International and Regional Cooperation

Since January 1994, the SA Navy has visited countries in Europe, the United States and Canada, West and Southern Africa, countries on the Arabian Sea, India and Pakistan and some of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean Island states. Foreign warships from all over the world now pay regular visits to South African ports and inter-navy exercises have become more frequent between the SA Navy and navies from other African countries, South America, Europe, Great Britain, the United States and Asia.

In 1994 SAS Outeniqua delivered the world's largest portable hospital to Trieste, Italy, from where it was transported to war-torn Bosnia on behalf of local Muslim communities.

In 2001 SAS Drakensberg visited India, taking with her hundreds of tons of relief aid for the victims of floods that devastated areas of Bangladesh.

In April 2001 SA Navy vessels assisted Australian special forces with the apprehension of a fishing vessel which was alleged to have been poaching Patagonian Toothfish in Australian territorial waters.

Regular exercises are held with the navies of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay during the ATLASUR series of exercises.

And so it goes on…………

These contacts not only promote our foreign relations and goodwill, but afford the Navy the opportunity to conduct combined exercises and to exchange professional expertise.

Maritime Defence: SA Navy

The role of the SA Navy is to prepare for and, when so ordered, to conduct:

  • Appropriate naval operations in defence of the RSA, its citizens and interests
  • Operations other than war in support of other relevant and approved national goals

The SA Navy's main tasks include the maintenance, preservation and the provision of naval services in support of other state departments and authorities, where such assistance includes the following:

  • Search and rescue
  • Protection of maritime resources
  • Sea transport Diplomatic support

The Need for a Navy

In addition to the above facts, one must also consider the following:

  • The RSA's ports are the trade gateway for many African countries.
  • This area is rich in unexploited minerals and food resources. · The RSA is among the top 12 sea-trading nations.
  • The RSA is vulnerable to blockade and the cutting off of its sea routes.
  • The RSA is vulnerable to the plundering of its marine resources.
  • According to Germany's own records, 28 U-Boats operated off the South African coastline during World War II. German and Japanese submarines accounted for a total of 133 merchant ships sunk and 6 damaged. Submarine action also accounted for the Dutch warship HMNS Colombia. Surface raiders sank a total of 20 merchant ships and mines laid by either submarines or surface raiders also accounted for 2 ships sunk and 2 damaged.

The SA Navy has been responsible for protecting South Africa's interests for three-quarters of a century. Prior to 1922, the Royal Navy was largely responsible for the safety of shipping around the Cape with many South Africans serving in a number of their ships. In today's increasingly uncertain and competitive world, the SA Navy continues to protect our national interests and responsibilities as well as helping to guard against risks to our peace and security.

The SA Navy is now actively cooperating with other African countries and their navies and is willing to provide assistance and to cooperate in a regional context.

The SA Navy also has the ability to further enhance the RSA's prestige abroad and encourage trade and sound international relations. It is already playing a leading role in this regard.

The RSA requires a navy with a broad range of balanced capabilities as a key component of the National Defence Force in order to support the nation's objectives to project peace or, if necessity, strength, during times of tranquility or tension.


The SA Navy entered the missile era on 25 March 1980 with the successful firing of a surface to surface missile from the then SAS Jim Fouche in which the target, the obsolete destroyer SAS Jan van Riebeeck, was struck amidships causing considerable damage.

A surface to surface missile finds its mark. This time the target is a derelict trawler. The SA Navy regularly batch tests its ordnance during live firing exercises. This particular firing was carried out in June 2003. The smoke trail of the missile can be clearly seen. 

A close up view of the damage to the target. The missiles have penetrated the hull and detonated within.

In the same series of exercises, the SA Navy tested its torpedoes on another derelict. The results were even more dramatic.

Humanitarian Assistance 

Apart from its primary role, the SA Navy has an enviable history of rendering humanitarian assistance. A typical example was the rescue of Mozambique citizens following the devastating floods of 2002. Navy divers assisted the other Services of the SANDF with the rescue of women and children.







 back to top


revision date: Thursday, January 11, 2018
home | sitemap | contact us

defence portal | disclaimer | copyright © 2018 Department of Defence