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If you would like to join this exclusive community and have your own WarBlog where you can post your personal stories about your experiences in the War In Angola, also known as the Border War, please go to the host site (www.warinangola.com) and register as a user.

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May 31

Written by: Johan Schoeman
2011/05/31 02:37 AM  RssIcon

I was recently reminded of the air observer part of my artillery observer (OPO) training in Potchefstroom in 1984, when I read a few exciting chapters of Mike Brink's book ''On the flightlines'. See the Books and Book Reviews Forum on War in Angola (http://www.warinangola.com/default.aspx?tabid=590&forumid=84&postid=1108&view=topic).

First the instructors took us up in a Cessna to demonstrate and explain how to orientate yourself and how to acquire a target from the air, followed by a lengthy discussion of how to adjust fire from the air. Of course, we were VERY attentive... after a three day and night stint of no sleep doing night infiltration exercises...all four of us in the plane were fast asleep!

Then all hell broke lose when we had to apply the theory in practice as we were sent up individually with the pilot in a Bosbok! Not quite having found my air legs, I seated myself in the back of the Bosbok and the pilot took off!

Now the whole thing about this exercise was to try and simulate real battle conditions, which was NOT the case in the Cessna. So suddenly the pilot was acting all nervous as we would be "drawing enemy fire soon"... already making me nervous even before we were in the target area. The exercise would start with the Bosbok flying low (nape of the earth) above the gun position and therefore hopefully away from any potential enemy fire, while the gunners got ready.

Then, suddenly, the plane would climb insanely at what felt to me like a heck of a rate, literally PUSHING my face into the map on my lap, which I was desperately trying to orientate to the reeling compass set in the roof in front of the pilot, which, of course I am supposed to keep an eye on! Just as I seem to manage to get the map turned the right way, the plane suddenly leveled out and my head felt lighter than air as it automatically tried to smash in the roof of the plane. The pilot started yelling urgently at me.... "Did you get the target? Can you see it? Come on! Come on! They are firing at us! Did you get it?" Talk about realistic training! I barely had the time to look at the reeling world below me, never mind acquiring the target!

Now I had spent a LOT of time on the Potchefstroom artillery firing range over the previous 4 years and would identify any position on the range in a flash...on the ground! But from the air? That was not so easy... especially under the pressure they put you under. As I snatched a glance at the earth below, not REALLY knowing north from south, I picked up a very familiar crossroads on the dirt road running from northwest down southeast, and suddenly my eyes focused on the little ruin next to the road... "I got it!", I yelled, knowing that I had my finger on the position on the map, whether oriented correctly or not.

Crazily, the pilot put the nose of the Bosbok straight down, running for the safety of the previous "Nape of the earth" level. Now the map slammed up straight into my face, like there was a gaint balloon below it and it took all my strength to push the map down, and try and read the coordinatees while issuing fire orders....
"10, dit is 15A, Batterybestoking, berei voor 2 skote brisant, oor!"
"Ruit 12345678, Vyandelike bunkers. Op my bevel, Skiet in, oor!"
Of course the signallers at the ground repeat every word I say over the radio, but in no time at all, even before I had collected all my marbels, I heard the report:
"15A, dit is 10, Gereed, oor!"
Shit.. already? The pilot also heard this ready report and once again pulled the plane up at LEAST what felt to me like a ninety degree angle... my head smashing into the map on my lap once again. I ried to orientate myself and the map to that darn compass, and just as I thought I had it, the plane leveled out and my head threatened to go into orbit outside the plane!

We were JUST in time to see the shot fall some distance away from the target. Again I only just managed to orientate the ground by using the known road as a reference. Already the pilot was complaining..."Comeon Comeon! Did you get it?" Not really being sure, but depending on the image of the ground in my mind I yelled "Yes!", and he put that nose down again! UUUUP went the map again, and I desperately tried to plot the position of the shot against the target so that I could estimate the distances of the correction. A rough correction jumped into my mind which seemed correct, and while trying to keep the map from flying over my head, I issued the corrections for adjustjment fire:
"10, dit is 15A, Rigting KT, links 300, af 200, oor!"
The signallers at the guns once again repeated my corrections... and once again, in record time... (How the hell they did this so fast, I could never figure out... they never seemed to do it like that when we were observing on the ground!)
"15A, dit is 10. Gereed, oor!"
Shit... here we go again..... uuuuuup!

I managed to get my third shot dead bang on target! But I was close to passing out due to fatigue and sheer stress! Finally it was over!

As the plane took the dive down again, I issued the firing orders for the fire mission...
"10, dit is 15A, 2 skote doelvuur, oor!"

For the sake of the exercise and conservation of ammunition there was no need for the full battery of eight guns to each fire two rounds, so I was spared that LAST observation to see the result of the fire mission, during which, of course, the process would have been repeated once more!
"10, dit is 15A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig, uit!"

It was over... We were going back to the airfield!

Or so I thought... To my absolute consternation, the darn pilot decided to take this stupid "Pongo" (yes, thats what the pilots called us), for the ride of his life! Flying "NAPE of the earth", which to me seemed more like 30 feet above the closest contour of the ground, he took the long way back to the airfield. Like a speeding roller coaster, seemingly completely out of control, up and down with the contours of EVERY hill and depression he could find, I was hurled towards my end destination, barely being able to keep in the little bit of food I had left in my stomach!

When the ordeal FINALLY ended, and the plane came to a standstil near the hangar, I tumbled out of my seat, swallowing hard an uncountable number of times, and ran for the closest toilets...

We heard through the grapevine that these pilots had actually made private bets on who can get their Pongo to hurl before the plane stopped... Thanks very much guys!!! It was MUUUUUCH appreciated!

It turned out that the instructors were most pleased with my performance (having hit my target after only three corrections!). Thank the Lord they were not in that plane with me! I was certified as a "Class A" observer, which meant that I could be used as an air observer operationally! THANKFULLY that never happened!

As it was, one of my earlier Battery Commanders, by then Commandant Johann du Randt, and his pilot, Lt Glen, were shot down and killed in a Bosbok on 3 September 1987 during the early stages of Operation Moduler.

 

20 comment(s) so far...


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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

Excellent story, Johan. As a nervous flyer, I would probably have thrown up on the map! Did you ever do the run into Ondangwa?

By Phillip Vietri on   2011/06/04 02:47 PM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

Thanks, Phillip! I must confess... after this particular flight my ability to keep it in has completely given up the ghost, as my family and that poor operator of the 'Whirlwind' at the Klerksdorp Country Fair could testify to that next weekend! My wife, being the fire-eater she normally is, convinced me to go on this contraption with her after I just completed a nice supper consisting of a huge hamburger. Now, this contraption makes you stand against its outer side, holding on to some handles, while it turns at some speed and lifts up vertically while doing so... It turned out that the aftermath of the training flight, coupled with that exhilarating throw-about was just too much for me to be able to keep that burger in! The result was obvious..... everyone around me and particularly the poor operator was spattered with hamburger! He glared at me very badly when I was getting off, as he was still wiping some of it off his hair! I have ever since then not being able to ride any of these fast-moving contraptions without chucking it, thanks to those cheerful boytjies of the SAAF!
And lucky for me, never that terrible run-in to Ondangwa.... otherwise there would have been some seriously unhappy gunners in my party! I landed in a Flossy at Grootfontein in 1981 before Op Daisy and was extracted out of Angola by Puma, but that was before my experience!

By Johan Schoeman on   2011/06/06 04:26 AM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

Philip, explain "the run" into Ondangwa?

By Walter on   2011/06/07 03:20 AM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

Hi Walter. Have a look at my article "The tale of the Ancient Armourer" on the War in Angola website. We (tiffies) spent, as you will see, a grand total of less than two weeks on the Border, five in Sub-area 3 (Rundu) and seven at Sub-Area 1 (Oshakati.). Very boring and uneventful. The security arrangements were paranoid, but it was very early in the war, and everyone was full of themselves and the secrets they knew. Landing at Ondangwa was a kots-making descent. We were unable to see anything, of course, but it was what seemed like going down in circles, and at an angle. We thought it was a "rofie" landing (stupid, really, but that's how dumb we were), only to be told that that was how one landed at Ondangwa. It's a long time ago, but does that make sense?

By Phillip on   2011/06/07 08:06 PM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

Lovely story there Johan. I would like to invite you to visit our aviation forum at http://www.flyafrica.info/index.php and in particular : http://www.flyafrica.info/forums/forumdisplay.php?117-Aviation-Tales-(Civvie-amp-SAAF) : more more stories about the bush war from an aviation perspective. Please come and post your story there and join us for a chat.

There was a concern about shoulder launched heat seeking missiles ao the pilot would throttle back and nose down into a 15 000 feet per minute dive (200 KPH vertical, 200 KPH Horizontal). This would maintain the airspeed, but would cool the engines and and dissapate the exhaust gasses, as well as minimise the period of target visibility and the infrared signature so that there was nothing for heat seeking missiles to lock onto. Unlike a long shallow decent where the plane is vulnerable for a long period, the plane would get quite close to the field and cruise height over the unsecured area, and then drop like a stone, beginning its flare at about 8000 feet (3000 feet / 1000M above the field, and then slow its vertical velocity from 200 KPH to 0KPH over the last 1000 meters. The turn you mah have experienced would be if there was a crosswind over the field, the rapid descent would have been into the wind to slow the horizontal as much as possible, pushing the drop more to the vertical, and then after leveling out, a right hander onto the runway.

So, if you have ever tried to slow a car doing 200 kilometrs per hour, you an imagine what it is like slowing 50 tons of flossie with nothing but air to stop you, and then its full reverse thrust as reverse thrust is used to kill the forward speed and that uses up another 1 kilometer of runway.

So yes, its a roofie ride of note.

By Mike Brink on   2011/06/08 07:37 PM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

Mike: Thanks for that aviation info. I'm very much a landlubber, nervous of flying, though I have to do quite a bit of it. What your comment tells me is that, far from being dangerous, that landing was actually the safest way of doing it. Feel a whole lot better, even at 35 years' remove! But subjective feelings aside, heavier-than-air flying is still the most amazing of human inventions. After a lifetime, I've never lost my wonder for it. And with every story like this, my respect for the guys who actually operate these machines grows.

All the best
Phillip.

By The Ancient Armourer on   2011/06/08 09:51 PM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

Hi, Mike... I have registered on www.flyafrica.info and will post the story there as well.... I'm glad you liked it!

See you there!

By Johan Schoeman on   2011/06/14 07:55 PM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

excellent article, are you going to post some more? I checked the flyafrica.info as well...

By Gamer 851 on   2011/09/12 05:57 PM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

i like it

By dcuo cash on   2011/09/26 04:08 AM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

Thank you for sharing with us ,
I really liked your article Johan, keep sharing with us!

By Commercial locksmith Jin on   2011/09/26 01:44 PM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

Great post...and cool article man...thanx for the great post.

By red bottom heels on   2011/10/11 03:34 AM
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re :10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!

Good one there.
Grensoorlog , battle of Cassinga in a few minutes time on Kyknet. Lets see if I can see meself ...

By oz-poker club on   2011/10/14 01:39 PM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

Thanks for interesting information.

By Blacklack on   2011/10/22 01:46 PM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

You have shared nice stuff .This is my first time I visit here. I found so many interesting in your blog especially its discussion. Keep your blog updating and good luck

By vegas casio on   2011/10/30 06:35 AM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

Phillip,
The spirals into Ondangwa were flown turning to the left, as it helped the topcover (Allo gunships). Their guns being on the left side and the commander of the "flossies" also sitting on the left. The C130 do not have divebrakes and had a lengthier spiral. It battled to keep the speed low in the dive, but you could compensate for the speed by g loading the aircraft. (Not nice on the passengers!)

The C160Z was built as a tactical battlefield support transport aircraft. With the dive brakes she did an awesome spiral, as a lot of South Africans found out.

Having flown both from 1985 untill 1990, i never did or saw a spiral being flown to the right. Mike would you mind to tell us more?

By Walter on   2012/02/19 03:32 AM
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Re: "10, dit is 11A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

Thanks for your contribution, Walter. I suppose the "g-loading" was what made so many guys throw up? For us troepies in brown sitting in the back it was very scary and unexpected, and no-one explained anything to us, so that it is really interesting for me to hear this technical explanation, even over 30 years later. But though we didn't understand, we trusted you guys implicitly, convinced, as I still am, that our pilots were the best! I flew on a C-160 just once, coming up from Ysterplaat to Waterkloof - I think we stopped en route at Langebaan. Thanks so much for your post.

By The Ancient Armourer on   2012/02/19 08:01 PM
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Education

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By Ruth L. Bishop on   2016/04/06 02:40 PM
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Re: "10, dit is 15A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

gogoel

By dfs on   2016/04/06 02:47 PM
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Re: "10, dit is 15A. Einde van bestoking. Baie goed geskiet. Vy posisie vernietig. Uit!"

gogoel

By dfs on   2016/04/06 02:48 PM

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