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For a short overview of Operations Modular, Hooper and Packer, go HERE:

.For maps on Operation Modular, Hooper and Packer, go HERE:

The SADF responded to UNITA requests for assistance during the FAPLA offences of 1985, 1986 and 1987. Each year the assistance grew, and with the 1987 campaign culminated in a 3000-men strong SADF task force stopping the FAPLA/CUBAN advance on Mavinga and Jamba. Was it not for the SADF, UNITA would most likely have been crushed by the 1987 campaign. The SADF assistance remained limited and UNITA bore the brunt of the infantry requirements of the battles, and suffered the vast majority of losses in men and material on the SADF/UNITA side. Recognised by military experts of the time, the SADF was a formedable fighting force, well experienced in bush warfare, and it most cases defeated larger and better equipped forces on the battlefield. The FAPLA/CUBAN forces fought bravely under very difficult circumstances (poorly trained and led, low morale; but being equipped with the best eastern Bloc weapons. The last battles of the Bushwar are politically tainted and the web is
full of claims of victory from both sides. This page endevours to remove the political spin and reveal the truth from an a-political  military history perspective.

SADF troops listening to a speech by Genl. Jannie Geldenhuis after the Modular campaign. Due to the hot African summer some are wearing army T-shirts, and each appears to hold a certificate issued for participation in the campaign. Note again the long hair and beards.

SADF troops after Operation Modular. It is clear from the breads and long hair that the troops were in the veld for an extended time. On the left, next to the banner is Genl. Jannie Geldenhuis the then Chief of the Army. The banner reads: "Still Champions".

A SAMIL 100 10-ton truck specially kitted out as a mobile refreshment shop. ARMY shops were operated by SAWI - Suid Afrikaanse Weermag Industrie. These sold items such as cooldrinks, sigarettes, shoe polish, sweets, stationary, etc at a price reduced from normal commercial shops. The writer even bought a fridge at SAWI in Voortrekkerhoogte which is still going strong after 20 years!

A makeshift volleyball course in a bush base during Ops Modular. Easy to erect a volleyball cource and organise a game, volley ball was a favourate passtime.

After Ops Modular, some troops needed dental care, and a visit to the dentist tent is shown in this picture. Note the dentists "uniform", ideal for the hot African sun.

SADF troops demobilising after Operation Modular. Personal kit are being inspected and loaded on SAMIL 100 10-ton trucks returning to Namibia. Personal kit wewr carried in 1.2m long round duffel bags seen here, called "balsakke" in Afrikaans.

The SADF was a strict Protestant and very religious organisation, with prayers daily before meals, and on the parade ground. Other religions were allowed but as numbers were much smaller, these practised its religious activities seperately. Chaplans accompanied the troops on operations as this Chaplan's tent and chaplan (devil dodger!) with purple beret during Operation Modular depicts.

Lt's Gawie Combring and Martin Bremer with a brass bell taken from a FAPLA brigade during Ops Modular. On the bell is enscribed: "ANO SANTE DE 1950, it was broken out of a Portuguese colonial church by FAPLA. Many FAPLA brigades had such bells - it is speculated that it could have been used for signalling purposes..

SADF operational drivers posing in front of their vehicles during Ops Modular. Note the captured FAPLA caps and "Grensvegter'/"Rambo" pose! Often t-shirts were worn after being in the veld for a while and dicipline is wearing off. The long hair and beards are a further sign of being "ou manne" (veterans). The drivers had to negotiate 400kms of mostly off-road conditions through the bush and loose sandy soil to and from the battlefield and the SADF bases in Namibia.

SADF columns preparing its orderly withdrawal after the Modular campaign. The vehicles are still displaying the white operational numbering for vehicle identification and call signs. In the foreground are Ratel IFV's and Buffel MRV's are visible further back.

Support troops sorting magazines, newspapers and games for issue to the troops during Ops Modular. The logistical support, both operational and leasure as shown here, were stretched as the battlefield was 400kms from the SADF bases in Namibia.

Cpl Duncan Taylor with all his kit, ready to "klaar-out" (demob) after Operation Modular in December 1987. The 2 year natioanl Service cycle caused continuety problems for the SADF, as troops had to be rotated at the end of each year as the "ou manne' "klaared out", and the new intake of "rowers" (new recruits) commenced with National Service. After Ops Modular, Ops Hooper commenced with some PF members, but largely a new intake of National Service men.

A baby Blue Velvet monkey adopted as a pet during Ops Modular. Note the standard issue SADF cup with the SA National Crest . These cups were virtually unbreakable and survived army life well.
SADF soldiers shower during Ops Modular. An army issue mobile shower slung over the side of a SAMIL 100 transport truck. Being a highly mobile force, facilities remained rudementary. Location: the Echo Sqdn laager near Mavinga.


A SADF column moving to the front, passing burning veld. On the left are two Ratel IVC's and on the right is a open top Buffel mine resistant APC. Troops can be seen riding on the roofs of the Ratels. The dense vegetation is evident and contacts often occurred over very short distances. FAPLA tanks and Ratels often fired at each other over less than 150m.

5 Olifant tanks of Echo Sqn on the move in a southerly direction to the Vimpulo river area as part of 4 SAI's effort to cut off 21st FAPLA Brigade from its escape around the Vimpulo source. 21st Bde managed to escape but suffered some losses on the way by constant SADF long range artillery bombardment

A ratel 20mm ICV in the typical thickly wooded terrain of the campaign. The photo was taken during the summer months, hence the green vegetation.

A Ratel ICV passes an Olifant Tank on a dirt track during the campaign. The area was virtually without roads or development, and most of the fighting took place in the bush. The vehicles are camouflaged with fresh branches so it could dash for cover during the frequent "Victor-Victor" (vyandelike vliegtuig) "enemy planes" alerts. The Angolan airforce seldom located the SADF and bombing were mostly far off the target.

Training for the attack on the FAPLA 21st Bde, Ratel 90's of Charlie Sqn, 4 SAI Regt are seen here on 1 January 1988.

A SADF Kwevoel 10ton truck under cover during the campaign. The Kwevoel range of vehicles were mine and bullet proof; and the SADF only used softskin vehicles in the rear for logistical purposes - an expensive lesson being learned by US and UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan now 30 years later!

A Casspir of one of the Signal Intelligence units deployed in the Bush. With the assistance of Portuguese and Spanish speaking individuals and code cracking equipment, the SADF was able to listen in on all FAPLA radio communication.




With their tank in the background, and rifles on the stretchers, the picture shows the accomodation of a tank crew in the field near Cuito Cuanavale, 1988. The shelter is dug in to protect them from shrapnel in the event of an attack. Each soldier in the SADF carried a shelter sheet, and in this care 2 sheets have been clipped together to form the shelter. Bedding in the field normally consisted of only a sleeping bag, but it appears in this photo as is two foldable stretchers were used. Stretchers were normally reserved for senior officers.

The first FAPLA T55 to be shot out during Operation Modular.

Members from Echo Sqn near Mavinga, 6 November 1987, Ops Modular. The beards indicate the troops have been in the operational area for a while. Two of then are wearing FAPLA hats captured from the enemy.

Close-up of the kill markings on the ZT3 Ratel in the previous picture. The ZT3 were used in the open areas and over longer distances that the Ratel 90mm which often engaged enemy tanks and vehicles over very short distances in the bushy terrain.


Olifant Tank 51Bravo again! during the campaign, followed by 51 Alpha. Note the tank-unfriendly terrain. tank battles were sometimes fought over distances as small as 20 meters!

Tank killer! A Ratel ZT3 design as an anti-tank version of the very successful South African designed platform. This machine actualy took part in the campaign and was restored and are now on display at the Armour museum in Bloemfontein. During this campaign the SADF for the first time started using the 3-tone camauflage scheme for 32Bn vehicles as opposed the standard brown colour of SADF vehicles in other units. This Ratel has 3 kill markings on the side for shooting out 3 FAPLA T55 tanks.

24 October 1987, Major Andre Retief briefs SADF tankers for the first SADF tank action since WWII - the attack on 16 Bde on 9 November 1987. In keeping witha SADF tradition, the troops are growing beards when deployed in the field for long periods, and to be recognised as "ou manne" (veterans), as opposed to "rowers' (fresh intakes) with short hair and no facial hair. Vehicles are camauflaged under netting in the background.

Close-up of the mine roller in the previous picture.

WOII Jacques de Wet and S/Sgnt Spikkels Terblanche on a Olifant tank neat Cuito Cuanavale, 1988.


The Engineering bridge over the Cuito river with the armoured recovery vehicles of Foxtrot Sqn crossing on their way back to SWA (Namibia)





The menace that eventually contributed in stopping the SADF advance - anti tank minefields. In keeping with Soviet defensive strategy, FAPLA created two and sometimes three layers of deep antitank minefields interdespersed with anti personnel mines; once the FAPLA forces have retreated to the bridgehead on the eastern Bank of the Cuito river. Here, the front bogie wheel has been blown of by a mine, and the crew is contemplating how to fix it. The blown-off wheel and stub-axle can be seen in the picture.



3 Squadron lining up at its Namibian base in 1988 to withdraw to the RSA after the campaign. The first 3-man formation consisted of the Comandant, Major Dup and Anton; and the second formation consisted of Johan, Frans and Maj de Beer.

The SADF's answer to the FAPLA/CUBAN air threat during the campaign - the Cactus low level SAM system. Being the first mobile radar guided SAM system in the world, specially manufactured by the French for the SAAF, the system was outdated during the Cuito Cuanavale battles and although fired in anger on a few occations, did not affect any losses on the enemy. The vehicles were not suited for the African bush, and the system was withdrawn after a limited operational delpoyment. It had the advantage of keeping the Angolan MIGS at a higher altitude, adding to their already inefficient ground attacks.

The Cactus system consisted of 2 vehicles; a missile and guidance radar vehicle, and a seperate search radar vehicle - depicted above. Heavily camouflaged on the Chambinga Highgrounds, the AA system operated by the SAAF, once came under inaccurate BM-21 fire. These pictures were taken at the SAAF museum at Zwartkops AFB in 2007.






3 Squadron lining up at its Namibian base in 1988 to withdraw to the RSA after the campaign. The first 3-man formation consisted of the Comandant, Major Dup and Anton; and the second formation consisted of Johan, Frans and Maj de Beer.