Neha Patil (Editor)

63 Mechanised Battalion Group

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Covid-19
Active  1989 – 1994
Allegiance  South Africa
Country  South Africa
Branch  South African Army
63 Mechanised Battalion Group
Type  Mechanised Battle Group
Part of  South African Infantry Corps

63 Mechanised Battalion Group was a unit of the South African Infantry Corps; although it was classed as mechanized infantry, it was a combined arms force consisting of infantry, armour and artillery. Together with 61 Mechanised Battalion Group and 62 Mechanised Battalion Group, these units made up 60 Brigade encompassing battlegroup principles.

Contents

Insignia

A chain border on a black shield, three lightning bolts, two swords and the number 63.

Origins

63 Mechanised Battalion Group was part of 60 Brigade, based at Lohatla Army Battle School and was formed in 1988 mainly from the operational battalion of 8 South African Infantry Battalion and Ratel 90 Squadrons from 1 Special Service Battalion. Support companies of anti-tank, storm troopers (sapper), 81 mm mortars and their logistical team were also transferred from 1 South African Infantry Battalion in October 1988 to 8 South African Infantry Battalion for integration during a brigade level exercise at Lohatla Army Battle School called Exercise Sweepslag prior to the Group being sent north to South West Africa. The initial commander was "Blok " Liebenberg, a veteran of 61 Mech.

Sector 10 South West Africa

63 Mech was seconded to the command of Sector 10 in northern South West Africa in 1989 for its short operational life of about 12 months.

A combined Brigade level exercise with 61 Mech and 62 Mech occurred in the Oshivello area in January 1989.

Operation Merlyn

63 Mech took part in one strategic operation, repulsing a major incursion of SWAPO into Namibia, in April 1989:

  • On Saturday 1 April, reports were received of Koevoet, a unit of the South West African Police SWAPOL, taking losses from multiple contacts with SWAPO insurgents.
  • On Sunday 2 April, 63 Mech now with Koevoet, engaged SWAPO insurgents near Oshikango. 1 Casspir was hit with AK and RPG fire.
  • On Monday 3 April, tracking of the insurgents began. Allouette gunship helicopters assisted in visuals. Some 32 SWAPO were killed or captured.
  • From Tuesday 4 April, tracking continued around Oshikango.
  • On Wednesday 5 April, the unit divided into 3 search groups.
  • By Thursday 6 April, the area around Onamagula was being searched, when a column drove into an ambush. A Ratel was lost. About 16 SWAPO were killed in the ensuing battle.
  • Operation Agree

    63 Mech Group withdrew with the majority of SADF Forces from Namibia on 31 Nov 1989.

    Lohatla Army Battle School

    From 1990 to 1994, elements of 63 Mech's originating units were deployed internally within South Africa.

    The Battle Group experience of 63 Mech continued to be used by 8 SAI, 1 SSB and 2 SSB in annual integrated conventional warfare training at Lohatla Army Battle School.

    Battlegroup Organisation

    63 Mech Group's structure was designed to be modified as various tasks required.

    Deployment in South West Africa

    For the specific engagements in Operation Merlyn and Agree however, the unit included:

  • Two mechanised infantry companies (A and B Companies) from 8 SAI
  • One tank squadron (C Squadron) from the School of Armour
  • One G5 battery (S Battery) from 4 Artillery Regiment
  • One armoured car squadron (E Squadron) from 1 SSB, Bloemfontein
  • One air defence troop (F Squadron) from 6th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment or 10th Anti-Aircraft Regiment
  • One engineer troop
  • One Support Company which included mortar, antitank and assault pioneer platoons
  • Exercises at Lohatla Army Battle School

    From 1990, 63 Mech was activated annually only for joint training exercises where 8 SAI was the lead entity: By 1991, Rooikat armoured cars and Ratel ZT3s were added to these exercises at Lohatla Army Battle School.

    Notable exercises included Excalibur 1 and 2 as well as Blits 2.

    SANDF Rethink

    By 1994, the 63 Mech nomenclature was totally abandoned. The battlegroup principles however continue to be utilised in the current SANDF's training program as and when the need arises.

    References

    63 Mechanised Battalion Group Wikipedia


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