Episode 86 – The SAAF harried in Angola and Soviets import arms from Afghanistan
The base was north of Tethamutete, east of the Cubango River - and from Menongue, heavily armed, a few hundred SWAPO cadres, perhaps as many as 350 were training at what was the Eastern Front HQ.
The troops gathered around for the intelligence briefing by Dave Drew before James Hills explained how the attack would unfold. A mortar platoon and two stopper groups, 51 and 53 Commando were ordered to take up their positions north of the base, led by Koos Stadler. They were to approach the base using the same route that the main force would use early the next day.
A few kilometres from the target, they left the mortar platoon which setup near the track that ran east to west through the base. Commando 53 then moved directly north of the base, ready to confront any SWAPO attempting to escape north as the stopper group.
Stadler headed off west of the target with 51 Commando, also following the track. These two groups formed a significant threat to any SWAPO fleeing in their direction.
Just before first light, a company from 101 Battalion, soldiers from 2 Recce reserves, along with the regimental HQ and 51 Commando would assault the base led by Jose da Costa.
As this attacking force arrived at the river the mortars would open fire.
They took off at dusk, the trucks dropping the troops around 20 km from the target, they covered the remaining ten kilometres on foot and eventually stopped at the east west track.
By 0200 they were at the forming up point, the mortar platoon was ready.
Starting in January of 1987, the SA Intelligence became aware of a major Soviet airlift of heavy weapons and military supplies from Tashkent north of the Black Sea and from Moscow, all the way to Luanda the Angolan Capital. The Soviets were withdrawing this equipment from Afghanistan where they’d been roundly defeated by the Taliban with American backing.
The new equipment arriving in Angola was the latest Russian material, BTR-60 APCs, BRDMS-2 ARVs, BMP-1 IFVs, all were heading south. Heavy transport aircraft were now flying into Menongue daily, carrying food, ammunition, troops. More than 400 trucks were counted traveling back and forth between central Angola and Menongue.