The airborne arm of the national defence force – the SA Air Force (SAAF) – is an active component of the Ukuthula force preparation exercise currently underway at the SA Army Combat Training Centre (CTC).
The exercise, along with its immediate predecessor Amabutho, aims at validating the combat readiness of South African forces pledged to the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) initiative.
The SAAF contribution sees 70 personnel from air and ground crews as well as support personnel based at the Lohathla training area until 27 November when their two-month Northern Cape flying and training contribution ends. With the exception of Hawk Mk 120 lead-in fighter trainers providing air to ground support in the form of bombing missions, other SAAF assets deployed are rotary-winged. Three helicopter types currently in SAAF service – Agusta A109 (visual reconnaissance), Oryx (trooping and hot extraction) and Rooivalk (close air support) – are working the exercise.
SAAF air component commander, Colonel Sly Matshaka, said their mandate is to provide battlefield surveillance in a conventional warfare scenario and tactical training for aircrews in conventional warfare and peace support operations. He pointed out the importance of exposing military aircrews to ground operations commanded by the SA Army. This, according to a SANDF LinkedIn post confirms and tests of Air Force doctrine in conventional warfare and renews aircrew competencies and currencies in a tactical environment.
In addition to the CTC unit, others taking part in Ukuthula at Lohathla are 10 Air Defence Artillery Regiment, 1 SA Infantry Battalion, 1 Special Service Battalion, 1 SA Tank Regiment, 1 Signal Regiment, 1 Tactical Intelligence Regiment, 1010 Field Workshop, 16 Maintenance Unit, 8 Medical Unit and a rapid deployment operations team.
Also involved and providing support are the SA Police Service, their military counterparts, the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) and other SA Army support elements.
Amabutho and Ukuthula are planned and executed in line with African Union (AU) scenarios 5 (peace support operations) and 6 (intervention operations). This sees participants exposed to and hands-on with the continental body’s standard operating procedures (SOPs), its doctrine and as well as inter-operability in joint operations.
Army junior officers on the Junior Command and Staff Course gain valuable experience from Ukuthula the SANDF said.