Aviation Historian 11
T.Cooper - The Hawk's Finest Hour
One of two Mil Mi-24 Hind gunship helicopters left behind by the Mobutu regime and made operational during the battle for Kinshasa, 9T-HM2 was equipped with the standard 14.5mm machine-gun in a nose-mounted rotating barbette.
In the wake of the battle for Kinshasa, a Flight of the AFZ’s No 8 Sqn, under the command of South African Sqn Ldr Dave Atkinson, was re-equipped with six Mi-35 helicopter gunships. Funded by Kabila’s supporters, these were acquired from Russia for a reported $26-35m. The first Mi-35 crews were trained by Russians at Thornhill.
Two of the four MiG-21PFMs delivered from Serbia to DRC for Mobutu’s forces in 1997, seen here abandoned at Gbadolite. In 2001 South African mercenaries were contracted by Kabila to make the aircraft operational, but the idea came to nothing.
The best of British - Hawk “606” of the first batch of Hawk Mk 60s delivered to the AFZ flies alongside the type it replaced in service, in this case Hawker Hunter “1801”, formerly FGA.80A “804” of the Kenyan Air Force. Before Kenyan service this Squires Gate-built Hunter had served with the RAF’s Nos 3 and 26 Sqns as F.4 XF972.
Hawk "608” was another example much used in the DRC in 1998, and is seen here with a selection of the weaponry used in the campaign. From left: Matra F2 rocket pod (each containing six 68mm rocket projectiles); Matra 116M rocket pod; Matra F4 rocket pod (both containing 19 x 68mm rocket projectiles); 250kg Mini Golf cluster bomb. Fitted to the Hawk’s wing is the larger 454kg Golf cluster bomb.
Two of the first batch of Hawk Mk 60s for Zimbabwe, the nearest carrying a ground-attack configuration of eight free-fall 250kg bombs and the Aden cannon, and the furthest being equipped for long-range interception sorties with droptanks and air-to-air missiles.
One of the Hawk pilots who took part in the AFZ’s campaign in DRC in 1998, Brian Chikozo, prepares for a low-level ground-attack sortie.
Hawk "605" sported a cobra motif beneath the cockpit and was one of No 2 Sqn’s most active Hawks during the 1998 DRC campaign. The Mk 60 variant introduced the uprated Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca Adour 861 engine, which provided significantly more thrust, increasing maximum take-off weight to 18,960 lb (8,600 kg).
One of the first batch of eight BAe Hawk Mk 60s for the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) overflies Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border after their delivery in 1982. The Mk 60 was an upgraded version of the Hawk Mk 50 export variant, essentially a trainer, but with a potent ground-attack capability.
Several of the Hawks used in DRC sported names and artwork; Hawk “610”, for example, was known as Darth Vader, after the character from the Star Wars movies. Similarly, Hawk “605” was adorned with a stylised cobra in approximately the same location on the forward fuselage.
The first of the Zimbabwean Mk 60s, “600”, during a photographic sortie from BAe's airfield at Dunsfold. In common with the Mk 50, the Mk 60 could be optimised for the air-support role, as seen here with the fitting of four 250kg free-fall bombs on each wing, two on each hardpoint, and the centreline-mounted Aden 30mm cannon.
The view from the “office” of a ground-attack Hawk Mk 60.
The Hawk proved its impressive ground-attack possibilities in AFZ hands during the battle for Kinshasa, but economic sanctions placed on Zimbabwe in March 2002 stopped the supply of spares from the UK and the aircraft were grounded.
Hawk "604" in Zimbabwe in 1997. In 1994 the simple golden bird motif on the fin of the AFZ’s Hawks was replaced with the national flag, and a roundel featuring the national colours in concentric rings was introduced on the fuselage and wings.
Flight Lieutenants Michael Enslin (left) and Sam Sigauke pose beside Hawk “605” in 2000. Enslin had just won the AFZ’s prestigious “Jungle Dustbin Marksmanship Trophy”, having fully recovered from his ejection and evasion from enemy forces in DRC in 1998. He went on to fly Chengdu F-7s with No 5 Sqn.
Reims-Cessna FTB 337G Lynx “3144” of the AFZ was one of several that participated in the early days of the Second Congo War and the battle for Kinshasa. Operated by No 4 Sqn, the Lynxes primarily used Matra F2 rocket pods and overwing-mounted M2 Browning machine-guns, as seen here.
A poor-quality but rare photograph of the crew of one of the Agusta-Bell AB 412s used by the AFZ’s No 8 Sqn in DRC. The helicopters were used mainly for casualty evacuation and resupply sorties during the battle for Kinshasa and during fighting at Kongolo in 1999.