Some Angola Air Support


In November I’ll be doing my first show demo-game for many years at Warfare 2019 in Reading.  My original plan was to do a large ‘Cold War Hot’ game based on the book ‘First Clash’ by Kenneth Macksey (the Canadian 4th Mechanised Brigade defending against overwhelming numbers of Soviets), but I left it too late to apply for the show, so was restricted to a relatively small table.  So what to do…?

As it happens, I’ve had a semi-written small(ish) scenario kicking around on my hard-drive for 15 years or so based on the controversial Cassinga Raid by South African paratroops into Angola in 1978.  I already have most of the models required (either already built and painted or waiting to be), though what I need most is 1/100th Puma helicopters (I need 4-6 of them for the game and only had one), so I’ve spent the last few months scouring the internet for old Heller or Roskopf Puma kits.  By the power of eBay have thus far built my stock up to three Pumas.  Though with time getting short, I might have to opt for the final resort – the resin/metal Puma model by QRF.

So please let me know if you have any unwanted Heller or Roskopf 1/100th Pumas sitting around in your collection!  It’s a seller’s market…

Anyway, I recently painted the Pumas and a Transall transport aircraft for the game and it was a lovely day, so I took them outside to photograph them.  I also decided to photograph some of my pre-existing aircraft for the Angolan Border War, as they were all in the same box:

SAAF C-160Z Transall

Above: The C-160 Transall is a 1960s-vintage Franco-German tactical transport aircraft that is presently being replaced by A-400M Atlas and C-130J Hercules in those nations’ air forces.  It was also used by the Turkish and South African Air Forces.  The SAAF’s No. 28 Sqn operated both C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall and used both types to deliver the paratroops to Cassinga.  Two C-160s remained airborne during the battle, carrying a reinforced reserve para company, which would be dropped to reinforce the main force, as required.  In the event they weren’t used, but remain an option for the scenario.  This model will also serve as a bit of eye-candy on the table and should (hopefully) make it immediately apparent that we’re playing an airborne scenario.

This is a bloody awful 1/100th kit by Revell (would the inclusion of locating lugs have been so bad, Mr Revell??!!!).  The supplied decals are German and French, so I’ve used the SAAF roundels from the Tamiya Buccaneer model.  Thankfully SAAF markings were usually very sparse during the Angola War.

Luftwaffe C-160 Transall at RAF Brawdy 1979

As it happens, the C-160 was the very first aircraft that a young JF set foot on board – at the RAF Brawdy air show in 1979.  The Luftwaffe had a permanent presence at RAF Brawdy in Pembrokeshire, supporting the panzer training unit at Castlemartin Range (they didn’t have anywhere in West Germany where they could fire the full range of tank ammunition) and C-160s were almost always present on the ground at Brawdy or flying overhead.  They always put on a superb display, demonstrating their very impressive STOL capability – landing on a sixpence, coming to a stop almost immediately and taking off again, seemingly vertically.  They’d also always have one open for the vistitors to walk through and for the young JF to sit in the cocpkit and make aeroplane noises…

Some things never change…

SAAF SA-330 Pumas

Above: The SAAF’s French-built SA-330 Puma helicopters were ubiquitous throughout the Border War as their standard workhouse tactical transport helicopter.  At Cassinga a total of thirteen Pumas and six Super Frelons were used for the operation, with twelve of the Pumas actually going in to extract the paras (doing so while under fire from Cuban T-34 tanks).  Although now retired from SAAF service, a few ex-SAAF Pumas are still flying with the RAF, who bought them to keep the RAF’s Puma force up to strength following the heavy demands of Iraq and Afghanistan on the RAF’s Puma fleet.

These models are ok-ish models of 1970s vintage by Heller (Roskopf apparently used a re-tooled version of the same kit).  My main criticism is that the rotors and particularly the rotor-head are bloody awful.  The kit only came with French markings, so again I’ve stolen some Tamiya Buccaneer roundels.

They’re flying over some SADF Ratel and Buffel APCs by QRF, plus an Ystervark AA vehicle that was converted by my good mate Martin Small from a Peter Pig Bulldog APC (he also designed the Buffel APC model for QRF).

SAAF Buccaneer S Mk 50

Above: The Buccaneer S Mk 50 was the export version of the superlative British low-level naval strike-fighter.  The SAAF was the Buccaneer’s only non-British user and only operated a single squadron of them, namely No. 24 Sqn.  The original 16 aircraft were steadily whittled down by accidents and maintenance problems caused by anti-Apartheid sanctions, so only six or so operated over Angola.  Five saw action at Cassinga; both in the initial pre-operation bombing and in close air support missions (mainly using rockets) during the battle itself and especially in response to the Cuban armoured counter-attack.

The Buccaneers were eventually withdrawn from operations over Angola to be re-roled as nuclear strike bombers, carrying South Africa’s highly-secret and home-grown nuclear weapons.

This is an excellent 1/100th kit by Tamiya.  The kit does include decals for the early SAAF maritime strike role, though over Angola they converted to the drab scheme shown here, almost devoid of markings (wreckage of downed aircraft showing clear national markings were highly prized as propaganda pieces).

SAAF Mirage F1CZ

Above: The Mirage F1 was the mainstay of the SAAF’s fast-jet force during the late 1970s and 1980s.  The SAAF used two versions – the F1CZ air defence fighter (of which there were 16) and the F1AZ ground-attack variant (32 aicraft).  These weren’t used at Cassinga (the delta-winged Mirage IIICZ was, however), though saw extensive action throughout the 1980s.

There is no commercially-available model of the Mirage F1 in 1/100th scale, so Martin scratch-built this model using the fuselage of a Tamiya Mirage III as the basis, with wings and tailplane added from plasticard.  I decided to add markings to this one (again from a Tamiya Buccaneer), as while many were unmarked, there is the odd photo of marked F1s operating in the theatre.

SAAF Impala Mk II (MB-326K)

Above: The Impala Mk II (also known as the MB-326K) was a single-seat light ground-attack version of the twin-seat Impala Mk I trainer, which was itself a licence-built version of the Italian Aermacchi MB-326M.  The SAAF operated 73 Impala Mk II, as well as 125 Impala Mk I and 62 Italian-built MB-326M.  These little aircraft were excellent counter-insurgency machines supporting operations against SWAPO-PLAN guerrillas, though also repeatedly proved themselves to be capable against even Angolan and Cuban regulars supported by extensive Soviet-supplied AAA and SAMs.  Their relatively low speed and extreme low-level capability also made them deadly against Angolan and Cuban helicopters.  However, the increasing capability of Soviet-supplied fighter and SAM defences meant that the Impalas had to be withdrawn from the campaign in 1987.

There is no model of the Impala Mk II, Impala Mk I or MB-326 available in 1/100th scale, so this is actually an Italeri 1/100th die-cast model of the very similar Aermacchi MB-339, which is an advanced version of the same airframe.  The nose of the MB-339 is considerably pointier than the rounded nose of the MB-326/Impala, so Martin remodelled the nose.  I then painted out the rear half of the canopy to make it look more like a single-seat Impala Mk II.  For the purists, the MB-339 has twin ventral fins underneath the tail, which aren’t a feature of the MB-326, but as it’s a die-cast model they’re impossible to cut off!

I’ve got another one of these models in reserve that I’ll eventually paint up as an Argentine MB-326 for the Falklands War.


Above: One of the more interesting developments during the Angolan Border War and a sign of Things to Come in modern warfare, was the development and employment of unmanned surveillance drones, in particular the Seeker UAV (and a precursor design known as the Gharr), which were developed with covert, sanctions-busting Israeli support.

These were unarmed, but were able to provide live TV pictures and allied to South Africa’s truly astonishing long-range artillery systems, these UAVs proved to be worth their weight in gold and made a lot of other countries (particularly the USA) sit up and take notice of the capabilities of UAV technology on the battlefield (bear in mind that at this time the British Army’s UAV was armed with ‘wet’ camera film that would have to be recovered and developed).  Their small size, low radar cross-section and low infra-red signature also made them extremely difficult to shoot down and on the Lomba River in 1987 the Angolans fired literally dozens of SA-7, SA-8, Sa-9, SA-14 and SA-16 missiles, as well as thousands of rounds of 14.5mm and 23mm AAA at one without effect.

This model was completely scratch-built by Martin.


This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Cold War, Cold War - Angolan Border War, Painted Units. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Some Angola Air Support

  1. shaun holdsworth says:

    Hi bit of a cheeky question but do you have the French decals for the Transtall mine only came with German
    regards Shaun

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