From Fledgling to Eagle: The South African Air Force During the Border War

Front Cover
30 South Publishers, 2008 - History - 528 pages
2 Reviews
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 defenses 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 firsthand 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 said: "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."

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User Review  - JesperCFS2 - LibraryThing

An interesting book about an air war - and a conflict - I did not know much about. Not all air wars has to involve huge numbers of aircraft as e.g. the Vietnam War. And the SAAF had to get along with ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

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"
Roy Allen

Selected pages


Setting the scene
19661974 Provocation evolves into incursion
19751977 Aftermath of Savannah
1978 Cassinga
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
ACM diagrams
V3 airtoair missiles

1983 Antiinsurgency campaign
1984 Uneasy peace
1985 Internationalization
1986 Taking a breather
1987 Conventional warfare
The Billy Boys Song

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About the author (2008)

Brigadier-General DICK LORDwas born in Johannesburg where he grew up. He 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 rsquo;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 rsquo;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. He was mentioned in dispatches for his role in the remarkable rescue of all 581 people from the ill-fated liner Oceanos. A highlight of his career was organizing the successful fly-past of 76 aircraft for Nelson Mandelarsquo;s inauguration as President of South Africa in 1994.He retired to Somerset West near Cape Town with his wife June. He is also author of Fire, Flood and Ice (to be republished in 2011 as Standby!), his first book, which chronicles some of the SAAFrsquo;s spectacular search and rescue operations; Vlamgat-The Story of the Mirage F1 in the South African Air Force and his latest best-seller, From Fledgling to Eagle-The South African Air Force during the Border War, released in late 2008.

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