No defence force exercises in 2021

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Force preparation for South Africa’s airmen, military medics, sailors and soldiers this year will be confined to unit and base level.

This inference is drawn from the response to a defenceWeb enquiry to the corporate communications directorate of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) on hosting and staging joint, inter-departmental, inter-agency and multi-national (JIIM) exercises in the 2021 calendar year.

Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, without elaborating, said in a statement “there are no exercises for the calendar year”. Asked telephonically for reasons why he said he could not respond.

This means international exercises, some scheduled and others on the roster for coming years, will not see the SA Navy be part of Atlasur, Ibsamar and Oxide. Last year’s planned Exercise Ibsamar went as far as a March planning meeting in Simon’s Town attended by senior officers from the Brazilian, Indian and South African maritime forces before the COVID-19 pandemic saw it cancelled. The Joint Operations Division of the SANDF told defenceWeb at the time the tri-nation naval exercise was not postponed but cancelled.

Another military exercise involving foreign forces is the irregularly staged Exercise Shared Accord with elements of the US Armed Forces in South Africa for joint humanitarian assistance-oriented training. It usually takes place in Eastern Cape and is another casualty.

Exercises where the landward force is the lead component, such as Ndlovu, Young Eagle and Ukuthula, will also not happen. A SA Air Force (SAAF) component is involved in all three of these exercises. Helicopters fly in support of troops executing ground-based tasks while Hawk M120 jets typically provide air cover.

The SAAF-only Exercise Winter Solstice is another casualty of the SANDF no exercise decision.



* Update:
It appears Exercuse Ukuthula 2021 will be happening later this year. On 18 January, Chief of the SA Army, Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha, speaking at the Junior Command Staff Duties course of 2021 said the SA Army will provide a composite Brigade for Exercise Ukuthula 2021. All the learners of Junior Command and Staff Duties Course 2021 will form part of the exercise.