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Nairobi, Kenya
I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on yebomimi@gmail.com The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011

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Monday, March 3, 2008


Trooping from G Car pencil sketch G Shaw (copyrighted)


The Alouette 3 (first produced in 1961) used in the Rhodesian war was an Aerospatiale SA 316 multipurpose helicopter.
It has a three –blade main rotor system with a fully articulated main rotor head mounted to the top of the fuselage and to the rear of the cabin. The main rotor has a diameter of 36 feet.
The single turboshaft Artouste 3B engine produces 890 shp and is derated to 650 shp and is mounted to the rear of the cockpit and main rotor transmission. (This gave the Alouette very good hot and high performance for that time)
The engine was shrouded with the exhaust gasses deflected into the rotor wash by the Rhodesians to counteract the threat of heat seeking missiles. (During the Rhodesian war we saw three different variants of engine anti Strela shrouds)
The fuselage consists of an oval plexiglassed cabin with a fixed landing gear. The wheeled landing gear was excellent for rolling takeoffs on an airstrip when we flew in hot and heavy conditions.
The tailboom is an aluminum monocoque structure with a vertical and horizontal stabilizer attached. The three bladed tail rotor is mounted on the right hand side of the tailboom and has a prominent tail rotor guard.
Basic weight of the Alouette is around 2600 lbs and maximum weight is 4630 lbs, so if you have a full load of passengers consisting of 1400 lbs including pilot and gunner c/w Browning .303s it allows for around 630 lbs of fuel or around 1.5 hrs endurance with reserve. (The red fuel low warning light came on giving the pilot 13 minutes to put down)
Fuel burn is approximately 360 lbs per hour at sea level which equates to one 44 drum per hour.
Range was 325 nm or 605 km.

A unique feature of the Alouette 3 is the clutch system as it is possible to have the engine running but have the blades stationary, this sounds strange but it is practical as a safety feature to allow loading or unloading of passengers.
(We did not use this feature much on Fireforce as most of the passengers from the FAFs emplaned at the same time as the pilot or we would fly to the bottom of the runway and hot load the troops with rotors running to minimize time as it took some time to wind up the rotors)

Starting the Alouette was easy in comparison with most helicopters as the starting system was controlled by a Mobile block (computer) making it safer to control starting exhaust temperatures which could damage the turbine. One ensured that a main rotor blade was in front of the cabin with blades untied, with the controls in neutral one checked for full and free movement.
Starting was simple firstly one ensured that both the main and rotor brakes were on and the fuel flow lever was fully back. This lever had to be fully back or you would have starting problems. One had to check that the TOT (Turbine outlet temperature) was below 150 degrees C, then switch the boost pump, wait a few seconds then switch the start switch to “Start”.
You should get a green light, followed by a yellow light ( There were three important lights near the start switch which indicated the start sequence and it was important we Technicians monitored and understood this system in case of failure) TOT rise, yellow light out and the green light out through 13000 RPM. (If you get a red light the start has failed)
Once the engine was running, one needed to engage the clutch to start the main and tail rotors turning.
This required the following technique to be followed. (This required practice to get right.)
Firstly, there was a clutch engagement time of between 25-45 seconds which was important as too slow or fast engagement would damage the clutch.
To engage the clutch one had to disengage the rotor brake first and then very slowly move the fuel flow lever forward.
When the main rotor blades start to turn, the pilot would start the stopwatch on the instrument panel (to his side) and slowly move the fuel flow lever forward another half an inch or so.
He would monitor the N2 (Power turbine) and Nr (Rotor RPM) needles increasing the fuel flow slightly if they are coming together too fast, he would retard the fuel flow lever slightly if they were not coming together too fast. Once the needles were together he would advance the fuel flow gently to the fully open position and wait for the main rotor RPM to wind up to max.
He would then do his cockpit checks and radio checks in preparation for taxi to take off.

Rhodesian air force adaptations to the Alouette G Car were as follows:-
To reverse the front seats
Fit sand filters known as Elephant ears
Mount single MAG .762mm (used until 1976 and discarded due to low rate of fire)
Mount twin .303 Browning’s having a cyclic rate of 1150 rounds per minute per gun. Is mount had containers for the .303 bullets and each gun was armed with 500 rounds with spare rounds being carried in the front of the cabin (Gunners choice of amounts carried) Spent ammunition was ejected into a canvas bag attached to the guns to prevent damage to the rotors. The Browning’s were fitted with a reflective collamateur sight.
Shroud the jet pipe and engine to deflect the exhaust gasses into the rotor wash to disperse the heat /infra red signature emissions to protect the helicopter from ground to air missiles. (3 variants of this were used during the Rhodesian war)
Rhodesian helicopters were also fitted with Becker Homer radio direction finders which could easily be seen by looking for the aerials mounted on the front of the cabin.
Another adaptation was tear gas canisters which could be mounted on the sides of the helicopter but were rarely if ever used.
I recall trials for a system which would indicate a direction of fire from the enemy being fitted to a helicopter which proved unsuccessful.
Rhodesian air force helicopters were also fitted with cable cutters at a later stage in the event of striking telephone of power lines which was a big problem with low level operations.
After 1976 all pilots seats were replaced by a lightweight Rhodesian manufactured armored seat which was very effective. (G Car technicians were not issued with any armored seats due to weight restrictions and had to rely on sitting on the troop seats with his toolkit under themselves, however some technicians managed to acquire strike plates which they sat on. Billy Watt and I escaped being shot using acquired strike plates.)
After 1976 most of the Rhodesian fleet of Alouettes was fitted with electrically operated refueling units to replace the two stroke refueling pumps commonly known as Putt putts.

The Rhodesian government ordered the first Alouette 3 helicopters in 1962 placing an initial order for five aircraft.
The first three helicopters arrived in April 1962 with the remainder arriving at New Sarum in July 1962.
The Rhodesian Airforce was happy with the performance with these helicopters and placed a further order for an additional three which arrived in August 1963.
After UDI another four Alouette 3 helicopters arrived at New Sarum with two being delivered on April 1968 and another two in August of the same year.
Alouette 3 S/N 5177 was written off as Cat 5 in 1970 followed by 5077 being written off as CAT 5 in January 1972.
In 1972 a further six Alouette 3 helicopters arrived at New Sarum giving the Rhodesian Air Force Number 7 Squadron a quantity of 16 operational helicopters, this was bolstered by the presence of a contingent of South African Police Alouette 3 helicopters supporting operations in the Zambezi Valley.
A further two Alouettes arrived at New Sarum in November 1973 bearing Austrian registrations.
During the period of 1974-75 a further six Alouette 3 helicopters arrived at New Sarum from an unidentified location.
Late in 1975 a further two Alouettes arrived from Romania.
The biggest acquisition of Alouettes was when the Rhodesian Airforce obtained nineteen Alouettes left behind by the Portuguese after their sudden departure from Mozambique. These helicopters had been abandoned on the airfields in that country.
The first two arrived in Rhodesia in June 1976 with the remainder in June 1979.
A further two Alouettes had arrived in New Sarum in February 1978.
During the Rhodesian war 15 helicopters were destroyed by either being shot down or damaged beyond repair during Fire force operations.
Six South African helicopters suffered the same fate in Rhodesia during this period.

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I welcome comments from everyone on my book Choppertech.
I am interested especially on hearing from former ZANLA and ZIPRA combatants who also have thier story to tell.