Institutionalised joint operations are, surprisingly, a relatively new development in military affairs. Throughout most of history “joint” or “combined” operations implied army-navy cooperation – and most examples of this were unfortunate for at least one of the services involved.
For this reason, as much as any other, many navies established their own landing forces, or marines.
Modern joint operations date to World War Two, when Britain established Combined Operations as a joint navy, army and air force headquarters to coordinate commando raids on targets in Nazi-occupied Europe.
A similar, but Anglo American, establishment (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) was formed to plan and then conduct Operation Overlord, the invasion of northern France in June 1944.
Today, joint operations mean those conducted by more than one service and combined, or multinational, operations imply those conducted along with allies.
When and why was the SANDF`s Joint Operations Division (J Ops) established?
J Ops was established on 1 August 1997 during a major reorganisation of the armed forces.
Prior to its establishment, each Service had an operations staff responsible for deploying the units of that service as directed by the Service chief and the CSANDF. The latter had its own operations staff, but this acted more as a coordinating body.
Where forces from more than one Service operated together for either extended periods or came together for a vital operation, a joint force commander would be appointed, usually the officer in charge of the larger continent.
The Air Force and Navy had a permanent joint headquarters (HQ) in the shape of the Maritime HQ at Silvermine in the mountains just above Cape Town`s Tokai suburb. At that time, the only forces reporting directly to the CSANDF was the Special Forces.
The 1997 reforms followed similar changes carried out in the US Armed Forces under the Goldwater-Nicholls Reorganisation Act of 1986. That Act extended the powers of the commanders of existing joint forces commands, such as European, Central and Pacific Commands, making them “combatant commands”, answerable directly to the Secretary of Defence, not the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Service commanders.
The Nunn-Cohen Amendment of 1987 created a Special Forces Command to control the special forces of all Services in the field. Author Tom Clancy put it this way: “Goldwater-Nichols revolutionised the way the United States military services operate. Each of the military services has its own culture and traditions, its own sources of pride and ways of doing things, but these differences, in addition to the inevitable competition for resources and status, can easily get in the way of cooperation.
“Meanwhile, the speed – the tempo – of warfare grows ever faster; and war becomes more lethal. The US military must be able to project massive, shattering force quickly from many different directions – land, sea, air and space – which means, among other things, that service parochialism is an expensive and dated luxury.
“The new military mantra is ‘jointness` – all the services must be able to work together as well as comfortably as with members of their own organisations. Goldwater-Nichols aimed to implement ‘jointness` by breaking the hold of individual services on their combat forces.
“All operational control was taken away and given to regional Commanders-in-Chief (Europe, Central, Pacific, Southern, and to some extent Atlantic, Korea and Strategic) and functional Commanders-in-Chief (Transportation, Space, Special Operations). This meant that the services became responsible only for organising, training and equipping military forces. Once the forces were operationally ready, they were assigned to one of the Unified Commanders.”
A similar distinction came to be made in South Africa. The Services are now tasked with providing properly trained and equipped forces and J Ops is the sole agency for deploying forces for operations and force preparation exercises. Forces are assigned per- and for the duration of the mission and afterwards revert back to the service.
The exception is the Special Forces Brigade, which is permanently at J Ops` disposal.
The main focus of J Ops is directing, planning and conducting operations and force training in accordance with the Military Strategy and Employ Forces Strategy.
J Ops is responsible to the CSANDF for directing, planning and conducting and controlling all operations and mission-ready training.
Lt Gen Deon Ferreira was appointed the first Chief of Joint Operations with effect from 1 August 1997. At the time the SANDF was in the throws of a “re-engineering” process and Ferreira`s division was initially a continuation of the old system – “a new head on an old body”, as someone who was there at the time said.
A period of some confusion followed and lasted for exactly two years. On 1 August 1999, the “new head” received a “new body” and five regional joint task forces as well as the Special Forces Brigade came under Ferreira`s command.
The division was reorganised in February 2003 after the previous system was found wanting.
It now consists of a three-tier structure comprising a strategic level headquarters, a joint operational headquarters at the operational level, and nine joint tactical headquarters – one for each province and an ad hoc tenth for “special assignments”.
The Special Forces Brigade answers directly to the Chief of Joint Operations.
The divisional headquarters provides strategic direction and operational planning at the military strategic level.
The operational headquarters plans and conducts all internal and external operations as well as joint and multinational exercises on the operational level.
The Joint Operations Division Headquarters plans, directs, co-ordinates and monitors the conduct of all joint and multi-national operations and exercises at military strategic level, as well as provides military-strategic force employment direction to the Department of Defence through the development of joint warfare doctrine, identification and development of joint defence capabilities. The main sub structures of the Division Headquarters are as follows:
· Chief Directorate Operations: Provides strategic direction for the conduct of joint and multi-national exercises to the following Directorates:
· Directorate Operations: Plans, directs and monitors joint and multi-national operations in respect of peace support operations, conventional operations and internal operations.
· Directorate Force Preparation, Mobilisation and Training: Directs, monitors and co-ordinates all joint and multi-national force preparation and mission-readiness initiatives and international exercises.
· Directorate Operational Support: Directs and co-ordinates the support and sustainment of employed forces.
· Chief Directorate Operational Development: Provides military-strategic force employment direction to the Department of Defence through the following:
· Directorate Doctrinal Development: Develops joint warfare doctrine for the SANDF.
· Directorate Capabilities: Directs and manages the identification and development of joint defence capabilities, concepts and plans.
· Joint Operation Headquarters. Executes operations and exercises at the operational level.
· Joint Tactical Headquarters. Conducts internal operations at the tactical level in conjunction with the SA Police Service and other departments.
· Joint Task Forces. When ad hoc operations are conducted – mainly in aid of other government departments, or operations for humanitarian assistance – a Joint Task Force is established for the duration of the operation, after which it is disestablished. There is reportedly an ongoing debate within the division regarding the need for a permanent headquarters for special assignments. At the time of writing the structure was not in existence.
 Tom Clancy with General Chuck Horner (USAF) Retd., Every Man a Tiger, The Gulf War Air Campaign, , Berkley Trade, 2000, pp3-4.
 Now “combatant commanders”. US Secretary for Defence Donald Rumsfeld believed the US President is the one and only Commander-in-Chief. Some argue the change was necessary to clarify the terminology, but others felt it was pedantic and paranoid.
 South-west Asia.
 Latin America.
 Now “Joint Forces Command”. At the time it was a Navy command geared for a war against the Soviet Union on, under and above the Atlantic Ocean. Now it concentrates on research and development of joint doctrine.
 Since Clancy wrote these lines, Northern Command (the US and Canada) has been established. Space Command controls the US satellite system, including the Global Positioning System (GPS) and Strategic Command the US` nuclear arsenal, including the US Air Force`s intercontinental ballistic missiles and US Navy`s submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
 The latest is Africa Command, established in October 2008. Up to then, Africa was divided between European (most of Africa), Central (Horn of Africa, Sudan & Egypt) and Pacific (Madagascar, Mauritius) Commands.
 SANDF CDCC response to an enquiry by the author, November 9, 2005.