A World War II-vintage C-47 versus a modern anti-aircraft missile

The South African Air Force Forum (a private forum not related to the SAAF itself) has published a very interesting thread about a SAAF C-47 transport of World War II vintage that was struck by a Soviet-made SA-7 missile in 1986.  Here’s an after-action picture of the damage.

The author relates:

In 1986, a Dakota while on a flight to Ondangwa at about 8000ft was hit with a SA-7 missile. The explosion ripped off most of his tail. To add additional pressure, the Dakota was full of military VIP passengers including the Chief of the Army.

[The pilot] slowed the Dak down to 100knots in order to keep it under control and called for help. There was a chopper in the area which formated on him and relayed the damage to him. The chopper also took the pic’s.

Apparently he ordered the passengers around to regulate the Centre of Gravity before going into land. Using flaps and power to control the pitch (up and down), he greased it onto the tarmac.

He was later awarded The Chief of the SADF Commendation for his exceptional flying skills.

There’s more at the link, including more (and larger) photographs, one showing the aircraft on its landing approach.  They make interesting viewing.

That was great flying, all right . . . but I think their survival had a lot to do with the basic strength of the C-47 airframe.  If that missile had hit a more modern aircraft of similar size like a Fokker F-27 Friendship, Hawker Siddeley HS 748, Bombardier Dash 8 or ATR 42, I suspect the results might have been tragic.  I’ve flown many thousands of miles in SAAF C-47’s, including one whose logbooks showed it to have dropped paratroopers during Operation Market Garden in 1944!  They built them tough in those days.



  1. There are two common threads in this recounting, and, without exception, they are prevalent in every account regarding the venerable Douglas DC-3, , DC-2 and a 1/2 (half), (you read me correctly),C-47, RD-3, and every other designation this Gooney Bird so incredibly deserved.
    The two threads are, in my humble opinion, a Pilot's Aeroplane, certainly, and, Pilots.
    Legend are the exploits of the DC-3, and her Pilots, far, far too many to tell here.
    Peter, you could have your month easily taken up with this bird, and her pilots tales.
    A hint. Berlin, The airlift. A british 'Dak' took sooo much runway on take-off, and landed like an aerodynamic anvil at Tempelhof, the cargo manifest said, 'P.A.P'. – 'Pieced Aluminum Planking', but it was a bit 'more', much more, than that.
    Only a 'Dak', and a 'Dak Pilot' could've bought THIS cargo in!.
    The rest is in your hands.
    S. Garfath.

  2. The only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3. It won't get you there fast, but it will get almost anything you can fit inside it almost anywhere under almost any conditions.


  3. May I make a few points? Capt. Green didn't move the self loading cargo around to adjust the C of G, he was adjusting the trim. With much of his elevator and its trim tab missing, Green and Moses had a lot of back pressure to maintain on the control column. Capt. Green did not use flaps to control the pitch. Any amount of flap would cause the nose to pitch down which would require more elevator input which he didn't have. He performed a flap-less landing and he also flew it onto the runway, not a normal power off landing. Can’t power on land today’s birds without the potential of arriving in the tooliebarbs off the end of the runway. Lastly, the crew were very lucky that the landing field was not further away because they were losing more of their rudder and elevator remnants the longer they flew because they are made of fabric not metal. Capt Green and Lt. Moses would have lost much fewer of their feathers had they been flying an all metal aircraft such as the F-27 or the HS-748, not that the Gooney Bird isn't tough but notice that the vertical and horizontal stabs have only a few holes while the elevator and rudder are shredded.

  4. I would also point out that, yes the airplane is very tough, but also that the SA-7 was not an especially powerful AA missile. Just saying.

  5. What I don't get is why you would want to slow down immediately after being hit by an AA Missile. The link didn't say much about why the plane was attacked.

  6. Don, you are quite right. The Strela-2 is not a very potent weapon and I think that the subject hit was a very lucky shot considering the IR output of a pair of P&W 1830's at 8000 ft.ASL but then you must consider that the terrain in the area is around 3500 ft.

    Form, it was during the Angolan civil war and they were pretty close on the way to Ondangwa which is in Namibia.They slowed down because they would like to be in control of the aircraft.



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *