South African Army

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South African Army
SANDF Army Flag Current.gif
Flag of the South African Army
Active 1912 – present (from law creating the Union Defence Force)
Country South Africa
Type Army
  • 40,121 (Active)[1]
  • 12,300 (In Reserve)
Part of South African National Defence Force
Headquarters Pretoria, Gauteng
Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula
Chief of the Army Lt. Gen. Vusumuzi Masondo
Deputy CARMY Maj. Gen. Les Rudman
Sergeant Major of the Army Senior Chief Warrant Officer Charles Laubscher[2]
SA Army Badge.png

The South African Army is the army of South Africa, first formed after the Union of South Africa was created in 1910. The South African military evolved within the tradition of frontier warfare fought by Boer Commando (militia) forces, reinforced by the Afrikaners' historical distrust of large standing armies.[3] It then fought as part of the wider British effort in World War II, but afterwards was cut off from its long-standing Commonwealth ties with the ascension to power of the National Party in South Africa in 1948. The National Party's opposition to socialism and the ANC, and it's introduction of the policy of apartheid, led to friction with neighbouring states that helped to spark the border wars in South West Africa, now Namibia, from 1966. The role of the Army was fundamentally changed by the upheavals of the early 1990s and after 1994 the Army became part of the new South African National Defence Force. It is now becoming increasingly involved in peacekeeping efforts in southern Africa, often as part of wider African Union operations.


After the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, General Jan Smuts, the Union's first Minister of Defence, placed a high priority on creating a unified military out of the separate armies of the union's four provinces. The Defence Act (No. 13) of 1912 established a Union Defence Force (UDF) that included a Permanent Force (or standing army) of career soldiers, an Active Citizen Force (ACF) of temporary conscripts and volunteers as well as a Cadet organization.[4] The 1912 law also obligated all white males between seventeen and sixty years of age to serve in the military, but this was not strictly enforced as there were a large number of volunteers. Instead, half of the white males aged from 17 to 25 were drafted by lots into the ACF.

Initially, the Permanent Force consisted of five regular mounted regiments and a small artillery section. In 1913 and 1914, the new 23,400-member Citizen Force was called on to suppress several industrial strikes on the Witwatersrand.

World War I[edit]

BL 5.4 inch Howitzer and crew, East Africa, 1916 or 1917. Photo courtesy of SANDF Archives, from Nöthling, C J (ed), "Ultima Ratio Regum: Artillery History of South Africa" 1987

When World War I broke out in 1914, the South African government chose to join the war on the side of the Allies. General Louis Botha, the then prime minister, faced widespread Afrikaner opposition to fighting alongside Great Britain so soon after the Second Boer War and had to put down a revolt by some of the more militant elements before he could send an expeditionary force of some 67,000 troops to invade German South-West Africa (now Namibia). The German troops stationed there eventually surrendered to the South African forces in July 1915. (In 1920 South Africa received a League of Nations mandate to govern the former German colony and to prepare it for independence within a few years.)

Cap badge of 1st SA Infantry Brigade

Later, an infantry brigade and various other supporting units were shipped to France in order to fight on the Western Front. The 1st South African Brigade – as this infantry brigade was named – consisted of four infantry battalions, representing men from all four provinces of the Union of South Africa as well as Rhodesia: the 1st Regiment was from the Cape Province, the 2nd Regiment was from Natal and the Orange Free State and the 3rd Regiment was from Transvaal and Rhodesia. The 4th Regiment was called the South African Scottish and was raised from members of the Transvaal Scottish and the Cape Town Highlanders; they wore the Atholl Murray tartan.

The supporting units included five batteries of heavy artillery, a field ambulance unit, a Royal Engineers signals company and a military hospital.[5]

The most costly action that the South African forces on the Western Front fought in was the Battle of Delville Wood in 1916 – of the 3,000 men from the brigade who entered the wood, only 768 emerged unscathed.

Another tragic loss of life for the South African forces during the war was the Mendi sinking on 21 February 1917, when the troopship Mendi – while transporting 607 members of the South African Native Labour Corps from Britain to France – was struck and cut almost in half by another ship.

In addition, the war against the German and Askari forces in German East Africa also involved more than 20,000 South African troops; they fought under General Jan Smuts's command when he directed the British campaign against there in 1915. (During the war, the army was led by General Smuts, who had rejoined the army from his position as Minister of Defence on the outbreak of the war.)

South Africans also saw action with the Cape Corps in Palestine.

More than 146,000 whites, 83,000 blacks and 2,500 people of mixed race ("Coloureds") and Asians served in South African military units during the war, including 43,000 in German South-West Africa and 30,000 on the Western Front. An estimated 3,000 South Africans also joined the Royal Flying Corps.

The total South African casualties during the war was about 18,600 with over 12,452 killed – more than 4,600 in the European theater alone.

The interwar period[edit]

Wartime casualties and postwar demobilization weakened the UDF. New legislation in 1922 re-established conscription for white males[6] over the age of 21 for four years of military training and service and re-constituted the Permanent Force. UDF troops assumed internal security tasks in South Africa and quelled several revolts against South African domination in South-West Africa. South Africans suffered high casualties, especially in 1922, when an independent group of Khoikhoi – known as the Bondelswart-Herero for the black bands that they wore into battle – led one of numerous revolts; in 1925, when a mixed-race population – the Basters – demanded cultural autonomy and political independence; and in 1932, when the Ovambo (Ambo) population along the border with Angola demanded an end to South African domination.

As a result of its conscription policies, the UDF increased its active-duty forces to 56,000 by the late 1930s; 100,000 men also belonged to the National Riflemen's Reserve, which provided weapons training and practice.

World War II[edit]

A South African Marmon-Herrington Armoured Car conducting reconnaissance in North Africa.

South Africa's contribution to World War II consisted mainly of supplying troops, men and material for the North African and Italian campaigns. Numerous volunteers also flew for the Royal Air Force. In 1939, the army at home in South Africa was divided between a number of regional commands.[7]

The 1st South African Infantry Division took part in several actions in East Africa in 1940, North Africa in 1941 and 1942, including the Second Battle of El Alamein, before being withdrawn to South Africa.

The 2nd South African Infantry Division also took part in a number of actions in North Africa during 1942, but on 21 June 1942 two complete infantry brigades of the division as well as most of the supporting units were captured at the fall of Tobruk.

The 3rd South African Infantry Division never took an active part in any battles but instead organised and trained the South African home defence forces, performed garrison duties and supplied replacements for the South African 1st Infantry Division and the South African 2nd Infantry Division. However, one of this division's constituent brigades – 7th South African Motorised Brigade – did take part in the invasion of Madagascar in 1942.

The 6th South African Armoured Division fought in numerous actions in Italy from 1944 to 1945.

Of the 334,000 men volunteered for full time service in the South African Army during the war (including some 211,000 whites, 77,000 blacks and 46,000 Cape Coloureds and Asians), about 9,000 were killed in action, though the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has records of 11,023 known South African war dead during World War II.[8]

General Mark W. Clark (15th Army Group) takes the salute from M-10 tank destroyers of the 11th Armoured Brigade of the 6th South African Armoured Division at the commemoration parade marking the end of hostilities in Italy. Monza Race Circuit: 14 July 1945

The postwar period[edit]

Wartime expansion was again followed by rapid demobilization after World War II. By then, a century of Anglo-Boer clashes followed by decades of growing British influence in South Africa had fueled Afrikaner resentment. Resurgent Afrikaner nationalism was an important factor in the growth of the National Party (NP) as the 1948 elections approached. After the narrow election victory by the NP in 1948, the government began the steady Afrikanerization of the military; it expanded military service obligations and enforced conscription laws more strictly. Most UDF conscripts underwent three months of Citizen Force training in their first year of service, and an additional three weeks of training each year for four years after that.

As part of the post-war reorganization, the Defence Rifle Associations were disbanded in 1948 and replaced by a new Commando organization with a strength of 90,000 men.[9] It was also decided to establish and maintain two complete army divisions in the UDF: namely 1 SA Infantry Division and 6 SA Armoured Division, consisting of 1, 2, 3, 12, and 13 (CF) Infantry Brigades and the (PF) 11th Armoured Brigade. The divisions were formally established with effect from 1 July 1948, but with the exception of 11 Brigade they were disbanded on 1 November 1949, mainly as a result of difficulties in obtaining volunteer recruits to man the CF Brigades. The 11th Armoured Brigade was itself disbanded on 1 October 1953. In the early 1950s the Union undertook, however, to provide one armoured division for active service in the Middle East in the event of war in the region. To this end some 200 Centurion tanks were ordered, and the first were delivered in July 1952. During Exercise Oranje, conducted in 1956, the Army trialled its Centurions for the first time in a simulated nuclear war situation.

The Defence Act (No. 44) of 1957 renamed the UDF the South African Defence Force (SADF) and established within it some quick-reaction units, or Commandos, to respond to localized threats. The SADF, numbering about 20,000 in 1958, would grow to almost 80,000 in the next two decades.

Following the declaration of the Republic of South Africa in 1961, the "Royal" title was dropped from the names of army regiments like the Natal Carbineers and the Durban Light Infantry, and the Crown removed from regimental badges.

The "Border War" (1966–1989)[edit]

The 1960s ushered in a new era in military history. South Africa's growing international isolation and the military threat by SWAPO and its Communist backers in South West Africa (now Namibia) prompted the government to increase military service obligations repeatedly and to extend periods of active duty. The Defence Act (No. 12) of 1961 authorized the minister of defense to deploy Citizen Force troops and Commandos for "riot" control, often to quell anti-apartheid demonstrations, especially when it deteriorated into mob riots with loss of life. The Defence Act (No. 85) of 1967 also expanded military obligations, requiring white male citizens to perform national service, including an initial period of training, a period of active duty, and several years in reserve status, subject to immediate call-up.

SADF Commemorate "Erected in sacred memory of all members of the South African Defence Force who gave their lives in the service of The Republic of South Africa" at Fort Klapperkop.

From 1966 to 1989 the SADF, with its South West African Territorial Force auxiliary, fought a counter-insurgency campaign against South-West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) rebels in South-West Africa (Namibia). These operations included the raising of special units such as the South African 32 Battalion. They also carried out operations in support of UNITA rebels in Angola and against the Cuban troops that supported the Angolan government.

As far as conventional formations were concerned, 7 SA Division and 17, 18 and 19 Brigades were established on 1 April 1965.[9] Difficulties with manning levels saw the disestablishment of 7 SA Division on 1 November 1967 and its replacement by the Army Task Force (HQ) and 16 Brigade.

Also during the 1970s, the SADF began accepting "non-whites" and women into the military as career soldiers, not only as temporary volunteers or reservists; however, the former served mostly, if not exclusively, in segregated units while the latter were not assigned to combat roles. By the end of the 1970s, the army had become the principal defender of the apartheid regime against the rising tide of African nationalism in South Africa and the region.

In 1973 two new infantry units were established: 7 South African Infantry Battalion (Bourke's Luck) and 8 SA Infantry Battalion (Upington), as well as 11 Commando (Kimberley), which to a great extent took over the functions of the Danie Theron Combat School's training wing. In 1973 the SADF also took over responsibility for the defence of SWA from the SA Police, and during the succeeding months the SA Army became involved in combat operations for the first time since the Second World War, clashing with groups of SWAPO terrorists infiltrating into South West Africa. It was decided in 1974 to organize the Army's conventional force into two divisions under a corps headquarters. 7 SA Infantry Division (71, 72 and 73 Motorized Brigades) and 8 SA Armoured Division (Durban) (81 Armoured Brigade, 82 Mechanized Brigade and 84 Motorized Brigade) were established.[9] The headquarters of the two divisions were established on 1 August 1974, and 8th Armoured Division was active at its headquarters at Lord's Grounds, Durban, until at least 27 September 1992.[10] 1 SA Corps itself was established in August 1974 and was active until 1978-79.[11]

During the 1980s, the legal requirements for national service were to register for service at age sixteen and to report for duty when called up, which usually occurred at some time after a man's eighteenth birthday.[12] National service obligations could be fulfilled by active-duty military service for two years and by serving in the reserves, generally for ten or twelve years. Reservists generally underwent fifty days per year of active duty or training, after their initial period of service. The requirements for national service changed several times during the 1980s and the early 1990s in response to national security needs, and they were suspended in 1993.


South African troops in Sake, 10 km from Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
South African Soldiers training in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

From the early 1990s (after 1992) to 1 April 1997, the SA Army maintained three 'small' divisions, the 7th (HQ Johannesburg), 8th (HQ Durban) and 9th (HQ Cape Town).[13] They consisted of a reconnaissance battalion, two anti-aircraft defence battalions (AA guns), two battalions of artillery (G-5s and G-6s), a battalion of 127 mm MRLs, an engineer battalion, two battalions of Olifant MBTs, two battalions mounted in Ratel ICVs, and finally two battalions mounted in Buffel APCs. They were all amalgamated into the 7th South African Division on 1 April 1997, and became the 73rd, 74th and 75th Brigades respectively.[14]

7th Division was disbanded on 1 April 1999 and all army battalions were assigned to 'type' formations.[15] The 'type' formation force structure was implemented in accordance with the recommendations of auditing firm Deloitte and Touche, who were contracted to draw up a plan to make the SA Army more economically efficient. The Deloitte and Touche plan had the army separate its combat forces into ‘silo’ style formations for armour, infantry, artillery, and engineers. Deane-Peter Baker of the South African Institute for Security Studies said that the D&T plan, while alleviating, to an extent, the mistrust of the new South African leadership of the remaining apartheid-era South African Defence Force personnel in middle management positions, reduced the combat effectiveness of the Army, and was seen by 2011 as a mistake, as was the decision to limit the force design of the SANDF to rely on short logistic lines for highly mechanised mobile forces in defence of national territory, as it causes many supply issues during modern foreign deployments. This is one of the major problems of the army and various solutions are being considered by the government to better equip forces deployed in out-of-area force projection operations.[16]

Though non-white personnel did serve as unarmed labourers with the army in both World Wars, a number of non-whites were employed in segregated units during the Border War, and a number of units were completely desegregated, it was not until 1994 – when South Africa achieved full democracy – that the army as a whole was made open to all races. Today the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has racial quotas to make sure that White, Black, Coloured, and Indian South Africans are equally represented in the armed forces.

The post-1994 South African Army has been extensively involved in peacekeeping operations under United Nations and African Union command in other African countries such as the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), the United Nations Operation in Burundi(ONUB) and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), and is doing well with these challenges, despite some pitfalls and budget cuts. Most notable of these deployments is the South African commitment of troops (named Operation Mistral) to the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade, a ~3000-strong intervention brigade that was authorized by the United Nations Security Council on 28 March 2013 through United Nations Security Council Resolution 2098. It is the first United Nations peacekeeping unit that has been specifically tasked to carry out offensive operations against armed rebel groups operating in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, specifically those that threaten the State authority and civilian security. They can also carry out their mandate without the help of the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo. The brigade is made up of troops from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi and has had several successes against rebel groups such as the M23 (militia).[17]

South African Soldier serving as part of the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Other operations that the Army was tasked with by government include: Operation Boleas (Lesotho), Operation Fibre (Burundi), Operation Triton (five times in the Comoros), Operation Amphibian (Rwanda), Operation Montego (Liberia), Operation Cordite (Sudan), Operation Teutonic and Operation Bulisa (both in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Operation Pristine (Ivory Coast), Operation Vimbezela (Central African Republic) and Operation Bongane (Uganda).[17]

The African Union has also recently accepted the creation of a Common African Defence and Security Policy (CADSP). One of the core concepts behind this policy is the creation of an African Standby Force (ASF) (that is mandated by the Protocol of the Peace and Security Council of the AU). The ASF will consist of standby brigades to be provided by the five African sub-regions. The creation of the CADSP owes itself to the tendency that violence in neighbouring African countries have in affecting the peace and stability of their neighbours. South Africa is part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and all SADC countries have agreed to a Mutual Defence Pact and are working on establishing the SADC Brigade as an element of the ASF. Working towards the creation and strengthening of these regional brigades should contribute to the peace, safety and security of the region.[16]

The major challenges that the Army face today is to readdress its current force design in order to better carry out its primary functions, to balance its budget to match the policies and constitutional obligations assigned to it, to integrate new equipment to replace several ageing systems and to meet the demands of the CADSP.[16]

Command, Control & Organisation[edit]

The SA Army command structure is as follows:[18] The Army has 10 general support bases.

SA Army structure.jpg


  • Chief of the SA Army Force Structure - To structure the SA Army in order to provide the SA Army component of the Landward Defence Capability.[19]
  • Chief of the SA Army Force Preparation - Responsible for directing, orchestrating and controlling the combat readiness of SA Army Forces
  • Chief of the SA Army Corporate Services - Directing corporate resources, services and advice directed towards operationalising the SA Army strategy.
  • Inspector General - Provides an internal audit service within the Army strategy.
  • Chief of the SA Army Reserves - To give specialist advice to Chief of the SA Army and his staff in all Reserves related issues
  • Sergeant Major of the Army (South Africa) - To enhance discipline in the SA Army and enforce standards of discipline.

Formations and units[edit]

The two standing army brigades are Headquarters 43 South African Brigade and Headquarters 46 South African Brigade.[18] Each of these two headquarters are organised to provide four headquarters groups. Two of these units should be available for deployment at any one time whilst the other two are on leave and in training.

In accordance with the Deloitte and Touche structure plan, the army was reorganised into single-branch 'formations':

- Army Combat Training Centre (Lohatla)
  • South African Army Support Formation

Existing and current administrative corps and branches of the South African Army can be seen at South African Army corps and branches.

Many Army units are routinely placed under the nine joint operational-tactical headquarters that the SANDF Chief of Joint Operations supervises directly through Joint Operations Division (IISS 2013). These appear to have developed from the former Army regional formations (for example, Eastern Province Command and Northern Transvaal Command).


The South African Army maintains large bases in all 9 provinces of the country, mostly in or around major cities and towns.

Eastern Cape[edit]

Free State[edit]

Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III of United States Army Africa visits the Bloemfontein School of Armour at Tempe Base.


The South African Army College in Pretoria.

Western Cape[edit]

Northern Cape[edit]

  • Several Army bases are located in Kimberley which are home to the Air Defence Artillery School, 10 Anti-Aircraft Regiment (Air Defence Artillery), A Basic Training Depot for 3 South African Infantry Battalion, the Kimberley Regiment (Motorised Infantry) and 44 Anti-Aircraft Regiment (Air Defence Artillery).
  • The Lohatla training area and army base is home to the SA Army Combat Training Centre where large army field exercises take place. It also houses the 101 Field Workshop and the 16 Maintenance Unit.
  • Upington is home to 8 South African Infantry Battalion (Mechanized Infantry).






The main South African Army Headquarters are located in Salvokop, Pretoria in the Dequar Road Complex along with the 102 Field Workshop unit, 17 Maintenance Unit and the S.A.M.S Military Health Department.


A budget of approximately Rand 9.98 billion was allocated for fiscal year 2010/2011. In December 2010, it was reported that funding shortages were causing severe problems.[32]

The vast majority of army equipment is nearing the end of its service life, with some items (like the Olifant Main Battle Tank) dating from decades ago.

The South African National Defence Force has however started to remedy the situation with the procurement of 238 Patria AMV infantry fighting vehicles under the Hoefyster programme. Other procurements are planned and should follow in line with the guideline document – Army Vision 2020. The SANDF has launched a project called "African Warrior" which is aimed in modernising the equipment and weapons of the SANDF. The project has been very successful in recent years and the South African Army has now put in service a 21st-century R4 assault rifle.[33]


The South African Army is composed of roughly 39,445 regular uniformed personnel, augmented by 4,500 civilians. The rank/age structure of the army that deteriorated desperately during the 1990s is greatly improving through the Military Skills Development (MSDS) voluntary national service system. Through this system, young healthy members are being inducted into the regular and reserve forces every year.

Due to the restructuring of the Reserves, the exact number of reserves is difficult to ascertain. However the 2011/12 planning target was 12 400 reserves.[34]

There were several thousand other members in the army territorial reserve (South African Commando System). Each Commando was responsible for the safeguarding and protection of a specific community (both rural or urban). However, this system was phased out between 2003 and 2008 "because of the role it played in the apartheid era", according to the Minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula.[35] The last commando unit, that at Harrismith in the Free State, was disbanded in March 2008.

South African military ranks are derived from that of the British Armed Forces, with Army ranks derived from the British Army.


Infantry Weapons[edit]


Vektor Z88[36] Beretta 92 FS.gif Semi-Automatic Pistol 9x19mm Parabellum  South Africa 15-round Magazine. License-built Beretta 92F. Standard issue side arm since 1989 alongside the SP1 (since 1992)
Vektor SP1 VektorSP1.jpg Semi-Automatic Pistol 9×19mm Parabellum  South Africa 15-round Magazine. Standard issue side arm alongside the Z88 since 1992.

Submachine Guns[edit]

Heckler & Koch MP-5 Heckler & Koch MP5 b.jpg Submachine Gun 9×19mm Parabellum  Germany 15- or 30- or 32- or 40- round magazines. The MP5 and MP5A3 models are in use with the South African Special Forces.[37]
Milkor BXP[38] Submachine Gun 9x19mm Parabellum  South Africa 22 or 32-round magazines. An indigenously designed 9mm submachine gun similar in appearance to the Mac 10. In service since 1984


Vektor R4 and R5 assault rifles[39] Vektor LM5 Feb 2008.jpg Assault Rifle 5.56x45mm NATO  South Africa 35-round magazine. Standard Service rifle since 1980. Can be fitted with various optical sights. Infantry can train using Portable Target Systems (PTS) (deployed from the army's Target Trailer System (TTS)), Fixed Installation Rifle Shooting Systems (FIRST) as well as Electronic Learning Aiming Correction Systems (ELACs), which is equipped with hit sensors, Magnetic and IR Sensors for shot scoring. Live fire target practice is conducted with Lateral Moving Rail Target Systems (LMRT). The R5 carbine is used by the airborne and armoured troops of the SA Army, the SA Air Force, SA Navy, Military Health Service and the South African police Service.[40]
Vektor R4 Designated Marksman Rifle[41] Designated marksman rifle 5.56x45mm NATO  South Africa 35 round magazine. An improvement of the R4 assault rifle system to a dedicated marksman rifle system.
R1 (FN-FAL) Assault Rifle[42] FN-FAL belgian.jpeg Designated marksman rifle 7.62×51mm NATO  South Africa/ Belgium 20 round magazine. Former service rifle of the South African Army. Remaining rifles in service are accuratised and used as designated marksman rifles.
Denel NTW-20[43] Anti-materiel rifle 20 x 82mm and 14.5 x 114mm  South Africa 3-round magazine. In service since 1998 by the South African Special Forces and Army Infantry sniper sections. Comes equipped with the 8 x 56 Lynx Telescopic sight.

Machine Guns[edit]

Vektor SS-77 and Mini-SS[44] South African National Defense Force soldiers on their way.jpg General Purpose Machine Gun SS-77: 7.62×51mm NATO; Mini-SS: 5.56×45mm NATO  South Africa Belt-fed GPMG in service since 1986 alongside the FN MAG. 100 round pear-shaped pouch in general use, 200-round rigid box. Can use both non-disintegrating DM1 and NATO M13 or R1M1 disintegrating link belts.
FN MAG[45] MAG-latrun-exhibition-1.jpg General Purpose Machine Gun 7.62×51mm NATO  Belgium Belt-fed GPMG. Main automatic weapon of dismounted infantry sections. 100 round pear-shaped pouches in general use and 200-round disintegrating link metal belts. Can be mounted on a Tripod as well as vehicles.
Browning MG4 MMG[44] Browning M1919a.png Medium Machine Gun 7.62×51mm NATO  United States/ M1919A4 Browning Medium Machine gun modified by Lyttleton Engineering Works, now Denel Land Systems, to fire the 7.62x51mm round. It is Belt Fed and generally fitted to armoured and infantry vehicles as well as certain helicopters as a secondary or tertiary armament.
M2 Browning machine gun[44] PEO M2E2-QCB HMG.jpg Heavy Machine Gun .50 BMG (12.7×99mm NATO)  United States Belt fed machine gun mainly mounted on Tripods, armoured and infantry vehicles.

Grenades and Grenade Launchers[edit]

M26 grenade[46] M-67Grenade.jpg Fragmentation hand grenade N/A  South Africa/ United States Manufactured by Rheinmetall Denel Munitions, based on a US design. In service with the South African Infantry Corps.
M854 Smoke Grenade[47] Smoke grenade N/A  South Africa A grenade which consists of a cylindrical tinplate body containing the smoke composition, a spring-loaded striker mechanism of the fly-off lever type and a pyrotechnic igniter/delay system. The fly-off lever is retained by a conventional safety pin and pull ring.

The grenade has a variety of signalling applications and may also be used for screening and for training exercises in riot control.

RDM Illuminating Hand Grenade[47] Hand grenade N/A  South Africa A grenade which consists of an aluminium case containing the illuminating composition, to which is fitted a conventional fly-off lever striker mechanism.

The illuminating grenade provides sufficient light for target identification and attack. The grenade can also be used as a light source for emergency conditions when other pyrotechnic light sources are not available.

RDM Bullet Trap (BT) Rifle Grenades[48] Rifle grenade 54 mm (HE/AP), 60 mm (HE/DP)  South Africa Second generation South African rifle grenades manufactured by Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (formerly Swartklip Products, a division of Denel). The grenade incorporates a bullet trap and deflector in the tail tube. This allows them to be fired without the need to unload the rifle of its ammunition.

Bullet Trap rifle grenades available includes HE/AP (High Explosive/Anti-Personnel), Practice and HE/DP (High Explosive/Dual Purpose) grenades. The HE/DP type has a shaped charge warhead which can penetrate 150 mm of rolled homogeneous armour or 450 mm of reinforced concrete. Grenades can be fired from both 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm rifles in the South African arsenal.

75 mm HEAT Rifle Grenade[47] Rifle grenade 75 mm HEAT  South Africa/ Belgium A shaped charge grenade, based on the Belgian ENERGA anti-tank rifle grenade and designed to be fired from most 7.62 mm rifles. Can penetrate 275 mm of rolled homogeneous armour. Presumably largely phased out of South African service along with the large majority of 7.62 mm R1 rifles. No longer in production.
Milkor Y2 MK-1 MGL[49] Milkor GL.jpg Grenade Launcher 40×46mm grenade  South Africa In service since 1983. 6-round revolving, swing out-type cylinder. Comes equipped with an Occluded Eye Gun-sight Collimator sight.
Denel Y3 AGL[49] Y3 AGL.JPG Automatic Grenade Launcher High-velocity 40x53mm grenade  South Africa A Belt-fed, high velocity, long-recoil, open-breech grenade launcher in service. Ideally used as a tripod-mounted support weapon for infantry or mounted on a vehicle. Electronic indirect sight and Aim point direct sight can be mounted.

Anti-Tank Weapons[edit]

Bazalt RPG-7[50] RPG-7 detached.jpg Rocket-propelled grenade Launcher  Soviet Union Large numbers of RPG-7s were captured during the South African Border War and are used as the primary infantry anti-armour rocket launcher and is deployed at section level for use against armoured vehicles. Currently the Army is looking for a replacement for this ageing system.
Denel FT5[51] Anti-tank rocket launcher  South Africa An indigenous reusable anti-tank weapon primarily used to penetrate modern main battle tanks and fortifications. In reserve from 2007 due to high operating costs.
MILAN ER[52] MILAN P1220770.jpg Anti-tank missile  France 46 Milan ADT (Advanced Digital Technology) launchers as well as 300+[53][54] Milan ER (extended range) SACLOS missiles are in service since 2007 with the Army’s airborne and motorised infantry battalions as well as with the Special Forces Brigade. Soldiers train on the four simulators acquired from MBDA. All systems are equipped with Video output devices and 15 launchers are equipped with Thermal imaging systems.
Denel Dynamics ZT3 Ingwe[55] Ingwe ATGM.jpg Anti-tank missile  South Africa Multipurpose long-range beam-riding precision guided missile. The missile is launched from a triple launcher atop a modified Ratel infantry combat vehicle, known as the ZT3. 13 launchers are upgraded and 80 newer ZT3A2 missiles were delivered to the army in 2005 as part of Project Adrift. The missile is used by the Armoured Corps and the Mechanized infantry battalions.
M40 recoilless rifle[50] Recoilless-rifle-beyt-hatotchan-1.jpg 105mm Recoilless rifle  United States A direct-fire, crew served weapon issued in units of six to the motorised and airborne infantry anti-tank platoons. 171 systems in service.

Man-portable surface-to-air missiles[edit]

Starstreak[56] Starstreak launcher on Dartmoor.jpg Manportable/Vehicle mounted surface-to-air missile  United Kingdom Eight Lightweight Multiple Launchers (LML), two 20 km-range Thales Page continuous-wave (CW) low-observable battery air defence local warning radars as well as about 100 VSHORAD (very short range air defence) high-velocity missiles were ordered in December 2002 and are in use with 10 Air Defence Artillery Regiment. These missiles have a range of between 5–7 km. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute lists the number of Portable SAMs delivered as 96 for the GBADS phase 1 project with another order for 82[57]


M5 120mm Mortar Mortar-120mm-beyt-hatotchan-1.jpg 120mm Long Range Mortar  Israel 36 mortars are in service with 18 Light Regiment
M3 Mortar[58] Mortier 81 LLR 01.jpg 81mm medium mortar  France/ South Africa 1190 mortars in service with the South African Infantry Corps.
M1/M4 Commando Mortar[58][59] 60mm Patmor.jpg 60mm light Mortar  France/ South Africa Uses the M-61 series of bombs in High Explosive, Smoke, Illumination and Practice versions. In use with the Special Forces and Airborne Infantry.

Armoured Fighting Vehicles[edit]

Olifant MK1A/1B/2[60] Olifant Mk2 AAD2014.JPG Main Battle Tank ~38 MK1A/1B (14 MK1A/1B destroyed as surplus) and ~26 MK2 in regular army service
~131 in reserve squadrons/storage
2 Armoured Bridge-layers (ABL)
16 armoured recovery vehicles (ARV)
 South Africa/ United Kingdom A heavily modified and modernized Centurion Tank.

The MK1A tanks were commissioned in 1985. The MK1B's were commissioned in 1991 and the MK2 tanks were commissioned in 2007. Due to the age of the vehicles, a number of tanks were deemed to be unserviceable in the mid-2000's. To rectify this more than R 117 million was spent between 2008 and 2011 to maintain and upgrade the tank fleet to maintain optimal force readiness.[61] Fleet to be replaced sometime in the future through Project Aorta.

Rooikat[62] Rooikat wheeled tank.jpg 8-wheeled Armoured Fighting Vehicle 84 in regular army service
94 in reserve squadrons and storage (14 destroyed as surplus)
 South Africa Armoured car used for reconnaissance, aggressive search-and-destroy, anti-armour operations, combat patrols, raids and hot pursuit operations.[63]
Ratel IFV[64] Ratel 90 armyrecognition South-Africa 008.jpg Infantry fighting vehicle 534 in regular army service
666 in reserve battalions/storage
 South Africa Primary armoured fighting vehicle in service with the South African Mechanized infantry units. Variants in service include the Ratel 20 (armed with a Denel GI-2 20mm cannon), Ratel 60 (armed with a 60mm breech-loading mortar), Ratel 90 (armed with a 90mm Denel GT-2 low-velocity gun), command variant, fire-support vehicle and a 81mm mortar carrier. The fleet will be partially replaced by the "Badger" IFV ( South Africa/ Finland) through Project Hoefyster.
Ratel ZT-3[64] Ratel ZT3 front.JPG Tank destroyer 16 in regular army service
36 in reserve battalions/storage
 South Africa Ratel IFV equipped with a triple ZT3 Ingwe ATGM launcher. Provides additional Anti-Tank capability to the Armoured Corps and Mechanized Infantry Battalions
Mamba Mk3 Armoured Personnel Carrier[65] Mamba APC, Swarkop.jpg Armoured Personnel Carrier 440 in Service  South Africa APC with significant protection against anti-tank mines and small arms fire.
Casspir Mk3 Infantry Mobility Vehicle[66] Casspir vehicle Ai101503g1.jpg Infantry mobility vehicle 370 in Service  South Africa IMV with significant protection against anti-tank mines and small arms fire. Comes in several variants: an armoured personnel carrier, ambulance, light cargo vehicle (Blesbok freighter), tanker, a fire support team vehicle(FISTV), a light recovery vehicle (Gemsbok) and a Plofadder mine clearing vehicle.
Hornet Rapid Deployment Reconnaissance Vehicle[67] Reconnaissance vehicle 25 in service  South Africa In use with the South African Special Forces

Utility, Engineering and Support Vehicles[edit]

Gecko 8x8 ATV Rapid Deployment Logistical Vehicle[68] SADF-44Parachute-Gecko-001.jpg All Terrain Utility Vehicle ~100 in service  South Africa Used by the Parachute Regiment and Special Forces
SAMIL 20[69][70] Samil 20.jpg 4x4 2-ton Logistics Truck Several thousand in service  South Africa Upgraded Magirus Deutz 130M7FAL 4x4 2-ton (load) truck. The trucks serve as the primary off-road light general purpose truck of the SANDF and comes in several variants, each fulfilling a different role. These include general cargo/fuel/troop transport variants, artillery fire control posts, variants with office and workshop bodies, a battery charger variant, a light recovery variant (designated "Pegasus") and a variant with a Light General Repair(LAD) rear body.
SAMIL 50[71][72] 4x4 5-ton Logistics Truck Several thousand in service  South Africa Upgraded Magirus Deutz 192D12AL 4x4 5-ton (load) truck. Trucks are utilised in different roles as personnel/cargo transporters, field repair and maintenance vehicles, water/fuel transporters, field recovery vehicles (variant designated as "Springbok"), refuse collection trucks, mobile showers, mobile offices, bridge transporters, radio and technical bins and pantry vehicles(with refrigeration capability).
SAMIL 100[73] South African Army SAMIL 100.JPG 6x6 10-ton Logistics Truck Several thousand in service  South Africa Upgraded Magirus Deutz 320D22AL 6x6 10-ton (load) truck. Trucks are utilised in different roles as personnel/cargo transporters, water/fuel transporters, field recovery vehicles (variant designated as "Kameel"/Mine protected variant designated as "Withings"), dry canteen vehicles, field repair and maintenance vehicles (designated as "Waterbok"), UAV launchers, UAV recovery vehicles and gun tractors (for towed artillery pieces).
MAN Transportation Trucks[74] MAN Trucks of the South African military.jpg Logistics Truck Unknown  Germany Primarily utilised as prime movers, firefighting vehicles and low-bed transporters.
SHE Cavallo (Kynos Aljaba) Trucks[75] Kynos Aljaba 8x8 Ejército Español.JPG 8x8 Heavy Logistics Truck Unknown  Spain/ South Africa The army employs several variants of this vehicle. The "Skimmel" is a heavy recovery vehicle which is fitted with a tow arm, a winch, a crane and various other equipment. The "Zebra" is a maintenance and repair variant of the truck. The "Kameelperd" version carries the Army Air Defence Artillery's ESR220 Thutlwa mobile battery fire control post and early warning radar. The trucks also have tank transport and bridge layer variants.
Toyota Dyna[76] ToyotaDyna.jpg Medium-duty truck Unknown  Japan Designated as "Wildebees"
Iveco 30 Ton Transporter[77] Logistics truck Unknown  Italy Designated as "Giraffe". Used as a cargo/vehicle transporter.
Various Cars and Light Trucks Light Utility Vehicle Unknown  Japan/ United States/ United Kingdom Various civilian utility vehicles are utilized by the army for light transport/patrol purposes (Primarily Ford, Toyota and Land Rover vehicles).



GV6 Renoster[78] Denel G6 2 (DanieVDM).jpg Self-Propelled Howitzer 43 in army inventory (5 batteries worth, 8 guns per battery)  South Africa Locally-developed long range 155mm Self-Propelled Howitzer. Small amounts of artillery pieces are used by the School of Artillery to train gun crews from multiple regiments.
GV5 Luiperd[79] G5 howitzer (Impi).jpg Towed Howitzer 72 in army inventory (9 batteries worth, 8 guns per battery)  South Africa Long-range towed 155mm Howitzer. Small amounts of artillery pieces are used by the School of Artillery to train gun crews from multiple regiments.
GV1 25-pounder [80] - Flickr - Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden (6).jpg Towed Howitzer A small number are maintained and in service with reserve regiments  United Kingdom GV1 88mm guns are still maintained in several reserve regiments such as the Cape Field Artillery regiment and the Transvaal Horse Artillery which they fire on ceremonial occasions[80]

Rocket Artillery[edit]

Bateleur Mk 2 127mm MRL[81] Multiple Rocket Launcher 24 in army inventory (3 batteries worth, 8 systems each)  South Africa The standard Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)of the South African Army Artillery Formation. 40 launch tubes mounted on an armoured Samil 100 6x6 truck
Valkiri Mk 1 127mm MRL(Visarend)[81] Multiple Rocket Launcher 26 in army inventory (3 batteries worth, 8 systems each, reportedly all in storage)  South Africa 24 launch tubes mounted on a Unimog light 4x4 truck

Anti-Aircraft Artillery[edit]

Oerlikon 35 mm twin cannon[82] Militari romani in timpul tragerilor.jpg Radar Guided Anti-Aircraft Autocannon 102 GDF-002 + 48 modified GDF-005 units. Upgrading to the Skyshield system, GDF-006 AHEAD and GDF-007 AHEAD standard by 2017   Switzerland 169 acquired (along with 75 Super Fledermaus fire control units) in the 1960s. 48 of these Mk I guns were upgraded to Mk V status and the Super Fledermaus fire control units replaced by Italian LPD20 radars in 1990. These guns will be upgraded by Rheinmetall AG to use Oerlikon Skyshield fire control systems and Ahead airburst ammunition.
ZU-23-2 Zumlac[83] Twin 23 mm Anti Aircraft Autocannon 36  Soviet Union These guns were captured in the 1980s during the South African Border War and are mounted on an armoured SAMIL 100 heavy truck.

Miscellaneous Equipment[edit]

ESR220 Thutlwa[84] Mobile Battery Fire Control Post and Early Warning Radar 4 Units  South Africa Designated as "Kameelperd". The system uses an L-band 2D surveillance radar to provide early warning to air defence artillery troops in the field. This fully autonomous armoured system (with self-contained power plant)is transported by a Spanish-designed Kynos Aljaba 8x8 (“Skimmel” in SANDF service) truck. It is capable of tracking aircraft in a 120 km radius and can be fully operational within 10 minutes of arrival at the deployment site. The system also provides for a combined air picture derived from primary radar(through utilisation of Link-ZA, the SANDF's data link system), as well as a command and control system for effective air defence control.
Husky VMDD[85] USMC-090120-M-8478B-004.jpg Vehicle Mounted Mine Detection System Unknown  South Africa A system designed to clear routes of mines. Usually they operate in pairs one after the other. The leading vehicle acts as a Mine Detection Vehicle (MDV) and is designated as "Meerkat". The second Husky in the system tows a trailer called a "Duisendpoot" and is known as a towing /mine detection vehicle (T/MDV). The latest version of the Husky, the 2G, has high sensitivity low metal content detectors, ground penetrating radar, powerful air blowers and a robotic arm.
Thales Squire radar system[86] Thales Squire.jpg Battlefield surveillance radar 14  France Acquired in 2012 under Project Cytoon. The radars are designed to plot a pedestrian at 10km, a vehicle at 21km, a tank at 28km, a helicopter at 21km, a boat at 12km and a ship at 48km. The radar system uses a frequency modulated continuous wave Doppler radar and is designed to be virtually undetectable by enemy electronic warfare equipment. All systems are in service with the SA Army Tactical Intelligence Corps.
Thales Sophie man-portable system[86] Sophie ©B. Rousseau.jpg Thermal Imager 65  France Acquired in 2012 under Project Cytoon. The Thales Sophie can spot humans at over 4km, tanks at 10km, helicopters at 12km and jet fighters at 16km. All systems are in service with the SA Army Tactical Intelligence Corps.
Vulture[87] Vulture Launcher System at Ysterplaat Airshow, Cape Town (2).jpg Unmanned aerial vehicle At least 4  South Africa Acquired under Project Klooster. The Vulture is used for target acquisition, fall-of-shot detection and fire correction in support of Towed and Self Propelled Gun Howitzer Systems of the SA Army Artillery Formation. It operates without a pilot or a runway and is deployable in 30 minutes in unprepared terrain. The UAV is launched from a catapult on the back of a SAMIL 100 truck. The Vulture is monitored on the ground via the Navigator and Observer screens in a Ground Control Station. A laser system is used for automated approach, an arrestor system for its capture and an inflatable airbag for its recovery.
LOCATS[88] Low Cost Aerial Target Systems Unknown  South Africa The LOCATS is an unmanned aerial target used to train Air Defence Artillery crews in gunnery. It is launched from a ramp fitted on the back of a flatbed truck and is recovered by parachute.

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Hilton Hamann, 'Days of the Generals: The Untold Story of South Africa's Apartheid-era Military Generals,' Struik Publishers; 1st edition (23 July 2007), ISBN 1868723402, ISBN 978-1868723409.

External links[edit]