onsdag, oktober 20, 2004

Brecher om von Rosen!

Jag har sagt åt er tidigare att läsa artiklar av the War Nerd, alltså Gary Brecher.

Han bidrar alltid med en humoristisk men (vad jag kan förstå) korrekt analys av krigets realiteter. Kanske skulle man kunna kalla honom cyniker.

Nu finns ytterligare anledning att läsa the War Nerd. Hans senaste text handlar nämligen om en svensk.

one of the few real heroes you´ll get in this sleazy world, was a Swede, believe it or not. A Swedish aristocrat, no less. Count Carl Gustav von Rosen volunteered to do close air support for the Biafran army, hosing down government troops and raiding their bases, flying tiny civilian prop planes like little Swedish Cessnas.

Is that glorious or what?

Artikeln har titeln Biafra: Killer Cessnas and Crazy Swedes och tar alltså sin utgångspunkt i Biafrakriget i slutet på 1960-talet.

Ni kommer väl ihåg Biafra?

Ett förföljt folk i Nigeria bröt sig ut och förklarade sig självständigt under namnet Biafra. Detta gillades inte av den nigerianska centralmakten, förstås, vilket fick för Afrika helt naturliga följder: grymt krig med inslag av folkmord. De militära styrkeförhållandena var sanslöst ojämna. Biafras infanteri kanske var en fjärdedels av Nigerias. Och på den högteknologiska sidan hade Biafra inget alls, medan Nigeria fick stöd från Sovjetunionen.

The Nigerian AF had MiG-17 fighters and Il-28 bombers, DC 3 transports converted to bombers and a few choppers. Those Ilyushin and MiG designs were the high point of Soviet military aviation. Don´t kid yourself -- the Soviets built some great planes. The Il-28 was a big, fast bomber with a bombload of 16,000 pounds and a three-man crew, including a tail gunner manning twin 23mm cannon. You wouldn´t want to tailgate one of these.

The MiG-17 was even better. It might have been the best fighter in the world when it went into service in 1953, and even in the mid-sixties it was good enough to win against our Phantom F-4s in dogfights over North Vietnam. US pilots were way more scared of the MiG-17 than the follow-on model, the MiG-21. The slick moves and big cannon of the MiG-17 were one big reason the USAF stopped thinking of fighters as manned SAMs -- all speed and no finesse -- and went back to planes with nose cannon, maneuverability and started teaching air combat at Top Gun schools.

Up against all this big international hardware, the Biafrans had...nothing.

Men, det är här Carl Gustav von Rosen träder fram i historien.

Then this crazy Swede von Rosen came up with the kind of idea that would only work in Africa. Since he couldn´t get the Biafrans any jet aircraft, he´d just buy some prop-driven trainers and refit them for combat. Von Rosen is such a great character he almost makes me reconsider hating Swedes. He was a throwback to when the Swedish pikemen turned the tide of the Thirty Years War.

Von Rosen specialized in noble lost causes. Way back in 1938, when he was just a kid, he volunteered to fly for the Finns in their ultra-cool, hopeless fight against the Red Army. The Finns had no bombers so von Rosen just grabbed a civilian airliner, loaded it up with bombs and dropped them on the Reds from the passenger doors.

"Welcome, Comrade passengers! Coffee, tea or 500 pounds of HE?"

Von Rosen flög vid denna tid hjälpsändningar i området men övertalades att bli konsult åt det hopplösa flygvapnet i Biafra. Men att köpa flygplan åt den nybildade staten var inte lätt, så von Rosen fick nöja sig med vad han kunde få tag i. Och det var ingen imponerande syn, det flygvapen som kom att kallas "the Biafran Babies":

the little putt-putt plane von Rosen built his force around: the MFI-9, a tiny prop-driven Swedish trainer... ...looks like those ultralights people build in their garages. This plane could park in subcompact spaces at the Stockholm mall. It had a maximum payload of 500 pounds -- me plus a couple of medium sized dogs. Lucky those Swedes are so skinny.

Von Rosen bought five of these little "Fleas" down the coast in Gabon, slapped on a coat of green VW paint to make them look military, and installed wing pods for unguided 68mm unguided anti-armor rockets. Then he and his pilots -- three Swedes and three Ibo -- flew them back to Biafra and into combat.

They blew the Hell out of the Nigerian AF and army. These little Fleas were impossible to bring down. Not a single one was knocked out of the sky, although they´d buzz home riddled with holes. They flew three missions a day and their list of targets destroyed included Nigerian airfields, power plants, and troop concentrations.

The Fleas turned their weaknesses into advantages in true guerrilla style. They were so slow that they had to fly real low -- which made them almost impossible to hit in the jungle, since you never saw them till they were on top of you. The low speed made for better aim: almost half the 400 68mm rockets they fired hit their targets, which is an amazing score for unguided AS munitions. (There used to be a joke in the USAF that if it wasn´t for the law of gravity, unguided AS rockets couldn´t even hit the ground.)

The Biafran AF managed to destroy three MiG-17s and an Il-28 on the ground. Killing enemy planes on the ground may not be as glorious as shooting them down in a dogfight, but they´re just as destroyed. The Fleas also took out a couple of helicopters, an airport tower, a Canberra bomber and a half-dozen supply trucks. And they blew away at least 500 Nigerian troops. It was one of the few really glorious exploits you get in war these days. Why they haven´t made a movie of it, I don´t know. Guess they think we´d rather see tennis pros fall in love or some shit like that.

Ja, ni vet ju hur det gick, eftersom ni har sett bilderna på de svältande barnen med svullna magar i Biafra - bilder som påverkar omvärldens biståndsvilja ännu. Von Rosen lyckades naturligtvis inte förhindra katastrofen.

Early in 1970 Biafra surrendered. Nobody knows how many people died. The low guess is a million, the high ones maybe three millions. Almost all were Ibo civilians.

Som sagt.

Läs the War Nerd. Läs hela artikeln. Läs alla hans artiklar.

Mer information om Biafrakriget finns här, mer om "the Biafran Babies" finns här.