The Department of Defence’s annual report for the year ended March 31 warns that not enough funding is being made available to the South African Army to fund its equipment rejuvenation projects.
Several defence and finance ministers have said the SA Army will receive budgetary priority following the winding-down of the R47-billion Strategic Defence Package that benefitted the SA Air Force and SA Navy.
Despite this the annual report, tabled in Parliament last week, laments that the “budget allocation to address the full requirements of landward forces does not allow acquisition of full capabilities.”
The report cautions that this is leading to partial acquisitions rather than the proper equipping of the Army in order to “maintain a minimum core-growth capability in the end-users environment.”
Commentators including Helmoed-Römer Heitman have repeatedly counselled against the practice, a salient example of which is the acquisition of just 264 Badger infantry combat vehicles under Project Hoefyster to “replace” the elderly Ratel.
At a scale-of-issue of 88 vehicles per mechanised battalion, this means just three of six such battalions can be equipped (88 x 3 = 264). It also means that corps other than the infantry operating the Ratel will have to retain these vehicles. Rather than the Badger replacing the Ratel the infantry will now have to operate both, a situation commentators have described as costly and inefficient.
The annual report further warns that tight budgets and a plenitude of critical projects are resulting in acquisition programmes that are so protracted the equipment being acquired becomes dated by the time deliveries end.
“…projects are started and scheduled over too long a period. If these timescales cannot be reduced, obsolescence of systems becomes a critical factor, which can severely hamper system implementation and support,” the report stresses.
The Badger is again a case in point, with deliveries scheduled to last a decade. By the time the last vehicles leave the factory, the first will be ten years old and due for midlife upgrade.
“It is anticipated that the reprioritisation of the SCAMP (Strategic Capital Acquisition Master Plan) will alleviate this situation to some degree,” the report says, noting that the Defence Materiel Division of the Defence Secretariat “will ensure that projects are scheduled according to operational priorities and industry capacity.”
Heitman in September 2007 described the Army`s technology priorities as:
· Intelligence assets (“sensors, reconnaissance, data fusion”);
· C4I3RS (“integration of command and control, intelligence and logistics into a single system”);
· “Future Warrior” (“awareness, effectiveness, survivability);
· Simulation (“with emphasis on realistic training for operations”);
· Weapon systems (“precision, long-range, non-lethal and nonkinetic”);
· Reduction of the logistic footprint (“for example the family of vehicles approach”);
· Optimising the Army for complex warfighting (“urban operations, difficult natural terrain, etc”);
· Satellite technologies (“communications, intelligence, navigation, weather”);
· Human sciences;
· Enhancing the speed, mobility and deployability of forces;
· Enhancing force, system and soldier protection; and
· Night operations.
Pic: The Badger ICV, in acquisition as part of Project Hoefyster.