Among reasons for the landward component of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) embarking on a replacement exercise for among others, its boots and camouflage uniforms, are them being compromised, old-fashioned and uncomfortable.
This will, in time, see SA Army personnel wearing a new working uniform with one of three different camouflage patterns, new boots and a new camouflage cap, similar to the French Foreign Legion’s kepi.
The new uniform, boots and other clothing projects, according to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, follow concerns raised by her as well as Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) and the Defence Force Service Commission on the poor quality of combat boots and uniforms. Soldiers deployed with the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) found boots wore out quickly in the hot and humid environment.
Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for Mapisa-Nqakula’s portfolio Kobus Marais told defenceWeb he was “thankful” for movement on this front “even though the Minister answered me three years after I raised the issue on returning from an oversight visit to DRC” in 2018.
According to Mapisa-Nqakula the new boot, which will initially go onto SA Army feet, is a revival of the Special Forces boot project as “it was found to be suited for use” by the landward force. In addition to infantry, armour and artillery formations the SA Army also houses other mustering specific formations such as engineers, intelligence, air defence and training (including the Combat Training Centre at Lohathla) support.
Wearer trials of the new boot started last December with an envisaged roll-out of new soldier footwear set to begin in July. Priority will reportedly to go operationally deployed “units and individuals” pending “availability of funding to support and implement” the new boots.
A presentation by Major General SG Hlongwa, Chief: Army Force Structure, has it there is “a gap in the army’s current camouflage uniform system and its physical training attire system”.
“The camouflage uniform pattern and design is compromised as it is available for sale on eBay and various fashion houses incorporate the design in garments. This battle is lost and the situation had to change drastically and quickly.
“The current camouflage design is old fashioned and does not cater for the African body profile and no female camouflage design is available. As an evolving and inclusive SA Army the design had to change drastically and fast,” part of his presentation reads.
Three different camouflage patterns – digital, reduced brown and natural green – were selected and will be used in the design of three different uniforms. All will make provision for “female sizes and designs” and feature pleats on shirt backs for expansion and ventilation as well as pockets on shirt sleeves and pen pockets on long-sleeved shirts.
Concept designs are on view at this week’s (19 to 23 April) SA Army Extended Army Command Cadre (EACC) conference in Potchefstroom.
On the PT gear in use by soldiers the two-star noted it “has lost its appeal to the younger generation soldier and the design is not fit for its application. This had to change to keep up with the times and make physical training attractive again”.
The projects were registered as “non-cardinal research” one and “solutions crafted” in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Puma SA.
The reply to Marais’ ministerial question indicates new uniform wearer trials will start in June with a phased “full roll-out” set for December.
Mapisa-Nqakula also noted: “A well-deserved funding injection of the budgetary allocation to the SA Army will aid in addressing replacement of the current combat dress system with the quality available in the market through collaboration with the CSIR”.