The SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) Joint Operations Division (JOps) has told Parliament a pair of tactical UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) is among the resources available for ACIRC (African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises).
This is a stopgap force backed by South Africa until such time as the African Union African Standby Force (ASF) is operational.
In its presentation to Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence, JOps said the tactical UAVs, not identified but believed to be Seeker 400s, will be supplied to ACIRC by Defence Intelligence (DI) with 10 personnel assigned and the rider that this specific component of the deployment still has to be confirmed.
Last month the SA Air Force (SAAF) confirmed to defenceWeb it was reactivating 10 Squadron, the unit formerly based in Potchefstroom that operated Scout and Seeker UAVs during the Bush War. This publication was told by SANDF spokesman Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga “there are plans for discussions between Denel Dynamics and the SAAF on training UAV operators”.
Speculation has been rife in military circles that the unnamed “local customer” Denel Dynamics said was acquiring Seeker 400 UAVs is DI. Similarly the company has not been prepared to divulge exact numbers but it is believed the order is either for four or six complete UAV systems.
The confirmation to the portfolio committee that UAVs are part of South Africa’s commitment to ACIRC is the first public acknowledgement of where the systems are going.
Other force levels and resources the committee was informed of are a motorised infantry battalion, an artillery battery, a Rooikat squadron, an engineer troop and a signals squadron all from the SA Army and falling along with the rest of the South African contribution to ACIRC, under the command of 431 Joint Task Force headquarters.
Airborne components include two Rooivalk combat support helicopters, two A109 light utility helicopters, two Oryx medium transport helicopters, a pair a C-130BZ medium lift aircraft, the UAVs and air ambulances in the form of C-130, PC-12 and Citation aircraft.
The SA Navy will commit five patrol boats with the necessary support and the SA Military Health Service will supply field ambulances and a fully equipped medical post with the Military Police adding a platoon for law enforcement.
All told, the committee heard, the SANDF contribution to the ACIRC will total 2 411 personnel.
It will be expected to deploy within two weeks of its services being called on and four modes of transport – air, rail, road and sea – pose “huge challenges” with only a limited capability available from the African Union.
All told the committee heard there is “no inherent strategic airlift capability”; there are mobility challenges for armoured personnel carriers and infantry as well as combat service and support; as far as rotary-winged aircraft are concerned there are “no helicopters with very limited aircrews and support”.
“Extremely limited war reserves” is the phrase used in the presentation to describe logistic support covering ammunition stocks, technical support, limited camping equipment and general commodities as well as “no reserve clothing stocks”.