Source: IOL News
New and experimental technology is at the core of a multimillion-rand military exercise which is testing the state of readiness of the country’s defence force.
With thousands of South African soldiers, sailors, pilots and paratroopers taking part in the R20 million exercise, which has been three years in the planning, the country’s commander-in-chief, President Jacob Zuma, will know within weeks whether the defence can respond to a threat to South Africa’s sovereignty.
From across the country 4 000 defence force personnel, including mechanised infantry, airborne and maritime forces, tactical intelligence troops and special forces operatives have been gathering for Exercise Indlovu, which will culminate in a mock battle for the defence of Kimberley.
The Northern Cape and South Africa’s West Coast are the battlegrounds for the exercise.
With the maritime section of the exercise, involving the navy’s reaction force along with submariners and sailors, nearing completion, the army is now preparing for its role.
The exercise is simulating an attack by a foreign force on the mineral-rich city of Kimberley.
The exercise will, in the next 10 days, see vicious land battles playing themselves out at the SANDF’s combat training centre in Lohatla as paratroopers and ground forces respond to the attacks.
While the main battles will take place in the Northern Cape, it is in specially located military headquarters in Bloemfontein that the defence force’s new state-of-the-art and experimental command and control technology will be put to the test.
It is hoped that these command-and-control tests will reveal potential problems which could occur in real life situations.
Exercise co-ordinator Brigadier General Koos Liebenberg, speaking from aboard the SAS Drakensberg, one of the navy ships used in the maritime exercise, said all indications were that failing a political or diplomatic solution, the SANDF could respond to such a threat within two weeks.
“We have forces on standby all day every day. Something like this would not catch us by surprise because we know about any military build-up through our intelligence sources on the ground, media reports and other sources of information.
“When a threat like this is detected these standby forces are immediately activated and mobilised while diplomatic and political solutions are being sought.
“Exercises like this, which have been three years in the planning, are vital to ensuring that we know what to do when we need to do it and that we can carry out our tasks flawlessly,” he said.
Liebenberg said while the troops on the ground formed an important part of the exercise, the main focus was on the capabilities of command and control structures.
“A big effort has been placed on establishing a rhythm around headquarter capabilities.
“It is here that any gaps in command and control structures will be exposed and remedied,” he said.
Speaking about the new and experimental technology systems being tested, Liebenberg said they were aimed at improving communication systems between the battlefield and military headquarters.
“For battles to be won a number of critical requirements have to be met by these systems.
“These include communications systems which give us operational reports and minute-to-minute situational awareness maps which provide us with ‘full-time pictures’ of battles in our operation rooms.
“This exercise has been made as difficult as possible, with every possible scenario being thrown in to confuse, frustrate and force those in command and control to think as quickly and logically as possible,” he said.
“Ultimately R20 million is not a lot of money especially if it means that we can effectively defend the country’s sovereignty.
“The backbone for any defence is conventional warfare training. If we can establish this backbone we will with ease be able to switch over to non-conventional and asymmetrical warfare scenarios and situations such as these and others including peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.”
By Graeme Hosken