An indication of just how far the Defence Review would go towards shaping South Africa’s future military commitments comes with a deployment of 172 000 soldiers at Milestone Four.
These men and women in uniform will comprise 90 000 regular force members and 82 000 Reserve Force members supported by 17 0000 civilians in four taskings. The taskings indicated by DRIPT (Defence Review Implementation Team) member retired brigadier general John Gibbs are peace support operations, border safeguarding, assisting the police and general intervention.
An indication of just how far away the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is from this milestone can be gathered from the 62 000 Gibbs sees needed to meet defence capability at Milestone One. This milestone has been set as stopping the decline in capability of the SANDF.
Milestone One taskings are the same as for Milestone Four but on a far smaller basis. A sustainable deployable capability consisting of a Special Forces team, two medium transport helicopters, two C-130 aircraft, two naval vessels, two battalions for peace missions, four battalions for border safeguarding and a level 2 field hospital is seen as the minimum to meet and execute requirements.
The personnel requirement of 62 000 comprises 47 000 regular force members and 15 000 Reserve Force members.
When South Africa is ready to implement milestone four of the Defence Review it’s not only personnel numbers the DRIPT sees changing.
In equipment and utilisation terms the emphasis and reliance is more on Special Forces and Special Operations Forces supported by medium combat forces with enhanced firepower, manoeuvre and protection for a range of contingencies.
The SANDF will also have a versatile literal maritime force with a credible deep water capability; comprehensive air combat and air mobility capabilities; a core of heavy combat capabilities that can augment and expand as required; deployable health protection for all forces deployed; forward basing, force projection and sustainment for protracted periods by air, land and sea and the support of a viable and responsive defence industry.
By contrast with the milestone one deployment capability the milestone four capability will see three Special Force regiments, a Special Operations Force Division, a motorised visions, a mechanised division, a naval task group, an air task force and a medical task group.
Gibbs was addressing the recent launch function of the National Defence Industry Council (NDIC) and stressed implementation of the Defence Review would be entirely dependent and “adequate and sufficient funding”.
If funding was not forthcoming South Africa faces a continued decline of its defence capabilities to the “disadvantage of ordered commitments”. These include continental peace support missions, border safeguarding and support to the police.