OP URIC is the controversial operation of The Rhodesian War. Though it resulted in over 300 enemy dead for the loss of 15 of their own (the highest of the war) the Rhodesians, with their very high operational standards, did not regard it as a success. There was bitterness too, as for the first time the Rhodesians were unable to recover the bodies of their failed comrades; for the first time also the lightly armed Rhodesians were stopped in their tracks and forced to abandon their objective in the face of a more numerous and well dug in enemy who, for a time at least, displayed a fighting tenacity not encountered before. Despite being armed with anti-aircraft, guns and strela (soviet name for SA7 surface-to-air missile) the most effective enemy weapon proved to be the comparatively simple RPG7 (a rocket fired from a hand held launcher) which, in the event, was responsible for all the Rhodesian fatalities.
reconstruction is based mostly on Richard Wood's B2 intercepts,
sitreps, intreps and debrief notes which he passed on to David
Heppenstall in 1992. Information on Uric is not exhaustive, apart from
a few minutes of video tape I have also consulted Barbara Coles classic
'The Elite' P328-338 and Cowderoy and Nesbit's excellent 'War In The
Air'; In his covering letter Richard suggests to readers of this
article that "This is just an assembly of material" If any reader can
explain more clearly what was happening at any particular stage please
send your comments in.
1. BACKGROUND AND BUILD-UP.
At the end of 1978 some 11,000 Zanla were operating in Rhodesia over half of these had been deployed through Mocambique's Gaza Province into the South East (OP Repulse) area of Rhodesia known as 'The Russian Front'. Of a further 15,000 who were in training a third were to be infiltrated through Gaza.
the highly effective Selous Scouts raids and SAS Trained National
Resistance (the M.N.R) Mocambique was military and economically in
tatters. Samora Machel, Mocambique's volatile and excitable leader,
dissatisfied with Zanla's progress took matters into his own hands.
Sitting down with his Frelimo commander Sebastiao Mabote and Robert
Mugabe the trio came to a Political/ Military agreement where by Zanla
forces in Gaza where to be totally integrated and deployed with Frelimo
troops into Rhodesia in a bid to end the War. To this end Machel would
supplement Zanla with a thousand Frelimo then being trained by the
Russians. From this, it may well be that, given the numbers involved, a
Frelimo/Zanla invasion was contemplated with the object of giving Zanla
an occupied area in S.E. Rhodesia. All forces, in consultation with
Mugabe, were to be under Frelimo command and the whole was to
controlled from Mapai the Frelimo 2 Brigade HQ and control centre for
Zanla - a very heavily defended forward base 50 kilometres from the
Rhodesian border. It is important to note here that Rhodesian COMOPS
(Combined Operations HQ) was well aware that , in addition to air
support, to try and take Mapai ordinarily would have required 2
infantry battalions conventionally supported by artillery and tanks.
Rhodesian intelligence were first alerted to this build-up and
the new situation in Gaza when a F.P.L.M. (Frelimo) soldier was
captured near Kezi in Matabele Land; from this it transpired that over
200 F.P.L.M. were in Rhodesia caused the Rhodesian political and
military hierarchy to sit bolt upright because, apart from anything
else, the rail link to South Africa (Rutenga-Beitbridge) over which
Rhodesia's fuel and ammunition travelled was now under threat.
Accordingly, the Rhodesians, in an attempt to take the fight into the
enemy camp and thus take the pressure off the Repulse and Tangent
(Matabeleland) op. areas devised operation Uric which had, as its aim
the complete destruction/disruption of the Felimo/Zanla lines of
communication as far back as the economically important Aldeia De
Barragem (Lit. village of the dam) 93 miles N.W. of Maputo and 200
miles from Rhodesia. At Barragem the road and rail bridges over the dam
along with its vital, irrigation canal feeding a major agricultural
complex which produced 80% of Mocambiques cash crop were to be
demolished along with 4 lesser bridges. Air strikes would be made on
Barragem, Mapai and Maxaila in an effort to so demoralise the occupants
that they would abandon their bases because, with their road, rail and
bridge links destroyed behind them and with communications, supplies
and water cut off the enemy, specially at Mapai, would be in a very
vulnerable position. Once the defenders left the situation would be exploited by heli-borne Rhodesian troops who would take and destroy what was left of Mapai. Zanla and Frelimo operating from Gaza would be without a rear base and forced to revert to the Northern routes where they could be more easily contained.
Uric would be
executed by 360 ground troops drawn from Rhodesian SAS and RLI and
engineers-arguably the finest troops of their day. The superbly manned
Rhodesian Air Force would deploy every available aircraft - 8 hunters,
12 Dakotas, 6 Canberras, 6 lynx and 28 helicopters - among these last
were newly arrived Rhodesian AB 205 A cheetahs (hueys) along with a few
South African crewed Pumas and Super Frelons on loan to the air force.
(Note: something not generally known is that the South African Air
Force allowed some of its aircrews to complete a tour of duty with the
Rhodesians - a number of these brave men died fighting for Rhodesia
with whose cause they had identified.) The OP Uric area was close to
the South African border and the South Africans were of course
interested. In fact OP Uric had the largest single South African
involvement of the Rhodesian war.
Aerial surveillance was to be provided by a remarkable aircraft a Dakota named Warthog, so called because it bristled with antennae and radomes. This aircraft was fitted out with monitoring equipment mounted on a large board clipped to the fuselage. This provided UHF, VHF and HF coverage with F.M. and A.M. along with a sensor system capable of picking up any radar station/system which the enemy might use to guide missiles and the ability to identify enemy surveillance radar. Teleprinters were on board with remarkable facility of encrypting messages typed in clear automatically and immediately. Warthog carried an intelligence officer and four signallers all skilled in identifying the 'handwriting' of operators in Zambia and Mocambique. Unarmed and confined to intelligence gathering the Warthog was vital to cross border operations. Richard Wood's B2 notes are littered with Warthog intreps.
Also taking part would be the command dak a converted Dakota carrying the Commander of Combined Operations General Walls and Air Commodore Norman Walsh, Rhodesian Air Force Director General of Operations. The commanders would orbit the operational area at a distance and would control both ground forces and aircraft using a lynx for liaison. Politically, a successful operation would hopefully force Zanla to the negotiating table at the conference being set up at Lancaster House. Furthermore international out cry at the raid would not be as strident as before because, now in its Zimbabwe - Rhodesia transition, the country had a black Prime Minister and President.
D-Day was scheduled for 0700 hrs Sunday 2nd September 1979. 200 troops been placed in an admin box 160 kilometres inside Mocambique East-South East of Chigubu (see map) this was known as admin base Oscar Bravo (O.B.) the helicopters were at Chipinda pools airstrip which was also an army base in Rhodesia. This was to be admin base Oscar Alpha (O.A.). Due to guti (a Rhodesian weather peculiarity in the form of soft rain which, as it descends resembles heavy mist) the operation was postponed for 3 tenseful days to Wednesday 5th September 1979.
This, then is the background to Uric, what follows is the operation itself including the intercepts which gives us an idea of the enemy reaction reports.
1 September 1979 (D-Day -4)
At 1200 the Frelimo operator at Maxaila reported helicopter movements in his area and requested reinforcements. In reply, Mapai (the controlling centre) ordered Maxaila to search the area and that troops from Chigubo had also been ordered to investigate the area of the enemy noise. From these intercepts the Rhodesians were aware that the enemy at Maxaila had picked up the transit movement of aircraft to the admin box, although ready to react the base was not compromised.
2 September 1979 (D-Day -3)
The RLI mine laying teams began their tasks. Air movement from Rhodesia to the admin box consisted in transportation of water, rations, food, ammunition and fuel.
4 vehicles were seen heading for Maxaila. The most significant event of the day was electronic jamming experienced on H.F. and the command and control net at about 17-30 hrs.
3 September 1979
In an intercept Maxaila informed Mapai that the reinforcements had arrived (the Rhodesians understood this to refer to the 4 vehicles observed on the previous day) and that once again helicopter movement was observed in the direction of Chipimbi. The enemy at Pafuri had reported air movement in the Rio Wenezi area. During the morning an RLI mine laying team in a helicopter from Mabalauta forward base was fired on by a Pafuri detachment near Salane. An air strike by lynx was requested and the 'Pafurians' were silenced. The Rhodesian mine planting efforts appeared to be bearing results as the enemy reported an explosion on the Maxaila/Domasse road in the Mapungane area. At 1615 hrs the following joint intrep was received from Warthog/Eland:-" height finder on freq 2608 MHZ identified on 5 fixes as being 2ks west of Mapai or immediate area. Also a radar operating on 9377 MHZ PAF 398, P/width 2 dec 4. This is in low blow SAM 3 missile radar overflying Mozambique because of changing bearings on signals. Low range radar lost contact with us 40kms west of Buffalo Range F110 and we finally lost signal overhead Fort Vic. No flatface radar on 855 dec 5 from Mapai picked up." With their vulnerable aircraft at stake news of radar at Malvernia and possibly Mapai caused a few furrowed brows among the airmen. All mining tasks were completed by nightfall, and it still appeared that admin base Oscar Bravo was uncompromised as, clearly confused and unaware of the enemy's intentions, Mapai ordered all stations to be on the alert and ready to react.
By now meteorological indications were that
by Wednesday (5th) the weather would clear. If so that day was to be
D-Day with this in mind the revised attack plans would be as follows:-
First 4 hunters would Golf Bomb barragem (N.B. golf bombs were a
Rhodesian invention with the appearance of a gas cylinder one and a
half meters high and weighing 460 kilos; this percussion bomb contained
amatol which was detonated by a tube one metre long at the nose of the
cylinder which struck the ground first. On detonation the casing burst
into over, 80,000 fragments lethal at 60 meters with an accompanying
stun effect for a further 60. A Hunter could carry 2 golf bombs. There
was also a mini golf bomb of 80 kilos for light aircraft such as lynx).
A top cover of 2 hunters and 2 lynx would be overhead minutes later
while the helicopters (12 Pumas and 6 Cheetahs) deployed the demolition
teams. At this time also 2 Dakotas with troops would be in reserve.
Hopefully all tasks would be completed by 15.30 hrs and all troops back
by 17.00 hrs.
The following day would be devoted to the destruction of Mapai - 6 Hunters would golf bomb the target at 0630 hrs followed by 6 Canberras with 1000/500 bombs. At the same time 2 hunters and 2 lynx, both armed, would maintain air reconnaissance in the target area to cause maximum disruption/harassment. 3 hours later the hunters, re-fuelled and re-armed, would re-strike the target. By now the defenders nerve would be broken and they would begin to abandon the base and scatter. In this expectation the Rhodesians were to set up a ring of ambushes on all access routes around the base in the hope that the fleeing enemy would run into them thereby achieving a good kill rate. For this, 192 ground troops (SAS and RLI) would be deployed in 12 Pumas and 6 Cheetahs. With the benefit of hindsight had this plan been retained this is exactly what would have happened. However, the decision to change the ambushing force into an attacking force was made later, for a number of different reasons, and, without plunging pen into dispute, I must record here that it is around this decision that controversy over Uric is centered.
4 September 1979 (D-Day - 1)
Admin Box Oscar Bravo continued to be supplied by para drops. The RLI mine laying teams were again deployed on the crossroads area (Chigumane/Chigubo) and on the Southern power lines as air recce indicated that these areas were possibly used by vehicles. An intercept from baragem reported a faulty SAM 7 missile at Chibuto followed by a request for a replacement; as this was near the bridge targets all Rhodesian air crews were alerted and briefed. Mapai ordered the commander at Mabalane to load 21 trucks and to search for and be ready to attack the enemy. - Obviously not trying too hard this special group later reported lack of success along with a request for fuel and food- by now it was obvious to the planners that the enemy was searching for the Rhodesians.
5 September 1979 (D-Day) Blowing the Bridges
The day dawned clear the cloud base having lifted. Uric was on at Oscar Alpha the air was filled with suppressed excitement along with the familiar low pitched whine of the helicopters as the air crews checked their machines in preparation to uplift the demolition terms from the admin box. At that precise time heading for the well camouflaged admin box was, unfortunately for them, a platoon of 25 F.P.L.M. whose commander (it later transpired) had been doing his best to avoid the Rhodesians. Fate, however, marched him straight on to the position from were a suitably deployed RLI call sign under major Pete Farndell had been watching them for sometime. As the doomed men approached the killing ground SAS major Paul Simmonds quickly radiod base (O.A.) to hold back the choppers. Then, with deadly Rhodesian accuracy the call sign opened fire and, in what must have been an incredibly brief and bloody firefight, and in which the totally surprised F.P.L.M. never stood a chance, 23 were killed outright and one wounded and captured - one however miraculously escaped to raise the alarm. Major Farndell, the only Rhodesian casualty was wounded in the leg and casevacked. Though this unexpected contact delayed the uplift of the demolitions teams the airstrike on Barragem was dead on time. Shrieking in, the 4 hunters heading the attack struck the enemy defensive positions with direct hits on weapons, buildings (2 barrack blocks) and all transport in the face of an intense enemy anti aircraft barrage. 2 lynxes then arrived over the target and began to direct the 48 SAS troops who had been dropped off a kilometre from Barragem their helicopters heading back to a safer holding area. Rapidly the SAS then began to fight forward through the enemy defences and in the face of heavy machine gun fire; luckily they managed to capture two 23 mm A.A. guns and turned one on the enemy on both sides of the river and began quelling pockets of enemy resistance. During the initial fight through one SAS man sustained a leg would and a casevac was requested. In the heat of battle the incoming chopper, a Huey, piloted by Fl.Lt. Dick Paxton was misdirected and found itself hovering above a Frelimo position. Suddenly aware of the error Paxton pulled away but it was too late. There was a whoosh and an explosion above his head as an RPG7 rocket struck and served the main rotor below the blades and with a sickening lurch the chopper fell to earth in a cloud of dust killing the technician Alexander Wesson on impact. With a broken arm, the stunned Paxton was trapped in the cabin as the Huey now erupted into flames. Seeing this, SAS sergeant 'Flash' Smythe immediately raced up and pulled Paxton out thereby saving his life. Smythe never received official recognition for the heroic act.
On the Barragem bridges 20 KG charges were being set up and placed in position a task that took 5 hours. During that time a call sign under Joey on Ploy had a good time taking the town itself shooting up vehicles and blowing up 2 power stations and making the interesting capture of a Bulgarian water engineer from Sofia who expressed extreme displeasure at being caught! At the other 4 targets, the demolitions teams, unopposed, completed their tasks and destroyed their bridges by 16.30 hrs. As these went up the reliable Warthog now gave the following disturbing intrep:- "At 1627 radar on Freq 2618 MHZ (height finder) identified a D/F position indicated between Mapai and Malvernia. It is now locked on us. Our position 55ks west of Mapai. This could be the one we found on 3 September but Freqs apart." with radar at Mapai tomorrows actions would have to be carefully co-ordinated.
Meanwhile, at Mapai bad news was pouring in from all sides and one can only guess at the chaos in the enemy communications centre. Consternation first began when Mabalane reported two jets over their location flying North South then Vice Versa. Minutes later the operator at Xai-Xai informed Mapai that the enemy was attacking Chibuto by the bridge on the road to Canigado and had burnt out a truck. The bridge was also reported destroyed. (The Gaza brigade commander was in Xai-Xai at this time. One wonders how this individual managed to absent himself from his HQ at Mapai at such a vital time and place himself as far away from conflict as possible. Many Rhodesians will remember Xai-Xai as a very picturesque coastal resort.) Referring to the Mazimuchape demolitions team, Moamba reported that the area was still being overflown and that the enemy was spread out in the zone 40 ks from Magude. Mapai then ordered Mabalane to deploy a company/section against the enemy in the Chihibuto area then, surely confused, it ordered Barragem to assist Chibuto though how this could be done was baffling as round about this time the garrison at Barragem was fighting for its life!
Once Barragem was taken the charges were set and Rhodesian foremost demolition expert captain Charlie Small blew the bridge - both Du Ploy and Small were tragically killed on the following day. In the fast fading light the demolition team was uplifted before being able to ascertain the damage. In the event while the rail line was cut, 2 spans having gone down and a sluice gate damaged, the road bridge itself with 2 spans sagging was not completely destroyed and light vehicles were able to use it. This was not the fault of the demolition team as it was later revealed that the builders of the bridge had, at the time of construction, doubled the amount of building mix on this section.
By 18.00 hrs all demolition teams were back at the admin base not dissatisfied with the days work though subdued by the death of Alexander Wesson. The Air Force was of course concerned about tomorrows ops with regard to the enemy radar.
At 20.00 hrs the survivors at Barragem sent a formal message to the Bde commander at Xai-Xai informing him of the attack and that the bridge was destroyed. Unable to cope they requested reinforcements. Minutes later they contacted Maputo with the same story and asked for infantry and A.A.guns. At about 20.50 hrs they gave out that they had suffered 6 dead and a number of undisclosed wounded. They also reported shooting down a helicopter and killing two of the enemy. Two hours earlier Maxaila reported bombing by 4 Rhodesian jets and requested medical supplies for 4 casualties. At about this time Pafuri came on the air informing all stations that the enemy had mined the road and that seven mines had been discovered.
6 September 1979 (D-Day +1) - The fight at Mapai
Despite the previous day's lesson at Barragem the defenders at Mapai where, unbelievably, caught completely by surprise when the hunters hit at 06.35. Many were on muster, others were eating or washing. 22 were killed outright and 32 wounded. The strike demolished the communications and command centre and blew up a small armoury. Racing up to their defensive positions the enemy were ready when the jets struck again destroying the main fuel dump and, thankfully, the main radar station along with an A.A. gun position. In return they were welcomed by intense ground fire from a ring of some 20 medium calibre A.A. guns but got away unscathed. The destruction of the radar station was of immediate relief to the airmen who were now maintaining air surveillance over Mapai which is in an area of Mocambique where, apart from the odd isolated Kopje, the ground is almost flat and thick Jesse Bush. With the temperature in the nineties the helicopter borne troops were on their way to the target area. From now on bad luck dogged the operations.
En route one Huey was forced to put down in a pan due to severe engine vibrations. The remainder, continuing on to Mapai, suddenly overflew a big enemy camp spread over a large area when one of the Pumas, Hotel Four, was hit by an R.P.G.7 as it headed for it's dropping zone. The result was the worst single disaster of the Rhodesian war. The rocket struck the aircraft behind the pilots seat and exploded killing all 14 aboard. Forced into a downward spin the helicopter hit the ground and burst into flames. Army call signs dispatched to the crash site found the aircraft totally destroyed the largest pieces being the turbines; they also found the 14 bodies of their comrades and arranged for their recovery when safe to do so after the taking of Mapai. Sadly this proved impossible.
The troops were put down on their planned LZs with the choppers returning immediately to admin base to refuel. The nine Russian advisors in Mapai whose unoccupied bunker had been demolished by the hunter strike now took the opportunity to take the proverbial gap as it was no part of their brief to get involved in any fighting. The ground forces now moving on Mapai were making slow progress due to mortar and A.A. fire. 4 Hunters then put in a strike on 3 A.A. gun positions and appeared to score hits but A.A. fire was now coming up all round the area.
Advancing on Mapai the Rhodesians began to notice a trench complex with shelters and cooking positions. Crossing the road before the complex they shook out into extended line for the assault, as they went into a sandal wood where 'A' Sqn walked past a FPLM in a tree platform acting as early warning. A member of 'B' Sqn made no such error and shot him out of the tree. As he toppled down it was noticed that everything he wore was brand new even down to his pistol and binoculars. It was the first of a few such devices. Through the sandal wood the troops now came up against 2 Kilometres of Russia designed inter connecting zig-zag trenches. Call sign 11 noticed heads bobbing up and down along the trench line and movement from left to right. Heavy firing now broke out and the contact started. The surprised Rhodesians now found that, contrary to all plans and expectations, the enemy had not evacuated the base and fled as anticipated. Instead they were here and, from a very good defensive position were offering battle as never before. Even the hardened veterans amongst the troops admitted later that they had never been under such intense fire from small arms, mortars and recoilless rifles. Having previously set the grass alight 30 FPLM now had call signs 14,13, 19 and 11 pinned down along with 'A' Sqn's mortars. 'A' Sqn itself was being engaged by two machine guns and were pinned down for 5 to 10 minutes. Then moving away, the enemy occupied a large trench system on the Rhodesian left flank. 'A' Sqn's mortars, now free, began to fire their 60mm mortaring the enemy position as call sign 14 was still pinned down. This merely drew more fire. Indicating the enemy position by 60mm smoke bomb the Rhodesians called in a Hunter strike. Using their 30mm cannon the Hunters duly 'Stoncked' the FPLM position drawing a terrific amount of A.A. fire from at least 6 to 8 gun positions. The strike had no effect.
The local commander of Mapai, using a mobile means, was peaking urgently with Maputo and his Bde commander at Xai-Xai:- "General, chief of staff ground forces, and all command commanders. From 06.30 hrs until now there is combat at Bde HQ both by air and airborne troops. There are dead and wounded. Up till now the same situation continues. The same as in Chocue and Aldeia de Barragem".
In the orbiting command Dak a no less anxious General Walls was assessing the unexpected turn of events following on the tragic loss of 17 of his very fine troops and an irreplaceable helicopter.
On the ground, his lightly armed men now began the dirty and deadly business of trench clearing. Call sign 11 moved into the trench line to the immediate front of the sweep line while 'C' Sqn occupied the left side. 2 members of 'A' Sqn already in the trench could see 7 FPLM firing at them from across a zig-zag line of trenches; when they returned fire the enemy moved away in the Northward direction where they were seen by call sign 19. The 2 'A' Sqn men now heard A.A. fire to their front while 3 other members of the Sqn moved along the trench line observing and firing as they went along. This sort of fighting was being experienced by all the attackers and contacts now began to occur at point blank range. Clearing some 200 metres of zig-zag to the front the troops saw firing positions which had all been used judging by the blankets boots, clothing, wter bottles and empty magazines lying about. They also saw 2 cooking position and an O.P. a very alarming development now occurred, the troops, having cleared an area, would suddenly find the enemy popping up behind them due to the intricate criss-cross pattern of the trenches. This caused the attack to falter and come to a virtual standstill as the troops were now having to contend with enemy to the front and rear. In the exhausting heat the SAS, faces caked with filth and pouring sweat called out to the FPLM to surrender but in reply were sworn at in Portuguese. Then hearing voices to the North they made ready to attack. 3 FPLM now crept up on call sign 11 and showed themselves then ducked down only to pop up again complete with RPG 7 with which they rocketed the call sign but fortunately missed.
As this was going on General
Walls was coming to a swift and unenviable decision. Though outnumbered
his troops outmatched the enemy and he knew they could take Mapai
through sheer infantry skill and fighting spirit. What he was not
prepared to accept were the inevitable casualties victory would cost.
Accordingly he gave the order for the troops to withdraw back to the
LZs for uplift back to base.
In a Lynx above the battle directing the troops was Lt Dave Padbury who relayed the general's orders with mixed feelings.
Richard Wood's B2 file P16- In an interview on 18 February 1988 Padbury told Wood: The reason for the pull-out was that it was getting late and the troops in the ground did not want to stay through the night if the position was not taken. There was, he says, acute sensitivity to the amount of recent casualties and Comops did not want to damage public morale. That day the Puma Hotel 4 had been shot down and there was no desire to lose men unnecessarily. General Walls in the command dak took the decision against the feelings of Padbury who was in a Lynx above the battle and taking on the spot' decisions, and Padbury was right as it turns out because a high level Canberra attack, using the resources allocated for target 19, broke the FPLM nerve. A defector from Malvernia a few weeks later would reveal that the FPLM in the trench network were prepared to stay and fight it out until the Canberra airstrike. They pulled out en masse from the trenches and ran to a pre-arranged R.V. on the railway line and did not return until 2 days later.
The troops now pulled out of Mapai and began
a weary walk through the thick busy back to the LZS some eight
kilometres North West of Mapai, and although there was no F.P.L.M.
patrolling activity the helicopters, having uplifted all the call signs
and speeding back to base at tree top level, were, to their horror, met
by a hail of harrowing fire from a FPLM reception committee awaiting
them with RPG7, small arms and 23mm and 12.7mm machine guns as they
burst into the open over the Maxaila Road. Only their speed saved them.
Meanwhile the remains of the wrecked helicopter was golf bombed in a
vain effort to destroy any S.A. Markings.
6 Canberras, at high bombing lever (over 20 00ft) dropped the final bomb load on Mapai turned, about and headed for base totally unaware that they were the 'final straw' that broke the enemy at Mapai.
With the withdrawal from Mapai and the compromise of the admin box OP URIC was terminated.
OP URIC along with OP miracle at Chimoio (28 Sept - 1 Oct 1979) were the last large external operations of the war. In both of these the Rhodesians underestimated the enemy. Although never put to the final test, it was becoming obvious that the under equipped Rhodesians with their obsolete weapons and aircraft would eventually become technologically inferior to the enemy E.G. there is no doubt that if Tanzania had unscrambled its Mig fighter bombers and joined in the fight the Rhodesian airforce would have come unstuck without South Africans help. Not only were Rodesian aircraft outdated there was also not enough of them - after an air strike the hunters required a turn about of over 3 hours to return to base to refuel and rearm before a restrike during this time the ground troops would be had pressed. The Canberras, bought in 1958, were positively prehistoric and well past their safe flying date. In fact, for fear of metal fatigue, they went at no more than 270 knots. In his autobiography Moshe Dayan makes this point very well. Israeli circumstances were not unlike Rhodesian I.E. A small country with a small efficient Army and Air force surrounded by more numerous and hostile neighbours "... we had never imagined that we could ever match the size of the Arsenals possessed by the Arab states. But we believed we could bridge the gap by the superior fighting capacity of our troops, so long as we could match the quality of their weapons. In modern warfare, however, the elements of range, speed and fire power in technologically advanced aircraft, naval vessels and armour can be so superior that inferior weapons are simply unable to stand up to them. For every rise in standards of an enemy's arms, there must be a minimum means of reply. Without it, no amount of courage can get the better of objective technical superiority. A brilliant pilot in a propeller aircraft has no change against mediocrity in a jet..."
By any analysis the Rhodesian performance during URIC is nothing short of heroic.- Here, some 400 men, deep in hostile enemy territory and under armed 'knocked hell' out of enemy economically (Barragem) and militarily (Mapai etc) and in the process killed over 25 of the enemy for each one of their own who fell. Politically it was also a success because Samora Machel had taken enough and, grabbing Robert Mugabe in a political armlock, he steered the unwilling and protesting Zanu leader to the conference table at Lancaster House.