1400+ “border bakkies” required

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The South African National Defence Force as a requirement for up to 1400 “border bakkies” over the next four years to support the deployment of some 22 infantry companies along the nation’s 4471km land border.

Variants will include a troop carrier to carry a “stick” (half-section) of five infantry, a logistics vehicle to carry supplies, a command-and-control version for commanders and an ambulance. Testing of various vehicles have been ongoing and the Toyota Landcruiser has been selected after evaluations along rugged stretches of the Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho borders.

Brigadier General “Koos” Liebenberg, the director conventional operations at the Joint Operations Division says current planning for Operation Corona should see the 22 companies, each mustering 165 personnel, by March 2015. Liebenberg says seven companies – some 1300 troops – and two engineer troops (each of 39 “sappers”) is presently deployed. To better equip them for three-month deployments in austere environments, the companies are reinforced with military police, signals, logistics, medical and tactical intelligence personnel. Some of the latter also have Project Cytoon battlefield surveillance systems to allow for night-time observation.

To better protect troops, especially in the Kruger National Park (KNP), one member of a patrol carries a R1 7.62x51mm battle rifle instead of the more usual 5.56x45mm R4 assault rifle to protect against elephants, buffalo, lion and other aggressive animals. Another section member caries a shotgun to provide a less-than-lethal crowd control capability. Since January 1 this year soldiers have detained 9927 illegal border crossers and the bigger groups have been known to be a handful, even threatening soldiers.

Liebenberg added that other than detaining illegal border crossers, some 143 criminals have also been arrested – including at least five poachers in the KNP. Troops have also confiscated contraband worth R76.741 million, 4776kg of “dagga”, 18 head of stolen cattle, 25 stolen vehicles and 11 weapons.