Illustrations: 40 colour, extensive b/w
Publisher: 30 Degrees South Publishers
From Fledgling to Eagle is written in an extremely engaging style that brings the reader into the forefront of operations throughout the border wars. The depth and breadth of detail that BGen Lord brings to his narrative sheds a great deal of light on the transition of the SAAF into an elite asymmetric engagement force. He does not ignore the opposition however. Concurrent to his tracking the advancement of the SAAF, Lord recognizes the exponential improvement in the capabilities of the SWAPO and MPLA adversaries. They became increasingly hazardous to the SAAF as the primary source of advisors and weapons, the Soviet Union, started providing advanced ground to air weapons systems. Additionally, these groups were reinforced by Angolan (Angola not only overtly supported them but also provided sanctuary for the insurgent groups) and Cuban regular forces. Lord acknowledges and speaks to the bravery of the individual insurgent soldier but is harsh in his criticism of the naiveté of the international community and the leadership of the insurgent groups.
Additionally, of particular interest is the explanation of the different systems used by the SAAF to intelligence gather and to strike at their adversaries. For example, the SAAF initiated the use of the remotely piloted Seeker UAV, a pusher-propeller driven system that used an onboard data capturing system to record anything of interest. Lord draws attention to a number of the local developments involving weapons systems and command and control functions that augment SAAF effectiveness.
The production value of this book is very high. Included are in depth appendices that relate tactical innovation of fixed wing operations, comprehensive listing of operations and an outline of SAAF loses throughout the Bush War.
There is no question that the SAAF proactively recognized the transient nature of operations during the Bush War period. This in turn led to the development of doctrine and tactics in order to facilitate adaption to the new operating environment. BGen Lord’s book traces these changes while at the same time putting a human face on the SAAF. Through his use of personal and institutional anecdote, he provides the reader with both intimate and professional insight into an institution of which he is obviously very proud. A great read and very highly recommended for those interested in the development and unfolding of air operations in South Africa during the turbulent Bush War years.