Resurrection of the Marine Capability in the South African Navy: The Maritime Reaction Squadron
The disbandment of the Marine Branch of the South African Navy (SAN) in 1990 following the end of the Border War, culminated in the loss of a marine capability geared to operate in an amphibious theatre. Budget cuts and the need to acquire new warships necessitated the disbandment of the marines. Following the country’s reacceptance into the international community in 1994, the newly formed South African National Defence Force (SANDF) found itself within a very short space of time involved in peace missions in the troubled Great Lakes region and elsewhere. The SAN, as part of the SANDF, was also drawn into peace missions. Members of the Protection Force and the Operational Diving Teams (ODTs) participated in peace missions and other exercises that demanded the marine capability. With the realisation that South Africa has been, and still is, involved in peace missions, the Chief of the SAN (C Navy) decided to resurrect such capability through the creation of the Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) in 2006. The MRS, however, does not mirror the defunct marines because it incorporates other elements such as divers who were absent in the first two marines. Even though it faces challenges, the MRS has conducted, and continues to conduct, various exercises and operations in support of South Africa’s foreign policy efforts.
Keywords: marines, South African naval diplomacy, SAN, MRS, Operational Diving Division, Operational Boat Division, Reaction Force Division