With tribute to:

Martin Spirit

James Paul

Co-written by:

David Carter

Britain's Small Wars

The preservation of British Military History

Oman (Dhofar) 1969-1976

"The Desert Song"

RAF Flying in Oman

The main RAF base in Oman was Salalah, a heavily defended, packed sand air strip from which Skymasters and Skyvans operated under the guardianship of RAF Regiment gunners in defensive positions called hedgehogs. The RAF Regiment and RAF Policemen guarding the airbases went heavily armed in case of Adoo attack. The RAF Regiment personnel were involved in the conflict with the Adoo on many occasions, mostly dealing with Adoo attacks on the airfields, the airfield at Salalah was hit by enemy mortar and small arms fire on at least a couple of occasions and the hedgehog crews included Baluchistani's fighting alongside the RAF Regiment.. A short distance to the northeast was the SAF headquarters at Uma al Gwarif where the BATT were based.

Picture of a Skyvan aircraft

When flying, BATT team members wore no insignia, cap badges, formation signs, badges of rank or identity disks. RCT air drops were carried out from Skyvans at altitude using old 18 and 28ft. parachutes. As well as supply drops, the RCT manned Omani Airforce Skyvans that also carried out leaflet drops.

Bomb runs also took place from Skyvans dropping drums of Avtur with polyurethane dissolved in the mixture and slightly modified Schermuly flares attached to each side of the drum as makeshift incendiaries.

These were used to burn crop fields in the Jebel which the Adoo might get food from. It was estimated that one of these improvised bombs would cover an area of fifty yards in diameter in a fireball.

VC10s brought men and equipment in and out of RAF Salalah on the 'Moon Rocket' runs and C-130 Hercules also flew in the theatre on supply runs.

In August 1975, an event occurred which changed the face of air support operations in Oman. Brigadier Akehurst was visiting a SAF position near the border when ten Katyusha rockets struck the position in quick succession. As was usual for these attacks, BAC Strikemasters were called in and plastered the enemy positions with rockets and turned for home.

Strikemaster aircraft

From the enemy position a Soviet SAM-7 missile streaked skywards and struck one of the Strikemaster aircraft but the pilot safely ejected and the aircraft crashed. The missile was supplied by Russia and its operator had been trained in Russia. Fortunately a helicopter was in the vicinity and began a search for the downed pilot. The helicopter reached the pilot despite ground fire and at least one more SAM-7 was launched. It reached the ground safely and rescued the downed pilot. The helicopter already had ten soldiers onboard but climbed slowly away and it was assumed the SAM operator had run out of missiles.

In all, 23 SAM-7s were fired during the campaign, accounting for the Strikemaster as stated above and a helicopter. A second Strikemaster is believed to have been hit by a SAM but the pilot was able to get the aircraft back to Salalah despite many holes in the jetpipe and dodgy elevator controls. The helicopter had been flying at 10,000 feet when it was hit. A further helicopter, a Jetranger was lost to small-arms fire.