Publication: Sunday Tribune Issued: Date: 2004-10-31 Reporter: Chiara Carter Reporter: Jeremy Michaels

Now It Is the Army's Turn to Go Shopping...



Sunday Tribune

Date 2004-10-31


Chiara Carter, Jeremy Michaels

Web Link


The dust has not yet settled from the multibillion-rand arms deal, but South Africa's military is already gearing up to make more new purchases.

This time round it is the army's turn to go shopping and the wish-list is far more modest, but not without room for controversy.

The army hopes to avoid ending up with obsolete equipment by buying everything from tents to tanks and is already spending millions on upgrading its ageing equipment just to get it through the next decade.

While improving rations is not likely to raise eyebrows, there is already debate about spending billions on tanks that would have a limited use in peacekeeping missions - increasingly a key role played by the SANDF.

The army's needs and plans will come under scrutiny by MPs during the current defence review.

Defence Secretary January Masilela said the army's needs assessment was "well-advanced" and planning was taking place for several projects to acquire food, night vision equipment, tanks, combat vehicles, ground-based air defence systems, armoured troop carriers and lorries.

Masilela said new equipment for the army was essential to prevent the country's troops from ending up with obsolete equipment.

Helmoed Romer Heitman, the southern African correspondent for the authoritative Jane's Defence Weekly, said that while the army's plans might seem expensive, the list was, in fact, modest and that the spending would take place over a period of years.

On the question of airlift capacity, Heitman said the country would have to weigh up its expense against its immense usefulness. "The airbus is very expensive, but it has immense capabilities - airlifting troops, supporting fighter aircraft and assisting in disaster relief," Heitman said.

With acknowledgements to Chiara Carter, Jeremy Michaels and the Sunday Tribune.