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 Post subject: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 09:31 
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I have often wondered about the nuclear role that the SAAF undertook. Would anyone be able
to fill in the details?

The interesting thing for me is that they say that the Nuke role was fulfilled by the Canberra
and in many senses that would be logical, however what I have found a little strange is that
there is no mention of the Mirage III E which did fulfill a nuclear strike role in French Air Force
service with the AN-52 bomb. The SAAF then bought a number of 3E's direct from the AdA
and I would assume they had the capability for nuclear delivery.

The Mirage IIIE in SAAF service I find a little strange. In a sense it did not seem to have
the longevity of the other types being relegated to a training role fairly quickly and its
service on the border seems to have been very limited with the Mirage IIIC's being the domiant
role players, while the more advanced 3E's being relegated to the training role at 85 and
then I think 89 CFS. Was this aircraft the real delivery vechile for SA's nuclear strike force and
it was being hidden in plain sight at Pietersburg or is the answer more prosaic.

Any ideas?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Afri ... estruction


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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 09:55 
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I think the main airborne nuke delivery platform was to be the Buccaneer and I think at least one was modified to carry a nuclear bomb.


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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 10:20 
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Dean wrote:
I think the main airborne nuke delivery platform was to be the Buccaneer and I think at least one was modified to carry a nuclear bomb.

That is the information I have too.

The RAF also had their Buccaneers fitted out to carry the nuclear bomb. The Buccaneer as a delivery platform had distinct advantages over the Mirage III.

- Twin engined
- Large internal bomb bay as opposed to Mirage's external points
- Buccaneer was a dedicated all weather strike aircraft

The British nuclear deterrant was removed from an airborne capability to a submarine launched system in the 1960's.

But you know, some detail will never be known regarding the SA bombs ....

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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 10:38 
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South Africa's nuclear capability - fact or fiction?
In the mid 80's a suspicious 'blip' on the nuclear warning network of the United States caused the world to put South Africa under the microscope again. The US said they picked up a nuclear explosion just of the west coast of South Africa. This was denied by South Africa and argued the suspicious 'blip' must be a technical system error. Since then no other 'blips' been reported and South Africa's nuclear enrichment plant was declared to world standard, when the new Government of National Unity came to power. But the armchair aviators and strategists had a field day - one aspect they all agreed on was the only SAAF aircraft, capable of such a delivery was the Buccaneer. The original 'blip' - fact or fiction - we will never know......

From the IPMS SA Article on the Buccaneer:

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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 11:02 
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Thanks for the replies guys - what then do you suppose the role of the Mirage IIIE was?
And why was it's frontline service so protracted?


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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 11:45 
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The blip on the spy satelite was the so-called "VELA" incident in the South-Atlantic. Suspected low kiloton nuclear explosion. I think they would more likely have used the RSA 3/Jerico IRBM than the Bucc. for delivery.


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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 12:06 
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From what I have gathered from my brother SAAF pilot 15 and 19 Sqn and my cousin SAAF Navigator 24 Sqn. the Bucanneer was to be used as the delivery vehicle for a nuke strike.

The latter is rumoured to be either the person with the most hours on Buccaneers or in the top three. He was the project officer on the cluster bomb and some other things that fall off aircraft. I used to be chased out the room when photos of these things and their blast footprints etc came out as the were TOP SECRET etc


Last edited by W407594F on 08 Aug 2011, 12:29, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 12:23 
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gripen1 wrote:
The blip on the spy satelite was the so-called "VELA" incident in the South-Atlantic


One wonders why this persists in being referred to as being in the Atlantic? The position given was 90 nm east (099 degrees) off Marion Island. This would have been 1005 nm from East London (the nearest airfield) as the Buccaneer flies and would have required several in-flight refuellings. No missiles existed in South Africa in September 1979 capable of delivering the 1 ton nuclear warhead to the range of 1200 nm if fired from Overberg. Probably no serviceable warhead existed either at that time. The first truly useable weapon was only assembled in 1981. The low yield given (2 Kt) would not have been possible with a crude gun-type weapon such as what we had. I wonder why people believe that it takes a special aircraft to drop a nuclear warhead? Buccaneers were developed with the special purpose of delivering buckets of sunshine to Sverdlov class cruisers. But apart from a few extra electronic boxes fitted when a nuclear weapon was carried they differed in no way from other bombers. But anything that will carry the weight, and if one can have a nuclear 155mm shell of less than 120kg, then a Cessna taildragger could do the job!

BTW I also saw persuasive evidence that the Canberra would be the first choice aircraft in the nuclear role for the SAAF. High level bombing would give better safety to the aircraft and a Bucc does not perform well at high level. In the RN nuclear role they would have toss-bombed from 15 miles away to give the aircraft a better chance of survivability.


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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 12:35 
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The subject of the Mirage IIIEZ is one that also facinates me but from what I understand there is a fairly simple explanation.

Due to better range and more powerful engine, the EZ's were earmarked for upgrade to Cheetah E standard (Hence the "E" for example) along with the and DZ/D2Z's which also became Cheetahs.

This meant that they had to be withdrawn from service for the re-build.

As the Cheetahs started coming into service around 1986 or so, they would have been taken out of service some time before that.

That left the Mirage IIICZ's to soldier on alongside the Mirage F1AZ's and CZ's.

I am sure that the SAAF would have preferred the EZ over the CZ in the strike / fighter role in Angola due to the better range, attack systems etc but their options were limited as explained above.

C'mon...whose got some great photos of the SAAF Mirage IIIEZ's for us to drool over? :roll:


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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 12:37 
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60sqdnSAAF wrote:
Thanks for the replies guys - what then do you suppose the role of the Mirage IIIE was?
And why was it's frontline service so protracted?

If I may indulge in some lateral thinking, here are my thoughts:-

- SAAF wanted / needed a Plan B as it were, in case the Buccaneers became unserviceable
- Mirgae IIIE provided some capability as regards successful delivery of a low intensity tactical nuclear weapon
- See extracts below from Wikipedia on which I base my thoughts
Quote:
Dassault was also considering a multirole/strike variant of the aircraft, which eventually materialized as the Mirage IIIE.

Mirage IIIE Single-seat all-weather fighter-bomber, strike aircraft, powered by an 60.80 kN (13,668-lb) thrust Atar 9C-3 turbojet engine, fitted with a Cyrano II radar and a avionics bay behind the cockpit, equipped with a Doppler radar and a TACAN navigation system;
Remember we are talking the late 1960's and early 1970's here in terms of SAAF acquisitions from those willing to supply.

As it happened the Buccaneers served the SAAF very well ....

I don't think we will ever know the 'fine print' about the SA bomb - some things were better left in the old South Africa.

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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 12:45 
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Eugene wrote:
gripen1 wrote:
The blip on the spy satelite was the so-called "VELA" incident in the South-Atlantic


One wonders why this persists in being referred to as being in the Atlantic? The position given was 90 nm east (099 degrees) off Marion Island. This would have been 1005 nm from East London (the nearest airfield) as the Buccaneer flies and would have required several in-flight refuellings. No missiles existed in South Africa in September 1979 capable of delivering the 1 ton nuclear warhead to the range of 1200 nm if fired from Overberg. Probably no serviceable warhead existed either at that time. The first truly useable weapon was only assembled in 1981. The low yield given (2 Kt) would not have been possible with a crude gun-type weapon such as what we had. I wonder why people believe that it takes a special aircraft to drop a nuclear warhead? Buccaneers were developed with the special purpose of delivering buckets of sunshine to Sverdlov class cruisers. But apart from a few extra electronic boxes fitted when a nuclear weapon was carried they differed in no way from other bombers. But anything that will carry the weight, and if one can have a nuclear 155mm shell of less than 120kg, then a Cessna taildragger could do the job!

BTW I also saw persuasive evidence that the Canberra would be the first choice aircraft in the nuclear role for the SAAF. High level bombing would give better safety to the aircraft and a Bucc does not perform well at high level. In the RN nuclear role they would have toss-bombed from 15 miles away to give the aircraft a better chance of survivability.


You are probably correct on the location of the suspected detonation.

On the delivery platform: Why risk and aircraft/pilot when they can use a missile from a stand-off range. Maybe they wanted a mix. I think by the late 80's or early 90's the RSA 4 was in development and would have given South Africa global ICBM nuclear strike capability. South Africa would have then walked with a Big Stick as they say. I think RSA 3 was a theatre/tacticle missle.


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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 12:56 
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gripen1 wrote:
I think they would more likely have used the RSA 3/Jerico IRBM than the Bucc. for delivery.

Factors that may have determined this are:-

- Distance and destination
- Complete accuracy from the vehicle's (Aircraft or Missile) navigation / guidance system
- Reliability and readiness of delivery system

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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 13:45 
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gripen1 wrote:
On the delivery platform: Why risk and aircraft/pilot when they can use a missile from a stand-off range.


Well yes - but back when the first bomb was ready the missile was at least a decade in the future and it would have been rather silly to have nukes and nothing to deliver them. I seem to recall being told that there were issues with the shape of the local bomb that would have made toss-bombing difficult and something about the Buccaneer's bomb bay needing a mod to carry it. Also the Bucc was too valuable a strike aircraft in the bush war to withdraw it for this role. (We only had 5). By the time the missile was to be ready the plan was to redevelop the bomb (and enhance it) to a much smaller size that the missile could live with. As has been said elsewhere - there is a lot that will probably never be known and a lot of what is bandied about is pure speculation. But I did have a relative who worked on the missile down at Arniston (still very tight-lipped about it) and had something to do with the SAAF program as well (as an ARMSCOR employee). A little of what he has told me seems verifiable - or should I say plausible?


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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 14:56 
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I have always wondered if the USSR did not colapse how different things would be now.

For instance: If South Africa ultimately developed a thermonuclear weapon and fielded the RSA 3/4, how would things changed in our region. We would have had a enormouse bargaining chip at the negotiation table. On the other hand it might have started a arms race in the region with the USSR deploying nuclear missiles to it's surrogate frontline states (Angola, Zim etc...) I'm thinking of the Cuban missile crisis right here on our door step.

My 5c...


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 Post subject: Re: SAAF Nuclear Role
PostPosted: 08 Aug 2011, 17:04 
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gripen1 wrote:
I have always wondered if the USSR did not colapse how different things would be now.

For instance: If South Africa ultimately developed a thermonuclear weapon and fielded the RSA 3/4, how would things changed in our region. We would have had a enormouse bargaining chip at the negotiation table. On the other hand it might have started a arms race in the region with the USSR deploying nuclear missiles to it's surrogate frontline states (Angola, Zim etc...) I'm thinking of the Cuban missile crisis right here on our door step.

My 5c...


I should imagine we'd have been in dire financial dwang. One of the salient points about irregular warfare is that it costs the defence unimaginable amounts of cash, loss of productivity and slow psychological disillusionment while it costs the attackers very little. While one side has to defend everywhere all the time the other can make high-profile attacks when and where it chooses, creating the image of a much larger and more effective force than it really is. At least in the public mind. Eventually one side bleeds to death financially. Owning nuclear weapons is, and has been for a long time, a dead-end street. Only the very rich can afford a credible nuclear force and cannot envisage a scenario which would cause them to use the things and come out on top. Any little sideshow country with a few warheads would be flat and glowing in the dark if it tried to threaten the big boys. Israel owns many thermo-nukes (perhaps as many as China) and the means to deliver them over a wide area. Maybe anywhere in the world looking at their satellite capabilities. Has had nukes since 1973. Has it brought any advantage?


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