education and Training. These centres afford Black soldiers and their family members to better their educational qualifications. Instruction is given by qualified teachers doing their military service.

The SA Infantry Corps

This is by far the largest corps and forms the backbone of the SA Army. Modern infantry is broadly divided into motorized, mechanized and airborne units, but the South African Infantry also has a small contingent of specialists who fight on horseback, and on motorcycles during counter-insurgency operations. Patrol and sniffer dogs have also proved their worth in the counter-insurgency war, and they and their handlers are also found in the ranks of the infantry.

Modern infantry has a formidable arsenal of short to medium range weapons to generate a high volume of firepower. The basic personal weapon of the South Afri­can infantryman is the gas-operated, calibre 7,62 mm as­sault rifle (R-1, R-2 and R-3) or its more recent version, the 5,56 mm assault rifle (R-4). The 9 mm submachine guns (S-l and BMX), the 37 mm and 40 mm grenade launchers augment the infantryman's short range fire capability. The standard general-purpose machinegun is the SS-77, al­though the older FN Mag and MG-4 are still in service. All fire the standard 7,62 x 51 NATO round.

The 60 mm M-l and M-4 mortars as well as the 81 mm M-3 mortars are the infantry's "pocket artillery", and the hand-held RPG-7V antitank rocket launcher provides defence against enemy armour.

The mechanized infantry's combat vehicle is the famous Ratel. The main armament on this wheeled vehicle can either be the 20 mm belt-fed cannon, the 60 mm breech-loading mortar, the 81 mm front-loading mortar or, in an anti-tank role, the 90 mm gun. Secondary armament con­sists of two or three 7,62 mm machine guns and smoke-grenade launchers.

Motorized infantry is transported in the Buffel, the pri­mary mineprotected wheeled armoured personnel carrier.

The SA Artillery

The South African Artillery has a long and proud tradition. Its primary mission is long range fire support to armour and infantry during all phases of operation.

The South African Artillery prides itself on having one of the best medium guns in the world. Developed entirely in South Africa by Armscor, the G-5 155 mm gun/howitzer can achieve a range of nearly 40 kilometers. The self-propelled version of this gun, designed to support ar­moured and mechanized formations, is mounted on a wheeled chassis. Weighing 37 metric tonnes, the G-6 can achieve off-road speeds of up to 40 km/h. Still in service, but in the process of being phased out, is the G-2 140 mm medium gun (known to World War Two veterans as the 5,5 inch gun). Also destined for relegation to the reserve list is the G-4 155 mm gun/howitzer with a maximum range of 23 500 metres. The G-l 80 mm field gun, known to World War Two gunners as the 25-pounder, is now used mainly for training and ceremonial purposes.

The 127 mm Multiple Rocket Launcher, which with its 24 tubes can achieve a firing rate of 60 rockets per minute over a distance of up to 22 000 metres, is used mainly as a counter to enemy artillery concentrations and to deliver high saturation fire in the enemy's rear areas. Mounted on a two-ton truck, its mobility and lightness make it one of the best systems of its kind in the world.

The SA Anti-Aircraft

The South African Anti-Aircraft, operating in close con­junction with the Air Force, is responsible for the defence of combat formations against low-level air attacks. The primary anti-aircraft guns of the Army are the radar controlled 35 mm GDF-002 Twin and the 20 mm optically aimed GA1-C01 and GA1-B01. The self-propelled 20 mm gun on a mineprotected SAMIL-20 is known as the Yster-vark. Target acquisition and tracking is done by the Super Fledermaus and LPD-20 radar systems.

The SA Armoured Corps

The main battle tank of the South African Armoured Corps is the Olifant Mk 1A with its 105 mm gun as main arma­ment. Based on the old Centurion tank, but considerably updated in terms of engine power, suspension, transmis­sion and fire control, the Olifant is a formidable fighting machine. With a mass of 56 tonnes it can achieve a road speed of 45 kilometres per hour.

Up to 1989, the Eland armoured car was the standard reconnaissance vehicle of the Army, although it was also effectively used in the Angolan theatre of war as an assault gun and tank-destroyer. The Eland-90, with its 90 mm low recoil gun, is used in its conventional armoured car role by conventional armoured formations, whereas the Eland-60 with its 60 mm breech-loading mortar is designed for reconnaissance and patrol during counter-insurgency op­erations. The Eland is capable of road speeds up to 90 km/h and ranges between 240 and 450 kilometres, depending on the type of terrain.

Destined for operational employment by the end of 1989, the newly introduced Rooikat vehicle will replace the Eland as the Army's standard armoured reconnaissance vehicle. Having a remarkably low profile in spite of its 27 tonnes, the Rooikat packs a vicious armour-piercing punch in its 76 mm gun. Reaching speeds of more than 120 km/h on the road, it has an operational distance capacity of up to 1 000 km. Its high mobility, firepower and reliability make the Rooikat an ideal fighting machine under Southern African conditions.

The SA Engineer Corps

The Army Engineers have an impressive record of achievement - often under hazardous conditions. In both conventional and unconventional campaigns they have kept roads open, built temporary bridges over rivers, disposed of enemy mines, provided water supplies and established the physical infrastructure without which fighting elements would have ground to a halt. Other engineer tasks include survey work and the preparation of maps for the SADF.

The SA Signal Corps

The signallers are responsible for the maintenance of telephone, radio, telex and facsimile communications within the Army and between the Army and other ele­ments of the SADF. They also handle the provision of electric power to headquarters and units and the mainte­nance of most types of electronic equipment.

The SA Army Intelligence Corps

The best operational and logistical capabilities are of little use if the location, composition and intentions of the enemy cannot be identified with speed and accuracy. This task falls to the intelligence officers and clerks in all head­quarters of the Army. They collect, collate and analyse all available information concerning the enemy, the terrain and the local infrastructure and the population in an effort to build a useful picture for the commander and his operations staff.

Considerable time is naturally also spent studying the theory of enemy organisation and doctrine. Another intel­ligence task is the prevention of the enemy's information gathering activities, the security of own troops and the countering of enemy propaganda.

The SA Corps of Military Police

The Military Police perform the essential functions of a police force in the Army which in war will often be out of reach of civilian police. Military policemen also perform the absolutely vital function of traffic control to and from, as well as in the operational area.

The Technical Services Corps

Members of this corps can be regarded as the "Mr Fix-its" of the Army. These men maintain, repair and recondition every piece of army equipment - barring signals equipment. To them Olifant tanks, Ratel infantry combat vehicles, troop carriers, trucks, cars, heavy ordnance, pumps and generators hold no hidden mysteries. Most of the national servicemen allocated to the Technical Service Training Centre (TSC) in Voortrekkerhoogte are apprentices or technical high school students. After basic training each is given specialist instruction in the trade of his choice or the Army equivalent of his civilian trade. In addition, a number of Permanent Force appren­tices are taken in each year. Once trained, the men from TSC form the backbone of the Army's vast repair organisation - ranging from unit workshops to base installations.

Other Supporting Services

Other supporting services in the SA Army are the Person­nel Services Corps which is responsible for all aspects of personnel management; the Finance Services Corps which sees to the proper administration of public funds; the Ordnance Services Corps which is responsible for a com­prehensive range of logistical support services; the Cater­ing Corps which sees to the nutritional needs of the Army and also manages its clubs, restaurants and messes.




The SA Air Force is organised into two regional and four functional commands. The headquarters is in Pretoria. Air bases that are not under the direct control of one of the regional commands, resort under SAAF headquarters.

Western Air Command

With its headquarters in Windhoek this command controls all air operations in support of counter-insurgency missions, supply flights, evacuation of injured personnel and dropping supplies. On-going assistance to the inhabitants of the northern areas includes flying in medical teams, supplies and food to drought-stricken and/or flooded areas.

Southern Air Command

The Command is co-located with the SA Navy at Silvermine, Cape Town. With air bases and squadrons at Ysterplaat, Langebaanweg and Port Elizabeth, maritime and land air operations are carried out in the Cape Province and the oceans surrounding the Republic of South Africa.

Close co-operation exists between Western Province and Eastern Province Commands and Naval Commands. Command and control is exercised through the Regional Command Post and two Forward Air Force Command posts, and liaising with the Command post at Durban.

Air Force Base Rooikop situated at Walvis Bay also falls under this Command and is used by aircraft conducting maritime flights to and from the South African enclave.

The Command has a proud history of operations and search and rescue missions. This has led to international recognition when ships of other nationalities are involved.

Humanitarian operations are also regularly carried out with civil and government organisations, resulting in the rescue of survivors and the protection of property.

Airspace Control Command

Airspace Control Command is responsible for supplying early warning and air defence weaponry back-up to the Air Force, while providing air traffic control services to users of South African airspace. This is done by deploying two main systems, i.e. mobile and static.

Mobile systems can be deployed at short notice almost anywhere in the country. Radar units give cover to tactical elements of the Air Force while air defence missile and gun weaponry are used to protect strategic national points.

A highly sophisticated static system ensures that the industrial heartland of the country is safeguarded against enemy air activity by employing fighter aircraft in an interception role.

An integrated Air Traffic Control organisation, jointly operated by the SAAF and the Directorate of Civil Aviation is currently being developed. This system will greatly improve flight safety in South African airspace and will be of direct benefit to all users of the airspace.

Flight control and airspace operators are trained by the Airspace Control School at Air Force Base Waterkloof.

Air Logistics Command

The Command provides the specialist and logistic services namely engineering, maintenance and provisioning as recfuired by the SA Air Force.

These include creating new designs, and approving modifications. Overall control is obtained through utilising highly sophisticated computer-controlled purchasing facilities.

The Air Force has over 778 000 items in its inventory, one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

SAAF Training Command

Headquartered in Pretoria, SAAF Training Command controls all training institutions in the SAAF. This includes pilots, navigators, flying crew and technical personnel training. Basic training for technicians is given at the School for Logistic Training, Verwoerdburg.

Most apprentices must complete part of their training at one of a number of technikons. Due to the variety of sophisticated equipment and aircraft in use, there are many satisfying and exciting careers offered to members.

National servicemen and Permanent Force members complete their basic military training at the Air Force Gymnasium, Valhalla. Air Force personnel must pass various courses at the School for Logistic Training and the SAAF College, while officers complete their development and staff courses at the SAAF College.

Tactical Support Command

Tactical Support Command has the task of establishing and operating fully equipped mobile temporary field strips or civilian airfields.

Its main elements are Citizen Force Tactical Airfield units located around the country and ready for rapid mobilisation. Highly specialised mobil units ensure the provision of every conceivable facility that may be required for a base of up to 500 people, and established literally anywhere, is provided for.

This includes electricity, water supply/purification, refuse removal, ablutions, mobile canteens, workshops, communications, air traffic control and landing facilities, storage and operational command posts.




The Navy is a fully-fledged and effective fighting force. The purpose of the S A Navy (SAN) is, as is that of other navies world-wide, to promote the security goals of the RSA by means of maritime military operations.

The main functions emanating from this is firstly, the destruction of enemy naval forces and secondly, the support of the landward battle. Other functions include the escort of merchant fleet vessels, scouting operations and the protection of the maritime interests of the RSA.

The SA Navy co-operates with and supports the SA Army, the SA Air Force and the SA Police where neces­sary in the achievement of joint security goals.

Facilities and Equipment

Simon's Town, the Navy's strategically situated major base, 18 nautical miles from the Cape of Good Hope, is the only fully developed military naval base on the African coastline outside the Mediterranean.

Shortly after the base was taken over from the British Royal Navy in April 1957 in terms of the Simon's Town Agreement, the SA Navy launched the first major devel­opment programme. This included extensive new docking facilities, workshops, storerooms, office buildings and a power station. Further extensions and improvements fol­lowed during the sixties and seventies.

The dockyard area has been enlarged twice. First in the late sixties, when a substantial area of land was reclaimed from the sea to build the submarine basin and support facilities.

Later the original harbour area was more than doubled when the P.W. Botha tidal basin, which encloses nearly 30 ha of water, was constructed. The harbour can now accommodate up to 50 ships at a time. The deep water of Simon's Bay, largely protected by the surrounding moun­tains against winter gales, can also provide safe anchorage for warships of any size.

Repair and refitting facilities at Simon's Town are sec­ond to none. These include a synchro-lift which can lift vessels of up to 2 000 tons out of the water onto a platform from where they are transported on a series of rails to open "parking bays" or one of two sheds for easy access by the repair and maintenance teams.

Today, all repair, maintenance and conversion pro­grammes are carried out by dockyard personnel, often in co-operation with private local contractors. The facilities of the Navy dockyard in Durban have been enlarged and modernised so that this base is now also able to undertake many of these functions, especially with regard to the strike craft. The dockyard also has a synchro-lift at its disposal.

During the very successful Exercise Magersfontein near Walvis Bay during 1988, which was the biggest peace-time SAN exercise ever to have taken place, the ability of the SAN to operate and maintain its vessels for a long period far away from their home bases, was thoroughly tested and proved. The effectiveness of the SA Navy's mobile technical logistical support units was also confirmed dur­ing the exercise.

Vessels used by the Navy are ideally suited to a task which, following the mandatory arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council in 1977, no longer includes protecting the general Western interests on the strategic Cape sea-route.

These vessels include fast locally-built missile carrying strike craft for surface attack, a flotilla of submarines, a flotilla of mine countermeasure vessels and two helicopter-carrying replenishment vessels, as well as a hydrographic survey ship and other smaller craft.

Command and Control

The Navy's headquarters is based in Pretoria for closer liaison with the other Arms of the SADF. There are two area commands, ie Naval Command West with headquarters at Silvermine in the Cape, and Naval Command East with its headquarters on the Bluff in Durban.


The total staff complement of the SA Navy is much smaller than that of either the SA Army or the SA Air Force. Most of its members belong to the Permanent Force, as the effective operation of the Navy's vessels and their ad­vanced weapon and other systems demand considerable investment in specialist training. However, the Navy does command a fairly large Citizen Force with bases located in areas from which most na­tional servicemen allocated to the Navy are drawn. Two of these bases, the SAS Rand and the SAS Magaliesberg, are in fact on the Transvaal Highveld, about 600 km from the nearest salt water, but the other five are at the coast.

Women play quite an important role in today's Navy. The war-time SA Women's Auxiliary Naval Service (SWANS) was resuscitated in the early seventies and all young Permanent Force recruits are drafted to the SAS Saldanha, the SAS Jalsena or the SAS Simonsberg where they receive basic training similar to that of their male counterparts. After that they undergo specialist training in non-combatant musterings, especially in administrative and technical fields. Some work as tactical data operators on advanced communications equipment at the joint headquarters of Southern Air Command and Naval Command West at Silvermine, and others as naval radar operators at shore installations.

South African Indian volunteers who want to join the Navy have their own training unit, the SAS Jalsena, situ­ated on Salisbury Island in Durban harbour. This is a practical arrangement as most Indians live in and around Durban. The available facilities allow for a maximum intake of 400 volunteers a year. Their service of two years, which includes five months' basic training, is identical to that of other naval volunteers. On completion of this period of service they can apply to join the Permanent Force.

General Training

All national servicemen allocated to the Navy, together with all young volunteers for the Permanent Force, are drafted to the SAS Saldanha on the west coast for their 13-week basic training. This includes a comprehensive course in the fundamentals of seamanship. Basic training is followed by specialist training in the various musterings. If the trainee is to be an artisan or technician, he will go to the Navy's technical training school at the SAS Wingfield inGoodwood and if he is to be a rating in another branch, he will continue his training at the SAS Simonsberg in Simon's Town.

Later the prospective seaman is drafted to a vessel for an extended practical training period or to some shore instal­lation where he will be a member of a large team whose job is to keep the vessels and their crews operating effi­ciently at sea. This training cycle is repeated until trainees comply with the high standard of proficiency required.

About 2 000 civilians are employed in the Simon's Town Naval dockyard. It is the highest concentration of trade disciplines in the Republic, and more than 50 different trades are practised. Nearly 100 apprentices undergo training in the dockyard every year.

All young officers and midshipmen are trained at the Naval College, Gordon's Bay, 50 km north-east of Cape Town. Specialist training is afterwards given at the SAS Simonsberg and the various flotillas.

Submarine Flotilla

The Navy's DAPHNE class submarines are based at Si­mon's Town, where training and docking facilities were constructed in record time for the arrival of the first submarine from France in May 1971.

The support base is the SAS Hugo Biermann.

While the conventional DAPHNE submarines are small compared to those of the super powers, they are quiet and highly manoeuvrable and, with their deep diving capability, well-suited to operating in South African waters. They also require a relatively small complement of about 50 officers and other ranks.

A full logistic and support facility has been developed and the Navy's technicians and artisans have the experi­ence to refit and maintain these vessels. The maintenance programme is designed to keep at least two submarines at sea most of the time.

Candidate submariners - all volunteers - undergo rig­orous selection tests, including psychological testing, to determine whether they will be suitable to perform their duties efficiently as members of a team in the confined environment of a submarine during long periods at sea.

After an introductory course of formal training followed by a short spell at sea, candidates are given specialist instruction in the various musterings as well as in the mechanics and functions of all systems and equipment on board.

An important training facility is the computer-controlled simulator which realistically simulates the operational situations which submariners may be confronted with, including the flooding or sinking of a vessel. Advanced training includes joint exercises with the Navy's other vessels.

The Navy has recently started modernising and upgrad­ing the DAPHNE submarines in the Simon's Town dockyard. This will improve their striking power considerably. The first one to be completed, the SAS Emily Hobhouse, successfully completed its last acceptance trials in January 1989, when during an exercise South of Cape Point, it sank an old trawler used as the target.

Strike Craft Flotilla

The MINISTER class strike craft, revealed to the public in May 1979, are the pride of the SA Nav/s surface fleet. The strike craft, including their sophisticated offensive and defensive weapon systems were designed in South Africa and built by Sandock-Austral in Durban. Although small by comparison, they have an effective strike power similar to that of battleships employed during the Second World War. These vessels are armed with the Skerpioen surface-to-surface missile which is capable of neutralising large ships, while the computer controlled 76 mm guns can ward off enemy aircraft and vessels attacks. They can also protect the ship against incoming missile attacks. These weapons are backed up by a comprehensive range of radars and other electronic equipment designed to detect, classify and track targets at long range. The Strike Craft Flotilla is divided into two squadrons, one based in Durban and the other in Simon's Town, although either squadron can be deployed for operational reasons to any other area.

Mine Countermeasures Flotilla

The Mine Countermeasures Flotilla which operates TON and RIVER class MCM vessels, maintains the expertise of being able to neutralise any enemy mining of the Republic's harbours and their approaches. This ensures the safe passage of all merchant vessels to and from our harbours and accordingly the unhindered continuation of the vitally important import and export trade of the RSA and several of its neighbours in Southern Africa. The operational life of the MCM vessels is greatly extended by regular rotation of vessels in commission and the excellent base support facilities available at the SAS Chapman in Simon's Town. Besides remaining proficient in their primary role, these vessels are also used for coastal patrols and sea-training. The MCM Flotilla is virtually the only force of its kind in Africa.

The Support Vessels

The S A Navy's first replenishment ship, the SAS Tafelberg, was refitted and modernised in the Simon's Town dock­yard during 1983-1984. A large flight deck between two superstructure islands and two hangars, one on either side of the funnel, were added at the same time. This has given her the capability of operating Puma or Super Frelon helicopters. She is therefore now able to replenish other ships at sea by jackstay, boat and helicopter (vertrep). Two 40 mm and two 20 mm guns were also added.

The SAS Tafelberg presented the opportunity to get some "maritime air observation" at a reasonable cost. Roles envisaged for the helicopters include visual reconnaissance, vessel identification, vertrep, vertrep to shore, and communications flights. In a patrol support role, the SAS Tafelberg, taking into consideration the capabilities of her helicopters, will offer excellent endurance.

The conversion resulted in considerable unutilised space below the flight deck, which has been used to provide added accommodation and medical facilities at little additional cost. Coupled with her helicopters and the ability to carry large boats, this has given the SAS Tafelberg a valuable search and rescue and disaster relief potential.

This has already been proved when the ship, together with the strike craft, the SAS Jim Fouche, assisted in the search for wreckage and victims of the Helderberg air disaster in the sea near Mauritius at the end of 1987.

The ship also has an amphibious capability which was demonstrated effectively during Exercise Magersfontein (Sep-Oct 88). During this big SA Navy exercise at Walvis Bay, a large number of men and large quantities of arms and military vehicles were brought ashore and then evacuated.

The SA Navy's second replenishment ship, the modern SAS Drakensberg, was commissioned in 1987. The locally designed and built vessel of 12 500 tons will supplement the SAS Tafelberg in all her present roles and will greatly enhance all the SA Navy's capabilities in her specific field of operations at sea.

The new ship has already thoroughly proved herself. At the beginning of 1988, accompanied by the strike craft, the SAS Frans Erasmus, she called at several Pacific Ocean ports during an official visit to Chile after she had trans­ported tons of Armscor's exhibition material to Valparaiso for the Fida exhibition in Santiago. Towards the end of 1988, the SAS Drakensberg also called at the Mozambican port of Beira twice in order to unload equipment for that country's Defence Force.

Hydrographic Survey

The hydrographer of the Navy is the charting authority for the seas along the coast of the Republic of South Africa and South West Africa/Namibia. The hydrographic branch is the oldest in the Navy and for many years its survey vessels have scoured the south­ern oceans, carefully plotting every underwater crag, promontory, mountain and valley, to make the Cape sea-lanes safer for all vessels. The SAS Protea is engaged in this important task. She is fitted with the most modern automatic survey, data-logging and ship guidance equipment. A computer guides the ship on a pre-selected track across the area to be surveyed. The information gathered by this vessel is pro­cessed into a series of charts and other publications, including navigation guides and tidetables. These are also available and on sale to the public and shipping lanes of the world. The Navy's hydrographer co-ordinates navigation warnings to mariners in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and represents South Africa on the International Hydrographic Organisation.


The Navy's divers are trained at the SAS Simonsberg Diving School in Simon's Town. After completing their basic training and seamanship courses at the SAS Saldanha and the SAS Simonsberg, candidate divers must pass a series of stringent selection tests before embarking on a strenuous training pro­gramme. Those who complete the course certainly consti­tute some of the fittest and most effective operators in the SADF. Their major role is mine clearance and the protection of shipping and harbour installations against underwater sabotage and insurgency. Peacetime duties include underwater salvage or repairs, and assisting in berthing naval vessels in drydock and on synchro-lifts.


The shift in emphasis in the SA Navy's duties in 1979 as a result of the UN arms embargo and boycott actions, led to the revival of the Marines Branch. It is the function of this branch to help protect our harbours and naval installations against terrorist attacks or sabotage from land or sea. It has also a limited amphibious function. The majority are members of the Permanent Force or national servicemen, while Citizen Force members constitute between 15 and 30 per cent of the branch. The Marines operate in close co-operation with the SA Police and other authorities. Units have now been established from Richard's Bay on the north-east coast of South Africa through Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, Simon's Town, Table Bay, Saldanha Bay, as well as Walvis Bay. Because the duties of the Marines are a combination of those of sailors and soldiers, they are trained as both, and consequently their training is tough and comprehensive. After training a Marine unit is proficient in infantry tactics, unarmed combat, diving techniques, counter-insurgency operations and certain amphibious operations. The NAMACURRA type harbour patrol boats (HPBs) and DELTA type landing-craft used by the Marines are designed and built in South Africa. The HPBs rank among the most heavily armed small boats in the world, while the landing-craft provide the Marines with their amphibious capability.

Search and Rescue

Rescue operations along the southern and eastern sea­boards are undertaken by units of the Navy and the Air Force in co-operation with the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), a voluntary private organisation funded largely by donations from the public.




The morale of the South African Forces is high. One of the most important contributing factors is the South African Medical Service (SAMS).

SAMS provides the necessary medical and related support to the South African Defence Force (SADF) in land, air, and seaward operations, and also carries out its own distinctive operational tasks.

SAMS also provides extensive medical aid to all Permanent Force members and their dependants, serving Citizen Force and Commando Force members and na­tional servicemen.

SAMS follows a multi-disciplinary approach and its personnel represent more than 50 recognised medical and paramedical professions. Personnel

SAMS consists of a Full and Part-time Force. The former has professional men and women who are Perma­nent Force members, and national servicemen. Suitably qualified national servicemen serve in their respective professions after undergoing basic military orientation. The Part-time Force includes members of the Citizen Force and Commando Force all over the country.

To ensure that available medical and related services are as comprehensive as possible and remain at the highest level of proficiency, SAMS appoints prominent private specialists as consultants to supplement the expertise of the growing number of specialists in its full-time complement.

SAMS is represented in a variety of medical related organisations. A contributing factor is the Surgeon Gen­eral's membership of the Advisory Committee on Health, and the SA Health and Dental Council.

SAMS keeps itself up-to-date with the many new medical products on the market by maintaining contact with medical representatives from a large selection of medical companies and by evaluating the efficacy of these products.

CSIR and Armscor also furnish valuable scientific and technological information at the request of SAMS to fulfil each and every need SAMS may experience in military operations and elsewhere.

SAMS Nursing College is an institution registered with the South African Nursing Council. Nursing training includes a four year diploma which, in association with the University of South Africa, leads to professional nurse status with qualifications in General, Psychiatric, Commu­nity nursing and Midwifery. There are other training courses for enrolled nurses as well as a six-month training course for nursing assistants.

Bursaries are available for medical and dental students and facilities for post-graduate studies at the Universities of Pretoria, Stellenbosch and the Orange Free State. Vari­ous sections of the three military hospitals have been accorded academic status by the Medical and Dental Council. SAMS benefits from the arrangement be­cause a work force of clinical assistants in various special­ities is placed at its disposal.

The military welfare service promotes the sound social functioning of members of the SADF and their families on the basic assumption that the best soldier is a soldier well-adjusted and free from worries about family or other social problems.

The veterinary section's function is to prevent the inci­dence of spread of contagious diseases among the SADF's animals, particularly horses and dogs, and to treat them accordingly. This includes the control of diseases like rabies in areas where the SADF is deployed.

They also do extensive research programmes testing the suitability of species and selecting the best nutrition under specific conditions.

A survival centre provides training for SAAF air personnel and select groups of other soldiers. The course includes survival techniques in the bush, desert and coastal areas. It is based on the assumption that a man with only his uniform and a knife must survive, however harsh the conditions and in the face of any possible enemy threat. Special training is given on poisonous and edible vegetation and insects, and how to get food from the sea without the usual equipment.

Professional Services

As with all civilian medical services in the world, South Africa places great emphasis on primary, secondary and tertiary health care. "Prevention is better than cure" is a very apt dictum as regards SAMS policy to establish facilities for preventive medicine.

Dental care covers the whole spectrum from extractions to conservation, maxillo-facial and oral surgery, and prosthesis.

It is the policy of the SADF to achieve optimal rehabilitation. In SAMS this is regarded as a process whereby the quality and length of life are extended and involves the combination and co-ordination of medical, paramedical, psycho-sociological and educational facilities in training and re-educating disabled persons.

The ultimate goal in rehabilitation is to assist the physically and/or neurologically disabled individual in the opti­mum realisation of his capabilities, ensuring the adjustment necessary for a productive, well-balanced lifestyle. The process of rehabilitation is characterised by its intervention on physical, social, psychological and spiritual levels of an individual's existence including appropriate aftercare and follow-up. Within SAMS the utilisation of the multi-disciplinary treatment team, which is a funda­mental element in the holistic approach to rehabilitation and a prerequisite for successful adjustment, is standard policy. Since a disabled individual's treatment and stay in hospital are largely determined by the extent of his injury, he may spend anything from one to eighteen months in a convalescent wing of a military hospital.

SAMS is the largest distributor of medical supplies to military and non-military institutions in the country. It is a supply administration of daunting proportions and means that SAMS's pharmacists not only dispense medicines, but are responsible for administering this vital service as well.

The general military health programme involves applying various measures and techniques to prevent the out­break of disease or the development of health hazards which may impair the readiness or efficiency of the SADF. Thus, SAMS's hygiene officers monitor health condi­tions in the total environment. It also ensures that food conforms to the most stringent hygienic standards. Its other responsibilities include preventing infectious dis­eases - and if they break out, controlling them.

SAMS Specialist Units

To comply with the diverse specialised needs which a modern defence force, such as the SA Defence Force, expects from its medical facilities, SAMS has, apart from the usual back-up of specialised services, all the know-how in fields typical of military medicine.

SAMS also renders specialist selection services for the SA Navy at the Institute for Maritime Medicine. SAMS applies its own stringent tests to screen prospective divers and submarine personnel for the Navy and the Merchant Navy. Similarly, the Institute for Aviation Medicine at Verwoerdburg, screens candidate pilots for the Air Force and Civil Aviation. The Military Psychological Institute offers specialist selection and clinical psychology facilities to the SADF.

7 Medical Battalion Group is the specialist Airborne Medical Unit of the South African Military Health Service. The Battalion's main task is to render medical support to the South African Special and Airborne Forces.

Other specialties of the Battalion include Combat Search and Rescue, CBRNE detection, verification and decontamination, Diving and Aviation medicine and numerous other skills associated in supporting Special Forces.

Little is publicly known of this elite medical unit primarily because of its association with the South African Special Forces. The unit's founder Commandant Wouter Basson led the research on the SADF Chemical and Biological Warfare program.

Other tasks of the battalion include but are not limited to medical support to the South African Police Service Special Task Force and other elite units, the South African Air Force's Search and Rescue units and the Presidential Protection Unit.

The Operational Medical Orderly, better known as the Ops Medic is the collective name for the South African Defence Forces Medics. The Ops refers to the Operational area and was used to indicate that the medical orderlies deployed to the Operational area or theatre of operations of the then South African Defence Force (SADF). The Operational area referred to the border or cutline between Namibia and Angola where the Angolan Bush War conflict or border war was taking place from the 1970s to 1989.

The Ops medics was distinctly different from the Sick Bay and Hospital medics of the time because they were trained in infantry fighting doctrines and other doctrines as necessary to deploy with the armed forces of South Africa.

At the same time, SAMS can, with good reason, boast expertise in treatment fields such as heat exhaustion, trauma and the management of disasters. During extensive flooding coupled with the loss of many lives and homes at Laingsburg in 1984, SAMS personnel were on the scene within hours. Doctors treated patients and pharmacists renewed lost supplies especially tablets for patients suffering from ailments such as high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, etc. A psychiatric team treated inhabit­ants as well as rescue workers who suffered from shock and depression.

The evacuation of the injured or seriously ill patient receives priority attention in SAMS. If vehicle transport is too slow, or the pick-up point inaccessible, i.e. in combat areas or on mountain ranges, SA Air Force helicopters are tasked to evacuate the patient.

As soon as a soldier is wounded he becomes a SAMS responsibility. Treatment starts immediately and is continued until he reaches a doctor or a doctor reaches him. Once stabilised, the patient is evacuated to a field or base hospital.


Special Forces:

The first South African Special Forces unit, 1 Reconnaissance Commando, was established in the town of Oudtshoorn, Cape Province on 1 October 1972. On 1 January 1975, this unit was relocated to Durban, Natal, where it continued its activities as the airborne specialist unit of the special forces.
Later, five additional Reconnaissance Commandos were formed:

  • 2 Reconnaissance Commando (Citizen Force) - was established in Johannesburg. It was later retired due to rationalisation and the discontinuation of the Citizen Force unit concept
  • 3 Reconnaissance Commando (consisting of former Rhodesian Selous Scouts) - was established in Phalaborwa. An attempt to integrate this unit into the South African Military was largely unsuccessful. The unit was disbanded in 1981, and the limited number of remaining personnel were incorporated into the other Special Forces unit.
  • 4 Reconnaissance Commando, specialising in seaborne operations, was established in the coastal town of Langebaan, Cape Province.
  • 5 Reconnaissance Commando was established at the Duku-Duku camp in Natal, but was later moved to Phalaborwa in the Transvaal province.
  • 6 Reconnaissance Commando (consisting of former Rhodesian Special Air Service) – was established in Durban. An attempt to integrate this unit into the South African Military was largely unsuccessful. It was disbanded in 1981, and the limited number of remaining personnel were incorporated into the other Special Forces units.

On 1 January 1981, a re-organisation of Special Forces took place, as part of which the Reconnaissance Commandos and other special forces were transformed into an independent formation, directly under the command of the (then) South African Defence Force (instead of the South African Army). As part of the re-organisation, the various Reconnaissance Commandos were also given the status of regiments. In the latter part of the same decade, a Special Forces headquarters and a Special Forces stores depot were also added to the Special Forces structure.
Between the years 1981 and 1990, Special Forces was home to unconventional operations such as Project Barnacle, the Civil Cooperation Bureau and other operations conducted under the aegis of 7 Medical Battalion Group.

In 1991, the structure of the special forces underwent another change, when the special forces headquarters was disbanded and a Directorate Reconnaissance, reporting directly to the Chief of the Army, was established instead.

Another organisational change followed in 1993, when the Directorate Reconnaissance became 45 Parachute Brigade. As a result of this, all the units were renamed: 1 Reconnaissance Regiment became 452 Parachute Battalion, 4 Reconnaissance Regiment became 453 Parachute Battalion and 5 Reconnaissance Regiment became 451 Parachute Battalion.
As part of the military rationalization process, 1 Special Forces Regiment was disbanded in 1996. Its personnel were incorporated into the other Special Forces Regiments.
In 1997, the Special Forces School was transferred to 5 Special Forces Regiment upon the retirement of 1 Special Forces Regiment where the School had previously been based. The Special Forces School was transferred out of 5 Special Forces Regiment in 2002, to become a stand-alone unit.

7 Medical Battalion Group is the specialist Airborne Medical Unit of the South African Military Health Service. The Battalion's main task is to render medical support to the South African Special and Airborne Forces.
Other specialties of the Battalion include Combat Search and Rescue, CBRNE detection, verification and decontamination, Diving and Aviation medicine and numerous other skills associated in supporting Special Forces.
Little is publicly known of this elite medical unit primarily because of its association with the South African Special Forces. The unit's founder Commandant Wouter Basson led the research on the SADF Chemical and Biological Warfare program.

Other tasks of the battalion include but are not limited to medical support to the South African Police Service Special Task Force and other elite units, the South African Air Force's Search and Rescue units and the Presidential Protection Unit.

The unit is on a general six-hour standby and is ready to deploy nationally and internationally, most recently in advisory and support roles during natural disasters.
The unit retains a limited Defensive Chemical Biological warfare (CBRNE) capability.



The South African Police (SAP) was the national police force and law enforcement agency in South Africa from 1913 to 1994; it was the de facto police force in the territory of South West Africa (Namibia) from 1939 to 1981. After South Africa's transition to majority rule in 1994, the SAP was reorganised into the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Police officials often called on the army for support in emergencies. In turn, one SAP brigade served with the 2nd Infantry Division of the South African Army in North Africa during World War II. After the war, the South African Police joined INTERPOL on 1 January 1948.


The Koevoet, translating into English as 'crowbar', but officially known as the Police Counter-Insurgency Unit (COIN) or 'Operation K' were a major paramilitary police unit in South African-administered South West Africa, now the Republic of Namibia. Alongside the South West African Police, they were disbanded following Namibian independence in 1989, and were essentially replaced by the Special Field Force in modern-day Namibia. A counter-insurgency branch of the South West African Police (SWAPOL). Its formations included South African police officers, usually seconded from the South African Security Branch or Special Task Force, and volunteers from Ovamboland. Koevoet was patterned after the Selous Scouts, a multiracial Rhodesian military unit which specialised in counter-insurgency operations. Its title was an allusion to the metaphor of "prying" insurgents from the civilian population.

Koevoet was active during the South African Border War between 1979 and 1989.

Special Task Force

In 1967, about 2,000 members of the South African Police were deployed to guard the northern border of Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe) to assist Rhodesian security forces in maintaining law and order in the country as guerrilla attacks became more frequent during the Rhodesian Bush War. These police members proved to be ill-equipped and ineffective at dealing with guerrilla warfare and terrorism. As a result of these events the Security Branch of the Police began to envision a special police unit to deal with high-risk situations such as hostage situations. Captain J.J. de Swardt of the Security Branch of the Police as well as Sergeant Roelf de Plooy (a counter insurgency (COIN) instructor), both veterans of the deployments in Rhodesia against Zimbabwe African National Union rebels, began a grass roots attempt to form a group of police representatives with a shared vision of formalising a police-based special forces unit. They began to train candidate police officers in survival and bush skills to execute high-risk COIN operations and drastically reduce friendly fatalities.

The members of this ragtag group were required to join the South African Police shooting club in order to acquire R1 battle rifles. Camouflage uniforms were also unofficially acquired. Because this group, who had taken on the name of 'Bliksems', was an unofficial group within the Police Force, the normal training facilities were not accessible. A vacant area near the Baviaanspoort Correctional Services that could be used for live-fire handgun and rifle training, and which also had an urban environment with rural terrain, was eventually found by Col. van der Merwe. Capt. J.J. de Swardt then proceeded to hire instructors from Hunter Group of the South African Defence Force (SADF) such as martial arts specialist, Joe Grant Grierson. Training was based around weapons handling, rural patrol formations and tactics, ambushes and skirmishes and was based on military protocol. Rock climbing, rope access, rescue work, skydiving and parachute training also occurred later on. Other instructors of the team were Bill du Toit (an ex-special forces soldier) who specialised in terror tactics, Mr K. Lucy who was an expert in rope work and abseiling, Mr T. Segala who had an extensive knowledge of booby traps and Improvised explosive devices, Gary Magnusson and Hannes Smit who were experienced civilian skydivers and Major Jakkals de Jager who was a paratrooper in the SADF.

In 1973 during the South African Games, the Israeli government stated that it would send their team but only on the sole condition that their security would be guaranteed. Gen. Mike Geldenhuys, who was the head of the South African Police Security Branch at the time, arranged for Capt. de Swardt and his 'Bliksems' to provide security for the foreign team. For this, the South African Police received much praise and attention from the international press as well as a commendation from the South African Secretary for Foreign Affairs which solidified the idea of a police special forces unit. On 28 April 1975, however, a hostage siege occurred at the Israeli embassy and the Police (lacking an official counter terrorist force) could not resolve the situation. This became known as the Fox Street Siege. In 1975 the counter insurgency conflict in South-West Africa (now named Namibia) also broke out and police and military manpower was now stretched between two COIN campaigns. The South African Police was forced to withdraw from the South-West African border as well as from Rhodesia and earned the Battle Honour Rhodesia.

In 1975 the Bureau of State Security supported the creation of the unit and on 6 June 1975, Brigadier Vic Verster wrote an official recommendation from the South African Police Security Branch to the Commissioner of the South African Police and proposed the structure, command and control plans for the Special Task Force. Then finally on 1 February 1976 Lt. Gen. Mike Geldenhuys officially authorised the creation of the Special Task Force. Col. Dries Verwey was appointed as the first commanding officer (CO) of the Special Task Force and Capt. J.J. de Swardt and the core group of the 'Bliksems' were transferred to the Special Task Force as instructors. During the first phase of selection the unit received 113 applications, yet only 38 were accepted including 4 reserve members including one medic.

Division: Internal Stability

Formed in 1992 in the run-up to the 1994 South African election following the end of Apartheid, 'Division: Internal Stability' were tasked with the important role of combating violence in the turbulent years leading up to and after the elections. The unit consisted of 41 divisions, and proved detrimental to preventing potentially thousands of killings during major political violence.