The South African Army demonstrated its urban warfare skills to lawmakers and the media with house-clearing, parachute insertion and helicopter fast-roping tactics.
The need for more urban warfare-type training arose during peace-keeping operations in Burundi in 2003 and the necessity for it has been underlined in recent fighting in Libya and Syria. Officer Commanding 44 Parachute Regiment, Colonel Andy Mhatu, said Fighting in Built Up Areas, or FIBUA, had been a Special Forces capability and then paratroopers had been introduced to it, but now all Infantry would receive the training.
Mhatu was speaking at the abandoned Deelkraal Mine west of Johannesburg which the Army was planning to buy as a training area. He stressed that even in Africa, fighting was not confined to areas like “the jungle” and that soldiers had to know how to deal with situations involving hostages, snipers or explosive devices in urban areas.
The exercise revolved around a scenario in which captured UN troops and a South African Ambassador were being held hostage by rebels. Members of 21 South African Infantry Battalion and the Rand Light Infantry (a Reserve unit) cleared and held the disused mine buildings, scaling walls and climbing obstacles and providing fire-cover for their colleagues.
Members of 1 Parachute Battalion dropped in behind the buildings and a stick (a group of soldiers carried by a helicopter) fast-roped onto the roof and continued their assault from there.
Also present to review the exercises and gather information, were members of the Defence Review Committee led by former Member of Parliament Roelf Meyer.