The Battle of the Lomba, 3 October 1987: A tactical and operational analysis

  • Leopold Scholtz North-West University, South Africa
Keywords: South African Defence Force (SADF), Forças Armadas Populares de Libertação de Angola (FAPLA), União Nacional Para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA), Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), Namibia, Angola, Operation Moduler, Ratel, Operación Saludando á Octubre, T-54, T-55, Deon Ferreira, Bok Smit, 61 Mechanised Battalion Group (61 Mech), 47 Brigade, Suid-Afrikaanse Weermag (SAW), Namibië, Operasie Modulêr, 61 Gemeganiseerde Batteljon Groep (61 Mech)


The Battle of the Lomba, which was fought on 3 October 1987, was the final contest between the South African Defence Force (SADF) and Forças Armadas Populares de Libertação de Angola (FAPLA) during the first phase of Operation Moduler. In this battle, 61 Mechanised Battalion Group (61 Mech; with a Ratel 90 squadron as the battering ram) attacked the vastly superior Angolan 47 Brigade and all but wiped it out. The basic question in this article is why and how this happened? The answer lies in the tactical and operational handling of both forces on a command level. On the one side, from a professional viewpoint, the SADF leadership of 20 SA Brigade and 61 Mech did almost everything correctly, and even lay the foundation of the victory before a single shot was fired. The Angolan commanders did almost everything wrong. The tactical and operational lessons learnt from the battle may provide material for officers’ training, and these lessons are discussed as part of the conclusion.


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