At our last meeting in July, Denzil Cochrane spoke to us on the development of Aerial Weapons for the Rhodesian Air Force from 1963 to 1979. He was assisted by Johan van den Berg's excellent overhead charts and pictures, and brought a generally unknown part of African military history alive.
Basing their future armament demands on the fact that Rhodesia had no technology or industrial base for weapons manufacture, with the exception of some material supplied from S.A., Rhodesian Air Force staff was well aware of their shortcomings in an impending guerilla war. Realizing that no arms would be forthcoming from the U.K., and that S.A. might only help them with technical and sourcing advice due to their armaments industry being hamstrung by over-seas embargos, it was initially decided to start with reverse engineering of existing aerial weapons. Our Speaker's company became involved in this plan, first carrying out detailed research and then developing a weapon's system for the Canberra B2 bomber to provide it with anti-personnel strike capability. Using bomb-bay photography, as well as trials under controlled conditions at the Katanga Bombing range to great effect, and the expertise of a number of experts in a variety of fields, a suitable AP bomb was developed which could be used in all terrains, particularly in the bush. Denzil described in great detail the many technical obstacles and problems they faced and complications in manufacture, but eventually an AP bomb came into service.
It was an interesting sidelight that the Air Officer Commanding SA Air Force and other officers, invited to attend tests at the Katanga range, were so impressed, that they wanted to acquire the design of the Alpha bomb for their own Canberra B 6 aircraft.
The next project was production of a fuel-air-bomb, similar to the one used by the USAF in Vietnam. In addition the Golf bomb was designed and developed in two sizes, the larger being the FBU 460 for delivery by the hunter FGA-9, the smaller Mini Golf or FBU 70 delivered by the Lynx aircraft.. The success of both the Alpha and Golf weapons was clearly demonstrated by the attack on Westland farm, 100 km north of Lusaka in Zambia. There ZIPRA cadres were present in an advanced state of training, and it was decided to strike before these soldiers were split up into their infiltration sections. The attack was carried out on the morning of 19th October 1978, initiated by two Hunters armed with Golf bombs. They demolished control and command centres. This was followed by an attack at low level by four Alpha-armed Canberras. In military terms the results were outstanding.
During the Q&A session Brigadier-General "Dick" Lord vividly described how he once, during operation Askari in 1983, the SAAF used the Alpha bombs, carried by South African aircraft, with great success. This was especially true when an attack took place during the night of 24th December, when six aircraft, all carrying the call signs of Father X-Mas' faithful reindeer, bombed the enemy.
A further success was scored at Cuvelai which was extensively bombed, and Dick could convince himself of the effectiveness when he visited the area one day after the attack himself.
Anyone wishing to listen to Denzil's talk at length and Dick's follow-on remarks, plus his further hilarious tales of goings-on within and outside of other operations, which could not be included here, can borrow the audiotape from the Scribe, as well as any other tapes from previous talks.
It was a most interesting evening, thanks to participants and questioners alike.
SA Naval Funny Stories.Before his retirement in 1984 Commodore D.F. Silberbauer compiled a book on most of the SA Navy's best known funny stories. Until recently it could only be purchased by naval personnel. Copies are now on sale at the SA Naval Museum in Simon's Town for R 36.00. Members who would prefer the book at the next meeting should contact Mac Bissett at Tel. 021-686-6309.
Subscriptions:A few subscriptions are still outstanding. Would members who have not paid as yet, please settle asap.
Meetings are held on the 2nd Thursday of each month, except December, at 8 pm (20:00) in the Recreation Room of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road (off Alma Road), opposite Rosebank Railway Station, below the line. SECURE PARKING inside the premises. All Visitors welcome. Tea and biscuits will be served.
Jochen (John) Mahncke, Vice-Chairman/Scribe, (021)797-5167