SA Armour (re)thinking role


The South African Armour Corps this week mulled its future, philosophy, strategy, doctrine and capabilities at a well attended symposium, the third since 2005.

Brigadier General Chris Gildenhuys in a briefing note reminded the theme of the 2005 event was “Armour in African Peace Support Operations in the Year 2020.” At that seminar it was clear that armour will have a role to play in peace support operations and that doctrine, appropriate capabilities and training were the primary issues, Gildenhuys avered. The 2008 symposium held under the aegis of “The Multi-role Deployment of Armour in the African Battle Space” confirmed these requirements.

Gildenhuys said it could be asked what had happened since those conferences. He explained:
“Firstly, our doctrine development has been profoundly influenced. Although it remains a slow process, a number of significant changes have been made, the most fundamental one being the development of a concept doctrine for a light armour reconnaissance capability, specifically designed around the inputs and lessons learnt from those symposia,” he said.
“This year we experimented for the first time with armour in peace support operations during a simulated brigade planning exercise named Chest of Steel III. With regard to peace support operations we learnt that the most difficult aspects were command-and-control, logistic support, understanding and interpreting the legal and policy implications and the illusive nature of the opponent. Inter-operability and joint, inter-departmental, inter-agency, multi-national (JI2M) operations must be understood and practiced to the lowest level.
“Secondly, we also moved forward with regard to the development of a light armour reconnaissance
capability. Such a capability is not only regarded by us as a high priority, but has been approved at
various forums and a project has been registered. The exact requirements are in the process of being
“Thirdly, our strategy has been updated. The new Armour Strategy is in the process of being approved. The new strategy includes, amongst others, a number of armour-specific scenarios based on the dynamic inter-action between the type of operation and the employment of prime mission equipment or not. This also emphasises the need for armour to operate dismounted. Where prime mission equipment is deployed in operations-other-than-war the emphasis will be on influencing the situation by diplomacy, maintaining a presence, the threat of force or the restrained use thereof, thus referring to this scenario as ‘The Iron Hand in the Velvet Glove’. The new strategy confirms our mandate and mission of providing appropriate armour capabilities and combat-ready armour forces. Preparing forces for contingencies and specifically developing our people and capabilities in general remains at the heart of our strategy.
“Finally, we reworked our philosophy. We realise that armour is about mobile, protected firepower. The purpose is to out-manoeuvre, out-fight and out-last the opponent. Armour’s niche is based on platforms, sensors and effectors, combining man and machine in combat vehicles where the core of the mission is carried out mounted. Fundamental to armour is our mindset. We strive for excellence, innovation and solutions. We adapt, develop and renew. We take responsibility, initiative and act proactively. What we do makes a difference, how we do it makes more of a difference, but why we do it makes all the difference therefore it matters and because it matters it is important. Because it is important we care, and because we care we make a difference. That is why being an armour soldier is not just a job or a career, it is a calling.
“Back in 2005 or 2008 none of us foresaw the recent events in Egypt or Libya, nor Sudan or anywhere else in Africa for that matter. As we brace ourselves for the future we know that whether to deploy or not remains a political decision.,” Gildenhuys concluded.