Many readers will recall, it was major news then, that on 8 July 1981 Mozambican Air Force Lieutenant Adriano Francisco Bomba defected to South Africa with his MiG-17 Fresco C. He was intercepted by two Mirage F1’AZs from Air Force Base Hoedspruit, I believe, that were on a training flight. Bomba landed at Hoedspruit and asked for political asylum which was granted. The airframe was later returned to Maputo by road but not before extensive examination and flight testing. The SAAF, South African Air Force test pilots were not impressed with the maintenance of the aircraft, stating that it should not be on flying status. That is the official version to this very day and might be true. Nevertheless, as I wrote Code Name July 27, due for publication on 27 July 2019, I discovered a few discrepancies… let me quote from the book:
“Okay, nice official view. What really happened?”
If anyone would know, Angelique (the South African Secret Service Head of Counterterrorism and Counterespionage, SASS) would, from her files.
“There are many odd things about the official version, Foxtrot. Whatever statements the SAAF made regarding the MiG’s flying status they did fly it and so you must wonder if that was a ruse to cover something else. The SAAF long had a tradition to never fly on Wednesdays and use the day as ground training before going to sports days. Thus, the two interceptors ought not to have been flying on that day, it is distinctly abnormal. Also, the Mirages were the ground-attack version of 1 Squadron and not the air superiority CZ which would have been a more logical choice to intercept the MiG. Therefore, some say, they did not expect the incoming MiG to start a dogfight. That particular MiG had the number 21 painted on it leading some to speculate that it was a MiG-21 but it was not. Then, the MiG-17 Fresco C was never a threat to the SAAF and the flight testing done proforma almost. When it was returned by road the wings were removed in such a way that the airframe would never fly again. Many thought then and now that the intelligence agency (that would be National Intelligence, not SASS that came much later, GMJ) was trying to get hold of a MiG-21 in the same way as the Israelis did with their Operation Diamond where an Iraqi MiG-21 defected (1966). At that time the MiG-21 was new and perceived as unbeatable. But no, I doubt if we were involved from the intelligence side but we could have been, I was a junior agent and overseas…”
So we are left somewhat bemused and wondering what really happened behind the scenes. In Code Name July 27 we then looked at the 1966 Iraqi MiG-21 defection called Operation Diamond. That was something else. Several Mossad agents were caught and executed for their efforts. However, they got their MiG-21 and from that came the opening of US arsenals towards the Jewish State. The Israeli Air Force switched to US airframes (the McDonnell Douglas Phantom II) and away from the French Dassault Mirage III that they made famous during the Six Day War by adding two 30mm DEFA 552 cannon with 125 rounds per gun – another story described in Code Name Blue Tang. Yes, we love military history in GMJ Books.