One of the most frustrating things about the defence debate in SA is the lack of knowledge about what capabilities & missions cost. e.g. To fund the existing Navy just for full utilisation would require doubling its budget to around R8-9 billion p.a. But it wouldn’t be enough. 1/
Realistically, SA would need dozens more ships & aircraft to be able to properly patrol its huge EEZ, mammoth search & rescue area, and conduct foreign operations like those off Mozambique. It’s too large an area for four frigates & a few OPVs, esp. with maintenance cycles. 2/
How many are actually needed for that level of control? Every war gamed scenario points to around a dozen frigates, 15-20 OPVs, another 15-20 IPVs, at least two support ships, and many others. Plus shipborne helicopters, maritime patrol aircraft. 3/
Needless to say, that level of capability would cost tens of billions of Rand a year in acquisition, sustainment, and operating costs and is unaffordable. Esp if you layer on the equivalent costs for the army & air force. So you have to compromise & trade capability for cost. 4/
How much capability you trade for cost is supposed to be an informed national debate, centred around regular defence reviews. We mostly don’t have that. We largely don’t even recognise the extent to which each reduction in cost brings an inevitable reduction in capability. 5/
This is dangerous because it creates distorted public expectations, unmoored from reality, of what should be possible. It leads to demands for missions that leave the military fatally overstretched and cost lives. It’s already overcommitted for its level of funding. 6/
The insurgency in Mozambique represents the first serious & close military threat South Africa has faced in more than 20 years. It’s a development military planners have long warned about, saying we could not afford to assume our neighbourhood would remain peaceful forever. 7/
They were ignored. Public debate around defence in SA has become shallow, with a lack or either seriousness or urgency, even in Cabinet and the ruling party who have chosen to ignore serious issues through successive administrations. That all needs to change. 8/
If we choose to send the SANDF into Mozambique, even as part of a SADC or AU mission, it can not and must not be done solely on the current and already inadequate peacetime budget. That would be ridiculously foolish & irresponsible, as it would cause severe operational gaps. 9/
But how much we are willing to spend on, and commit to, a deployment of this nature has to be part of an urgent & serious public debate that fully recognises the costs involved. Setting the SANDF up for failure in a mission this important would be devastating and dangerous. 10/10

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More from @darren_olivier

23 Aug 20
This is something a few of us have known about but been unable to write about till now. Staff at Denel Dynamics were told that a crucial contract to sell Umkhonto surface-to-air missiles to Egypt was cancelled because no South African bank would guarantee the advance payment. 1/
Multi-billion Rand arms sales are quite complex, they’re never just a straight trade of cash for goods. In most cases the client, in this case TKMS on behalf of the Egyptian Navy, first provides a portion of the contract value as an advance payment to pay for ramp up costs. 2/
In these cases the advance payment is essentially like a deposit, and manufactures like Denel are obliged to pay back most or all of it if they fail to deliver the contracted value. To ensure this happens, nearly every buying country insists on a bank guaranteeing the payment. 3/
Read 10 tweets
31 Jan 20
This morning the South African Air Force held its annual Prestige Day, on the closest Friday to the anniversary of its founding on 1 February 1920. It should have been a celebration of the Air Force turning 100 years old, instead it has been mired in farcical politics. 1/
I understand the difficulty with commemorating any pre-'94 military history, which I wrote about that in some detail earlier (). The racially exclusive pre-1994 history of the SAAF can not and must not be celebrated uncritically. Not all of it was proud. 2/
Yet there are clear ways to maturely address an inherited history, and to acknowledge its continuity, without celebrating its worst parts. Indeed, this is what government and the SANDF have done until now, commemorating all SAAF anniversaries up until the 95th. What changed? 3/
Read 10 tweets
2 Sep 19
Opposing the cash injection is a terrible idea. Let me explain why it's necessary, and why should be supported even if you want Denel to be broken up & privatised. In short, the alternative is Denel going bankrupt in an uncontrolled way, costing taxpayers more, not less 1/
First, and most important, none of the executive team and board who drove Denel into the ground remain. All were sacked & some now face legal proceedings. The new c-suite & board had to present a restructuring plan to National Treasury & the DPE before receiving support. 2/
Second, Denel's cash flow crunch is a peculiar one. It has billions in unrealised revenue from signed orders, but can't complete them because it doesn't have the cash for the required material & parts. Being able to complete deliveries on these would improve its cash flow. 3/
Read 12 tweets
22 Mar 19
Some info and context on the SANDF's humanitarian aid efforts in Mozambique following the devastating flooding from Cyclone Idai, and an explanation of why the South African Air Force has only been able to send one Oryx, one A109, and a light transport aircraft to assist. 1/
The SAAF has, on paper, about 37 Oryx, 26 AW109, 3 BK117 & 4 SuperLynx 300 helicopters. Only a small proportion of those are available for contingencies, 5 Oryxes are in the DRC, others are in servicing, assigned to standby for SA fire fighting/SAR/etc, or waiting for parts. 2/
Right now that spare capacity for deployment outside of SA is just one Oryx and one AW109. For those following SANDF budgeting this is expected: With present funding the SAAF has long been able only to keep sufficient aircraft airworthy to meet its day-to-day requirements. 3/
Read 12 tweets

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