How strong is South Africa’s military?

Amid concerned whispers of a ‘military state’ in South Africa following the deployment of army officials in the parliamentary precinct during the State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday night, BusinessTech looks at the country’s military strength.

Data from Global Firepower (GFP) shows that South Africa’s military is ranked 46th out of 126 countries.

The list uses over 50 factors to determine a country’s Power Index score, with military data taken from the CIA World Factbook, public domain print and media sources and user contributions.

South Africa’s military force is ranked as the third strongest in Africa, below Egypt (18th) and Algeria (27th), but ahead of Nigeria (41st) and Ethiopia (46th).

The country is listed as having an active military force of 89,000 personnel, with 17,100 in reserve.

There are 14.1 million South Africans “fit” for service (meaning all citizens aged between 16 and 49).

According to DefenceWeb, the South African Army is the single largest component of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), getting a majority of the overall defence budget – R15.65 billion for the 2016/17 financial year.

South Africa’s military forces are broken down as follows:

ManPower: “Going beyond military equipment totals and perceived fighting strength is the actual manpower that drives a given military. Wars of attrition favor those with more,” Global Firepower.

Manpower Total
Available Manpower 26 000 000
Fit for Service 14 100 000
Reaching Military Age Annually 965 000
Active Frontline Personnel 89 000
Active Reserve Personnel 17 100

Land Systems: Tank value includes Main Battle Tanks, light tanks and tank destroyers, either wheeled or tracked. AFV value includes Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs).

Land Systems Total
Tanks 195
Armored Fighting Vehicles 2 265
Self-Propelled Guns 43
Towed-Artillery 97
Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems 50

Air Power: Includes both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft from all branches of service.

Air Power Total
Total Aircraft 212
 Fighters/Interceptors 17
Fixed-Wing Attack Aircraft 17
 Attack Helicopters 12
Transport Aircraft 109
Trainer Aircraft 67
Helicopters 96

Naval Power: Aircraft Carrier value includes dedicated “helicopter carrier” vessels. Total naval strength includes all known auxiliaries as well.

Naval Power Total
Total Naval Strength 30
Aircraft Carriers 0
Frigates 4
Destroyers 0
Corvettes 0
Submarines 3
Coastal Defense Craft 26
Mine Warfare 4

Read: The world’s 20 biggest military spenders in 2016

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How strong is South Africa’s military?