English Electric B(I) Mk.12 Canberra
In 1963 the South African Air Force (SAAF) procured six B(I) Mk.12 Canberra interdictors and three T. Mk.4’s from Britain. Initially the Canberra was seen as an interim measure until the arrival of Hawker-Siddeley Buccaneers in 1965. The SAAF used the B(I) Mk.12 as bombers and interdictors over a 27 year period.
With simmering tension in Portuguese controlled Angola threatening to spill over into the South African controlled territory of South West Africa (Namibia), the SAAF’s 12 Squadron started to fly recon missions over northern SWA and southern Angola. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s South Africa got sucked into its own Vietnam war. Believing that the domino theory also applied to Africa, the South African apartheid government decided to intervene in the Angolan civil war that raged between opposing political factions: MPLA (Communist backed faction), UNITA and the FNLA (Supported by the USA and South Africa). UNITA and the FNLA controlled areas in the south and north of Angola whilst the MPLA, with the aid of Cuban and Russian weapons and advisors, waged open war against UNITA and the FNLA. The South African government believed that SWAPO (South West African People’s Organization) got weapons and training in MPLA controlled Angola and then crossed into SWA to wage a ‘terrorist’ campaign against the white farmers in SWA as part of a campaign to liberate SWA from South African control.
With the encouragement of Western powers looking to restore the balance of power in the region, South Africa launched a large scale incursion into Angola (Operation Savannah) in support of anti-communist forces in 1975. This operation served as a baptism of fire for the SAAF’s Canberra force. Three 12 Squadron Canberra’s flew bombing and recon sorties. The SAAF Canberra force was again called upon during Operation Reindeer to attack large enemy camps known as Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. In August 1978 SAAF Canberra bombers attacked targets in Zambia to stop insurgents moving from Zambia into the Caprivi strip in northern SWA.
In March 1979 the SAAF deployed the Canberras to SWA for a nine-day intensive bombing campaign against enemy insurgent bases in southern Angola and south-west Zambia. On 14 March 1979, four Canberras were detailed to attack a target near Cahama in southern Angola. Over the target, the Canberra (serial number 452) piloted by Lt. D. Marais and 2/Lt. O.J. Doyle was seen to fall away from the formation, climb steeply, then dive into the ground where it exploded. The loss of Canberra 452 has been officially ascribed to the pilot being fatally struck by Russian supplied anti-aircraft artillery over the target.
The Canberras finest hour in Angola was during the battle of Mavinga in mid-1987. A combined force of Cuban and MPLA troops attacked a combined South African and UNITA force along the Lomba River and around Mavinga. Facing an overwhelming force supported by Mi-8, Mi-17, Mi-25 and Mi-35 helicopters as well as an umbrella force of Mig 21, Mig 23 and Sukhoi Su-22’s the SAAF sent its Canberras to bomb the enemy whilst SAAF Mirage F-1CZ’s engaged the fighters. During the ensuing melee Cmdt. J Rankin, flying a Mirage F-1CZ, downed his second Mig 21 of the Bush War. The battle of Mavinga and the Lomba river saw the combined enemy force annihilated. After the fall of communism in 1989, the South African government ended its involvement in Angola and granted SWA independence. The ageing Canberra force was subsequently retired and eventually sold to Peru.
This is the superb 1/48 scale Airfix Canberra. The kit contains SAAF markings. However, it is the markings for a SAAF Canberra in NMF circa 1963. I chose to build Canberra 452 that was lost over Cahama in southern Angola. Custom made decals from MAV decals were used. The aircraft was decked out in Humbrol PRU blue. Weathering was kept to a minimum. The weapons load for this particular mission called for GP low drag bombs. The bombs were courtesy of a Hasegawa weapon set. The Canberras in SAAF service carried a wide array of bombs and rocket pods during the war in Angola. I scratchbuilt the towel rail antenna and sensors and antennae under the rear fuselage. The pilots ejection seat was also detailed with Evergreen styrene and copper wire. The undercarriage was also detailed with copper wire. This is a BIG model and VERY tail heavy. The area behind the cockpit as well as the front of the engine nacelles were packed with lead weights. The main undercarriage was strengthened by drilling a hole vertically into the landing gear and inserting a thin steel rod.
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