Special Operations Forces (SOF) have received significant emphasis over the last decade, as armed forces require highly trained and rapid deployable forces to deal with asymmetric threats. The South African (SA) Army identified the need for an SOF capability in its long-term strategy, and airborne forces form an important component in its envisioned Contingency Brigade. This article examines the utility of contemporary airborne forces despite the decline in major parachute assaults. It also explains the importance of airborne forces for South Africa with reference to its defence policy and defence commitments. The article concludes that an SOF capability will enable the SA Army to operate better across the conflict spectrum, including robust multinational peace operations in Africa, which mostly involve insurgencies. The article also argues that South Africa needs a balanced airborne capability before it can establish an SOF capability. The intended conversion of airborne forces to SOF will require considerable changes in training and doctrine.