Armed Services That Make Up SANDF, Their Ranks and Salary Structure

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is the overall military body in South Africa charged primarily with the responsibility of defending the nation from external military aggression. To achieve this, SANDF is made up of 4 different military service branches with specialized air, land, and water combat capabilities as well as a military health service arm that offers training and deployment of medical personnel within the force.

Indeed, SANDF is one big military organization charged with enormous responsibilities. To meet up to their expectations and ensure the smooth running of the force, different cadres of personnel exist within the force. Each is tasked with specific responsibilities in their respective service branch, and more so, there is also the chief of SANDF who oversees the entire affairs of the military body and is answerable to the commander in chief, i.e the President of South Africa.

Armed Services Under the South African National Defence Force

The South African National Defence Force which was founded in 1994 has undergone several organizational restructuring and integration of different armed forces from within South Africa to be one robust military body as seen today. The force comprises of –

  1. South African Army
  2. South African Navy
  3. South African Air Force
  4. Military Health Service

Each of these military forces is tasked with specific responsibilities and has a specific combat specialty to be deployed in the protection of South Africa once the need arises. Similarly, each force has its own leadership structure, promotion requirements, and salary scale that may not be too distinct from the others.

South African Army

south african army
South African Army

The South African Army as an arm of the South African National Defence Force is charged with the responsibility of carrying out ground warfare against external aggression in South Africa. The army takes its origin from the Boer Commando forces from way back in 1910.

They fought in both World Wars, and also counter-insurgency campaigns in Namibia. By 1994, the army was integrated into SANDF and has since been involved in peace-keeping operations in the southern Africa region, as well as participating in African Union operations.

Evolution of Rank Structure in the South African Army

With over 40, 121 active military personnel and about 12, 300 reserves, the South African Army has different ranks that range from the chief of the army being the highest rank for officers to private being the least.

The South African Army uses the same military structure as that of the British Army, albeit there have been a series of modifications made to their structure ever since their existence began. Generally, the rank of personnel in the army is divided into three viz –

  • Officers
  • Warrant officers and
  • Other ranks

A. Officers

Under the officer’s category, we have subcategories like General officers, Field officers, Company/junior officers, Warrant officers, Non-commissioned officers, and Rank and File. Each of these subcategories still has different cadres of officers under it.

General Officers

  • Brigadier-general (1912–40, 1998– present)
  • Major-general (1914– present) (formerly “combat general” 1960–68)
  • Lieutenant-general (1914– present)
  • General (1914– present) (formerly “commandant-general” 1956–68)
  • Field marshal (1923–c1950)

Field Officers

  • Lieutenant-colonel (1912– ) (formerly “commandant” 1950–94)
  • Chief commandant (Used in the Commandos 1968–70)
  • Colonel (1912– present)
  • Brigadier (1937–98) (formerly “colonel-commandant” 1937–40)

Company/Junior Officers

  • Major (1912– present)
  • Captain (1912– present)
  • Lieutenant (1912– present) (formerly “field cornet” 1960–68)
  • Second lieutenant (1918– present) (formerly “assistant field cornet” 1960–68)

B. Warrant officers

In June 2008 a new series of warrant officer ranks were introduced.

  • Warrant officer 1st class (1921– present)
  • Warrant officer 2nd class (1921– present)
  • Warrant officer (1912–21)

C. Non-commissioned officers

  • Staff sergeant (1912– present) (Air Force equivalent “flight sergeant”)
  • Sergeant (1912– present) (Air Force equivalent called “air sergeant” until 1970)
  • Corporal (1912– present) (Air Force equivalent formerly “air corporal” until 1970)
  • Lance-corporal (1912– present) (Air Force equivalent formerly “leading air mechanic” until 1970)

D. Rank and file

  • Private (1912– present) (Air Force equivalent formerly “air mechanic” 1920–70, “private” 1970–82 and “airman” 1982–present)

Salary Structure in the South African Army

The pay scale of South African soldiers is not publicly known as of now. However, it is estimated that soldiers earn on average of R12, 547 per month but like every other branch of SANDF, the pay officers receive differs according to their ranks.

SANDF Requirements for Promotion in the South African Army

The South African Army is by far the biggest military branch in SANDF. Thus, it is also a lot more complex to manage; it requires many officers in charge of different responsibilities. According to former Chief of the Army, Lieutenant-General Vusimuzi Ramakala Masono, promotion in the South African army is based on certain key elements which he itemized to be “availability of vacancies in the army, right qualifications for the available vacancies, one’s performance in the army, potential, as well as experience and security classification.

South African Navy

South African Navy, SANDF
South African Navy

Under SANDF, the South African Navy is charged with the naval defense of South Africa against external aggressions. They also get involved in counter-piracy operations, search and rescue missions, fishery protection, and maritime law enforcement. The armed force boasts an array of high-tech warships, submarines, water patrol crafts, and auxiliary vessels. Undoubtedly, they are one of the best naval forces in the African continent. Like the army, the South African Navy also participated in the first and second world wars, as well as the South African Border war.

Rank Structure in the South African Navy

The South African Navy which is headquartered in Saldanha Bay, Simon’s Town, Durban, South Africa, boasts a decent 7,887 active naval personnel and about 1000 reserves. Again, like the army, the South African Navy also operates a rank system similar to that of the British Royal Navy. Ranks in the navy are typically divided into three viz –

  • Officers
  • Warrant Officers
  • Enlisted

A. Officers

The current rank structure for the officer category in the South African Navy range from Midshipman to Admiral.

  • Admiral
  • Vice admiral
  • Rear admiral
  • Rear admiral
  • Captain
  • Commander
  • Lieutenant commander
  • Lieutenant
  • Sub-lieutenant
  • Ensign
  • Midshipman

B. Warrant Officers

There are 5 categories of warrant officers in the South African Navy viz –

  • Senior warrant officer (WO-5)
  • Master warrant officer (WO-4)
  • Chief warrant officer (WO-3)
  • Senior chief warrant officer (WO-2)
  • Master chief warrant officer (WO-1)

C. Enlisted

In the Enlisted category, the least rank as it is common with most navies of the world is Seaman while the highest rank in the South African Navy is Warrant officer class 1.

  • Warrant officer class 1
  • Warrant officer class 2
  • Chief petty officer
  • Petty officer
  • Leading seaman
  • Able seaman
  • Seaman

Salary Structure in the South African Navy

The pay scale of the South African Navy as a military branch under SANDF is not publicly available. However, it is believed that naval officers earn an average salary between R99,000 to R520,000 per annum. Also, there is a significant difference between what officers earn according to their ranks, junior officers typically earn lower than senior officers.

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SANDF Requirements for Promotion in the South African Navy

Like the payscale, the requirement for promotion in the South African Navy is an exclusive reserve of the military body. This information is not available to the public but like every other branch of SANDF, merit plays an important role for any naval officer to earn promotion in the force. Also, promotions come with higher pay and more responsibilities.

3. South African Air Force

South African Air Force
South African Air Force

Like every other service branch of the SANDF, the South African Air Force (SAAF) stands out as one of the best in the continent, having fought gallantly in World War I, World War II (East African Campaign, North African Campaign, Madagascar, Italy, and Balkans), Korean War, South African Border War, and the Angolan Bush War. Today, the airforce has the sole responsibility of engaging in aerial warfare, aerial defense, and aerial supremacy on behalf of South Africa.

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Rank Structure in the South African Airforce

Currently, the South African Airforce has about 229 active aircraft, 10, 815 active personnel, and about 831 reserve personnel. The Pretoria-based military organization which is headed by a Chief of the Air Force operates a similar ranking system like the South African army which was borrowed from the British Army. These ranks have however been modified over the years. These ranks include –

  • Officers
  • Warrant officers and
  • Other ranks

A. Officers

Under the officer’s category, we have subcategories like General officers, Field officers, Company/junior officers, Warrant officers, Non-commissioned officers, and Rank and File. Each of these subcategories still has different cadres of officers under it.

General Officers

  • Brigadier-general (1912–40, 1998– present)
  • Major-general (1914– present) (formerly “combat general” 1960–68)
  • Lieutenant-general (1914– present)
  • General (1914– present) (formerly “commandant-general” 1956–68)
  • Field marshal (1923–c1950)

Field Officers

  • Lieutenant-colonel (1912– ) (formerly “commandant” 1950–94)
  • Chief commandant (Used in the Commandos 1968–70)
  • Colonel (1912– present)
  • Brigadier (1937–98) (formerly “colonel-commandant” 1937–40)

Company/Junior Officers

  • Major (1912– present)
  • Captain (1912– present)
  • Lieutenant (1912– present) (formerly “field cornet” 1960–68)
  • Second lieutenant (1918– present) (formerly “assistant field cornet” 1960–68)

B. Warrant officers

In June 2008 a new series of warrant officer ranks were introduced.

  • Warrant officer 1st class (1921– present)
  • Warrant officer 2nd class (1921– present)
  • Warrant officer (1912–21)

C. Non-commissioned officers

  • Staff sergeant (1912– present) (Air Force equivalent “flight sergeant”)
  • Sergeant (1912– present) (Air Force equivalent called “air sergeant” until 1970)
  • Corporal (1912– present) (Air Force equivalent formerly “air corporal” until 1970)
  • Lance-corporal (1912– present) (Air Force equivalent formerly “leading air mechanic” until 1970)

D. Rank and file

  • Private (1912– present) (Air Force equivalent formerly “air mechanic” 1920–70, “private” 1970–82 and “airman” 1982–present)

Salary Structure in the South African Airforce

The salaries of officers in the South African Airforce are dependent on their ranks. Junior officers typically earn lower than senior officers. An officer who started a career in the Airforce as a junior officer and remains assiduous will see his or her salary grow over the years as promotions come. Below is the estimated salary range of officers in SAAF under SANDF.

S/N Rank Amount
1 Military Pilot, Jet R65, 000 – R832, 000
2 Accounting Clerk R107, 000 – R331, 000
3 Legal Services Manager R386, 000 – R1, 000, 000
4 Logistics Coordinator R235, 000 – R604,000
5 Procurement Officer R173, 000 – R692, 000
6 Avionics Technician R76, 000 – R810, 000
7 Electronics Technician R110, 000 – R492, 000
8 Senior Business Analyst R586, 000 – R1, 000, 000
9 Maintenance Mechanic R263, 000 – R612, 000
10 Electro-Mechanical Technician R176, 000 – R642, 000
11 Document Control Specialist R122, 000 – R385, 000
13 Structural Metal Fabricator / Fitter R108, 000 – R438, 000
14 Aircraft Maintenance Technician R86, 000 – R415, 000
15 Aircraft Mechanic / Service Technician R90, 000 – R250, 000
16 Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) R110, 000 – R422, 000

SANDF Requirements for Promotion in the South African Airforce

Promotion in the South African Airforce, just like every other branch of SANDF, is strictly regulated and solely based on merit. Officers who distinguish themselves in conduct and service to the nation earn promotion into the next rank higher than their current rank. These promotions also come with more responsibilities and higher pay.

It is always the dream of every airman who joined the force as a junior officer to earn promotions over the years. Thus, SAAF officers put in their best in the discharge of their military duties to earn these promotions as and when due. Be that as it may, the main requirements or considerations before officers are promoted in SAAF are not available to the public.

4. South African Military Health Service

South African Military Health Service

The South African Military Health Service as a branch of the SANDF has the responsibility of training and deploying medical personnel within the South African Army, South African Navy, and the South African Airforce.

Rank Structure in the South African Military Health Service

The health service force which is headed by a Surgeon General has about 9,922 active military health service personnel on its payroll and about 1,115 reserves. They also use a ranking system almost similar to that of the army. The category of personnel here is divided into two viz –

  • Officer
  • Enlisted

A. Officers

In the SANDF’s Military Health Service, the lowest rank for an officer is 2nd lieutenant Candidate officer for Officer cadets while the highest rank is General. In between these ranks, other ranks also exists and they are –

  • General
  • Lieutenant general
  • Major general
  • Brigadier general
  • Colonel
  • Lieutenant colonel
  • Major
  • Captain
  • Lieutenant
  • 2nd lieutenant candidate officer

B. Enlisted

Military health service personnel in SANDF under the Enlisted category have the following ranks for officers in its service –

  • Warrant officer class 1
  • Warrant officer class 2
  • Staff sergeant
  • Sergeant
  • Corporal
  • Lance corporal
  • Private

Salary Structure in the South African Military Health Service

Officers in the South African Military Health Service earn an estimated amount between R130, 000 and R273, 000, depending on the officer’s rank and specialization in the health service.

S/N Rank Estimated Earning
1 Staff Nurse R135, 000 – R273, 000
2 Radiographer R128, 000 – R287, 000
3 Registered Nurse (RN) R135, 000 – R273, 000
4 Others R130, 000 – R280, 000 (per annum)

SANDF Requirements for Promotion in the South African Military Health Service

Promotion in the South African Military Health Service is not different from that of the other branches of SANDF. For any military health personnel to earn a promotion, the officer must have earned it via qualification, hard work, and dedication. However, details of what these entails are not publicly available.

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Queen Thabisa
Queen always has the inside scoop on the lives of your famous celebrities, she is the go-to source when it comes to everything Hollywood and South African entertainment industry, an entertainer and a true queen in her own special way.
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