I just finished reading “The Chopper Boys: Helicopter Warfare in Africa” by Al J. Venter, Neal Ellis and Richard Wood. The contextual introductions will feel like fluff if you are already familiar with Cold War era conflicts in Africa, but it does not matter as the core of this book’s value more than makes up for it : the chapters covering operations in Rhodesia’s and South-Western Africa are gems. First hand testimonies paint captivating tactical vignettes with a substantial level of technical detail. This book provides unique insight in those pivotal development of heliborne operational doctrine in the countrer-insurgency role.
From my French perspective the Chadian and Algerian conflicts seem skimmed over, but I don’t mind as enough French sources have them well explored. On the contrary, I had seldom found such impacting accounts of the airmobile units that operated alongside such legendary troops as the Koevoet or the Selous Scouts – so the Southern African bias is more than welcome. After a read, jargon such as G-car, K-Car, dakadaka, paradak, fire force, Golf bomb and reaction force will feel familiar, along with impressive pieces of hardware such the Puma, the Alouette or the 20 mm Matra MG151 among others whose specific scope of employement is unveiled.
The use of helicopters to emplace small units as blocking forces (“stop groups” in South African parlance) reminded me of “Bear Went over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan” edited by Lester Grau. The contrast between the swiftness of Southern African operations and the blunt Soviet air assaults that most often occured in Afghanistan is not without interest.