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 Post subject: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2011, 11:21 
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I have been following this forum for quite some time now and decided it is time to join in the discussions. I thought that I shall start off by sharing some of my own personal knowledge of the SAAF gained while serving as a conscript with the erstwhile (250) Air Defence Artillery Group (ADAG) between 1979 and 1988. I am writing mostly from memory, so please excuse any mistakes.

250 ADAG consisted initially out of 120 Squadron (Cactus SAM), 121 Squadron (Hilda SAM), 123 Squadron (SZU 23 mm Anti Aircraft Guns) and 124 Squadron (Hilda SAM). The Group also had a SAM 8 captured in Angola, but it was not in active use. 250 ADAG was established in 1973 and based at AFB Pienaarsrivier (today the Ditholo Training Centre) near Hammanskraal after it moved from AFB Waterkloof in 1977. However, 120 Squadron remained based at AFB Waterkloof until 1982 or ’83. Technical support (mostly Atlas personnel, but also SAAF members) was supplied from 4 Air Depot at AFB Snake Valley. Cactus training took place at Pienaarsrivier from 1979.

AFB Pienaarsrivier was initially a very rudimentary base located on a former farm, hence its nickname Die Plaas (The Farm). The place initially more resembled a temporary army base in the Operational Area of the then South West Africa than an Air Force base for sophisticated weaponry. In fact, we once acted for a photo shoot for some or other military publication of a “Border Camp”. For the first couple of years airmen stayed in old World War 2 tents and went to the toilet on open air facilities. A hot shower was a luxury and was taken in a shower trailer, but sometimes we had to wash ourselves under a cold water tap. Clothes were washed in a black dustbin. Single officers and single PF NCO’s stayed in old farm dwellings elsewhere on the farm however. Married NCO’s stayed in defence force accommodation in Pretoria. The mess was an unplastered cement block building with poor ventilation. I don’t think the building conformed to any building regulations. Windstorms regularly blown the tents apart and left everything under a layer of red dust. The “oumanne” (conscripts in their second year) were then employed as builders to construct prefabricated bungalows and an ablution block, which were completed round about 1982. From Google Earth (25d19’43.68”S; 28d19’04.80”E) it looks like if base was subsequently totally rebuilt. The footprints of the old prefabricated bungalows and hangers are only still vaguely visible.

Life at Die Plaas in the 1970/80’s was rough and tough indeed. The place was basically run by conscript Corporals and 2nd Lieutenants, certainly after hours when a lot of “rondfok” took place, and a few Permanent Force NCO’s and junior officers during working hours. The sight of a senior officer was a rare occasion and they almost had royal status to us. National Servicemen doing their basic training at the Air Force Gymnasium feared a placement to 250 ADAG, but once you survived the initial ordeal you were quite proud to be from 250.

I was fortunate to make selection for the Cactus system and served my second year as a National Serviceman at AFB Waterkloof. Life at Waterkloof was much better and even sometimes enjoyable for us conscripts. If memory serves me right the squadron was made up of 2 flights, each made up of 2 batteries. A battery consisted of an Acquisition Unit (AU) and 2 Firing Units (FU), which carried 4 missiles each. An AU was manned by an officer/commander (which would usually be a 2nd Lieutenant conscript during my time), but all ranks were trained and qualified to operate AU’s. The AU operator was assisted by a Lance Corporal or Airman, who sometimes manned an OPU, an auxiliary optical aircraft tracking device (basically a pair of binocular on a tripod linked to the FU with a data cable). FU’s were mostly manned by a conscript Lance Corporals (occasionally also PF Corporals or Sergeants). In practice a battery would normally be manned by 8 operators to make provision for relieve shifts. Permanent Force members mainly occupied the senior positions, e.g. Commanding Officer, Squadron Sergeant Major, Adjutant, Ops Officer, etc. During the late 1970’s and early 80’s all the Squadron OC’s were Captains. Come to think of it, it is quite astonishing that fairly sophisticated and expensive weaponry were basically operated solely by 18/19 year old conscripts with no real interest in military matters or a desire to be in the Air Force, all under the command of a junior officer. It is probably indicative of the size of the squadron: only 9 officers (5 of which were 2nd Lt conscripts) and 21 NCO’s (12 of which were L-Cpl conscripts). Only the Group OC was a senior officer. It was only in the late 1990’s when 120 Squadron was finally commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel. The squadron also had a lot of support vehicles, mostly Land Rovers, Bedfords and Unimogs, which needed constant maintenance. We did a fair amount of driving around, which was off course never a problem for young men eager to proof their driving skills with a Unimog. The Unimogs were used as missile supply vehicles and had flat beds with a rack for 4 missiles and a hoist to load and unload the missiles.

From what I can recall the SAAF had 8 AU’s and 16 FU’s, which were enough units to actually make up two squadrons. I think a number of units were kept in storage at AFB Snake Valley. The second squadron was established as part of 252 Air Defence Artillery Wing. Going on my old Citizen Force call-up papers, the 250 prefix of the ADAG was dropped round about 1986 and 252 Air Defence Artillery Wing established as a predominantly Citizen Force wing of the ADA Group under the command of Major FJ Botha first and later Major JB Beyers. The ADAG was then part of Airspace Control Command. 252 ADAW was probably made up of No’s 125 – 129 Squadron, but I not sure. The senior leadership was again made up of PF members, but a number of CF officers made it up to Captain and served as squadron or flight commanders during camps. On NCO level CF members were for some or other reason almost never promoted above the rank of Lance Corporal (maybe there was always enough available PF members to fill those positions). 252 ADAW was deployed to AFB’s Ondangwa, Rundu and Grootfontein. I served 2 months at AFB Ondangwa in 1988, just before the withdrawal of troops began from the operational area. Cactus units were also deployed to Cuito in Angola during the SADF operations there and launched 4 missiles to enemy Mig 21 and 23’s, one of which damaged a Mig 21 and the other ones missed. This was probably a fair reflection of the system’s reliability. This is the only time missiles were launched in anger.

The group held two live firing exercises, called TAPPIT, annually at St. Lucia on the KZN north coast. These were the highlights in the year’s program and the source of many squadron tales. A Super Frelon from AFB Durban was always part of the exercises for fire fighting and general transport duties.

I don’t have any personal knowledge of what happened with the group from 1989 onwards, but from the sources below things started to change in the 1990’s with what seems to be an uncompleted redevelopment program of the Cactus system, the disbandment of the Hilda and ZU-23 systems and the eventual disbandment of the last remaining Cactus/Crotale squadron in 2004.

See http://www.saafmuseum.org/index, http://www.saairforceco.za/the-airforce ... of-service and http://en.wikipedia.org for more technical information on 250 ADAG and the Cactus and Hilda SAM’s. I will post some photographs once I have figured out how to do it.


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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2011, 12:54 
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Great stuff, thanks.

Looking forward to the photos


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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2011, 14:35 
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Wellcome Propeller and great post. :smt023

Propeller wrote:
I will post some photographs once I have figured out how to do it.


See viewtopic.php?f=2&t=379


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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2011, 15:36 
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Here are those photographs then:

Image
Living accommodation on The Plaas in the late 1970's.
Image
I think the picture speaks for itself.
Image
At least we were covered against the rain, but not much else.
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Hot shower facility, when working.
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Cactuses were delivered in a grey colour. They were then painted in this colour scheme, which were changed to a nutria colour in the early 1980's. The missiles were dummy demo's used to show off a bit.
Image
FU Contol Panel
Image
The driver's position
Image
AU Control Panel
Image
OPU


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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2011, 19:09 
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Joined: 14 Mar 2007, 16:57
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Location: ILS RWY19, FACT (Cape Town)
Welcome Propeller :smt006

A cracking post !! The actual Cactus missiles are red ? Pictures I've seen show them in a launch container / cannister of sorts, what was the norm here :?:

Cheers

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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2011, 19:15 
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Awesome thread!
Do you have any external pics of an AU vehicle? I've never seen one.


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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2011, 19:42 
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I am not sure what colour the actual missiles were and if the demo ones were just painted red to look more aggressive. The actual ones were contained in closed cannisters and I never saw them outside the cannisters. See the gallery of Cactus photos under the out-of-service weapons section on this site for photos of the AU and a FU with closed cannisters.


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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2011, 22:20 
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Hi Propeller and thanks for such an informative post. I have messed around with a Cactus system at AFB Swartkop (the museum) during a hot summer. A friend and I drove to the museum from Midrand and found it pretty much deserted. I tried the door of the Cactus which, surprisingly was open! Of course this meant "climb inside" :lol:

Well, I've got to say that it is cramped inside there. I had seriously difficulty accommodating my 1.9m frame in the front seats, let alone scooting to the rear of the vehicle which was essentially a crawl space. That combined with the intense heat from a PTA summer reflecting the heat off the apron made it quite unpleasant to be in for any length of time so I can only imagine what it must have been like in the dusty wasteland of northern Namibia.

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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 04 Feb 2011, 08:56 
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Yes, and then of course also that huge engine running next to you. But it had a very effective aircon inside, which was needed to cool down the electronic and computer systems (and the operator). So it was actually much more pleasant inside than outside. The engine was basically a diesel generator, supplying electrical power to 4 electrical motors on the wheels and the electronic and computer systems.


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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 04 Feb 2011, 12:59 
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Herewith a photo of the aircon at the back of the cabin and a scanned section of our squadron photo showing the missiles in the cut away cannisters more clearly:

Image

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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 04 Feb 2011, 15:06 
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Hi everybody,

I am new here and a friend referred me to this thread. I was also at 250 ADAG. I did my national service during 1982 and 1983 and also a few camps at Ondangwa.

Propeller, I'm so glad to read your post about 250. It surely brought back many memories. I would also like to participate and post a few photos. Am I allowed to continue with that on your thread or should I start a new thread which doesn’t make sense?

General speaking...Am I allowed to post photos of the Hilda missile system, SAM system or is it against the Military Law or something?


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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 04 Feb 2011, 15:12 
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Hi Theuns. Good to meet a fellow 250 mate here. It all depends on the webmaster, but I am looking forward to your posting.


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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 04 Feb 2011, 15:26 
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Propeller, thank you for your reply. I will ask the webmaster about that!

Go well and enjoy your weekend!


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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 04 Feb 2011, 15:27 
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Post away on this thread, stories and photos. :smt023


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 Post subject: Re: 250 ADAG
PostPosted: 04 Feb 2011, 15:32 
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Thank you Dean, I have sent a PM to you...please ignore!

I will scan my photos ASAP and try to post a few this weekend!


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