Force preparation for the four SA National Defence Force (SANDF) services will be confined to unit, regiment and formation level for the current financial year with the so-called “majors” not scheduled.
Three exercises which have become more or less the norm for force preparation at service and combined service level have disappeared from the exercise calendar this year.
They are Exercise Young Eagle, traditionally held at the De Brug training ground outside Bloemfontein; Exercise Winter Solstice, the SA Air Force’s (SAAF) annual test of its force readiness, and Exercise Ndlovu, staged at the SA Army Combat Training Centre in Lohathla, Northern Cape.
Other exercises and training go ahead as planned with one being the recently completed jungle warfare training session outside Port St Johns for troops going to relieve the South African contingent in MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Another is Exercise Phirima III held in March at Potchefstroom in North West. It was also pre-deployment training ahead of continental deployment to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Young Eagle has been the major air assault exercise with troops from 6 SA Infantry Battalion, the Infantry Formation’s specialist air assault unit, taking part alongside their colleagues from the Bloemfontein-based parachute units. SAAF helicopters and fix-wing platforms are used to deliver and extract air assault troops.
The pure air force exercise – Winter Solstice – is usually scheduled for early spring in the Northern Cape. It is a test of force readiness across all levels of air force operations and generally finds Upington and Kimberly as temporary forward bases.
The battalion level exercise Ndlovu is a multi-disciplinary exercise which sees Air Force, Army, Joint Operations and military medics working in a scenario-driven tasking. It normally sees an opposing force take over an imaginary country with an “own force” attempting to regain it.
The removal of these three leaves the SANDF with only one “major” exercise in the current financial year. That is the maritime-led Exercise Good Hope which, according to Defence Corporate Communications, will see South African forces exercising alongside German sailors and marines. The exercise has not been finally approved and consultation is still underway.