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Exercise Vuk’uhlome held at SA Army Combat Training Centre, Lohatla

By Trevor Cohen

Exercise Vuk’uhlome took place at the South African Army combat training centre over the course of 3 weeks. There were 5 brigades consisting of Motorized, Mechanized, Airborne and Light and Reserve forces. The Exercise was affectionately named “The battle of the brigades”

There were over 10 000 members of the armed forces that took part in the operation, this constitutes a division in the SANDF. The operation is not just an excuse to fire weapons but more an exercise against a formidable force who have ulterior motives. During the first week, the Force practised intervention techniques and tactics. In the second week, the force practised peace and support roles. The last week was the culmination of the operations where orders of battles are practised culminating in the full battle from all forces in the operation taking part.

The final day with the minister of Defence Thandi Modise and the Chief of the South African Army Lieutenant General Lawrence Khulekani Mbatha hosting dignitaries from other military forces around the world, Arms Suppliers and of course the media that were invited to cover the event.

The display started with a house filled with 500 kg of explosives being blown up. This was a massive explosion and definitely got the dignitaries' and crowds' attention.

Then there was a group of protesters who managed to get onto the base and believe it or not onto the range to show their service delivery grievances. SAP was called but when the group became violent the SANDF took over with Motorbikes and horses as well as other assets including Casper’s. The crowd was quickly subdued and the show was able to carry on.

Special forces rescued a pilot who has crashed and used their new "toy" the Wolf. The Wolf is a 20mm twin-barrel gun on the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser 76 that is armour protected. They also shot their unguided MLS system and also shot their towed air defence guns for the protection of the group.

Two Hawks then flew in from the Overberg test range flew in and dropped 2 free fall bombs each followed by an air-to-ground strafing run by each Hawk who then flew back home.

After that the G5’s and G6’s Artillery guns and the Bateleur Multiple Launch System let rip. Then the Anti-aircraft guns went into action to protect the ground troops from foreign air threats.

Followed up shortly by the live firing of the Carl Gustaf Multi role shoulder-launched guided rockets. Airbursts and other ammunition were fired.

Then the Rooikat, Rattles and Oliphant Mkii took over using different firing techniques suited to each weapons system and taking on the enemy's targets.

This was followed up by more artillery as they withdrew and the final finishing with a last barrage from the Bateleur MLS. The SAAF was actively involved in the exercise with various helicopters.

Although we were very far away from all the action for our safety and it was very hot in the sun, there are a number of positives to take away from this:

  1. The army does not practice for the sake of practising. They practice to be ready at any time to defend their countries against attacks.

  2. That the SANDF can field a force of over 10 000 members who are battle ready in the current times of political turmoil and budget cuts that leave our armed forces chained by the ankle is very impressive.

  3. That the army can continue with the lack of backup support from suppliers like Denel and Armscor who are on their knees is impressive.

  4. The graduate coming out of the training Centre are not just theoretically qualified but are also able to take into practice what they have learnt and apply it to a real-world war situation.

  5. I hope part of the training and theory that was learnt and practised was on Gorilla warfare which is what the SANDF needs to fight in Mozambique.

The process was also the start of the launch and phase-in of the new Camouflage uniform that has not been updated in 40 years. Designed by the CSIR to Southern African requirements and with the latest technology in the materials and designs, this will be phased into the Army over the next couple of years.

Armies practice so as to be ready for war. Standing almost 2 km from the artillery and probably double that from where it was landing I can honestly say that unless soldiers are trained and used to the noise of war they will not be able to fight should they be required to.

That the SANDF is training against current and new potential adversities gives one a sense of safety.

Thank you for your dedication and will to protect the country from harm.



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