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In November 1981 a secret South African Air Force reconnaissance DC-4 aircraft called Zero One embarked on a mission to locate enemy missile systems in southern Angola. On board was an ad hoc crew of electronic warfare operators, interpreters, intelligence officers and pilots still drunk from the previous night’s revels. Shortly after midday, the DC-4 was attacked by a MiG-21 flown by a Cuban pilot with the call sign ‘Corazón’. The aircraft was hit and plummeted from the sky, entering a desperate dive for survival that came within seconds of killing everyone on board.Radio and communications operator Gary Boustead was one of those on board that fateful mission who lived to tell the tale. Conscripted into the SAAF in the late 1970s, he flew secret operations on Zero One in which his job was to pinpoint enemy targets for attack by Mirages and Buccaneers as part of South Africa’s efforts in the Border War. It was an adrenaline-fuelled hellride, during which Boustead lived in constant fear of Cuban-piloted MiGs and surface-to-air missiles. This is his story.In Zero One, Boustead brings to life his experiences as a reluctant white conscript, apathetic soldier and ‘ghost’ radio operator in the SAAF’s secret electronic-surveillance operations in Angola and Mozambique in the 1980s. He explores the contradictions and betrayal of conscience that came with being forced to serve in the South African Defence Force during the Border War, and provides unique insight into the secret world of SAAF intelligence gathering.Written in an electrifying, hyper-real style, Zero One is an engaging story that confronts the gritty reality of war and exposes a little-known aspect of apartheid South Africa’s insidious campaign on the Angolan border.
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