Angola Table of Contents
In the 1980s, Angola diversified its foreign arms acquisitions for political and practical reasons. Politically, Luanda was anxious to gain international legitimacy, counter UNITA's international diplomatic offensive, reduce its dependence on its communist allies, and gain leverage in dealing with its traditional arms suppliers. The practical reason was dissatisfaction with the level of support given by the Soviet Union and its allies, the poor quality of some equipment, and the inability to obtain certain military matériel. Perhaps in deference to the Soviet Union and other communist benefactors, most procurements from other sources consisted of relatively inexpensive support equipment. This policy left Moscow with a virtual monopoly on the provision of major weapons systems.
Diversification was evident in FAPLA's purchase of jeeps, Land Rovers, and radios from Britain, trucks and communications equipment from West Germany, small-caliber ammunition and artillery shells from Belgium, uniforms from Japan, and jeeps, trucks, and truck engines from Brazil. The MGPA also discussed the acquisition of corvettes with French, Spanish, and Portuguese shipbuilders. Among the larger purchases made from Western Europe were Swiss Pilatus training aircraft; Spanish CASA C-212 Aviocar transport aircraft; French Dauphin, Gazelle, and Alouette helicopters; French Thomson-CSF tactical military transceivers; and British Racal radio communications equipment.
Ironically, Portugal continued to play a role in the Angolan conflict. Although the Portuguese government did not officially provide arms, military assistance, or troops, private Portuguese "mercenaries" and advisers apparently served with both FAPLA and UNITA. In 1983 retired Portuguese admiral Rosa Coutinho set up a company to hire former military and reserve officers, many of whom had served in Angola during the war of liberation, as contract military advisers and to train FAPLA counterinsurgency units. Twelve were reported to be training FAPLA instructors in early 1984, and a total of thirty-two were reportedly hired in 1986. However, several of these advisers were killed in action against UNITA, and most left by late 1987. UNITA also claimed that some 3,000 Portuguese "communists" were in the country assisting Luanda in late 1986, but this claim may have been either an exaggeration or a reference to civilian technicians. MPLA-PT sources charged that there were more than 2,000 South African-trained Portuguese commandos fighting with UNITA.
Data as of February 1989