Military Review

Soviet "air bridges" of the times of developed socialism

Soviet "air bridges" of the times of developed socialism

In the middle of the 70 of the last century, in the very heyday of the Brezhnev era, the USSR led a very active, military-political expansion almost all over the world.

The eternal rival of the United States and those did not always keep pace with the Soviet Union, because they simply could not afford the military-economic expenditures of such magnitude that the Soviet Union allowed itself during those years, these were expenditures associated mainly with providing all kinds of military-economic assistance to "fraternal" nations almost worldwide.

The Soviet Union was particularly developed in Africa, in two directions at once, in the south-west in Angola, from where, just as the Portuguese left, in the region of the so-called African horn. There, the councils managed to extend their influence to as many as two countries, this is in Somalia and Ethiopia.

At the beginning, the Soviet leadership did its entire stake in East Africa, mainly in Somalia, and this is understandable, this country was located in a very advantageous geostrategic area. She was at the crossroads of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, almost near the Middle East.

In October, 1963 Moscow agreed to provide Somalia with a long-term loan in the amount of 30 million US dollars. Every year the volume of this assistance increased. In response to the assistance provided, Moscow received at its disposal a number of facilities in the Somali port of Berbera, including a military airfield and a 2 communications facility, put into operation in 1972.

Soon, in 1974, the USSR and Somalia signed an already full-scale treaty of friendship and cooperation, which included "training Somali military personnel and providing weapons and other military equipment to the Somali democratic republic in order to enhance its defense capabilities."

According to this agreement, Somali military personnel literally flooded all Soviet military academies, courses and military schools, and a flood of Soviet military aid poured into Somalia. Several thousand military specialists were sent to Somalia to serve military equipment and train local troops from the USSR, the figure for such a small country is huge, and as a result, by the middle of the 70-s, the Somali army became the most truly trained army in East Africa.

The ambitious Somali ruler, Saeed Barre, was leading a rather clever policy, and he had plenty of plans.

He openly put forward socialist slogans in order not to lose the enormous, almost gratuitous Soviet aid, he was quietly, secretly preparing Moscow for his African blitzkrieg, the Somali Bonaparte was planning to chop off a pretty decent piece of its territory in Ogaden.

But the most important dream of Barre, it was the creation of Great Somalia in this region of Africa.

Disorder reigned in neighboring Ethiopia at that time, and there, in 1974, the regime of the old and sick ruler Haile Selassi was overthrown.

The actual ruler of the country was the chairman of the Provisional Military Administrative Council, Colonel M. Kh. Mariam, who at first was in no hurry to announce the building of Soviet-style socialism, preferring rapprochement with Beijing. However, China at that moment could not claim to be a significant political "player" on the African continent.

Soon for Mariam, the massive military assistance that Moscow was able to provide to Angola, the whole of Africa, watched while the USSR and Cuba defended the independence of young Angola from South African racists, became a weighty argument in favor of close relations with the Soviet Union.
In April 1977, Mr. Mariam almost turned off all contacts with the United States and, finally, announced the start of the construction of socialism. All this happened against the background of a sharply aggravated situation around and within Ethiopia itself.

On the one hand, separatists in Eritrea opposed the central government. But even more serious is the situation in the south-east of the country, there in Ogaden, the Somali West Liberation Front, actively supported by Somalia, step by step, strengthened its influence over the territory with the Somali population. These factors could lead to the final collapse of the Ethiopian state.

In May 1977, Mr. M. X. Mariam made an official visit to Moscow. In exchange for military assistance, Mariam promised to provide the port of Massava for the construction of a Soviet naval base. In record time, she could serve Soviet ships and submarines. Thus, Moscow’s dependence on the Somali ports in the Red Sea region - the Indian Ocean sharply weakened.

For the time being, Moscow succeeded in successfully balancing and not becoming entangled in the web of the complex relationship between Ethiopia and Somalia.
The completely undesirable conflict between the two allied Moscow "socialist" states was not in time. And therefore doubly annoyed. Soon the situation began to take shape in such a way that it was simply impossible for the Soviet Union to sit on two chairs at once and had to choose whom to take as allies.

In many eyes, Ethiopia looked in the eyes of Soviet leaders much more preferable than Somalia. Only one of its population is almost 9 times Somali. Ethiopia had two relatively modern ports on the Red Sea. Success in Ethiopia could somehow compensate for the unfortunate failures of Soviet politics in Egypt and Sudan in the early 70s.

The weakening of Soviet influence in Somalia was not slow to take advantage of the United States and especially Saudi Arabia; now, instead of advice, the rich Saudis with their multi-million infusions became the main donors of the Somali economy.

President Barre realized that he could no longer delay, otherwise the Ethiopians would have time to rearm and then it would be much more difficult to fight them. Somali generals developed an operation to invade Ogaden in accordance with all the requirements of the Soviet combat regulations and instructions, and before the invasion, thorough training of troops and military equipment was carried out.

Soon, at the end of July 1977, the Somalis, using the element of surprise, invaded Ogaden. The decisive offensive of the Somali army was developing quite successfully, the troops were moving very fast, without encountering much resistance from the small Ethiopian garrisons in the Oaden oases.

Soon the blitzkrieg was successfully completed, the Somalis managed in a very short time to occupy a very extensive territory in southeast Ethiopia, with a total area of ​​320 thousand square meters. km, and this is almost 90% of the total area of ​​Ogaden.

Sly Barre realizing that the Somali army is completely dependent on the supply of Soviet weapons in early September 1977. rushed to Moscow, probably in order to apologize for his actions and beg the Kremlin elders another batch of military aid.

However, this time he miscalculated a lot, they met him very cool there. The head of the USSR L. Brezhnev did not accept him at all and continued his rest in the Crimea, and Gromyko and Suslov made it clear that they no longer needed Barre’s services.

Realizing that the USSR was completely on the side of Ethiopia, Somalis 13 in November 1977 denounced the basic agreement "On friendship and cooperation."

As a result of this measure, the 20-thousandth contingent of Soviet military advisers turned out to be almost hostage and had to leave Somalia within three days. To the Cubans approached even stricter. They were given on charges all day.

In the homes of Soviet advisers, electricity and water were cut off, and the village itself was cordoned off by soldiers. Initially, evacuation from Somalia was carried out only by air. Arriving aircraft were conducted by experienced crews of the military transport aviationnaturally in plain clothes. However, at airports, Somalis openly mocked our specialists and Cubans.

However, the Somalis did not take into account the decisiveness of the Soviet leadership and the combat capabilities of the Soviet Navy, whose ships cruised at that time in all strategic regions of the world.

Immediately, an amphibious operation was developed in the course of which warships of the Pacific operational squadron entered the Somali port of Berber fleet. Marines landed along with full-time military equipment, our military specialists and their families were evacuated soon under their cover, and the property of the USSR Navy base station located in this port was loaded onto ships.

Leaving the Berbers Soviet ships, even towed to Aden the floating and floating dock belonging to our country, the whole operation was carried out so swiftly that stunned Somalis were looking at the leaving Soviet ships for a very long time and could not understand where they came from and who these devils were in black berets?
Part of the Soviet military advisers from Somalia returned to the Soviet Union. Another part was transferred to Ethiopia, now to fight against their recent students.
In response, a large group of Somali students of military schools and academies was expelled from the USSR. Havana generally broke off diplomatic relations with Somalia.

The first Soviet and Cuban military experts who arrived in Ethiopia found that the Ethiopian army was predominantly armed with the American weaponsin particular medium tanks M-60, light tanks M-41, armored personnel carriers M-113, etc. Interestingly, Ethiopia became the first African country to receive F-5 supersonic fighter jets from the United States in 1965.

Taking into account the revealed features, our specialists considered that a quick change of the weapons system (taking into account the length of the process of mastering military equipment in the troops) was simply impossible, and therefore was even deemed inexpedient.

Before the arrival of military equipment from the USSR, the Ethiopians had some time to fight on everything that they then had in service.
In order to prepare the American military equipment for the battles in Ogaden, spare parts were urgently needed for it, all of which were soon found in the Vietnamese stores. As a matter of urgency, VTA Vietnamese trophies quickly transferred from Saigon all that was needed to restore combat, and especially aircraft, so Vietnam became the first to begin providing real assistance to the Ethiopians.

In November 1977, a representative Soviet military delegation arrived in Ethiopia for a detailed analysis of the situation (later transformed into a “task force”), led by First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces, Army General V.P. Petrov. Soviet military advisers began to be sent to the headquarters and units of the Ethiopian army.

And on November 25 the forces of the Soviet military transport aviation erected a "air bridge" between the USSR and Ethiopia. It involved at least 225 aircraft of various types, mainly An-12 (most of them were painted in the colors of Aeroflot).

In the next two weeks, according to eyewitnesses, literally every twenty minutes at the airport of Addis Ababa, a Soviet transport aircraft was getting on. The “air bridge” started in Transcaucasia, then the planes made the first landing for refueling in Baghdad, then passed the Arabian Peninsula over the Persian Gulf, landed in Aden, and, after another refueling, set a course for Addis Ababa. However, here the “bridge” did not end, but continued further into the depths of Africa, into another “hot spot” - Angola. Soviet weapons also went there, and Cuban military units were transferred from Angola to Ethiopia on return flights.

The most powerful aircraft of the time of the military aviation aviation of the USSR - An-22 “Antey” from the 8-th and 81-th military transport aviation regiments were also involved in flights to Ethiopia. In total, Anthea performed 18 flights, carrying 455 tons of cargo, including 37 units of military equipment. At the same time, almost one plane was lost.

The air bridge was supported by the transfer of weapons and military equipment by sea to the port of Assab, on ships of the USSR Ministry of the Navy. The scale of supply was impressive. In total, by air and sea, in Ethiopia, in a short time, various "special properties" were transferred for an astronomical sum of about 1 billion dollars.

These included X-NUMX T-600 / T-54 / T-55, 62 BMP-300 and BRDM-1, 2 artillery guns (including 400-mm guns), anti-aircraft weapons (including the Strela air defense missile system), weapon. Naturally, they received a new technique and the Ethiopian Air Force. From the USSR, 130 of various modifications of the MiG-48 fighters, 21 Mi-10 helicopters, several Mi-6 and 8 military Mi-6A helicopters were sent (later 24 machines were delivered). Soviet military advisers and specialists (a total of 10 people) helped the Ethiopians to master and use the weapons supplied.

But a special place in this war played the help of Cuba. Havana sent regular units with all standard weapons to Ethiopia. These units were staffed, as a rule, by volunteers, many of whom already had combat experience. The Cuban battalions, well trained, highly organized and disciplined, became the main striking force of the Ethiopian army.

Cubans were sent to Ethiopia both by air through Angola and by sea. In total, the Cuban contingent numbered 18 000 people under the command of divisional general Arnaldo Ochoa. The first Cuban tank battalion arrived at the front of December already 28 1977.

In general, as an officer of the NNA of the GDR, who was in Addis Ababa, wittily remarked: "The Soviet military is in charge of the fighting, the Cubans are fighting, and the Ethiopians are celebrating victories."

In addition to troops from the Soviet Union and Cuba, a contingent of "volunteers" from South Yemen (2000 people) fought on the side of Ethiopia. In addition, the GDR, Czechoslovakia, South Yemen, North Korea supplied weapons and equipment for the Ethiopian army. Deliveries of spare parts from Vietnam (from the trophy "legacy" of the South Vietnamese Air Force) played their part in maintaining the combat readiness of the Ethiopian F-5. However, the representatives of these countries did not participate in the hostilities, despite the speculations in the press.

Somalia also received military support from outside, mainly from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and the United States (the Americans provided assistance through third countries), but all this assistance could not be compared in scale with the Soviet.

It is worth noting that for Western military analysts, the very fact that the Soviet Union was capable of transferring in fact several divisions with heavy weapons so far from its borders was an unexpected and unpleasant surprise.

Ethiopian military assistance was so impressive that it gave some foreign military experts grounds to call it “military intervention.”

13 March 1978.Kubinsk and Ethiopian troops completely cleared the territory of Ogaden from Somalis. In an effort to somehow “save face”, the Somali government 15 March announced a “complete withdrawal” of all units of its regular army from Ethiopia. The war lasted for about 7 months.

As a result of the war, Ethiopia lost 40 000 people (15000 soldiers and 25000 civilians) over 600000 residents of the country became refugees. The Somali army suffered a crushing defeat, having lost 20000 people killed, 250 tanks (three-quarters of the pre-war park), most of the artillery and vehicles. Somalia actually lost its air force. By the end of the war, their ranks included all 12 MiG-21 aircraft and several MiG-17 aircraft.

It should be said that both the main "actors" of the Ogaden War did not survive the collapse of the USSR. In 1991, units of the Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian peoples entered Addis Ababa. Mengistu Haile Mariam fled the country to Zimbabwe. Rebel Eritrea has finally gained independence.

The Somali dictator Said Bare did not create Great Somalia, he was able to stay in power only six months more than his opponent of the Ethiopian leader, and Somalia after the overthrow of Siad Barre plunged into the internecine war, which continues to this day.
21 comment
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  1. Boldyrev
    Boldyrev 16 October 2013 10: 11
    Even the current states are very far from the USSR ...
    1. svp67
      svp67 16 October 2013 10: 34
      Quote: Boldyrev
      Even the current states are very far from the USSR ...

      Specify, far in what?
      In generosity? That YES ... We actually "gave" so much and still have to, that honestly sometimes it takes anger, well, it couldn't have been more cunning to "turn around" all this, so that at least "should" not stay ...
      And if at the expense of the possibilities of organizing the transfer of troops or transportation in general, then you are wrong, the American is HUGE experts in this matter, read about the "Berlin Bridge" or how America saved Israel in 1973 ...
    2. silver_roman
      silver_roman 16 October 2013 17: 04
      today's states are much weaker than the states that were during the cold war. I mean with respect to time.
  2. mirror
    mirror 16 October 2013 10: 41
    This money would then be invested in economic reform. And so everything that was achieved in that war turned out to be meaningless, and worse, the USSR simply economically exploded without having endured the Afghanistan, which was also meaningless for the country. The consequences of which we all now slurp a full spoon, and the army and navy, officers ate completely in full, so that they still can not catch their breath.
    1. apostrophe
      apostrophe 16 October 2013 16: 28
      And why such a grandiose conclusion about the torn economy of the USSR? Well, not liberal, is this nonsense sitting in you? smile
    2. randomizer
      randomizer 16 October 2013 18: 16
      That is yes. All damn communist bonfire kindled around the world.
      1. 7ydmco
        7ydmco 16 October 2013 23: 03
        You are stupid
  3. cobalt
    cobalt 16 October 2013 10: 50
    How many times it is necessary to step on the rake so that the leadership of the country understands that it is necessary to help themselves, and not to any monkey republics. It is necessary to raise and maintain our high-quality and effective army, to maintain our economic interests, and not the Papuans, who are no good anyway.
    1. apostrophe
      apostrophe 16 October 2013 16: 30
      Are you sure that in the USSR of those years there was not a high-quality and not effective army? smile Then what are you talking about?
  4. The comment was deleted.
  5. Russ69
    Russ69 16 October 2013 11: 07
    Too flirted in the USSR, the support of various regimes.
    1. apostrophe
      apostrophe 16 October 2013 16: 32
      But did you have to wait until pro-American regimes reach our borders? Wait, you feel better?
  6. biglow
    biglow 16 October 2013 12: 02
    The Soviet Union was all friend, but he had no friends ...
    1. igor67
      igor67 16 October 2013 13: 22
      Quote: biglow
      The Soviet Union was all friend, but he had no friends ...

      Somalia also received military support from the outside, it was mainly from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and the USA. Is it 78 years old, like friendly Syria, but opposed the USSR? You are probably right. THE SOVIET Union was all friend, and he had no friends.
  7. SPLV
    SPLV 16 October 2013 13: 58
    An interesting article about the little-known facts of our history. I always respect the people who have done a great job, including collecting information.
    Quote: Spiegel
    This money would then be invested in economic reform.

    When people already understand that the subjunctive mood in history is interesting only to the authors of the statements, but is of no use to anyone.
    Joke with a beard:
    - It would be great to have a time machine and buy dollars in the 1980 year!
    - Or buy cheap Chinese watches, sell them in 1980 and buy gold!
    - Gentlemen, ministers! What other proposals will be made to improve our economy?
  8. yankeegohome
    yankeegohome 16 October 2013 14: 48
    In vain you are so about the Union. People were no more stupid than you and me then. Africa is now, and then, and in the future - a real treasure of minerals. The battle was for them. Not to mention the bases and other "charms" of geopolitics. Who and how can assess the impact of the appearance of the USSR base in this or that place. And the Union received a lot of resources from Africa. So the invested denyushki, I think, fought back with interest. It was our "potential partners" who instilled thoughts - we feed others, and ourselves ...
    1. Poppy
      Poppy 16 October 2013 15: 53
      In addition, Africa is really the largest continent, our maps simply distort sizes, you need to look at the globe
    2. rumpeljschtizhen
      rumpeljschtizhen 16 October 2013 20: 17
      we have no less of these minerals ..ludzheb invested money in the country ....... and then comrade in the beginning one then we help the other where the logic ..... ???
      Our country has always suffered from the development of long-term projects ...
    3. VasiliyK651
      VasiliyK651 16 October 2013 21: 01
      Let me disagree with you: One of the reasons for the collapse of the Union is precisely this kind of "international aid" In exchange for the same military equipment and BP that we received, bananas, cane sugar and sardines?
      1. 7ydmco
        7ydmco 16 October 2013 23: 05
        Another stamp of the Gorbachev period, nothing more. It's time to get rid of them.
  9. Pehmore
    Pehmore 16 October 2013 17: 31
    No one now, probably in the near future, will tell the whole truth. But what kind of strength, and the scale of the troop transfer, he himself saw, for some reason then, we young people considered this the order of things. Even I remember not surprised, were proud of our country.
    1. zub46
      zub46 16 October 2013 20: 36
      With regard to strength and scope I confirm. I saw in the years 1968-70. The current generation is probably not able to present the capabilities of the USSR. There were 280 million people of one.
  10. alone
    alone 16 October 2013 23: 27
    These included 600 T-54 / T-55 / T-62 tanks, 300 BMP-1 and BRDM-2, 400 artillery pieces (including 130-mm cannons), air defense systems (including Strela MANPADS), weapon. Naturally, the Ethiopian Air Force also received new equipment. From the USSR, 48 MiG-21 fighters of various modifications, 10 Mi-6 helicopters, several Mi-8 transport helicopters and 6 Mi-24A combat helicopters were sent (later another 10 machines were delivered).

    I wonder how much money was paid for all this? is it really worth the 1,1 billion that Russia wrote off later belay
  11. yankeegohome
    yankeegohome 17 October 2013 01: 28
    Purely for example "The USSR's own economic interests in Africa looked like this. The continent supplied mineral raw materials, tropical agricultural products, valuable wood species. At the same time, for example, Guinea served as a very important source of raw materials for the aluminum industry of the USSR, Nigeria - an important source of tantalum. In exchange there were supplies of metal, machinery and equipment - while often the exchange was direct, the ever-scarce currency was not spent on purchases in Africa. Moreover, it was often "mined "- even the arms trade with African countries, despite the often gratuitous supplies, has generally been profitable." Do not throw phrases from the clichés of perestroika and "developed democracy"))). Fortunately, now there are a lot of opportunities to find information and analyze it yourself. I can't find a link with a detailed layout of the balance of cooperation between the USSR and the "countries of people's democracy." The Union was rich in resources, but far from all and far from in huge quantities. Oil and iron ore are not the only things that industry needs. Therefore, such a huge amount of money was invested in the FUTURE, and he could afford it and should have, like a real empire. Well, the fact that this future was betrayed is another story.
  12. Prometey
    Prometey 17 October 2013 08: 00
    Moscow agreed to provide Somalia with a long-term loan of $ 30 million.
    A bunch of mediocrity in power in the USSR squandered the country's money for troubled projects. No, of course, the people did not beggar, but this money should go to the development of the economy and scientific and technological development. What for it was necessary to sponsor any trash?