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The attack on Ongiva
The attack on Ongiva
The attack on Ongiva, Part 2

Operation Protea The assault on Ongiva started with air attacks by 14 Mirages on targets in and around Ongiva. Firstly, at 07h45, two Mirage IIIs attacked an AAA site on the northern side of the Ongiva runway, during which one Mirage was damaged by a SA-7. It made it back to AFB Ondangwa safely fifteen minutes later. At the same time, four Mirage F1AZs attacked another AAA site close to the airport with 68mm rockets. Heavy AAA fire was drawn, from 57mm AA guns and SA-7s as well, but no planes were hit. At 07h48, four Mirage IIIs attacked a target close to town with 68mm rockets. At 07h52, another four Mirage IIIs attacked sites to the north of the objectives and again drew heavy AAA fire and SA-7 missiles.

At 08h00, five pairs of aircraft, each pair comprising of a Canberra leading a Buccaneer, dropped two 450kg and sixteen 250kg bombs (per pair) on the area north of Ongiva. At 08h10, six Mirage F1AZs dropped air-bursting Mk 82 bombs on targets on the airfield, and at 08h15, six Mirage F1CZs bombed the FAPLA Brigade HQ.

The ground assault on the Ongiva military installations by Task Force Alpha was led by Battle Group 20 under Commandant Dippenaar, who had his own three combat teams, 10, 20, and 30 under his command, as well as the Task Force Reserve, now Combat Team 50. Commandant Serfontein’s Battle Group 30 had to attack the town of Ongiva itself.

Major Potgieter’s medium battery fired the preparatory bombardment on the defensive positions after a difficult adjustment process due to the flat terrain, the rounds landing on the roofs of the buildings in Ongiva.

Battle Group 20 crossed their start line at 08h00 on 27 August 1981 (D+3) while drawing mortar fire right from the start, moving in from a north-north-eastern direction with Combat Teams 10 and 20 moving parallel next to each other. The MRL troop fired on the FAPLA headquarters while the combat teams were moving in with sirens blaring. By 09h00 the first contact with enemy forces was made and most initial resistance was dealt with without even stopping.

After Combat Team 10 turned a bit more south to attack the FAPLA Brigade HQ from the northwest, the troops were dismounted to clear the buildings. Suddenly the presence of tanks was reported on their left flank. A counter-attack by three T-34s were quickly dealt with by the Ratel-90s which shot out two, while the third one escaped in the direction it came from. Both Combat Teams 10 and 20 exploited up to the western side of the Mongua road, and came under intense 23mm AA fire from positions further south. The AA weapons were dealt with by the artillery and 81mm mortars. It was impossible to use the Ratel infantry fighting vehicles to clear this threat as the AA positions were protected by RPGs deployed in the bush well in front of the weapons. The enemy started fleeing from their positions in a westerly direction, but were too far away to be dealt with by deliberate fire.

Several close air support missions were scrambled during the day against targets that were hampering the ground force’s advance. At 11h45, two Mirage F1AZ’s attacked a tank in a hull-down position. At 12h45, a pair of Mirage F1AZs attacked the water tower in Ongiva with 68mm rockets, which was suspected to be an artillery fire-control position.

Combat Team 30 moved on the right flank of Combat Team 20 and once through the first part of the objective, turned west to attack the airfield. The battle for Ongiva was far from over, as FAPLA resistance at the airport was stubborn, and Battle Group 30 still had to take the town itself...

By 15h30 the first phase of the attack was complete.

From the Officer Commanding Battle Group 20’s Summary of Events for Operation Protea.


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