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South Africa Military - 2024


GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES  Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese

Military and security forces

South African National Defense Force (SANDF): South African Army (includes Reserve Force), South African Navy (SAN), South African Air Force (SAAF), South African Military Health Services

Ministry of Police: South African Police Service (2024)

note: the South African Police Service includes a Special Task Force for counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and hostage rescue operations

Military expenditures

0.7% of GDP (2023 est.)
0.8% of GDP (2022 est.)
0.9% of GDP (2021 est.)
1.1% of GDP (2020 est.)
1% of GDP (2019 est.)

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 75,000 active-duty personnel (40,000 Army; 7,000 Navy; 10,000 Air Force; 8,000 Military Health Service; 10,000 other, including administrative, logistics, military police); 180,000 South African Police Service (2023)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the SANDF's inventory consists of a mix of domestically produced and foreign-supplied equipment; South Africa's domestic defense industry produced most of the Army's major weapons systems (some were jointly produced with foreign companies), while the Air Force and Navy inventories include a mix of aging European-, Israeli-, and US-origin weapons and equipment; the SANDF has received only a limited number of imported weapons in recent years (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18-22 (18-26 for college graduates) years of age for voluntary military service for men and women; 2-year service obligation (2023)

note: in 2020, women comprised about 30% of the military

Military deployments

1,150 Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO); up to 1,500 authorized for Mozambique (part of a Southern African Development Community force to help quell an insurgency) (2023)

Military - note

the SANDF’s primary responsibilities include territorial and maritime defense, supporting the Police Service, protecting key infrastructure, and participating in international peacekeeping missions; the SANDF traditionally has been one of Africa’s most capable militaries, but in recent years its operational readiness and modernization programs have been hampered by funding shortfalls; it participates regularly in African and UN peacekeeping missions and is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Standby Force; in 2021, it sent up to 1,500 troops to Mozambique as part of a multinational SADC force to help combat an insurgency, and South African forces are a key component of the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; in recent years, the SANDF has been deployed internally to assist the Police Service with quelling unrest and assisting with border security

the Army in recent years has reorganized, and its combat forces are organized into four “modern” brigades, each designed for specific missions and responding to modern-day threats such as “asymmetric” warfare; the new brigades are separated into airborne, light infantry, mechanized, and motorized forces; the Navy operates a mixed force of warships, patrol craft, submarines, and support vessels; its principal combatants are four frigates and three attack submarines; the Navy also has a maritime rapid reaction squadron that includes naval infantry and combat divers; the Air Force has squadrons of multipurpose fighter, ground attack, and transport aircraft, as well as attack and transport helicopters

the SANDF was created in 1994 to replace the South African Defense Force (SADF); the SANDF was opened to all South Africans who met military requirements, while the SADF was a mostly white force (only whites were subject to conscription) with non-whites only allowed to join in a voluntary capacity; the SANDF also absorbed members of the guerrilla and militia forces of the various anti-apartheid opposition groups, including the African National Congress, the Pan Africanist Congress, and the Inkatha Freedom Party, as well as the security forces of the formerly independent Bantustan homelands (2023)

NOTE: The information regarding South Africa on this page is re-published from the 2024 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of South Africa 2024 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about South Africa 2024 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 04 May 24, Copyright © 2024 ITA all rights reserved.