Episode 69 – Operation Askari begins with a reconnaissance drone

By November 1983 the SADF was prepping for the significant operation called Askari, and the Air Force was playing its part. The original plan was for the op to start on the 9th November but political negotiations had led to a postponement to the 9th December.
Meanwhile, the SA Air Force had sent up their remotely piloted vehicle or RPV– in Xangongo under Major Jinx Botes. The aim was to monitor the Cahama area initially as part of a sub-Askari operation called Fox . The RPV was code-named Gharra and was trying to detect the location of SA-8 missile systems sent to the South by the Angolans – courtesy of the Russians. It proved a rather hit and miss process, these were early days in the use of what we now know as drones.
Time to take a closer look at Operation Askari which was broken into four phases.
First, the Special Forces would recce deep into Angola, then the SA Air Force would bomb the Typhoon and Volcano base near Lubango.
Phase 2 would see offensive reconnaissance around Cahama, Mulondo and Cuvelai and the SADF estimated this could take as long as two months, starting at least a week after phase 1 had kicked off. The main aim was to cut off SWAPO and FAPLAs communication and logistics lines, and to demoralize the SWAPO sections leading to their withdrawal north.
However, the SADF missed a crucial bit of information when assessing their options in phase two – they presumed both FAPLA and SWAPO morale was low, but that was not the case. It was higher than it had been for years.
SWAPO’s PLAN armed wing had been withdrawn into Angola for retraining. And These fighters were briefed about the new heavy weapons sent by the Russian sponsors - including T54/55 tanks – as well as the new missile systems. Demoralizing them this time was not going to be as easy as in 1981.
Phase three which was to begin after the invasion was to reinforce the gaps supposedly created by Askari west of the Cunene River, through Quiteve, Mupa, Vinticette and then to Ionde.
The last phase was to reinforce the empty bases once SWAPO and FAPLA left, and thus stop this year’s incursions into SWA.