Fact file: The SA Infantry Corps


The South African Infantry Corps (SAIC) is the single largest professional group within the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), with some suggesting that as many as one in three SANDF Regular Force personnel are members of this corps.


The infantry is the oldest of the branches and can be said to date back to that time and place in prehistory where the first group of people took up stick, stone and spear to defend against or attack their enemy, to seize land or defend their own.


Pic: A 6 SA Infantry Battalion (Airmobile) machine gun platoon detail crews a Browning 12.7mm heavy machine gun. A motorised, airmobile and parachute infantry battalion fields four of these weapons in its machine gun platoon. The platoon also musters six Denel Y3 40mm automatic grenade launchers.   

Author James F Dunnigan1 points out that the infantry, by definition, takes the brunt of the fighting. “It’s always been that way … and this won’t change.”


Despite this, and the presence of infantry in South Africa from the earliest times, the infantry only gained a permanent home in the SAIC as recently as January 1954. Prior to that responsibility for the branch was passed from pillar to post.


A SA Army recruitment poster notes that the infantry is the nucleus of any army and as a result it is the largest fighting corps in the SA Army. “The infantry is expected to attack the enemy under any conditions; this requires courage, fitness and initiative. In order to attack the enemy with confidence, weapon training and field craft is the most important part of training.”


  • Mission: To close with, and destroy the enemy; to hold or defend ground.


  • Corps colours: Green and black


  • Beret colour: Green (motorised, mechanised and light infantry); maroon (parachute infantry)


  • Collar badge: Springbok head


  • Motto: Gladium Practamus (Wielders of the Sword)


  • Brief history in SA: Despite the presence of infantry in South Africa from the earliest times, the infantry gained a permanent home in the SAIC only as recently as January 1954. Prior to that responsibility for the branch was passed from pillar to post.





All infantry units are assigned to the SA Army Infantry Formation under the charge of Major General Themba Nkabinde.


Nkabinde answers directly to SA Army chief Lt Gen Solly Shoke. Assisting Nkabinde as General Officer Commanding the SA Army Infantry Formation is a

  • Chief of Staff

  • Chaplain

  • Formation Warrant Officer

  • Personal Staff


Nkabinde has been GOC since 2004. The current chief of staff is Brigadier General Krubert Nel.


The formation is structured as follows:

  • SA Army Infantry School, Oudtshoorn2

  • Senior Staff Officer (SSO) Specialised Infantry

    • Parachute Infantry

      • 44 Parachute Regiment (Regt), Bloemfontein

        • 1 Parachute (Para) Battalion (Bn), Bloemfontein

        • 3 Para Bn, Pretoria

        • 44 Pathfinder Platoon, Bloemfontein

        • 101 Air Supply Unit3, Pretoria/Bloemfontein

        • Training Wing, Bloemfontein

    • Air Assault

      • 6 South African Infantry (SAI) Bn (Air Assault), Grahamstown

      • 1st City Regiment (Air Assault), Grahamstown

      • Prince Alfred’s Guard (Air Assault), Port Elizabeth

    • Seaborne

      • 9 SAI Bn (Seaborne), Cape Town

    • Internal Stability

      • 21 SAI Bn (Internal Stability), Johannesburg

      • Rand Light Infantry, Johannesburg

      • Regt Oos Rand, Germiston

      • Regt Paul Kruger, Krugersdorp

  • SSO Mechanised Infantry

    • 1 SAI Bn, Bloemfontein

    • 8 SAI Bn4, Upington

    • 1st Bn, Regt de la Rey, Potchefstroom

    • 1st Bn, Regt Northern Transvaal, Pretoria

    • Cape Town Highlanders, Cape Town

    • Durban Light Infantry, Durban

    • Regt Westelike Provincie, Cape Town

    • Witwatersrand Rifles, Johannesburg

  • SSO Motorised Infantry North

    • 2 SAI Bn, Zeerust

    • 7 SAI Bn, Phalaborwa

    • 15 SAI Bn, Thohoyandou (Limpopo)

    • 10 SAI Bn, Mafikeng

    • Regt Botha, Barberton

    • Regt Christiaan Beyers, Polokwane

    • The Johannesburg Regt, Johannesburg

    • The SA Irish, Johannesburg

    • The Transvaal Scottish, Johannesburg

    • Tshwane Regt, Pretoria

  • SSO Motorised Infantry South

    • 4 SAI Bn, Middelburg (Mpumalanga)

    • 5 SAI Bn, Ladysmith

    • 14 SAI Bn, Mthatha (Eastern Cape)

    • 121 SAI Bn, Mtubatuba (KwaZulu-Natal)

    • Buffalo Volunteer Rifles, East London

    • Cape Town Rifles (Duke’s), Cape Town

    • Durban Regt, Durban

    • Kimberley Regt, Kimberley

    • Natal Carbineers, Pietermaritzburg

    • Regt Bloemspruit, Bloemfontein

    • Regt Piet Retief, Port Elizabeth






Battalion Headquarters [7 officers, 39 soldiers]

  • Battalion Commander (Lieutenant Colonel)

  • 2nd-in-Command (Major)

  • Regimental Sergeant Major (Warrant Officer Class 1)


Unit Staff

  • US 1 Personnel

  • US2 Intelligence/Security

  • US3 Operations/Training

  • US4 Logistics

  • US5 Finance


Battalion Headquarters Platoon [2 officers, 62 soldiers]

  • Sniper Section

  • Protection Section

  • Reconnaissance Section

  • Observation Section

  • Regimental Police Section


Attached elements

  • Light Workshop Troop [1 officer, 18 soldiers]

  • Signals Troop [1 officer, 18 soldiers]

  • Medical Platoon [x officers, x soldiers]


Rifle Company (x 3) [5 officers, 137 soldiers]

  • Headquarters [2 officers, 22 soldiers]

    • Company Commander (Major)

    • 2nd-in-Command (Captain)

    • Company Sergeant Major (Warrant Officer Class 2)

    • Company Sergeant Quartermaster (Staff Sergeant)

  • Mortar section [0 officers, 10 soldiers]

    • Headquarters [0 officers, 4 soldiers]

      • Section commander (Sergeant)

    • Detachment (x 3) [0 officers, 2 soldiers] {3 x 60mm M4 Patrol Mortar}

  • Platoon (x 3) [1 officer, 35 soldiers]

    • Headquarters [1 officer, 5 soldiers]

      • Platoon Commander (Lieutenant, 2nd Lieutenant)

      • Platoon Sergeant (Sergeant)

    • Section (x 3) [0 officers, 10 soldiers] {1 x GPMG, 9 x R4 AR}

      • Section Leader (Corporal)

      • Machine Gun Group

        • Section 2nd-in-Command (Lance Corporal)

        • Machine Gun Number 1

        • Machine Gun Number 2

      • Rifle Group

        • Rifleman Number 1

        • Rifleman Number 2

        • Rifleman Number 3

        • Rifleman Number 4

        • Rifleman Number 5

        • Rifleman Number 6



Support Company

  • Headquarters [2 officers, 4 soldiers]

  • Quartermaster Platoon [1 officer, 11 soldiers]

  • Transport Platoon [1 officer, 9 soldiers]

  • Catering Platoon [0 officers, 16 soldiers]

  • Antitank Platoon [5 officers, 64 soldiers]

    • Headquarters

    • Group (x 4) [1 officer, 15 soldiers]

      • Recoilless Gun Section {1 x M40A1 106mm recoilless gun}

      • Missile Section {1 x MBDA Milan ADT3 antitank guided missile launcher}

  • Assault Pioneer Platoon [1 officer, 36 soldiers]

    • Headquarters

    • Section (x 3)

  • Machine Gun Platoon [1 officer, 41 soldiers]

    • Headquarters

    • Section (x4) {1 x Browning 12.7mm HMGi, 1 x Denel Y3 AGLii}

  • Mortar Platoon [5 officers, 103 soldiers]

    • Headquarters

    • Section (x 4)

      • Headquarters

      • Detachment (x 2) {2 x M3 81mm mortars}



  • The organisation of the motorised, mechanised, internal security, air assault and parachute infantry battalions are broadly similar, the mechanised battalion lacking a machine gun platoon in the support company and the internal security battalion lacking the same as well as other support weapons (mortars, antitank weapons and assault pioneers).

  • A battalion musters about 34 officers, 776 men, or 810 all ranks.

  • A company has nine rifle sections.

  • A battalion has nine rifle platoons and 27 rifle sections.

  • A battalion has at its disposal eight M3 81mm mortars, 27 M4 60mm patrol mortars, six infantry antitank guns (M40A1 or Ratel 90), six antitank guided missile launchers (MBDA Milan ADT3 or Ratel ZT3), four Browning 12.7mm HMG and four Denel Y3 AGL (not in the mechanised infantry), 27 7.62mm GPMG and nine RPG7 rocket propelled grenade launchers (one per rifle platoon).

  • The number of vehicles is dependent on the type of unit and role. A parachute or air assault battalion deployed by air will largely be dependent on the 104 LMT Gecko airborne amphibious 8×8 light rapid deployment logistic vehicles assigned to 44 Parachute Regiment. The number deployed will depend on the airlift available. By some accounts the F-Echeloniii should include 88 A-Vehiclesiv, but the numbers can be higher. In September 2008 the motorised 5 SAI Bn deployed 113 Casspir armoured personnel and weapon carriers to a force preparation exercise (Seboka) and the mechanised 8 SAI Bn deployed 107 Ratels. The Av– and Bvi-Echelons, fully mobilised, can muster up at least another 90 B-Vehiclesvii of various types. For Seboka 5 SAI deployed an under-strength combined echelon of 41 logistics trucks, pantries, diesel and water bunkers, mobile showers and recovery vehicles. 8 SAI’s echelon’s mustered 38 vehicles.




1 James F Dunnigan, How to Make War, A Comprehensive Guide to Modern Warfare in the 21st Century, 4th Edition, Quill, New York, 2003.

2 Units marked in BLUE are regular fulltime service and those in RED are Reserve Force

3 Attached Ordnance Service Corps (OSC) unit.

4 Recently absorbed 61 Mechanised Infantry Battalion.

i Heavy Machine Gun

ii Automatic Grenade Launcher

iii F echelon – Essential men and vehicles required to fight a battle.

iv A vehicle – Hard-skinned vehicle, a robust armoured vehicle which is developed to transport offensive weapons and personnel in combat.

v A echelon – 1. Vehicles and stores of a unit required for hour-to-hour replenishment of F echelon, under unit control. 2. Personnel and vehicles ready to provide immediate logistic support to the troops in action.

vi B echelon – Vehicles and men of a unit not required at short notice in battle those not included in F and A echelons.


vii B vehicle – Soft-skinned vehicle which is specially designed or modified for military use, or transformed for protection against mines. Contrast: C vehicle – Equipment or construction used for earth moving, handling of equipment and related civil engineering tasks. D vehicle – Standard commercial vehicle used in the SANDF without modification for the transport of goods or one or more persons.