A Brief History of the South African Defence Force (SADF) 1912 - 1994 Part 2 Part 1 Home
South Africa's contribution to the United Nations Forces in Korea consisted of a fighter-bomber squadron, 2 Squadron,
known as the "Flying Cheetahs".
In terms of the Defence Act of 1957, the SADF's major functions is to defend the country against external threats. It is
also charged with preventing and suppressing terrorism and internal disorder, preserving life, health and property, and
maintaining essential services. This compares well with most Western defence forces.
In terms of this Act, which became effective in 1958, the designation of the Union Defence Force was changed to the
South African Defence Force. This act finalized the entire defence spectrum, and made provision for the inclusion of
commandos in the SADF.
The sixties heralded a new era for the SA Defence Force. After becoming a Republic in 1961, legislation with regard to
national service had to be adapted to keep pace with changing circumstances. In 1961 military service was instituted
as a ballot system, whilst the training period for members of the citizen force was lengthened to 9 months. In 1968 the
ballot system was superseded by die system of national service, and the initial training period was lengthened to 12
A wide-ranging reorganization of the SA Defence Force made provision for the institution of six combat groups for un-
conventional warfare. This type of warfare became prominent in Southern Africa with mounting terrorist activity in South
West Africa, Angola and Mozambique.
In 1957 Portuguese rule in Mozambique and Angola came to an end. During the ensuing Angolan Civil War (1975 - 76),
a South African task force operated in the south of Angola. Since South African withdrawal in 1976 SWAPO terrorists
have been carrying out a campaign of terror in South West Africa from bases in southern Angola. To safequard the area
from such attacks, the SADF had to establish itself in South West Africa.
In May 1978 two large terrorists bases were destroyed in Angola, and since then the South African security forces have
carried out numerous successful pre-emptive and follow-up operations in conjunction with the SWA territory force.
Amongst others, these include Sceptic (1980), Protea (1981), Daisy (1981), Super (1982), and Askari (1983).
Operation Protea was the largest mechanized war operation by the SA Defence Froce since World War II. It lasted for
two months. Large quantities of sophisticated weapons were seized or destroyed and SWAPO's entire logistics system
in Southern Angola was destroyed. A large number of weapons were also seized, including the new Russian AGS 17
grenade launcher and a complete SA 9 anti-aircraft missile.
Since 1975, when terrorist groups began to operate in the RSA from bases in neighbouring countries, elements of the
SADF have experienced several contacts along the RSA's borders with terrorists attempting to infiltrate the country.
Locally the force also plays an important role in the supression of terrorism and in maintaining law and order.
During the seventies the command-and-control structure was changed radically at different times, to enable the SADF
to adapt to changing circumstances. For example, a five-pronged staff-function system was developed, while the South
African Medical Service became the fourth arm of the SA Defence Force in July 1979 - the other three being the Army,
Air Force, and Navy. In 1977 the system of national service was revised with the service period being extended to 24
The 1970's saw the employment of female military personnel and other races. In 1982 and 1984 legislation spread the
defence burden across a broader spectrum of the population. A sixth staff division, Planning, was created in 1986.
The Force is essentially a citizen force and career soldiers of the Permanent Force account for a very small percentage
of the total complement. National servicemen make up the majority of the force. They do two years compulsory military
training followed by part-time service for a further 12 years and 20 years respectively with Citizen Force and Commando
White male citizens are liable for military service at the age of 18 and remain liable until 55. Young men are allocated to
various bases and installations. Their first 13 weeks are taken up by basic training. This is followed by specialist instruc-
tion appropriate to the trainee's particular corps or unit. After six months, servicemen are ready for the operational area
and their first tour of duty is followed by further training.