Vlamgat: the story of the Mirage F1 in the South African Air Force
30° South Publishers
, Apr 30, 2009
- 316 pages
"Their hands are shaking ever so slightly. They will be flying again in the morning" Vlamgat, literally 'flaming hole' in Afrikaans, was the nickname the South African Air Force (SAAF) gave to the Mirage F1, its formidable frontline jet fighter during South Africa's long 'border wars' in South West Africa (Namibia) and Angola from the late 1960s to the late 1980s. Battling Soviet MiG-21s over African skies, the Vlammies, the Mirage pilots as they were affectionately known, acquitted themselves with distinction and honour. Vlamgat is a gripping account of these pilots and their deeds of bravery; their experiences are authentically related with accuracy, humour and pathos—by the author, himself a Vlammie. As Willem Hechter, former Chief of the SAAF, says: "Vlamgat deserves a place of pride in the long history of this, the second oldest air force in the world." Brigadier-General Dick Lord joined the Royal Navy as an air cadet in 1958, where he qualified as a fighter pilot. Flying Sea Venoms and Sea Vixens, he served on board the aircraft carriers Centaur, Victorious, Hermes and Ark Royal on cruises around the world. In the mid '60s, he was selected for a two-year exchange tour with the US Navy, flying A4 Skyhawks and F4 Phantoms out of San Diego, California. He completed tours of air warfare instruction, flying Hunters out of the naval air stations at Lossiemouth, Scotland and Brawdy, Wales. He returned to South Africa in early '70s and joined the South African Air Force (SAAF), flying Impalas, Sabres and Mirage IIIs. During the Border War, he commanded 1 Squadron, flying Mirage F1AZs into Angola, followed by running air force operations out of Oshikati, Windhoek and SAAF Headquarters in Pretoria. A highlight of his career was organizing the successful fly-past of 76 aircraft for Nelson Mandela's inauguration as President of South Africa in 1994.