Combat readiness


Parliament will shortly be briefed on the combat readiness – or otherwise – of the South African National Defence Force.

It appears the briefing will be held behind closed doors so the public – including defenceWeb readers – will not afterwards be any the wiser.

Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier on Tuesday questioned why this briefing had be secret considering similar briefing to the media.

The Parliamentary Monitoring Group had acting defence secretary Tsepe Motumi responding that these “were primarily public relations exercises, concerned with showcasing. They could not be described as proper combat readiness briefings.”

The perhaps unintended insult to journalists – and their readers – aside, the question this raises is what exactly is combat readiness?

The wikipedia bases its definition in part that articulated by South African Brigadier General George Kruys, describing it as “a condition of the armed forces and their constituent units and formations, warships, aircraft, weapon systems or other military technology and equipment to perform during combat military operations.”

The civilian equivalent may be the concept of “fit for purpose.”

Defining combat readiness may be the easy bit. Finding a yardstick to measure this concept is another matter entirely. The portfolio committee may do well to grapple with this point before entertaining the defence department`s briefing.   

Here is one conundrum: If the SA Air Force has nine C130BZ Hercules transports and the DoD strategic business plan calls for three to be available for transport tasks at any given time in a financial year, is the C130 system 100% combat ready or just 33%?

Here is another: If the SA Navy has four frigates of which one is in refit, one is preparing for deployment and two are ready to deploy, how “combat ready” is the frigate system?  


And a third: Is an infantry battalion on the cusp of deployment on a peace mission “combat ready” or just ready to perform peacekeeping tasks to United Nations standards in a relatively benign environment?

101Bn & the SA counterinsurgency effort in Namibia, 1966-1989  

A number of new books are emerging about the Border War, waged by South Africa in northern Namibia and Angola from 1966 to 1989. Most seem to fall into the “popular” category and amount to personal reminiscences.     

Authors Helmoed-Römer Heitman, Willem Steenkamp and Peter Stiff wrote a number of fine works on the Border War in the early 1990s, but obviously they did not cover all aspects of a 23-year long war.  

One obvious oversight is a regimental history of the South West African Territory Force`s 101Bn (1978-1989) and another may be an analysis of the South African approach to counterinsurgency, the theory and the practice.

I am keen to research at least the former and herewith issue an invitation to all with something to contribute on the matter to contact me and to share their memories, thoughts and opinions.