Denel Bosbok - Unlikely War Hero

By Willie Bodenstein

Designed in response to an Italian Army requirement for an aircraft to replace the Cessna L-19, the Aermacchi AM.3, the result of a joint venture between Aermacchi and Aeritalia, first flew on 12 May 1967.

Aeritalia lost the contract to the SIAI Marchetti SM.1019. However, fortunately, they continued development and in September 1970, the South African Air Force ordered 40 AM.3Cs, designating the aircraft the AM.3CM Bosbok (Bush-buck).

The first aircraft was taken on charge in March 1973, with deliveries continuing until December 1975. Bosbok's equipped 41 Squadron and 42 Squadron based at Potchefstroom.

Of tandem configuration, the pilot and observer are accommodated in-line and featured dual controls. Space aft of the observer can be used for another passenger or freight. Aft space is utilitarian, providing space for two stretchers or seat space for additional passengers. Additional configurations include freight transport. The SAAF's Bosboks had four underwing hardpoints from which a variety of ordnance could be hung, including machine gun pods, light bombs and smoke-rocket pods. Each of the two inner hardpoints was stressed for a 170 kg (375 lb) load, with the two outer points being stressed for a 91 kg (200 lb) load.

South Africa was then getting more and more involved in the Angolan Border War and the humble little Bosbok wearing an olive-drab/dark earth camouflage played a major role during the conflict. Some of its duties were forward, air control reconnaissance/observation (including artillery spotting), radio relay work, liaison and CASEVAC duty.

However, it was in the dangerous role of target-marking that the Bosbok really excelled, using a technique developed during the border war. Having identified a target for attack by ground or other forces, the Bosbok pilot would run in to the target at tree-top height, pull up to around 92 m (300 ft) when nearly overhead the target, line up the nose on the target and release the rockets, before quickly turning away and diving back to tree-top level to avoid ground-fire.

Using this method, a Bosbok was once credited with destroying an entire 37 mm anti-aircraft gun position with a lucky direct hit from one of its smoke marker rockets.

Following the end of South Africa's involvement in the Angolan War in 1989 and the subsequent downsizing of the SAAF, the Bosbok was retired from service in 1992.

Many now survive in private hands and are regulars at fly ins and other aviation events.

SA Air Force

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