What SA National Defence Force chief, General Solly Shoke, calls “mobility packages” are replacements for the modified 4x4 bakkies used as the primary means of transport for soldiers deployed on border protection duty.
In his introduction to the 2015/16 Department of Defence annual report, the country’s top soldier noted: “The requirement to complement our forces on the borderline with an appropriate suite of mobility packages cannot be delayed any further. Given the resource constraints, a limited number of these packages have been procured”.
The “procurement” has now reached the stage where the SA Army’s Infantry School in Oudtshoorn is preparing to receive the first of what have been christened “trooppacks” while some of the ambulances built on the same chassis – Toyota’s diesel-powered Land Cruiser – are already with SA Military Health Services (SAMHS).
Expectations are that by month-end the first consignment of troop carriers, along with some logistic support and command and control variants will be at Infantry School.
“Before the mobility packages can be deployed people have to be instructed on how to handle them properly,” said Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, Staff officer, Operational Communications at SANDF Joint Operations Division.
Once proper training has been completed and the necessary supporting documentation supplied to the SA Army Infantry Formation and its Reserve Force units, deployment of the mobility packages will start with the Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal borders probably the first recipients.
“The new vehicles will be deployed on a tactical and practical basis to replace the older 4x4s, some of which have been in service since 2003 and have clocked up more than half a million kilometres,” Paxton said.
Planning is for 257 complete mobility packages to be in the SA Army vehicle inventory by the end of the current financial year, he said, adding the project to develop them had been an in-house one, driven by the Joint Operations Division with input from the Logistics and Signals formations as well as SAMHS.
Another vital component in the developmental stage was the defence, peace, safety and security division of the CSIR which worked with the project officer and others on components such as the vehicle’s roll cage, its stability as well as testing it at Armscor’s Gerotek vehicle testing site west of Pretoria.
The mobility package, as yet, hasn’t been given a military name, and it will only be supplied in four variants – troop carrier, logistics, command and control and ambulance.
“The trooppack carries half a stick – five soldiers – and an extra seat is provided for use by a ranger, tracker or policeman. The logistic variant will be used for infield replenishment of items such as fuel, water, ammunition, rations and medical supplies while the command and control variant will be a roving unit with a communications suite including radios and mobile phones,” Paxton said.
At company level, the maximum deployment will be 18 troop carriers and three each of logistic, command and control and ambulances.
Photograph: One of the modified one ton, 4x4 bakkies currently used for border protection.