Saturday, July 18, 2009

New Study Critical Of South African Military

The paper, titled New Partnerships for a New Era: Enhancing the South African Army's Stabilization Role in Africa was written by professor Deane-Peter Baker, and was published as a book by the U.S. Army War College recently.

In the paper, Baker warns that the improvements planned for the SANDF could compromise it in future operations, especially in modern war scenarios. According to Defenceweb, the plan, “Vision 2020” envisages a quick-reaction type force for peacekeaping and peacemaking and a conventional army ready for a conventional attack on South Africa or the Southern African region. Baker argues:

The SA Army must plan for opponents who refuse to abide by the rigid conventional/unconventional binary, who instead employ both traditional and nontraditional tactics and equipment in unexpected, brutal, and novel ways.
Criticism by politicians has been even stronger. During the recent parliamentary defence budget debate, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) defence spokesman, David Maynier, a former Navy submariner, gave a scathing criticism of the military’s current state of combat readiness:
We may not know all the details about the state of combat readiness of the defence force. What we do know, however, is that the defence force is in deep trouble. We have soldiers in barracks, not in the field, we have ships alongside, not at sea, and we have aircraft in hangars, not in the air.
Maynier hammered away at the SANDF’s utilisation. He added:
We have an army that is over-stretched, a navy which is under-stretched; and an air force with nothing to stretch.
While not in agreement with the politicians, some high ranking SANDF officers have admitted that more equipment and more training is needed for the military, and this at a time of reduced budget spending and a global recession.

Chief of the South African Air Force (SAAF), Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano, reflecting on the SAAF’s Search and Rescue (SaR) capability, said that if an airliner crashed into the sea around Southern Africa, the SAAF would have only a limited capability to find survivors:
It is a vast area in which we are responsible for search-and-rescue. South Africa’s SaR area stretches from the northern border of Namibia all the way round to the southern border of Mozambique, and extends far out to sea –— all the way to Antarctica in the south.
While we do have systems that allow us to cover most of our SaR area, we don’t have the high-tech equipment for SaR that we have seen being utilised in the Air France accident. He added that the Air Force was not unaware of this:
This is an identified gap. Very soon we will start a project in order to beef up our surveillance capability and equipment, to be able to do SaR in this environment. The first initiative is obviously our maritime patrol aircraft that, as a secondary role, will have most of the equipment that you require to do such a search.

In the meantime, the SAAF uses an upgraded, turboprop version of the 70-year-old Douglas DC-3 design. Most of the aircraft themselves are around 65 years old. I spoke to Colonel Allan Bridgens, the Doyen of the SAAF Reserve, a gentleman who still flies aeroplanes and is considerably older than the DC-3 design. He had flown the new maritime patrol version of the “Dak,” — a type which he first flew in 1950. I asked him what the C47TP was like to fly. Smiling, he said laconically:
It flies like a Dakota.
In an effort to address the skills and manpower shortage, the SANDF introduced its Military Skills Development (MSD) program in 2003, aimed at providing both skills for the military and skilled and disciplined youth for society as a whole. The military says so far 10,000 young people have passed through the program. The MSD also hoped to induce those who completed their voluntary two-year service to remain in the reserves, thus giving the SANDF additional much-needed manpower. While on a recent “Captains of Industry” demonstration on board the frigate SAS Amatola, I noted the response of the Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral Johannes Refiloe Mudimu:
As you read the newspapers now and again, you’ll find that the South African Navy has personnel shortages. Yes, we have problems of keeping the complements, particularly the submariners, because the submariner is a volunteer in the service.
The SANDF, like all military services around the world, faces the problem of highly skilled men and women leaving the service for better paying jobs in the private sector. Mudimu added:
The young men and women on board, they are the finest of our younger generation. They give me hope that we need to continue positioning our navy to be the state of art in terms of their ability to do the job that is required. Through the MSD military skills development program, we give them opportunities to face challenges for the future so that tomorrow, they can realise that the responsibility of the Chief of the Navy is to create conditions for young people to succeed.

Young people from schools in many parts of South Africa seemed very impressed by the Navy demonstration, and one, Letsatsi Maroga, 17, from a township near Johannesburg, said he was seriously considering joining the Navy. Jokingly, he said:
I now know what the Navy is all about and I'm interested in becoming part of it. I want to become the Chief of the Navy one day.
Meanwhile, professor Baker believes more specialisation and further modernisation remain key to future success. He points out that like in current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, civil affairs, psychological operations and other non traditional units must be trained for South Africa to succeed in the difficult to define operations required in peacekeeping and peacemaking environments, of which Africa has so many.

Source: Christopher Szabo of Digital Journal

0 Opinion(s):