Friday, December 1, 2023

Botswana at the tail end of Africa’s arms race – report

As the dust settles in the controversy over the military receiving the second largest share of the national budget after education it has emerged that Botswana is actually at the tail end of Africa’s arms race.

Global Firepower (GFP) has ranked Botswana 106 out of 139 countries in 2021’s Military Strength Ranking.

GFP’s ranking utilizes over 50 individual factors to determine a given nation’s Power Index (‘PwrIndx’) score with categories ranging from military might and financials to logistical capability and geography.

Out of 36 African countries, Botswana is number 20, with Egypt at the top of the continent.

GFP states that Botswana’s defence budget, as of 2021 stands at US $ 540, 000, 000 or about P 5 851 100 880. There are a total of 36 countries included in the African Military Strength (2021) listing done by GFP.

Since 2006, GFP has provided a unique analytical display of data concerning 139 modern military powers or countries. The GFP ranking is based on each nation’s potential war-making capability across land, sea and air fought by conventional means.

In the breakdown of Botswana’s GFP rank, the country’s total population is at 2 317 233. From this number, only 42 % are deemed available manpower. The GFP formula observes inherently large populations as theoretically offering the benefit of committing more ‘souls to the fight’ in the form of combat personnel and labour force.

For Botswana, only 973 238 souls are liable to be committed to the country’s defence line. The number of people Botswana can dispense for military strength places the country at number 129 out of 139 countries in terms of manpower availability.

From the country’s manpower coffers, 583 943 are considered fit for service, landing Botswana at position 132. According to GFP, every year, 27 774 people or 1% of the country’s population reach the military age of 18 years.

GFP estimates that Botswana has around 9000 total military personnel and are all considered active. Botswana is at the bottom tier in terms of reserved personnel and paramilitary strength, scoring 139 in both areas.

As part of its land forces, Botswana is noted by GFP to posses only 112 tanks. In terms of the total combat tank strength, Botswana is at position 75 out of 139. Botswana has 505 armoured vehicles. In this light, Botswana’s total armoured fighting vehicle strength earned the country position 65.

GFP states that the Self-Propelled Artillery (SPA) system is a valuable component of ground fighting, supplying indirect fire over range through various projectile types (including chemical and nuclear rounds). Botswana was found to have 16 vehicles mounted with self-propelled guns. This number placed the country at the 62nd position in terms of self-propelled gun vehicle strength.

As old as modern warfare itself, the towed artillery piece remains at the heart of many ground forces today, combining range and indirect firepower with various projectile types offered in equally-various calibres. Botswana has 42 weapons, which can be towed to the battlefield and are designed for movement as trailed loads behind prime movers or draft animals. The total number of rocket projectors Botswana has is 20. These can target areas of built-up enemy forces and reach them through indirect fire at range. The inventory of land forces in the country is therefore mostly comprised of armoured vehicles with 72.7 % in inventory composition.

GFP tracks total air service strength for each national power taken into consideration for the annual GFP ranking. Fixed-wing and rotary-wing (helicopters) aircraft types are factored in from all branches of service (Air Force, Army Aviation, Navy, Marine). Aircraft types considered, include fighters trainers (basic, advanced), transports, dedicated bombers and ground-attackers, special-missions platforms. Botswana’s total strength in aircraft strength garnered the country 46 points, placing it at position 81 out of 139 countries in terms of air power.

The GFP ranking also tracks aircraft elements dedicated to Air-to-Air (A2A) combat that are specifically designed to counter airborne enemy aircraft through advanced radar and missile technologies. This is represented by the number of air fighters a global power may possess. In this field, GFP discovered that Botswana has 11 air fighters.

Botswana’s aircraft prowess dedicated to ground strikes designed to attack ground targets by way of broader support for various air-to-ground munitions is at zero. That means the country has no aircraft dedicated to ground attacks and support.

Regarding Botswana’s transport aircraft fleet strength, 11 of these aircraft were recorded by GFP. Transport fleet strength includes strategic-, tactical-, and utility-level types embodied by the Boeing C-17 ‘Globemaster III’, Airbus CN-235, and Cessna 208 forms, respectively. For Special-Mission Aircraft Strength, Botswana scored zero as well. GFP defines Special Mission Aircraft as platforms specifically developed to undertake an over-battlefield role by utilization of advanced onboard equipment or specialized trait.

GFP revealed that Botswana’s total strength of aerial tanker aircraft is at another zero. GFP notes that due to specialized training and cost, only a select few national powers can field such aircraft fleets with the United States leading the way – by a large margin. From Botswana’s airpower, the country has a helicopter fleet of 16 aircrafts, making it the 79th country out of 139 in this area. However, the country has no helicopters dedicated to attacks that also provide an on-call fire support platform for ground forces. Attack helicopters are used to counter armoured vehicles as well as dug-in enemy forces elements through Close-Air Support (CAS). For its airpower, the country’s inventory composition is largely constituted by helicopters.

Botswana’s Trainer Aircraft Fleet, which includes all training platform types serving to cover basic, advanced, fighter, attack, helicopter, and general flight training of airmen, has only eight trainers.

It is worth noting that Botswana has no assets in naval forces. The country has not dispatched aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates, and submarines to sea.


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