(From Soviet-empire): Chronology of naval operations during Cold War in Africa (Soviet&Cubans, Guinea, Angola etc.)

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(From Soviet-empire): Chronology of naval operations during Cold War in Africa (Soviet&Cubans, Guinea, Angola etc.)

Post by lupodimare89 » 11 Mar 2023 10:51

This thread it’s a preserved version of latest updated page on the currently (hopefully not forever) closed forum “Soviet-empire”. Years ago I begun a process of reading, studying and researching entirely for hobby/amateur interest the history of naval warfare involving the Soviet Union. Years by years, my interests expanded to other conflicts (Russian and Spanish Civil Wars, Cold War conflicts etc.) often poorly described in mainstream media and sites. It doesn’t claim to be definitive or error-free, but I believe it’s valuable or interesting for people curious to see aspects of less known naval warfare (especially in English). This and my other works can be obviously used or re-posted for not-commercial purpose on other sites/forums, I've sadly seen how there is some commercial exploitation (publications of few books i am absolutely not involved at all!). Obviously these "authors" probably never checked the original sources or bothered to notice how each of these works it's not immutable and sometimes changes and corrections happens after years.

Sources: most of the works it's the product of reading articles from the author Alexander Rosin specialized on Cold War.
It was also used the blog blogueforanadaevaotres (portoguese sources)

NOTE: the article doesn't include Soviet operations in Red Sea during the Eritrean War of Independence nor northern African regions (POLISARIO insurgency versus Morocco, Libyan Navy etc.).
I should recall that by author personal choice, the page include only conflicts involving communist or socialist-oriented parties or governments.

Differences with the last-updated thread(s) on Soviet-Empire forum:
1) Correction: the second attack on LDM-302 with 10 wounded occurred on 4 October 1965 (separate from the earlier February attack)
2) Fixed dates for losses of PAIGC supply boats "Patrice Lumumba" and "Bandim", added casualties and details for the first episode, location for the second one.
3) Addendum at the bottom of the Raid in Conakry, just stressing the actual failure of the Portoguese raid in toppling the Guinean government and installing a new regime. At the same time should recall that Soviet data indicate higher losses of Guinean/PAIGC Navy.
4) On PAIGC navy mutiny, corrected new name of PIDE (renamed DGS)
5) 20/Nov/65 added extra details over the Cuban mercenary/CIA craft employed in the lake

Guinea-Bissau War of Independence

March 1963
On unclear day, Portuguese motorboats Mirandela and Arouca seized in the port of Cafine. Then used by PAIGC as supply-vessel from Guinea.

May 1963
On unclear day, Portuguese motorboat Bandim and Bissau seized. Then used by PAIGC as supply-vessel from Guinea.
It is unclear if these seizures occurred in harbor (by ground troops) on in other way.

8 July 1963
Portuguese motorboat sunk in action on the confluence of rivers Cumbija and Cobade. Likely due ground fire.

19 November 1963
Portuguese ferry Bor attacked on Cobade River: it suffered a casualty and loss of cargo (supplies).

23 March 1964
Portuguese boat sunk in Combidjan River, near Bedanda. Likely due ground fire.
Portuguese boat sunk on the Rio Grande de Buba. Likely due ground fire.

July 1964
After a Portuguese raid with four boats that landed troops on Quitafine (at mouth of Cacine river), one boat was sunk when PAIGC returned fire from coast.

4 February 1965
Portuguese landing craft LDM-302 received light fire from shore, suffering some damages.

4 October 1965
Portuguese landing craft LDM-302 received light fire from shore, suffering 10 wounded.

19 December 1967
Portuguese landing craft LDM-302 sunk after coming under fire from anti-tank RPG rockets and machine-guns from shore. Raised and recovered. 2 sailors died.

10 June 1968
Portuguese landing craft LDM-302 heavily damaged during an identical attack from shore: one mortar hit caused a fire burning the vessel. 1 sailor killed, 1 wounded.

18 February 1969
Portuguese landing craft LDM-302 damaged (launch partially destroyed, a fire caused by anti-tank rocket) with 1 killed and 1 wounded.

27 May 1969
While sailing into a convoy, the Portuguese sailing boat Guadiana (cargo of gasoline and detonators) hit a PAIGC-laid mine and sunk. 5 killed and 8 wounded. Mine likely left floating from ground or by some small boat.
PAIGC sources claim in the subsequent years a high toll of Portuguese boats sunk by mines, but none else currently confirmed.

On unclear day of 1969, the Soviet Union provided the PAIGC with four project 183 motor torpedo boats. It was the only occasion for a guerrilla movement to receive fully standard warships in the Cold War!
While the boats intended to harass Portuguese shipping, no known attack recorded before the loss of boats in 1970.

27 August 1969
PAIGC transport boat Patrice Lumumba sunk by Portoguese commandos assaulting it with rubber-boats. 1 KIA, 23 POW.

6 March 1970
Portuguese rubber-boats n°1 and n°2 (from patrol boat Lira) ambushed with rocket and machine-guns fire the PAIGC motorboat Bandim: ship was grounded with 6 killed and lost (later set afire and destroyed by the Portuguese) near Canefaque island.

22 November 1970
Raid in Conakry
Portuguese Navy directed a raid in Guinea, called the Operação Mar Verde (Green Sea Operation).
A task force was composed by patrol boats Orion, Cassiopea, Dragao, Hidra and landing ships Bombarda and Montante.
Main target of the assault was the assassination of the Guinea’s president and the PAIGC’s leader, however both men were not found. The attempt to install a minor anti-government opposition party (FNLG) failed to lack of local support and Portuguese forces contended in liberating 26 POWs. The raid inflicted heavy casualties to the PAIGC/Guinean Naval forces, officially claiming “four or five” vessels sunk.
Official Soviet sources actually report much higher losses: four motor torpedo boats of project 183 class owned by PAIGC and three missile boats of project183R of the Guinean Navy sunk (with casualties).
Boats suffered a swift ground surprise attack and crew had no time to react. Portuguese forces lost only 3 killed and 3 wounded. However, the battle did not ended with the Portuguese retreat because 150 Guinean militants of the FLNG made a stand and were ultimately defeated with 50 killed and 100 prisoners. Overall the Guinean and PAIGC forces lost between 52 (likely the confirmed figure) and 500 (Portuguese claim), while Soviets at first estimated 200 overall casualties (killed and wounded). Portuguese/Western-sources commonly portray the raid as a success, only briefly mentioning the actual failure in toppling the Guinea’s communist government and eliminating the PAIGC leadership.

In November-December 1972 the Soviet Navy provided once more PAIGC with military ships: three patrol boats of project 199 class.
Often wrongly reported the Soviet Navy provided again the project183 or even project183R missile boats!

21 January 1973
PAIGC leader Amílcar Cabral was assassinated after an internal coup directed by the Navy commander.
Involvement of the Portuguese secret service (DGS, ex-PIDE) strongly suspected even by some contemporary Portuguese sources, fomenting intertribal tensions. The entire small PAIGC Navy mutinied and took part at the betrayal: the wife of Amílcar Cabral and other top PAIGC leaders (including Aristide Pereira) abducted.
The three project 199 patrol boats attempted to flee to Guinea-Bissau (with the clear intention to join the Portuguese and validating their true allegiance to the PIDE) however in Guinean water was stationed the Soviet Navy destroyer Byvalyy. Once realized the crisis, the Soviet commander communicated with Moscow asking instructions and permission to intervene: permission given but to restrain live fire.
Carrying aboard Guinean soldiers, the Soviet destroyer Byvalyy successfully intercepted and forced to surrender two patrol boats of project 199.
Effectively it was the first Soviet Navy action after the WW2 resulting in a Soviet ship scoring victories (seizures) in direct confrontation with hostile boats! (However it would only be in 1990 in Eritrea that the Soviet Navy engaged in direct gunnery fight with enemy shortly before the eventual fall of Soviet Union).
The Guinean Navy dispatched its units to chase and intercept the last one patrol boat of project 199 (ship separated from others due lost orientation and getting close to coast). On this same boat was saved the wife of Amílcar Cabral, Aristide Pereira and others (prisoners were subjected to torture and maltreatment). This seizure would be the only success scored by the small Guinean Navy: interestingly this third Project 199 boat was integrated in Guinea Navy rather than being passed to PAIGC (later Guinea-Bissau). It is currently unclear which Guinean ships were dispatched but were likely some or all the four Project 183 motor torpedo boats delivered by USSR in 1971-1972.


1 November 1965
In Tanganika Lake
One armed launch with a mixed Cuban and Congolese crew had a skirmish on the lake with the mercenary Swiftclass boats. 2 light WIA (including the Cuban Roberto Bartelemi, responsible of all the launches and boats on the lake, indirectly hit by exhaust gases from a rocket-launcher after it was used against the enemy).

20 November 1965
In Tanganika Lake
The mercenary Swift-class patrol boat Gitana suffered damages due ground mortar fire, preventing her participation in the following day clash. Interestingly, she (alongside sister-ship Monty) took part in anti-Cuban actions in Caribbean Sea before being moved to Congo by CIA.

20 - 21 November 1965
Action in Tanganika Lake
The Cuban group of advisors led by the revolutionary Commander Che Guevara retreated through the lake in Tanganika after the local African guerrilla forces was cornered and defeated.
Three boats, named simply n°1 (with Che Guevara), n°2 and n°3: each heavily armed with a single 75mm gun on stern and multiple 12.7mm machine guns.
On day 21, the mercenary patrol boat Monty sailed alone and claimed to have clashed against “4 or 5” boats, allegedly sinking “one, perhaps two” but same mercenary sources were uncertain and indeed no damage or casualty occurred on the Cuban armed boats. However, the patrol boat Monty (armed with 1-57mm recoilless rifle, 3-12.7mm and 1-7.62mm machine guns) was hit by Cuban fire, suffering 1 WIA. Cuban sources speak of no contact at all or just enemy boats and planes observing from distance, it is likely Monty suffered only a brief exchange of fire from n°2 or n°3 without putting much of a fight and rather escaping.
Despite the failed result of the rebel ground campaign, the mercenary action failed to prevent the evacuation or killing Che Guevara (CIA and Exiles knew of his presence and hoped to kill him).

23 or 24 April 1971
Angoche incident
A mysterious and not resolved incident occurred to the Portuguese ship Angoche (1689 GRT).
The ship had 23 crewmembers and 1 passenger, and carried a military cargo (weapons, ammunitions and jet fuel) sailing on the Mozambique coast. She was found on 26 April, heavily damaged by fire with the whole crew missing but cargo mostly intact. The Portuguese junta blamed a boarding attack by FRELIMO rebels with Tanzanian cooperation (and crew allegedly brought to Tanzania and eventually executed). The South Africa apartheid regime backed this view.
FRELIMO denied accusation and officially blamed the ARA (Portuguese communist group) for the action: however, ARA did not showed to have military or personal assets in Mozambique for such action, nor the political intention to kill Portuguese citizens. Chinese press (at the time main supporter of Tanzania) alleged a “Soviet submarine” was responsible, but there is no proof of this bold claim.
While unproved and denied, excluding an incident lacking outside forces, the most likely reason was a surface action by Tanzanian Navy (likely using Chinese-made Type062 patrol boats).This could be the only naval success of the small Tanzanian Navy (a communist state at the time, aligned to China during the Cold War rather than Soviet Union). It is unlikely Tanzanian sources could admit it, even if at the time was a successful military action with elimination of a local supply ship.

31 October 1975
A motorboat of FNLA seized near Ambrizete a small Congolese (Republic of Congo) transport carrying weapons for MPLA from Point-Noire. 10 POWs.

12 November 1975
After the defeat suffered in the Battle of Quifangondo, the Zaire’s Navy (backing FNLA) dispatched three speedboats to attempt intercept deliveries of weapons from the People Republic of Congo to MPLA. The Soviet Navy in the area dispatched the landing ship Krymskiy Komsomolets (project 1171) carrying soldiers with additional anti-tank and anti-air missiles on the deck for defense purpose. The presence of the Soviet ship forced the Zaire’s units to give up attacks.
While South African and American press alleged of direct Soviet involvement in Angola “bombing” the FNLA and the UNITA, this was false: the escort action provided by Krymskiy Komsomolets (without fights or naval engagements) was the most aggressive action done by the Soviet Navy in Angola.

Unclear day of 1980
Angolan Navy intercepted and seized the Zaire fishing boat Anzika.
While previously (April) a couple of Spanish fishing boats seized, the incidents resulted in usual fines for illegal catch.
This incident however appears somewhat more serious: it is confirmed 100t of catch and the nets were confiscated but it is unclear if and when the ship released. So far, this was the solely confirmed success of the Angolan Navy.

20 August 1982
The South Africa privately owned fishing boat “Plumstead” (also misspelled “Ptumstead”) reportedly seized on sea by Mozambique vessels on suspicious of having delivered a cargo to the RENAMO.
It is unclear for how long the boat was detained and if she was confiscated (reportedly no trace of fishing devices or catch found, reinforcing the suspect she was a small smuggler ship). There are only scant details about this incident.
So far, this was the solely reported success of the Mozambique Navy.

29 July 1984
Raid in Luanda
During the Angolan Civil war, a South African Navy frogmen operation was intended to sink three Angolan missile boats in the main harbor of Luanda. However, the target could not be found and limped mines were attached to merchant ships. The East German merchant Arendsee (7396 GRT) (Cargo: heavy vehicles, artillery, industrial cargo) sunk, while the Angolan merchant Lundoge (9079 GRT) (cargo: food and military equipment) suffered damage. Attempt to recover the East German ship failed and she was scuttled in open waters.

6 June 1986
Raid of Namibe
The South African Navy carried a raid into Namibe harbor. Frogmen attached limpet mines on the hulls of hips and also attacked with rocket two fuel depots (many sources speak wrongly of missiles launched from warships). The Cuban merchant Habana (2945 GRT)(cargo of food) sunk in the harbor. In addition, two soviet merchants suffered damages but did not sunk: Kapitan Vislobokov (11089 GRT) and Kapitan Chirkov (11278 GRT). Despite damage, there were no casualties, both Soviet ship already disembarked a cargo of ammunition. Habana later raised but scuttled due extensive damages.

June - September 1986
Seychelles Coups
During the whole month of June, the socialist government of Seychelles was at risk of a coup instigated by South Africa.
The archipelago of Indian Ocean, ruled by a popular president, was for years a target of the Apartheid regime. An invasion by a mercenary force in 1981 led by the notorious mercenary leader Mike “the Mad” Hoare (the same man leading the mercenaries against Che Guevara in Congo) failed miserably with the force escaping on a hijacked plane (true to his nickname, Mike “the Mad” wanted to open pressurized windows of the plane to throw away weapons while flying). While no naval clash occurred in 1981, the botched coup of June 1986, orchestrated with coordination of the traitor minister of defense, prevented by mere presence the Indian frigate INS Vindhyagiri deliberately stationed in harbor, while the Seychelles patrol ship Zoroaster (ex-Soviet hydrofoil torpedo boat project206M) with Soviet advisors made patrols to intercept alleged boats of infiltrators.
A second coup by same plotters prevented in September: the leader and his men captured on Praslin Island.
It is unclear if during September operations, Seychelles naval vessels engaged (likely) and if they seized or captured some boats used by plotters (less certain).

Early 1987
On request by Mozambique government, the Indian Navy begun patrolling Mozambique waters in search for supply boats and transports backing the RENAMO armed group.
There is little to no information about these operations, while it is sure that no confrontation occurred with South African Navy, it is unknown if some RENAMO-manned boat seized.
This year, the war in Mozambique reached a bloody peak when RENAMO committed the “Homoìne Massacre”, killing over 400 civilians inhabiting the village.

On unclear day, during the Civil War in Mozambique
The Mozambique Navy lost two patrol boats of the Soviet-made project1400E. Details off the incidents are unclear, likely due enemy ground shelling or rocket fire.

2 June 1988
The Angolan Navy suffer her own single loss during the Civil War, with the sinking of the project205 missile boat “4th of February”. It is unclear how the vessel sunk, no South African claim, but possibly, it was ground fire from UNITA forces or some sabotage.

8 March 1988
The rebel group FRNSTP landed forty men on Sao Tomé to attempt a coup. They were quickly routed, the entire force captured (except 2 KIA) and at least one boat seized (later used by the army, ironically a money compensation for it paid in '90s). The group backed by Cameroon, and by South Africa operating in support of the anti-guerrilla campaign in Namibia. Angolan troops directly engaged in battle, while Soviet advisors did not engaged. Apparently, the small defense force of the country engaged no naval craft or boat during the operation (two Soviet-delivered patrols were in bad state by 1987).

6 July 1989
Unidentified armed men off Mozambican coast opened fire against the ship Ocean Star. There were no damages or casualties. Possibly a RENAMO’s attack or maybe some bandits.

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