From Fledgling to Eagle: The South African Air Force During the Border War
The crucible of combat over 23 years forged the fledgling South African Air Force into a formidable strike weapon, capable of defeating the best Soviet air defences of the time. From Fledgling to Eagle chronicles the evolution of the SAAF in the 'Border War' that raged in Angola and South West Africa (Namibia) from 1966 to 1989, covering all the major South African Defence Force (SADF) operations from Ongulumbashe to the 'April Fools' Day war' in 1989. Dick Lord, who writes in a 'from the cockpit' style, has drawn on his own first-hand operational reports and diaries, incorporating anecdotes from dozens of aviators from a wide variety of squadrons—Buccaneers, Canberras, Mirages, Impalas, Bosboks, C-160s and -130s, Dakotas and helicopters. He also expands on the close relationship the SAAF had with the ground troops in a variety of operations—such units as the Parabats, Recces and Koevoet. However, Lord studies the broader ramifications of the conflict in that it was not a simple black–white war. Angola was really just a sideshow for the Soviets who wanted to bleed the SAAF in a war of attrition before attempting total domination of South Africa—their ultimate goal. He is unafraid to admit SADF mistakes—of Operations Hooper and Packer he says: "Lines of communications were too long to ably support the battle, which is why we did not clear them off the east bank of the Cuito River and why they captured the three Oliphant tanks which was their only propaganda victory." Although he gives credit to the enemy when they put up a stiff fight, he clearly outlines the overwhelming South African successes and dispels, in accurate detail, all enemy claims by giving an accurate account of each battle. He says: "I agree with General Geldenhuys that we thrashed them severely on the Lomba in '85 and '87 ... much recent publicity has also been given to the so-called victory of the Forces of Liberation [SWAPO, MPLA, and 50,000 Cubans and Soviets] over the SADF at Cuito Cuanavale in 1988. Nothing could be further from the truth—it is blatant propaganda." Brigadier-General Dick Lord joined the Royal Navy as an air cadet in 1958, where he qualified as a fighter pilot. Flying Sea Venoms and Sea Vixens, he served on board the aircraft carriers Centaur, Victorious, Hermes and Ark Royal on cruises around the world. In the mid '60s, he was selected for a two-year exchange tour with the US Navy, flying A4 Skyhawks and F4 Phantoms out of San Diego, California. He completed tours of air warfare instruction, flying Hunters out of the naval air stations at Lossiemouth, Scotland and Brawdy, Wales. He returned to South Africa in early '70s and joined the South African Air Force (SAAF), flying Impalas, Sabres and Mirage IIIs. During the Border War, he commanded 1 Squadron, flying Mirage F1AZs into Angola, followed by running air force operations out of Oshikati, Windhoek and SAAF Headquarters in Pretoria. A highlight of his career was organizing the successful fly-past of 76 aircraft for Nelson Mandela's inauguration as President of South Africa in 1994.
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This is a very accurate reflection of what happened during the 'Border War'Certainly the best Air Force in the world at the time!!
I can still hear the "Allo's" at "Ondangs"flying 'top cover' for the inbound C-130 from the "States"
An extremely well researched and written book! It puts the reader into the cockpit with the SAAF pilots.
It pays great tribute to ALL the members of the valiant SAAF who played an integral part in staving of the Comnmunist aggression directed at SWA and the RSA at the time, and allowing for a more equitable resolution of the problem.
Like the besieged Rhodesians, the SAAF were innovative in the extreme, as is evidenced by their many innovations independently of the Soviets and the Americans!!
The Rooivalk (Red Kestrel) is proof of this. Unfortunately, its export potential was "nipped in the bud" by the Americans who refused to allow their weaponry to be mated to this aircraft, and so made it of no use to any country wanting to buy it.. So the only available a/c was their Apache.
As a member of the South African Security Forces at the time, I will admit that it was not pleasant to stand on one's own against the might of the USSR and it's surrogates - without a "Big Brother". But at least we stood on our own, said our say, and learned to defend ourselves.
In doing so, we met some great and valiant people along the way, like the Israelis, the Tiwanise and our Chilean friends.
The SAAF is the second oldest Air Force in the world, after the RAF.
Setting the scene
19661974 Provocation evolves into incursion
19751977 Aftermath of Savannah
1979 Learning the ropes
1980 Establishing a pattern
1981 Taking the war to the host nation
1982 Crossborder operations
1988 Negotiated settlement
1989 Breach of promise
One of our aircraft is missing SAAF aircraft and crew losses to the enemy during the bush war
Chronology of operations
V3 airtoair missiles