Cuban expertise helps deliver driving simulator in Kimberley

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3 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion in Kimberley is widely seen as the premier training unit for the SA Army and it now has a newly delivered driving simulator to emulate combat conditions thanks to the skillsets of the landward force’s project office and Cuban military technical personnel.

The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias), has a presence in any number of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) bases and units across the four services due to Project Thusano, a co-operation agreement entered into between South Africa and the Caribbean Island state. It is due to expire in three years with Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise indicating at least some elements will be reviewed and renewed. Replying to a parliamentary question asked by the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Russel Cebekhulu, she said contracts TI 17-001 and TI 17-002 will be part of the review. Following the review a decision will be made on “various sub-contracts which to terminate and which to continue”.

Thirteen months ago parliamentarians were briefed on what the Cuban connection had and is doing for the wider South African military machine. One was Cuban designed combat driving simulators for the Samil 20. Brigadier General BG Mtsweni from the Logistics Division’s SA Forces Institute (SAFI) said seven of 24 simulators were in service without specifying locations.

Earlier this month, 3 SAI became the operator of another Cuban combat driving simulator to be installed at SA Army “centres of excellence,” the unit’s Captain K Setsiba reported.

An officer from the project office is reported as saying the simulator will monitor driver trends and tendencies as part of efforts to better utilise resources such as vehicles with a Cuban officer giving an overview of the simulator system and its utilisation.

The SA Army is a long-time proponent of simulator-based training, recognising its ability to develop and maintain key mechanised warfare skills without incurring the prohibitive costs of regular live-fire training.

It has in the past received simulators from South African simulation house ThoroughTec Simulation, including its CYBERWAR range of tactical training simulators. ThoroughTec was not involved in the Cuban simulator project.

When the first batch of Cuban technical military personnel arrived in South Africa 11 years ago their mission revolved around repair, renovation and bringing back to service SANDF, mostly SA Army, Samil trucks. They also took on a mentoring role for Technical Service Corps (TSC) mechanics and technicians.

Over time the Cubans worked on repairing and maintaining medical equipment belonging to the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS), aircraft maintenance for the SA Air Force (SAAF), with the Simon’s Town Naval Dockyard, managed by Armscor, also seeing Cuban military techs at work.

Cuban expertise also made an appearance and is still seemingly in use at Infantry School in Oudtshoorn. An R4 simulator prototype and automated shooting range demonstration led to completing simulator development as well as adapting the range unit to local electro-magnetic conditions.

On capability and capacity building, Cubans have and are working with four levels – apprentice, artisan, military artisan and senior military artisan – in five skillsets. They are motor and auto electricians, armourers, refrigerators and recovery.