The technical skills brought to South Africa by Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces personnel have been part of “preservation and maintenance” of six hundred thousand plus infantry weapons.
The Cubans are in South Africa as part of a now 10-year-old defence bilateral agreement between the two countries with repair and refurbishment of vehicles, as far as can be ascertained, the initial component of the agreement’s implementation. Since then, this has grown to include training of officers, pilots and military medics in the Caribbean Island country.
Cubans deployed to South Africa put their mechanical and vehicular skills to work on vehicles in the fleets of all four arms of service as well as Special Forces and are active in stock control, which includes physical stocktaking, implementing a methodological guide to taking stock and drafting policies for technical support structures, the preservation/de-activation of vehicles and development of SA Army workshop standards.
Brigadier General BG Mtsweni of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Logistics Division’s SA Forces Institute (SAFI) in a Parliamentary presentation this week detailed some of Cuban achievements to date for the landward force. These include restoration of 30 workshops and 168 work stations, repair of 10 overhead cranes, execution of 10 technical training workshops, and repair of 6 356 “components”.
The presentation notes “workshop equipment” such as battery chargers, compressors, test benches, lathes, drills, hoists and cargo handling equipment were also repaired.
In addition, 14 257 SA Army vehicles were inspected and 7 751 repaired.
Vehicle maintenance and repair initially confined to Samils, Casspirs and derivatives for ambulance, water and fuel bunkers as well as recovery, expanded to combat vehicles including Mamba, Ratel, Rooikat and Olifant.
“To date 34 Rooikat armoured vehicles have been repaired. Ninety-one [Olifant] tanks: 84 Mk 1s and 7 Mk 2s have been repaired and preservation of 51 tanks, 32 Mk 1s and 19 Mk 2s, has been achieved,” according to the presentation. Six power packs for the tracked armour vehicle and one for the Rooikat wheeled fighting vehicle also received the necessary TLC from Cubans to bring them back to serviceability, with a test bench for tank electrical components and stabilisers built along with an air filter cleaner.
The SA Army has seven of 24 Cuban designed Samil 20 combat driving simulators in service with four deployed. Two are at Infantry School in Oudtshoorn with the Engineer School and Technical Training Centre each housing one. Additionally, 28 “South African specialists” now have the skills necessary for vehicle simulation instruction.
At the sharp end, Cuban musketry instructors based at Infantry School showed off their skills to South African infantry instructors. According to Mtseni’s presentation, an R4 rifle simulator prototype and automated shooting range were displayed. This seemingly resulted in the Cuban team working on completing development of the simulator and adapting the range to local climate and electro-magnetic conditions.
On capability and capacity building, Cubans have worked with four levels (apprentice, artisan, military artisan and senior military artisan) in five skillsets. They are motor and auto electricians; “amorous” presumably armourers; refrigerators and recovery.
Skills transfers performed by Cuban instructors for the SA Army total 801, with a further 304 technical corps staffers from the air force, military health and navy also benefitting from Caribbean expertise.