South African Special Forces
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|South African Special Forces Brigade|
Special Forces Insignia and Beret
|Branch||Joint Operations Division|
5 Special Forces Regiment
("We fear naught but God")
|Garrison/HQ||Speskop, Pretoria, Gauteng|
South Africa established a Special Forces capability in 1968 in line with international military trends. Initial planning and formation occurs, including studies of and visits to foreign Special Forces, formulation of appropriate structures and techniques for an African context, and formation and training of a core group of founder members. The capability realized in 1972 with the establishment of 1 Reconnaissance Commando at the Infantry School at Oudtshoorn.
The 1 Reconnaissance Commando was the first South African Special Forces unit, founded by General Fritz Loots - the founder of the South African Special Forces, and the first General Officer Commanding of the South African Special Forces. He appointed 12 qualified paratroopers (known as "The Dirty Dozen") as the founder members. Included in these 12 paratroopers was Jan Breytenbach, who was placed in command of the Founder Members by General Loots.
The South African Special Forces Brigade's current structure is the result of a series of reorganizations, as well as rationalization and integration between 1992 and 1996. The close-knit community is organised as a “brigade”, consisting of a headquarters, a school, two regiments and a logistics unit. Both regiments are airborne qualified, with one specializing on seaward operations and the other landward.
The Brigade is directly under the command of the Joint Operations Division of the SANDF, and unlike other similar forces worldwide, is not a part of the South African Army nor the South African Navy .
- 1 History
- 2 Structure
- 3 Selection and Training
- 4 Operations
- 5 Operator's Badge
- 6 Known Equipment
- 7 Comparable units
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
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The first South African Special Forces unit, 1 Reconnaissance Commando, was established in the town of Oudtshoorn, Cape Province on 1 October 1972. On 1 January 1975, this unit was relocated to Durban, Natal, where it continued its activities as the airborne specialist unit of the special forces.
Later, five additional Reconnaissance Commandos were formed:
- 2 Reconnaissance Commando (Citizen Force) - is established in Johannesburg. Retired due to rationalisation and the discontinuation of the Citizen Force unit concept
- 3 Reconnaissance Commando (consisting of former Rhodesian Selous Scouts) - is established in Phalaborwa. Attempted integration into the South African Military is largely unsuccessful. The unit was disbanded in 1981, and the limited number of remaining personnel from these are incorporated into the other Special Forces units.
- 4 Reconnaissance Commando, specialising in seaborne operations, was established in the coastal town of Langebaan, Cape Province.
- 5 Reconnaissance Commando was established at the Duku-Duku camp in Natal, but was later moved to Phalaborwa in the Transvaal province.
- 6 Reconnaissance Commando (consisting of former Rhodesian Special Air Service) – is established in Durban. Attempted integration into the South African Military is largely unsuccessful. It was disbanded in 1981, and the limited number of remaining personnel from these are incorporated into the other Special Forces units.
On 1 January 1981, a re-organisation of Special Forces took place, as part of which the Reconnaissance Commandos and other special forces were transformed into an independent formation, directly under the command of the (then) South African Defence Force (instead of the South African Army). As part of the re-organisation, the various Reconnaissance Commandos were also given the status of regiments. In the latter part of the same decade, a Special Forces headquarters and a Special Forces stores depot were also added to the Special Forces structure.
Between the years 1981 and 1990, Special Forces was home to unconventional operations such as Project Barnacle, the Civil Cooperation Bureau and other operations conducted under the aegis of 7 Medical Battalion Group.
In 1991, the structure of the special forces underwent another change, when the special forces headquarters was disbanded and a Directorate Reconnaissance, reporting directly to the Chief of the Army, was established instead.
Another organisational change followed in 1993, when the Directorate Reconnaissance became 45 Parachute Brigade. As a result of this, all the units were renamed: 1 Reconnaissance Regiment became 452 Parachute Battalion, 4 Reconnaissance Regiment became 453 Parachute Battalion and 5 Reconnaissance Regiment became 451 Parachute Battalion.
As part of the military rationalization process, 1 Special Forces Regiment was disbanded in 1996. Its personnel are incorporated into the other Special Forces Regiments.
In 1997, the Special Forces School was transferred 5 Special Forces Regiment upon the retirement of 1 Special Forces Regiment where the School had previously been based. The Special Forces School was transferred out of 5 Special Forces Regiment in 2002, to become a stand-alone unit.
The Special Forces Brigade, as it is now known, consists of:
- South African Special Forces Headquarters: based in Pretoria. The General Officer Commanding (GOC) Special Forces commands, controls and coordinates the activities of the various SF Regiments from a headquarters (HQ) located in the Swartkop Park nature reserve on the southwestern outskirts of Pretoria. Colloquially called “Speskop”9, the headquarters also houses the Special Forces’ operational planning as well as administrative support staffs.
- 4 Special Forces Regiment: based in Langebaan, Saldanha Bay, along the west coast north of Cape Town, provides South Africa its seaward Special Forces capability. The unit was established at Langebaan in 1978. The Regiment consists of three operational commandos (companies) as well as a Special Forces Amphibious and Urban School.
- 5 Special Forces Regiment: based in Phalaborwa in the east of the northern Limpopo Province, was established in Durban in 1976. After a sojourn at Duku Duku in northern KwaZulu-Natal, the unit moved into its present lines in 1980. Its post-2002 structure provides for two operational commandos and a training wing. It specialises in overland operations, especially long-range infiltration, intelligence gathering and airborne operations.
- South African Special Forces Reserve: Retired Special Forces personnel form part of the Special Forces Reserve, they are assigned to the various Special Forces Regiments as required.
- South African Special Forces School: Based in Murrayhill, it is responsible for the presentation of the Special Forces Pre Selection and Selection courses and ongoing training.
- South African Special Forces Supply Unit: It provides logistic support and is based in Walmansthal, North of Pretoria.
In the Special Forces regiments, leadership positions, especially at team (section) and group (platoon) level, have traditionally been dictated more by ability and experience than rank. This has resulted in Operators more senior in rank being assigned to groups or teams commanded by Operators junior to them in rank but more seasoned in operational experience or actual command.
Selection and Training
The Ultimate Challenge, as South African Special Forces Selection is often called, is considered one of the harder special forces selection courses in the world. A soldier must meet very high requirements to even attend Special Forces Selection. In accordance with SANDF regulation, only South African citizens are permitted.
This includes all aspects of psychological and physical tests. For the psychological tests, soldiers will be given written tests and oral interviews with Special Forces NCOs. A soldier must be self-controlled and mature. Soldiers are ejected from the course if there is any suggestion of mental instability. The Physical Test includes 40 continuous push ups, 67 sit ups in two minutes, fireman lift, three-kilometre run in full gear in thirteen minutes, a rope climb (to show upper body strength ), 40 shuttle runs in 95 seconds and wall scaling. A student must scale a 10-foot-high (3.0 m) wall, complete a fifteen-kilometre march in less than 120 minutes and perform 120 shuttle kicks.
Parachute selection course
Basic Parachute School is one of the most demanding. All Special Forces candidates who aren't parachute-qualified will have to attend this course.
Special Forces selection
Selection is an event during which candidates are placed in an extremely mentally and physically demanding set of situations and circumstances, through which they must pass. It is in duration approximately a week. For the duration of Selection, the candidates do not sleep or eat, and have no rest period at all. Only an extremely small percentage of persons who begin Selection ever pass it. In some years, no-one has managed to pass Selection, and there are other cases where only 1 or 2 persons out of an entire Selection group, 120 approx, have passed.
Once past the Selection process, he will be placed on a training cycle to acquire the skills required. These include: air co-operation, water orientation, obstacle crossing, bushcraft, tracking and survival, demolitions and tactics in urban as well as rural areas.
Advanced Airborne Training: a recruit will be taught about military free-fall such as HALO and HAHO. They will also learn about helicopter operations – how to rappel fast down a rope out of helicopters. Combat extraction is also taught, along with learning how to set up a Landing Zone.
Land training consists of many things: including sniping, demolitions and reconnaissance. Bushcraft and survival is also taught. Climbing and photography are taught to new recruits. Urban and rural combat is perhaps the newest training – developed quite recently, this training provided South Africa with a new counter-terrorist force. Medical and communications training is also given to those who wish to become qualified.
1973–94 SADF Operations
The South African "Recces" were deployed to many local hot spots during the late 1970s and early 1980s, particularly Angola.
One of the "Recces"' most effective operations came in 1982: Operation Mebos penetrated deep into Angola and destroyed the SWAPO Headquarters. In Operation Askari, in the winter of 1984, the "Recces" cut off almost all supply lines to and from the SWAPO in Angola. In 1985, a "Recce" team undertook the controversial Operation Cabinda, a failed attempt to sabotage Angolan oil installations run by Gulf Oil.
In early summer of 1985, another "Recce" team under the command of SADF Captain Andre Diedericks crossed into Angola's Cuando Cubango province, and with UNITA's help, protection and escort was secretly deployed around Menongue area. The team had at their disposal the 9K31 “Strela-1” AA system manned and operated by the team members. Team’s mission was to carry out covert combat operations, code names "Catamaran 1," "Catamaran 2" and "Cerberus" with the goal to disrupt air traffic in Cuando Cubango province by shooting down air transports, combat aircraft and gunships using the AA system.
On 11 June 1985, roughly 80 km from Menongue, the team shot down an Angolan airplane, a light utility aircraft, Britten-Norman BN-2 “Islander”. The "Islander", en route from Menongue to Cuito Cuanavale with a crew of 2 and 5 passengers was also carrying 69 million kwanzas (Angola’s currency), several months of salary for FAPLA’s 16th Brigade’s personnel based in Cuito Cuanavale. When the "Islander" fell to the ground the money was stolen and the remains of the dead passengers had been pillaged by UNITA soldiers attached to protect the "Recce" team. On 25 November 1985, the same "Recce" team had also shot down an “Aeroflot” Antonov AN-12, cargo airplane. The AN-12 transport en route from Cuito Cuanavale to Luanda carrying 8 crew members and 13 passengers crashed approximately 43 km south-east of Menongue. All people on board (twelve Soviet and nine Angolan nationals) died in the crash.
Post-1994 SANDF Operations
Central African Republic
Operators of the South African Special Forces were involved in direct action against the Séléka rebels in the Fight for Bangui during the South African military assistance to the Central African Republic. No South African Special Forces operators were killed in the operation. All casualties were attributed to 1 Parachute Battalion which lost 13 soldiers, with a further 27 injured, during pitched battles on the outskirts of the capital, Bangui.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
An operator of the South African Special Forces made the 6th longest recorded sniper kill in history with a confirmed distance of 2,125 m using a South African made Denel NTW-20 anti-materiel rifle.
All South African Special Forces operators receive the Operator's Badge, which is given only to those members who have completed all the qualifications as an Operator. It consists of an inverted Commando Knife within a laurel wreath, which is meant to symbolise both special forces (the knife) and victory (the wreath).
Standard operator badges are silver, but a gold badge with an embedded diamond is awarded to Operators with more than 10 years of active service.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (June 2014)|
|Casspir||Mine-Resistant Armoured Personnel Carrier||Multiple variants in use|
|Hornet (RDRV)||Rapid Deployment Reconnaissance Vehicle|
|Gecko (RDLV)||Rapid Deployment Logistic Vehicle|
|Toyota Land Cruiser||Light Armoured Tactical Vehicle|
|SAMIL 100||Armoured Military Truck||Carrier for a 23 mm anti-aircraft gun named "Zumlac"|
- United Kingdom – Special Air Service
- United Kingdom – Special Boat Service
- United States – DEVGRU (Seal Team 6)
- United States – 1st SFOD-D (Delta Force)
- United States – US Army Special Forces
- United States – US Army Rangers
- United States- US Navy SEALs
- Russia – Vympel
- Russia – Alpha Group
- Canada – Joint Task Force 2
- Israel – Sayeret Matkal
- Israel – Shayetet 13
- Ireland - Army Ranger Wing
- Poland – JW GROM
- Germany – Kommando Spezialkräfte
- Australia – Special Air Service Regiment
- Sweden – Särskilda operationsgruppen
- France – 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (1er RPIMa)
- South Korea – 707th Special Mission Battalion
- "4RR / 4SFR History - SA Special Forces League". Recce.co.za. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
- "5RR / 5SFR History - SA Special Forces League". Recce.co.za. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
- "1RR / 1SFR History - SA Special Forces League". Recce.co.za. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
- "Chairman's Welcome - SA Special Forces League". Recce.co.za. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
- Diedericks, Andre (2007). Journey Without Boundaries. Just Done Productions. ISBN 978-1-920169-58-9.
- "SANDF releases names of SA soldiers killed in CAR | News | National | Mail & Guardian". Mg.co.za. 2013-03-26. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
- Graeme Hosken. "SA snipers wreak havoc". Times LIVE. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
- Peter Stiff The Silent War, Galago Publishing Pty Ltd 1999 ISBN 0-620-24300-7
- Andre Diedericks Journey Without Boundaries, Just Done Productions Publishing ISBN 978-1-920169-58-9
- Jack Greeff A Greater Share of Honour, Just Done Productions Publishing ISBN 978-1-920315-06-1
- South African Special Forces League website
- Specwarnet.com report
- Specialoperations.com report
- Training account
- Samples of recces emblems