Operation Savannah: A Measure of SADF Decline, Resourcefulness and Modernisation
SADF conventional warfare capacity exhibited a decline during the 1950s, followed by belated efforts at rearmament and consolidation during the 1960s. However, Operation Savannah, the SADF’s intervention in the Angolan civil war during 1975–1976, as the force’s first involvement in a conventional-type war since 1945, exposed SADF weaknesses, but also strengths. Authorised amidst debilitating secrecy by a miscalculating South African government, Savannah demonstrated significant South African military equipment inadequacies, particularly in terms of artillery, armour and the need for an infantry combat vehicle. Savannah also gave hints of SADF strength residing in the resourcefulness of its personnel and their aptitude for mobile warfare. But rapid and effective Cuban military intervention also showed that SADF conventional warfare reaction and capacity needed urgent attention. This article attempts to address some of these themes while following the course of this “first battle” by the SADF after thirty years of relative peace.
Keywords: Operation Savannah, Border War, Task Force Zulu, SADF 1960s and 1970s