The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) yesterday demonstrated its combat readiness with an impressive display of armoured vehicles, aircraft and infantry as part of the live-fire Exercise Seboka 2012.
The open day of the exercise was held at the South African Army Combat Training Centre at Lohatla in the Northern Cape. Despite windy and dusty conditions, the SANDF was able to show off a wide variety of equipment in action and conduct a live-fire mechanised attack against a simulated enemy.
Approximately 3 000 SANDF members are participating in Exercise Seboka, with integral training taking place between October 17 and 26 between various corps of the Army, such as the infantry, armour, artillery and engineers, and supported by the South African Air Force, Military Health Service, Military Police and Military Legal Services Division.
Participating units include 46 SA Brigade, 7 SA Infantry Battalion, 1 SA Infantry Battalion, 1 SA Tank Regiment, 1 Special Services Battalion, 4 Artillery Regiment, 1 SA Tactical Intelligence Regiment, 10 Anti-Aircraft Regiment, 2 Field Engineer Regiment, 16 Maintenance Unit and 101 Field Workshop, amongst others.
Many different types of weapons were demonstrated yesterday, including R4 assault rifles, SS-77 and .50 calibre Browning machineguns and mortars. Armoured vehicles included dozens of Ratel infantry fighting vehicles, firing mortars and cannon, Rooikat combat reconnaissance vehicles and Olifant main battle tanks. A couple of G6 self-propelled howitzers hit targets far into the distance, shaking the earth as they did so. Other participants that got a chance to fire their weapons included the Ratel ZT-3 armed with Ingwe anti-tank missiles and the Oerlikon 35 mm twin-barrel anti-aircraft cannon, which loudly demonstrated its ability to fire at air and ground targets.
Two Rooivalk attack helicopters provided close air support for the armoured vehicles during a mock battle, firing salvos of 70 mm rockets at the ‘enemy’ as well as providing covering fire with their 20 mm cannon.
“Exercise Seboka is one of the most important activities in the South African Army,” said Army chief Lieutenant General Vusumuzi Masondo. He emphasised the importance of training given the deployment of SANDF troops to the borders of South Africa, and the increasing demand for deployments for external peace support operations, especially now that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has been pointed as African Union Commission chairperson. “South African Army soldiers are constantly called on to make a difference in people’s daily lives,” he said.
“However, it must be taken note that we are limited in terms of our strength and in terms of what we can do.” One way the Army is dealing with funding limitations is to have a smaller Regular force that is augmented by Reserves when needed – border safeguarding duties are particularly reliant on reserves. A total of 15 316 SANDF Reserves were called up between April 2011 and March 2012, for border and peacekeeping operations as well as registering military veterans.
The planned cost of Exercise Seboka 2012 comes to R59.3 million, the majority of which (R33 million) is spent on ammunition. Personnel costs amount to R11 million; operating costs to R4.5 million and rations to R7.4 million.