It’s a bittersweet feeling . . .

Two Russian Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers are paying an official visit to South Africa at present.  They landed at Waterkloof Air Force Base near Pretoria yesterday.  Here’s video of one of them on final approach, escorted by two South African Air Force Hawk trainer aircraft.  I know the area where the photographer was standing very well;  I’ve stood there myself more than once, watching aircraft arriving and departing.

It was a bittersweet sort of feeling for me to watch that video, for two reasons.

The first is that, back in the days of my active military service, any such Russian (i.e. Soviet) aircraft showing up within striking distance of South Africa would have been attacked with everything the South African Air Force had at its disposal.  I wonder how many ex-servicemen living in the vicinity of Waterkloof felt their fingers itching for a man-portable air defense missile as they watched that bomber fly overhead?  I did, even in Texas, thousands of miles away.

The second is that in my day, during the Border War, the South African Air Force was the most powerful in sub-Saharan Africa, by a very long way.  It had scores of supersonic fighters and strike aircraft, and a rich history of combat success.  Today . . . not so much.  It doesn’t have enough pilots for its relatively few allegedly “operational” Saab Gripen fighters, and even if it did, it doesn’t have enough technicians and mechanics to maintain them properly, and it can’t afford the spare parts.  The visiting Russian bombers had to be escorted by training aircraft, because the SAAF couldn’t muster even a couple of proper fighters for the job!  It’s a terrible reflection of how the South African Defense Force in general, once the best in Africa, has become a pitiful shadow of its former self, and a sour, acid joke to those of us who knew it in its heyday.

Like I said . . . bittersweet.



  1. I'm surprised that the Tupolev's could make it to South Africa. They have maintenance issues of their own in the Russian Air Force. I can't help but believe that a transport aircraft with maintenance crews didn't come along with the bombers.

    South Africa under white rule was a force to be reckoned with. It's army was renowned for courage, bravery and professional acumen. It was a credit to the nation that it served. Politics took hold and entropy became the rule rather than the exception. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

  2. Fear not, the USA is following that example. Billions are spent on 'transformative' boondoggles, while basics are ignored. Our current president has tried to turn this around, but 'tis only a respite, not a real change.

  3. As an outside observer, it's immediately clear SA was better off under apartheid. It's too bad the native population of Africa can't get its crap together and make a functional running society. If the US wants to give amnesty, it should be to all the whites in Africa being persecuted.

  4. SA has gone full communist, as I understand. Prince Harry and is lovely American bride want to live there, apparently. SA has no potable water, caused by extreme mismanagement. A beautiful country gone sour. Why am I not taken aback. What's a few Russki bombers?

  5. It's not the Same. African military you served, Peter. The enemy won, in the end. And the world cheered… The bastards.

  6. As bad as it in in SA, it's worse still in Rhodesia.

    There are a lot of politicians who have much to answer for. Unfortunately, most are beyond our reach.

  7. Today's South Africa faces no military threat. Better if the SAAF was carefully reduced, rather than being a paper threat. I would not be surprised to find that a large portion of the current budget finds its way into the pockets of ANC, rather than procuring needed training and supplies.

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