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Operation Vanity

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Date  25 - 26 February 1979
Operation Vanity
Location  Angola Luso Operation Vanity (Angola)
Objective  Destroy ZIPRA camp nearby Luso, Angola.

Operation Vanity was a Rhodesian military operation in Angola with clandestine assistance from the South African Air Force (SAAF) during the Rhodesian Bush War and South African Border War. The Rhodesian Air Force planned a retaliatory raid against a ZIPRA camp in Angola after a second Air Rhodesia Viscount was shot down on 12 February 1979.



In retaliation for the downing of a civilian airliner of Air Rhodesia, the Rhodesian Air Force (RhAF) planned a bombing raid against a ZIPRA training camp situated nearby the town of Luso in Angola. There was said to be 3000 ZIPRA soldiers based there as well as Cuban and East German advisors. The Rhodesians were only able to provide four Canberra bombers for the raid and required three additional aircraft which would be provided clandestinely by the South African Air Force (SAAF). Three SAAF Canberra bombers of 12 Squadron, under the command of Major Hannes Bekker, were armed with Alpha cluster bombs and took off around 18h15 from Air Force Base Waterkloof, South Africa on 25 February 1979. From there they flew northwards to the Victoria Falls airfield in Rhodesia and landed after dark. There the navigators planned the raid for the following morning. The strike leader was Squadron Leader Chris Dixon, 5 Squadron Rhodesian Air Force, call-sign Green Leader. Three SAAF and three RhAF were armed with 5 Alpha bombs each while the last Rhodesian Canberra bomber was armed with six 1000lb bombs.

All seven bombers took off on 26 February 1979 at 06h30 with the target 1,100 kilometres (680 mi) to the north-west. Additional aircraft were provided in the form of one Dakota command and control aircraft and two Hawker Hunter fighters. Initially command passed to Flight Lieutenant Ted Brent because of radio problems, but would return to Chris Dixon later in the flight. The flight headed over Zambia and then into Angola, dodging both countries' radars, towards the Benguela Railway west of Luso then turned east and followed it toward the town. By this time they had formed into two formations of four and three bombers, line abreast, hitting a rainstorm which cleared up two minutes from the target. The bombers, now line-abreast dropped to a height of 300ft so that the Alpha bombs, a type of cluster bomb, would cover an area 300 by 1000 meters. As they attacked, rows and rows of bungalows could be seen by the pilots with no anti-aircraft fire received, nor vehicles seen nor anyone on the parade ground, giving the pilots the impression of an empty camp.


Having attacked the target successfully, the bombers returned to Rhodesia, the SAAF bombers to Flyde near Hartley while the RhAF bombers flew back to Victoria Falls with one 1000lb bomb before refueling and joining the SAAF aircraft. Photographic evidence captured by a SAAF bomber showed the camp was occupied and there were anti-aircraft guns. It was said 160 ZIPRA soldiers died and another 530 were wounded.


Operation Vanity Wikipedia

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