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The Story of the Mirage F1 in the SAAF

Author: Dick Lord

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ISBN: 0 620 24116 0

Reviewed By: Dean Wingrin

There are two kinds of authors: those that write based on the experience of others, and those that were there and tell the story straight from the heart. Dick Lord is in the latter catagory and it shows, with a style that captures the reader and thrusts him straight into the cockpit.

Although born in Johannesburg, Dick initially flew Sea Venoms and Sea Vixens aboard RN aircraft carriers, Hunters and, for two years, A-4 Skyhawks and F-4 Phantoms while on a two-year exchange tour with the US Navy. When he returned to South Africa, he flew Impalas, Sabres and the Mirage III before commanding 1 Squadron (Mirage F1AZ) during the Bush War before retiring as a Brigadier (now called Brigadier General). 

The story starts in 1971 when two experienced SAAF Mirage III pilots visited France to evaluate the new Mirage F1. Although essentially a compilation of stories and experiences of SAAF Mirage pilots, the following chapters chronicle the aircraft, personnel and Squadron events, year by year. Even the often forgotten events like memorial flyovers are recounted. 

As the author has lived the tale, he has been able to retell the daily experiences of the pilots as only someone who has been there is able to do. The reader is left in no doubt that it is not only the air or ground crews that must be admired, but also the girlfriends, wives and children that were left behind when the squadron had to deploy to the operational area without notice. At other times, they would take-off from AFB Waterkloof early in the morning, refuel and bomb-up at one of the border airbases, fly a sortie against SWAPO and still be home at Waterkloof that evening! 

Early on the reader is introduced to the navigation and bomb computer of the F1AZ which, as a result of not being properly tested prior to delivery because of the impending arms embargo, continued to plague the aircraft for decades. The various air-to-ground and air-air techniques and profiles flow are fully described, together with diagrams. The introduction of the various weapons and bombs are also described, some successful and others not. 

Although the telling of the various incidents involving the loss of the pilots life are moving, the scene involving the farm workers following the two Mirages lost on 15 February 1979 is hilarious! 

I could hardly put this book down, but it would be remiss of me if I overlook the odd few mistakes. The most obvious being numerous photographs of the Oryx as being taken in the operational area, whereas the Oryx was only taken into the SAAF inventory in 1990. In fact, the only photograph of a Puma is taken over Pretoria, but is also called an Oryx. Another (little) point of contention is that although there are numerous maps of South Africa, SWA (Namibia) and Angola, the author constantly refers to missions flown against targets and towns that are not indicated on the maps. These and the odd typo (such as on page 228 when the correct date of the damage to F1AZ 224 is 20 February 1993) should not detract from the book.

Numerous appendices list all Mirage F1 pilots trained in South Africa (including a few from overseas), 1 and 3 Squadron OCs, technical and intelligence officers, a summary of all Mirage F1 losses, awards and decorations received by F1 pilots, a glossary and more. Both Angola and Cuba have issued statements claiming scores of SAAF aircraft as having been shot down. As a result, the author has included a detailed list of all SAAF aircraft lost as a result of enemy fire, which, in a book about the Mirage F1, the author acknowledges is purely author indulgence. Even so, it is welcomed. A short summary of SAAF aircraft lost in the operational area due to other causes completes the dispeling of 'manufactured propaganda'. 

After 22 years of service to the SAAF, the book is a suitable tribute to one of the greatest aircraft ever to fly in the SAAF - the Mirage F1.

Although not a definitive, or unbiased, view of the role that the Mirage F1 series played in the SAAF, this book is highly recommended, particularly for the personal annecdotes.

228x155mm, 380pp, 55 f/c & 169 b/w photos, maps & diagrams

The current book version, published by 30 Degrees South, contains an additional appendix that includes a short biography of many of the the Mirage F1 pilots.

This book may be purchased from The Airforce Shop.

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