If it had not been for the implosion of the Soviet Empire in the Eighties, the political and commercial situation of todays Southern Africa would have been totally different. Our speaker on the 11th September made this abundantly clear, and because Brig.-Gen. Dick Lord SAAF, served through those years of conflict as OC 1 Squadron, OC 310 Air Force Command Post, Oshakati, and as 550 Operations, Western Air Command, Windhoek, he was in the unique position to take us into South West Africa, now Namibia. In a lively style, using excellent maps of the region and the numerous engagements, he first acquainted us with the Principles of War which the SADF used in all its preparation for operations, and then took us into the air force base at Oshakati of 1983/84.
The war in the north of SWA began as a low-grade terrorist armed conflict in 1966 and lasted until 1989. Started as a war of the people of Ovamboland, many of whom belonged to SWAPO, then escalated and gradually progressed to a full scale war. That was when the Soviet Union stepped in.. They realized that the SADF outclassed the terrorists who were militarily unable to win a war and decided to assist them to further their own devious aims. The Russians had their eyes fixed increasingly on world domination, ever since the end of World War Two which had left the Allies, as well as many other countries around the globe, war-weary and commercially exhausted. The Russians reasoned that by simply closing off the most important shipping lanes like the Suez Canal, Panama Canal, Straits of Gibraltar, the Cape Sea Route to and from India and the Far Fast and others, they were able to strangle the economies of western nations. Southern Africa featured strongly in their plans, because this part of Africa possessed the same strategic minerals as the Soviet Union, - and which the US and the European Nations did not -, which could place the Russians in an unassailable position.
So when SWAPO terror attacks began, the Russian military immediately realized the possibilities this offered them. The terrorists, knowing country and conditions on the ground intimately, only operated in the rainy season when they had water and cover available. The SADF, however, with its heavy armour, preferred to operate in the dry season, and in such a manner a yo-yo pattern developed over a long time-period. Due to SADF operations, the terrorists were forced to move at night, and so the low intensity war, with the deployment of helicopters and ground forces, plus gun ships in full-moon-periods, carried on for six years. It was an expensive war.
In 1983 the plans were changed, and the SADF mounted operation Askari, this time in the rainy season. Our speaker, taking part at the head of attacking aircraft formations, described the flying feats and battles in the air and on the ground in great detail and with great spirit Askari was most successful and destroyed SWAPO's confidence to such an extent that it did not pose a serious military threat anymore. (At the time!)
With the war in Ovamboland in a stalemate position, the Russian tacticians turned their attention on the area around Kavango and Southern Angola, and erected an extensive grid of radar stations as well as AAA and SAM batteries, moving them slowly south, forever closer to the SWA border. The Russians also supplied enormous amounts of light and heavy weapons, tanks and other armour to the MPLA in Angola with Russian, East German and Cuban instructors. In 1985 Jonas Savimbi, leader of UNITA, asked for assistance against the communist dominated MPLA, and the SADF began to conduct a series of heavy strikes against the latter.
But all the time the high level radar cover continued operating against SADF planes. Clearly, the Russians resolved to bleed the South African air force to death because they knew that no replacements were available due to the arms-boycott. There followed operations MODULAR HOOPER and PACKER, with the first one being most successful, the other two not. SWAPO's losses were heavy while the SADF losses were minimal. In the end, after 23 long years, good sense finally prevailed and a negotiated settlement was reached.. Summing up his lecture, Dick Lord stated unequivocally that the Total Onslaught was not a myth but a serious reality. The SADF won the military battles. He told us that it had been a privilege to lead his aircraft and pilots, of whom he was and still is extremely proud, into battle.
Thank you, Dick, for a most comprehensive and thought-provoking presentation.
All visitors welcome. Tea and biscuits will be served.
Jochen (John) Mahncke (Vice-Chairman/Scribe) (021) 797-5167