The parties did not dare to go into open confrontation at first by conducting an exchange of fire on the ideological direction, during which, appealing to the international community, they accused each other of disrupting ceasefire agreements, double-dealing, striving to engage third force and other “deadly sins” in the conflict.
Objectively considering the situation in the second half of 1992, it must be admitted that both were right. The MPLA party in power demanded the total disarmament of UNITA and the registration of both the place of residence and any movement of each member of the rebel organization in the country. At the same time, representatives of the latter were even allowed to be shot at the “weighty” portfolios in the office. The oppositionists, for their part, insisted on the unconditional resignation of the Dos Santos government and the holding of free elections under the supervision of international observers. Reasonably fearing the night of the “long knives”, they also did not hurry to part with weapons and leave places of deployment. At the same time, opponents, through their own channels in an environment of heightened secrecy, called out to their “old comrades-in-arms”, hoping in case of failure in negotiations to get the necessary military and economic support.
However, this time nobody stood behind the backs of both sides - the USSR, Cuba, South Africa and all the other participants in the Angolan meat grinder by this time were busy solving many internal problems, and therefore the opponents were actually in a "duel" situation. This position was largely suited to the command of the rebels, since it negated the considerable superiority of the government army in heavy weapons. Soon, garrisons and important economic facilities located in the southeastern provinces of Angola began to be bombarded and sabotage — the flywheel of hostilities was gaining momentum again, involving new areas of the country that had recently “unconditionally supported people's power”.
This time, the government was not able to sufficiently clearly explain to the people and the army the reason for the new round of armed struggle and most of the personnel of the government troops, hoping for a speedy resolution of the protracted conflict, turned out to be demoralized. The situation was aggravated by the incredible devastation that prevailed in the country. Because of the ceased Soviet “injections” into the Angolan economy, 31% of the state budget (over 1.1 billion dollars) was spent on direct military spending.
The ruling party of the MPLA, organized according to the Soviet model, took over all the defects inherent in the CPSU: the inability to act adequately in a difficult situation that requires quick and effective decisions, corruption and nepotism. The protracted conflict eventually demonstrated the futility of the fight against UNITA, which relied on the broad support of the population, only accelerated the growth of the “diseases” inherent in the totalitarian regimes. In fact, by the middle of the 1980-s. The Angolan generals were completely worthy of their government, but at that time many of the shortcomings were compensated for by the broadest military and economic support of the USSR. When, at the beginning of 1990, it suddenly stopped, the paralysis of power took a precipitous character.
At the same time, “public servants” did not deny themselves anything, bathing in unprecedented luxury and taking advantage of all the benefits of civilization, which contrasted sharply with the plight of the majority of the population. Under these conditions, the rank and file of the police, security services and the army, who hadn’t seen salaries for several months, and often rationed by the norms, began to decay quickly, losing their combat capability. As a result, a wave of violence soon covered even Angola’s capital, Luanda, in which armed gangs of teenagers and deserters ruled at night. Following the prestige of the government and the high command of the army, the national currency exchange rate rolled down, further intensifying the collapse.
Jonas Savimbi, who experienced these disturbances in the bush, possessed excellent agents of his own in all echelons of power and power structures of Angola, and therefore understood the internal political situation, the capabilities of the government army, the state of the economy and finance, perhaps better than those who formally led them. Realizing that the direct assault on the capital, around which a significant number of military units and military equipment are concentrated, cannot lead to victory, the leader of UNITA decided to turn off the oil pipe crane to the government, which served as one of two fixed assets for obtaining hard currency.
It should be noted that by this time Angola was among the largest African exporters of oil, which was produced by American, Italian and Portuguese companies. If by the beginning of 1993, some (though not very large) diamond deposits were already in the hands of insurgents, then all the “black gold” wells and the oil refinery complex in Soyo, located in the north-west of the country near the Zaire border, were controlled by the government, bringing solid income.
Of course, Savimbi did not hope that by capturing the plant, he would be able to direct the flow of petrodollars to the UNITA accounts for a long time. Of course, even in the case of a sudden operation, its results could be kept secret for no more than one or two days. And this provided that all the personnel of the enterprise together with the local population would be isolated from the outside world, which was, of course, unreal. Most likely, the oil pipelines will be blocked within a few hours (which happened later), but there were large oil terminals filled with “traffic jams” in the territory of the plant and the port. These reserves were waiting in the wings, because every year the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) revised the sales quotas for this type of raw materials for each country, and on the eve of the new 1993, Angolan representatives were able to increase the authorized share of sales for their country.
In addition to crude oil, the plant also had significant reserves of various types of fuel, blocking the supply of which could neutralize or seriously limit the capabilities of armored and mechanized units of the government army, and most importantly, this would eliminate Angola’s opposition forces. could not. By quickly “pushing” at least a part of this wealth even at dumping prices, one could seriously correct the shaky financial position of the rebels and continue the struggle. If it was impossible to keep Soyo, he was supposed to be destroyed, thereby seriously complicating the supply of fuel to government forces, which again increased the chances of winning.
In March, the lot was cast by the 1993, and two assault battalions (Batalhes de Penetracao) in cooperation with special forces units (Commandos Especais) and saboteurs units (Brigata de Asao Technica de Explosivos) after a covert advance to the Soyo area during a lightning operation captured on the coast is the center of the oil industry and the port.
The prospect of losing a large amount of valuable equipment and fuel supplies forced the Angolan leadership to act decisively. However, two attempts made in the same month to dislodge the rebels by the forces of the nearby garrisons were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, due to the inactivity of the enterprise, the state budget was losing about 12,5 million every day !! The Soviet Union, the traditional source of weapons and advisers for the Angolan armed forces, was no longer present, and these failures caused confusion in the government headed by President Dos Santos.
In the meantime, UNITA, building on its success, intensified in northeastern Angola, where one of the diamond deposits was located. And here her interests could not help but run into the world monopolist in the atomic business - the South African de Beers cartel, which has already offered the Angolan government major financial investments in the diamond industry in return for the development of precious stones in this and several other areas of the country. Since in this case, the resignation of the government and free elections, even the speech did not go, then an agreement in principle was reached very quickly. Soon both interested parties signed all the necessary documents.
But there was one significant circumstance that did not allow starting the implementation of these plans. In these areas, by the time the contract was signed, fierce fighting was already underway, and their results were not at all in favor of the government troops, who were slowly but surely losing ground in almost all locations. The current situation seemed hopeless, but a lot of money was already at stake. According to various data, the De Beers rate in this game ranged from 500 million to 1,5 billion dollars !! .. And soon a real competition of private security services was organized in Luanda under heightened secrecy. There is no objective evidence that it was arranged with diamond aces, but what prevented the Dos Santos government from doing this a few months earlier is also not easy to understand ...
Needless to say, each of the invited "offices" had its own intelligence service and knew about all potential competitors. The selection was very tough. For example, Harry Soister, a retired lieutenant-general, one of the senior officers of Military Professional Resources Inc., who was former director of the Intelligence Agency of the US Department of Defense (RUMO). Said: "I went there for marketing ... I was in Luanda, however, the trip did not give absolutely no business results. In the end, the victory in the competition “Knights of the Cape and Dagger” went to a small South African company Executive Outcomes (hereinafter referred to as EO), headed by Eben Barlow, who was engaged in providing an unusually wide range of security services. About how high the level of demands was, you can judge by the interview of the same Harry Soister that he gave to Soldier of Fortune magazine. In it, he indirectly explained why Military Professional Resources Inc. Lost uo. According to the retired Lieutenant General, this happened because we did not do what Executive Outcomes could offer ... "
In addition to restoring order in the area of the mines, the company was asked to organize an operation with the aim of taking Soyo. The latter was executed by a separate agreement with a preliminary analysis of the operational situation on the site, conducted by the staff of the EO Information Collection Department. After weighing all the pros and cons. Eben Barlow signed this contract.
The main forces allocated to capture Soyo were represented by two Angolan motorized brigades of 600 people each and one tank battalion. A 50-member South African reconnaissance and sabotage group, led by Lafras Luiting, served as a deep intelligence unit. From the very beginning it became clear that in the conditions of separation from the main forces, it was not necessary to count on the Angolans in terms of supply organization. For this reason, EO chartered two Tsesny (models L-412 and L-310), cruising between Angola and South Africa. For its part, the Angolan command allocated one Mi-24 and a pair of Mi-17 with crews from of the Angolan Air Force, which, as the EO fighters recalled, "held so high that we barely saw them, and therefore they were equally dangerous for UNITA and for us ...".
Thanks to the aerial photographic data produced by the MiG-21P, we managed to find out that Soyo is being held by insignificant rebel forces. True, an increased activity of oil tankers was observed in the port, which was intensively shipped with available reserves, but apparently it was not possible to sell quite a lot of insurgents, since the tonnage of arriving tankers was very small and did not exceed 2-2,5 KGT. In order to stop the squandering of the “wealth of the republic,” President José Eduardo Dos Santos made a radio message announcing a zone of hostilities around 200 radius and warning that any vessel that appeared in this area would be sunk ”.
This threat was immediately reinforced by the General Staff, which isolated the 26 air regiment, which was the basis of the strike power of the Angolan air force, to isolate the 22 air regiment from the sea. By this time, its first and second squadrons each had nine Su-4М25 fighter-bombers, and in the third, there were eight Su-XNUMX attack aircraft. It must be said that these measures were taken quite in time: after learning of the opening of the “season of hunting for waterfowl” in the Soyo region, the crews of several supertankers heading for the port under the Liberian and Panamanian flags turned back.
Intense Angolan Flights aviation over the port area, the attention of the rebel units there was largely distracted, resulting in wide gaps in the chain of outposts surrounding the city. Both motorized brigades slipped into them, ahead of which two platoons of South Africans moved. Having made the last throw to Soyo in the darkness of the night, the attackers in the early morning, like snow on their heads, fell on unsuspecting Unitovites. The latter, thanks to considerable experience, were nevertheless able to organize, though random, but fierce resistance. However, the forces were unequal, and by evening the city and port, along with the oil complex and terminals, were taken under the control of government forces.
Thanks to the excellent training, the staff of the EO who participated in this operation almost did not suffer any losses (against the background of several wounded tanks that more than 30 had burned down during the assault of infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, as well as almost two hundred corpses left on the streets of Soyo by Angolans, three wounded South Africans were this is understandable, it does not count), and this result only strengthened President Dos Santos and his associates in the opinion that if anyone is able to stop UNITA, it is only the EO!
Already in June of the same year, representatives of the Angolan Army General Staff began negotiations with Eben Barlow on a further expansion of cooperation in the field of defense and state security at a ranch in northern Namibia. This time it was a question of how to raise the level of combat training of the entire Angolan army! Naturally, the EO could not deploy the required number of training centers staffed by instructors in a short time, and therefore, at the first stage, its leadership was offered to increase the combat capability of the 16 motorized brigade, which was once the elite formations of the Angolan armed forces.
A certain comedy of the situation was that in 1988, the 16 I brigade was defeated on the Lomba by South Africans, and the 32 battalion played a significant role (Barlow), and almost all the rest of the EO staff, a significant part of which consisted of a number of former South African servicemen, had recently trained unitovtsy and "wild geese" who fought with them in all stripes against the Angolan government forces. However, the changes in the world have made possible even such an unusual union. Later, Barlow said: “... when the negotiations were nearing completion and it was clear that we could count on long-term cooperation, one of the Angolan generals who were present at the meeting said good-naturedly,“ You destroyed the 16 Brigade, and recreate it! .. ” 24 watches all aspects of cooperation were discussed and the handshake of the former enemies sealed one of the most unusual contracts that she knew история...
Soon it became clear to South Africans that if motorized riflemen, artillery and mortar crews, as well as crews of armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, were “brought to their senses” in a relatively short time, the situation with aviation was much more complicated. Therefore, soon in addition to the agreement, an application was signed, according to which pilots from the EO — former pilots of the South African Air Force and European countries — will be employed as instructors and, if necessary, “will provide professional assistance”. An “air bridge” between South Africa and Angola was immediately established. Unloading of people and goods was carried out at the Cape Leda airbase built by the Cubans, located at 160 km from Luanda. Initially, two King Air planes flew from South Africa, but the capabilities of the Air Kings were rather modest and therefore they were soon replaced by Boeing 727 »Ibis Air.
Under the terms of the Angolan Air Force contract, the planes and helicopters were to be provided to the EO, but only four months after the South Africans arrived at Cabo Ledo, the first Angolan instructor appeared who was to retrain them on the Mi-17. After three weeks of training, the “cadets” embarked on flights that lasted only ... 45 minutes. On this training is over? EO pilots demonstrated such high flying skills that they literally morally suppressed their instructors and they were happy to finish the training process as soon as possible. Angolan colleagues have impressed South Africans as people who know very well the hardware, but they have very little knowledge of combat use.
At the same time, the mercenaries liked the Mi-17 itself (the export version of the Mi-8MTV-1) because, compared to the Vietnamese veteran of the UH-1, Huey, Super-Frelon, Aluett and many other similar machines had a number of undeniable merits. Among them was the high strength of the structure, and, as a result, the ability to withstand the hardest damage, significant carrying capacity and ease of maintenance. Initially, the engines were of particular concern, since almost all of them had already exhausted their resources by that time, but to the honor of Soviet designers, it should be noted that none of the engines failed in flight. Moreover, over time, the flight technical staff of the EO began to be filled with more and more respect for the powerplants of Russian helicopters, which had almost incredible reliability, many times exceeding this parameter for any other device on which South Africans had to fly earlier. As they later admitted themselves, reliability was almost of paramount importance, since the repair and technical base of the Angola Air Force was extremely weak. The disadvantages of the Mi-17 include some heaviness, not quite the optimal layout of the cockpit and, traditionally, avionics. Moreover, in the opinion of the EO pilots, despite the considerable combat load, the Mi-17 was not very suitable for the role of a fire support helicopter, since it had a fairly large turning radius.
But all this will become known later, but in the meantime, having received three helicopters at their disposal, the EO personnel removed the rear cargo doors from them, set up ladders for the landing and Global Positioning System (GPS) system, which allows piloting and access to a given goal with an accuracy of 25 m. Two helicopters armed with 7,62-mm PKM machine guns, which were installed in the doors and in the hatches along the starboard, three large-caliber DShKs were installed on the third, one of which was looking forward. Outwardly unobtrusive, but extremely important additions were locks on the lids of fuel tanks — so that the Angolans would not quietly drain kerosene from tanks at night. Soon the helicopters were given a more belligerent appearance - having received the cars in a white-and-blue Aeroflot blue color, the South Africans repainted one “Mile” in a dark olive color, while the other two received a two-color camouflage consisting of wide strips of dark green and yellow-brown .
While the helicopter pilots mastered the new technology, the four pilots of the EO — the former pilots of the South African Air Force — went to Saurimo (an air base not far from Cabo Ledo) to familiarize themselves with the available fleet. South Africans immediately laid eyes on the Su-22М4, but the Angolans refused and put the EO pilots into combat-training RS-7, for which they had to fly for several months. All this time, Eben Barlow, using all possible means, fought at all levels for the right of his pilots to fly Su-22. But the Angolans themselves loved these cars; according to South Africans, the “twenty-second” were the pride of the Angolan air force, who spared no effort in their service, and the “drying”, at least outwardly, was in very good condition. After long altercations, the EO was given permission to fly the Su-22, but at the last moment the head of the operational department of the Air Force, who had fought on these machines in the past, canceled this permission. And so the South Africans had to be content with the PC-7, on which they covered the Mi-17, conducted reconnaissance and adjustment.
Soon, these rather unpretentious and reliable Swiss cars were nicknamed “UN trucks” because they had Canadian engines, American underwing pylons, Brazilian NURS blocks, which were loaded with South Korean-made rockets and Soviet heavy machine guns A-12,7.
South Africans soon realized the shortcomings in training the Angolan pilots. The main reason for them was the inflexible Soviet doctrine of aviation, in which pilots were ordered to act only on commands from the ground, which led to the loss of the initiative by aircrews who simply learned to act adequately in a rapidly changing tactical environment. Since constant communication with ground-based radar operators was required, airplanes and helicopters flew at relatively high altitudes, with the result that the flight crew lost the skills of flying flights and felt very uncomfortable on the ground. There were practically no night departures, especially in the group.
In general, according to the EO pilots, although veterans of Afghanistan met among Soviet instructor pilots, the Angolans taught that they didn’t fit the conditions of the counterguerrilla war. South Africans taught Angolans to work closely with ground forces, fly at day and night, and also navigate themselves. Helicopter crew training was conducted with emphasis on the landing of troops and the evacuation of the wounded. However, success in training turned out to be modest - the Angolans were too accustomed to the old system, and, moreover, many already showed fatigue from continuous fighting. As there was no hope for local aviators, EO personnel were increasingly involved in directly supporting the operations of the 16 brigade. The latter, at the end of 1993, after completing the course of combat training, was thrown against UNITA troops operating in the north-east of the country. True, initially the average monthly helicopter raid in the winter of 1993-1994. (depending on the tactical situation) was small and made up for each of six crews (two for a helicopter) within 30-50 hours.
Meanwhile, the reactants continued to fly the PC-7 until the beginning of May 1994, after which the command of Angolan aviation decided that they could be transplanted to MiG-23MLD. The South Africans were given an instructor, a semi-semi-Angolan semi-Portuguese, who spoke Russian, but did not know English. Nevertheless, he faithfully translated all the documentation on the MiG into Portuguese, and then the second translator set it up in English during the familiarization sessions. Despite the language difficulties, the training was quite successful, but when the question of independent flights came up, another problem arose - the Angolans wanted the EO pilots to fly first on the backs. But all the combat-training jet planes available by that time were in overhaul, and the prospects for its completion were very uncertain. South Africans argued that the level of flight training of any of their pilots is at least as good as the best pilots in Angola. It is not known how long this dispute would have continued if the situation in the area of the diamond mines, where the 16 Brigade had already fought, had not become complicated again. In the end, the Angolan command gave permission for independent flights.
As a tactical fighter (namely, in this capacity it was used in Angola), the MiG-23MLD made a double impression on the EO pilots. For example, former South African Air Force instructor Lt. Col. Paul Hartwig, who had more than 3300 flight hours (of which he scored 2000, fighting on Impalas in Angola, and on 630 on Mirage and Cheats), not too flattering responded about the Soviet fighter: “Although the MiG-23 is designed for air combat, in my opinion, it is still not as good as is customary to say. Because of the variable sweep of the wing, he has a rather sluggish maneuverability and, I think that at the Mirage, I would easily beat him ... ”
However, there were other opinions. For example, former retired major Dutch Air Force pilot Leon van Maurer, who had more than 3000 flight hours (of which around 1200 on the F-16), met with MiG-23MLD (codenamed NATO "Flogger G") at the end of 1980's yy at the US Nellis airbase (Nevada), where NATO Air Force pilots were introduced to Soviet technology, as well as at the beginning of the 1990's (but already at the air bases of united Germany), believed that the “Flogger G” has an overwhelming superiority over the F-16A in the vertical and almost in no way inferior on horizontal maneuvers, and a more powerful radar gives significant advantages to the Russian fighter when setting up a battle at long distances ... When we received the American Falcons, I thought that we had the best fighters, but sat in the cockpit of a Russian car I understood th o it is not so ... ".
Most of the pilots' complaints were caused by the cockpit layout and the view - the aircraft’s side was at the level of the pilot’s neck, so “sitting in the MiG-23’s cabin didn’t care what was in the bath - if you want to see what’s downstairs - you have to roll over the board”. The review of the rear hemisphere turned out to be almost zero, but in the absence of an airborne enemy, this did not matter much. South Africans were also not thrilled with the MiG engine - “very powerful, very reliable, but incredibly voracious”.
At the same time, it was noted that the MiG-23 has a traditional for Soviet aircraft high strength and extreme reliability of the design - despite the fact that the Angolan technicians did not bother themselves with machine maintenance. The new owners failed to form their opinion about the MiG-23 radar - “the radar was in the nose of the plane, but it seems that the Angolans thought that it was used as a ballast, since it never worked”. The on-board systems that provide interaction with the operators of ground-based radar stations were useless, because after the departure of the Soviet specialists, all the stations went out of operation and there was not a single operational radar station in all of Angola. The navigation systems did not work, there were no dipole reflectors and heat traps, and the appearance of the aircraft corresponded to their condition — faded yellow-green-brown camouflage, shabby identifying marks with red numbers.
Navigation made the main problem at the first stage of activity piloted by South Africans and MiG-23, and since the RSDN installed on fighters was inoperable, like most of the land radio beacons, there was nothing left for the re-fighters to use for their fellow helicopters and to mount on airplanes portable satellite GPS systems. which turned out to be quite enough. Later, having become accustomed, the EO pilots began to make and. night flights, than to the extreme struck Angolan pilots, who did not rise into the air even with a small cloud cover, they did not even talk about night departures.
The second major problem was the condition and equipment of the Saurimo airbase, from which the South Africans were to act. The runway did not have any lighting, and therefore it was decided to carry out the night departures of the MiG-23 using cans, which were filled with all kinds of combustible materials and set on fire ten minutes before takeoff (so that the pilots managed to get into the lane) and 15 minutes before the estimated arrival of the aircraft, returning from a mission. However, each of the pilots managed to make no more than five raids "under the moon." The reason turned out to be the most prosaic one: the villages in the district with lightning speed spread the news that “at night an unnecessary fuel is burning at the airdrome”. As a result, local people began to plunder these containers at such a rate that they were constantly lacking, and, in the end, South Africans had to abandon night flights.
But it was still half the trouble. In a much more deplorable state than the lighting, was the airfield of the air base. Particularly terrifying was the runway, which was covered in potholes and littered with all sorts of rubble: Russian military transport Il-76 and An-12 (carrying humanitarian aid to Angola) often sat on Saurimo. At the reception of these cars, the band was clearly not designed, and therefore quickly collapsed. As a result, only part of it could be used, and not the largest! MiG tires were all in cuts, although there was not a single break in the tire. The South Africans were nervous, and the local authorities maintained the Olympic calm. In the end, the EO pilots refused to fly in such conditions, and only then the Angolan command allocated a truck and soldiers who walked along the lane, slightly cleaning it from more or less large debris.
With the onset of the Angolan units in the Kafunfu diamond field, possession of which enabled UNITA to finance its operations, it was time for active personnel of the hostilities.
At any time, there were three or four MiG-23s prepared for take-off and up to a dozen of PC-7s to Saurimo or Lubongo (where planes were occasionally transferred). Among the fighters on which the South Africans flew, most often were cars with the numbers С436, С454, С461. The EO pilots acted separately from the Angolans, whom they considered to be good pilots, but bad fighters, since there were cases when the latter dropped bombs, even without reaching the target.
Most of the pilots of the EO during the attack were harassed by MANPADS, which at one time the unitans taught the South Africans well enough to use. Mig-mounted blocks for the traps being shot were empty. The appeal to the Angolan Air Force commander with the request to provide traps for the aircraft was met with a refusal, motivated by the fact that there were few traps left and they are being protected for the Su-22М4 and Su-25 drums. This time, the verbal skirmish gave nothing, and the supply department of the EO was forced to make the necessary purchases in Europe.
It is curious that the procurement process itself took only a fraction of the time required to complete all the documents that ensured the removal of cargo. But time did not wait, it was required to fly and bomb yesterday, and therefore, to neutralize this threat, the pilots developed the following tactics: after rising from the air base, the planes quickly gained altitude in 6-7 thousand meters and headed towards the attack object. Coming to the impact area, the pilots removed the engine thrust to 30 – 0,2 from the maximum value about 0,3 km from the target. It is curious that the sound of an engine operating at almost idle speed was not heard on the ground, and the attackers almost always succeeded in realizing the surprise factor. Diving at an angle of 30 hail, the MiGs, thanks to excellent aerodynamics, accelerated to 1000-1200 km / h and, depending on the nature of the target, dropped bombs at altitudes from 800 to 2000 m.
Then the pilot took the plane out of the dive, gave the afterburner and the “candle” went up. Soon, all South Africans evaluated the capabilities of the MiG-23LD in a vertical maneuver. “Every time it was something incredibly exciting,” Leon van Maurer later recalled, “when you literally smear your armchair on the back of the chair ... The earth rapidly falls down somewhere, and going out of attack for the first time, I came to myself somewhere then on 10 or 12 km ... "And indeed, thanks to the excellent rate of climb, MiGs, like floats, jumped out of the MANPADS area of impact, and so fast that the pilots never noticed whether they were firing rockets or not. When flying at low altitudes, aircraft were often fired upon by the MPA, but no hits were recorded. According to the results of the ground attack, the EO pilots had a low opinion of the capabilities of the MiG-23 for handling ground targets. Most of all, they did not like the fact that the combat load could not be placed asymmetrically, and that the launching of rockets or the dropping of bombs from two front or rear wing knots needed to be carried out simultaneously. However, the analysis of the electroscheme carried out soon showed that the aircraft’s weapon control system was, as they say, on its last gasp.
It was not possible to repair it due to the lack of necessary spare parts, but the South Africans were able to redo the nodes for 800-liter fuel tanks, mounted under the swivel consoles, for the 250-kg and 500-kg aerial bombs. Since the territory of Angola was relatively small, it was possible to fly to most of the objects with a single ventral tank.
Besides the fact that only the salvo channel was working, it soon became clear that in the case of a suspension under the fuselage of the fuel tank and the combat load on the ventral pylons, it was dangerous to shoot 23-mm automatic cannon GSH-23-2, as the sleeves were extracted from the gun bolt, get into a bomb or a block of Nursing, and already reflected from them easily punched the fuel tank, with all the ensuing consequences. It was easy to remove the guns, but the pilots opposed this, as they quickly appreciated the MiG's small arms, considering it to be very effective. However, they soon found a way out: only bombs or powerful large-caliber C-24 NURSs (capable of being used in almost any departure), which were used in the first approach, began to hang on the ventral nodes.
The scopes that did not work on almost all the fighters were a bigger problem (it later turned out that the Angolan command, which did not rely too much on the Yuariv people, ordered them to assign MiGs that were in the worst condition and were already preparing for decommissioning), but the pilots quickly learned to use instead of them one line in front of the cockpit of the recognition system "friend-foe". This method gave excellent results - one of the EO pilots from the first call with a pair of NURSs C-24 destroyed the bridge, literally driving both rounds into the span from a distance over 500 m!
On the job MiG-23 often took 250-kg and 500-kg bomb, as well as various NURSy and tanks with napalm. The “exotic” was also used - American 227-kg (500-pound) MK.82 fugaski, modified by Israelis for hanging on pylons of Soviet-made aircraft. But most of all the South Africans liked the Soviet one-time bomb cassettes RBC-250-275 and RBC-500, the last of them gave hundreds of breaks, sweeping away all life in a circle with a diameter over 600 m! One of the pilots of the EO described this munition as follows: “This thing is good for all occasions, but it works especially well on the entrenched infantry ...” One evening, a couple of MiGs, as they “fell” from a height, with eight such goodies swept down the village of Fali with the stopped there for the night the UNITA assault battalion.
When in the morning the vanguard of government troops came out to the burned-out ruins of the huts, the Angolan motorized infantry found only a half dozen wounded and about half a thousand corpses ...
At first, the work of the Angolan armed forces, whom the South Africans did not fully convince them of the fact that different types of ammunition are required to defeat various targets, was a very sore subject. As soon as the MiGs taxied on the parking lot, what was at hand was immediately suspended from their pylons. At the same time, no one wondered what would become the object of a strike in the next flight. Once Lt. Col. Hartwig received the task of destroying the bridge, after briefing and familiarizing himself with the situation in the area of the object, going up to the plane, found that instead of high-explosive bombs tanks with napalm were suspended!
People who gave target indications from the ground were also very remotely aware of what a pilot of a jet plane could maneuver at transonic speeds, and therefore there were frequent requests to “cover the enemy’s machine-gun (or mortar) calculation, which is in 20 more to the left of the coffee stump of the tree ... ”At the same time, they (like the aerodrome mechanics) were filled with a sense of self-worth and very painfully experienced the slightest criticism. Only with the appearance of South African aircraft gunners in the units of government troops from the South Africans, things went smoothly.
In the spring of 1994, the EU’s combat activities were in full swing. The 16-I motorized rifle brigade, which was supported by aviation, seriously changed the situation on the front. UNITA armed forces actively resisted and in April the mercenaries suffered the first losses. Two Mi-17 flew on a task for the delivery of goods for one of the infantry battalions, was surrounded. The tank and motorized rifle battalions had already been promoted to the aid of the accelerated march, but until the arrival of these forces, the surrounding forces could not hold their positions due to a shortage of ammunition. "Turntables" have ripened in time, however, already approaching the landing, the pilots found that the site is too small for two cars and therefore it was decided to unload one by one.
The first helicopter successfully unloaded and took off, followed by the second. As soon as his chassis touched the ground, the car immediately fell into the crossfire of a dozen machine gunners and machine-gunners. The distance separating the opponents was so small that the unitists, who apparently hoped to capture the crew and the helicopter, risked rising to the attack. However, the South Africans did not lose their head: the high-explosive fragmentation grenade fired from the RPG-7 silenced the machine gun, and the rifle chain almost completely fell under the fire of two onboard PKM and a pair of machine guns. For a few moments, the shooting subsided, but it was not possible to complete the discharge. Unitovtsy, having quantitative superiority and sufficient combat experience, still pressed the left flank of the defenders and soon the helicopter pilots were already in the semiring.
In addition to the dense fire from automatic weapons, the enemy put 82-mm mortars into action, and mines began to lay on the clearing around the camouflaged dragonfly, raising smoke sultans of gaps. Half of the crew was soon injured, but what was worst of all was the fact that the second-engine oil system was damaged. However, the commander decided to take off, especially since the cargo had already been dumped. While the screw was spinning up, everyone who could, fired from the opposing enemy.
It is not known how it would all end if it were not for the second helicopter that was in the air, whose crew attacked the Unitov’s perimeter. The volleys of NURSs and the exact fire of two DShKs, literally mowing vegetation together with those who were hiding behind it, slightly cooled the ardor of the attackers, and Mi-17, swaying from side to side, finally took off the ground. Later, one of the participants in this departure recalled: “Although we managed to climb into the sky, we still represented an excellent target for almost all types of weapons. In any case, I alone noticed at least four shots fired at us from a bazooka! It was impossible to count the bullet hits at all: from the inside, the helicopter's hull looked like a solid colander ... We fired from our PCs so that we barely had time to pull up the boxes with ribbons, but the enemy was clearly stronger and we were getting worse. Somewhere from above, the fuel was whipped, two of our wounded were already “stretched out”, and the prospects of the others were also unenviable ... Looking back, I noticed how the second helicopter was turning around: preparing to join us. Suddenly, he fired several missiles. Right below us, something exploded, the car almost overturned the car with a shock wave, but the pilots kept it in the horizon ... Our departure was not so elegant, but in the end we got out of this hellhole ... ”
The helicopter received very heavy damage, therefore, having gone a couple of kilo-meters, the South Africans landed and transferred the wounded to a working vehicle, after which the flight was continued. However, it soon became clear that the battered Mila could not go far - the temperature of the main gearbox was approaching critical and the oil pressure in it dropped to zero, about a thousand liters of fuel flowed out of the punched tanks in a few minutes, some of which splashed on the floor of the cabin, filling it explosive vapors. Having decided not to risk in vain, both of the "turntables" landed again and the crew of the damaged vehicle quickly (things were on the territory controlled by UNITA) moved into the sat side by side. In addition to the helicopter, EO lost five people in this operation. After this incident, the EO leadership ordered the helicopters to act only in pairs, so that in the event of a critical situation, the crew of the wrecked car had a chance to escape.
In late July, in the province of Lund, the enemy managed to knock down another "spinner". EO helicopters supplied the garrison of one city, taken shortly before the Angolan army. The UNITA command was determined to recapture the settlement and, therefore, rather quickly forced its forces towards it, at the disposal of which anti-aircraft machine guns and MANPADS soon appeared. Soon all the roads were cut and helicopters became the only supply option. Two safely landed Mi-17 unloaded five tons of cargo and flew back. Both "Mile" unfolded over the city, when at an altitude of about three hundred meters near the second helicopter, which was following the leading machine, the MANPADS missile exploded.
Judging by the characteristic white train left to her (which was seen from the ground), it was an "Arrow". The helicopter began to shake wildly, but it retained controllability and the pilot managed to land the car. The explosion practically destroyed the second engine and seriously damaged one of the main rotor blades. Both incidents reinforced the warm feelings that the EO pilots had for the Mi-17. According to South Africans, if there were “Pumas” or something like that in place of Russian cars, you would not be able to safely get through, and hardly anyone survived.
On the territory of the former USSR, there are many jokes of Soviet times, one of the most famous is the bike about "mowers with vertical takeoff and landing." Whatever it was, but in Africa, our machines had to act in this role. The Mi-17 steam sent to pick up the Angolan reconnaissance group entered the specified area, but, inspecting the area spreading below, the South African crews saw only rather dense thickets that did not allow the helicopters to land without the risk of damaging the propellers.
There was not a single glade in the entire foreseeable space. The position seemed almost hopeless, as there were neither winches, nor even rope ladders on both sides. In the meantime, the scouts were leaving with a battle - “on the tail” they had unitovtsy hanging and they had to do something. The pilot of the leading car, without thinking twice, went down and, flying in a circle, began to mow thickets with a propeller. Gradually, the car fell lower and lower, and when it seemed that everything would be “okay”, the blades hooked on rather thick boughs. The helicopter immediately began to shake, but, having given full gas, the pilots managed to complete the work. The crew did not dare to sit down with the spoiled blades, and the group was taken by the second helicopter, which landed on, in the full sense, a cut down platform.
Two more Mi-17s were destroyed on the ground during a night attack by unitovts at the air base (the Angolan guards fled), and one PC-23 was shot down by anti-aircraft fire from 7-mm units. The search service worked quite quickly: the sent Mi-17 found the pilots who had to fight on the ground, firing from the wreckage of his car. Back-to-back defenders, both South Africans had good chances of escape, but at that very moment when a helicopter with a special group on board had already landed to pick them up, the unitists, who were counting on capturing the pilots, realized that the prey was leaving, increased a fire and a mined mine laid both brave souls ...
Meanwhile, the calculations of the firing points of the rebels focused on the helicopter, and soon the latter, almost sharing the sad fate of their colleagues, were forced to leave the battlefield. True, the car turned out to be so beaten up that I had to get on the way extra. Having flopped on the first bald patch in dense vegetation, all those who were not injured set about urgent repairs, but the very first who jumped out almost to the waist failed the smelly muck. It turned out that the landing site was a swamp. Every minute it was obvious that the car was sinking, and therefore everyone worked like devils. Soon, the water was splashing overboard at the level of the dashboards, and in the fuselage stood ankle-deep. It was necessary either to take off or to stay here forever, especially since crocodiles started to appear around ...
“Mil” did not disappoint this time either: shaking from a terrible vibration, straining the blades shot through in many places and the gearbox, which lost the last remnants of oil, the Russian helicopter slowly pulled its belly from the grave depth of the marsh: and then the landing gear with the chassis that hung on them grass.
Part of the damage South Africans continued to correct, already being in the air. Then, howling a bit, engines still dragged the wounded car home.
I must say that this was the only loss among the crews of the PC-7. The latter was soon appreciated by South African pilots: some considered him one of the best anti-guerrilla aircraft. Indeed, with two machine-gun containers and four blocks of NURS, these tiny “birds” were kept in the air for four to five hours, and the rather wide speed range (135-412 km / h) allowed pilots to work jewelery “on the verge of foul”, putting bullets and shells sometimes with apothecary accuracy! However, these machines also had their drawbacks: the lightness of the design, which was not able to withstand hitting large-caliber bullets, and the more projectiles of anti-aircraft automatic guns, as well as low speed, made pilots "spin" on the ground.
Not without incident and with the participation of the MiG-23. A pair of aircraft was sent to attack two groups of Unite approximately 15 minutes from Saurimo. The presenter dropped the bombs and set the curve in anticipation of the slave when the emergency fuel warning light came on, warning that there were no more than six hundred liters of fuel left. However, the instruments showed that there was still a lot of fuel. At the second plane with fuel everything was in order. Having decided that the light bulb caught fire due to a fault in the wiring, the presenter gained height and went to the second goal, but then the engine stalled. All attempts to launch it again failed? ran out of fuel. Immediately dropping the remaining bombs, the pilot turned to the base, to which 40 kilometers remained. Fearing that the catapult would not work or the parachute would not open due to poor maintenance, the pilot decided to pull up to the airfield.
The landing gear was released, but did not lock up, therefore, as soon as the plane touched the lane, the pillars were folded and the MiG swept along the concrete surface.
Everything ended well - the pilot was unharmed, the plane received minor external damage, earning a fresh portion of compliments to the strength of its design and the ability to stay in the air. However, this car was written off, the Angolans did not have either a crane or sufficiently powerful jacks to lift the plane. Therefore, they drove the T-54 to the fighter lying on its belly, hooked it with a cable and, dragging it off the runway, threw it away. As it turned out, the plane went into flight with a half-empty tank, someone set the fuel gauge on the "full".
A huge role in the success of the EO was played by its transport component - for 28 months of operations in Angola, providing an average monthly need for 56 tons of supplies, King Eyry flew 2600 hours, Boeing-727 - 2100 hours, An-32 - 100, An -12 - 70, IL-76 -? 46, L-100 - 30 hours. AHs and Ihl were rented from Russian entrepreneurs operating in South Africa and piloted by EO pilots.
After the government troops occupied the Kafunfu region, the task of the EO was completed, the Dos Santos government proved to be a highly successful success, and therefore offered new attractive contracts to the EO government. It did not make sense to refuse these proposals, but starting from January 1995 of the UN (with UNITA submission) began to show increasing interest in the activities of Executive Outcomes, and then began to insist on the termination of its activities in Angola. However, to achieve the withdrawal of the EO failed. Moreover, on the basis of the results of the hostilities, the government concluded that under current conditions only professional mercenaries are able to protect the existing regime, and therefore, along with Executive Outcomes, other firms specializing in the provision of a variety of services soon appeared in Angola security field.