Khormaksar operations - 1965


The rapid reaction taken in response to the ever deteriorating situation in the Radfan in 1964 undoubting averted the dissident threat from spreading throughout the Protectorate and allowed up country operations to be scaled back. The new year, however, began at a much faster pace operationally, despite six Hunters from 8 and 43 Squadron being detached to Masirah from 4 to 10 January. The largest single operation being carried out by Strike Wing on 16 January, when eight 43 Squadron Hunters attacked a dissident camp and supply dump in the Wadi Yaha with rockets and cannon. This was immediately backed up by a Shackleton of 37 Squadron dropping 1,000 lb bombs on the same targets. Initial reports indicated that the operation achieved its objective in destroying dissidents and their supplies. Although there were very few other Hunter strikes during the remainder of the month, 8 and 43 Squadrons were regularly called in to perform flagwaves in the Dhala, Lauder and Wadi Tiban areas. On a couple of occasions, top cover sorties were flown to cover Beverleys landing at Mukeiras where dissident activity had been reported.

Two pre-strike recces were flown by 1417 Flight FR.10s in addition to a number of photo and visual recces.

Two 37 Squadron Shackletons were scrambled to search for a missing USAF light aircraft in the Asmara area but the sea4rch was called off when the aircraft was found to have landed without reporting his whereabouts.

A FAC course for Army Officers was successfully run by 225 GL section, students being given familiarisation trips in a Hunter T.7 followed by several days of practice FAC controlling of Hunters in the field.

Towards the end of the month, a team from DFCS arrived at Khormaksar in order to spend two weeks of assessment with Strike Wing.


February was a more relaxed month, apart from the 15th, when six pairs of Hunters from 8 Squadron under FAC control carried out strikes in support of Royal Marine Commandos operating in the Dhala area until last light. Other activities by the Hunter units included flagwaves in the Jebel Khuder and Awabil areas, leaflet drops in the Ruseis area plus a number of border patrols following an incursion from the Yemen near Beihan.

Two Hunters were ferried back to the UK for refurbishment and two brought out from the UK routing via Jeddah and El Adem or Akrotiri as the use of Khartoum was still being denied to RAF aircraft.

On the 11th of the month, as part of the presentation of the standard to 78 Squadron, fifteen 8 and 43 Squadron Hunters flew past in a ‘78’ formation - 8 Squadron naturally flying the ‘8’. This was achieved after several practices but the result drew favourable comment from all quarters.

On the Shackleton front, one 37 Squadron crew returned with its aircraft after a two-week ASW detachment to Changi, during which it flew one patrol in Kuching Bay searching for infiltrators but without success. And on the final day of the month, two 42 Squadron Shackletons and their crews flew into Khormaksar from St Mawgan for a nineteen-day detachment.


On 1 March two 37 Squadron Shackletons and crews left Khormaksar for the UK for a two-week maritime training course at the Joint Anti Submarine School (JASS) in Londonderry. One aircraft was found to be suffering from corrosion and was declared unserviceable and had to be left behind for inspection and rectification. For the duration of the 37 Squadron detachment to the UK, three aircraft and crews from 42 Squadron, St Mawgan, flew out to Khormaksar to replace them. This gave the 42 Squadron crews the opportunity of bringing their training in the IS role up-to-date.

On 8 March, the pilots, groundcrew and aircraft of 8 Squadron, plus two 1417 Flight FR.10s departed Khormaksar for a two-week detachment to Masirah to undergo strike and photo recce training in an area not familiar to many pilots. They returned on the 19th.

In the second week of the month, after some fighting, the fort and town of Harib, over the Yemen border near Beihan, was taken by Yemeni Royalists after having been in Egyptian/Republican hands for more than two years. This resulted in an increase in air activity with Republican Mig-17 fighter aircraft harassing the Royalist Forces in the area close to the border and a number of infringements into Federal Territory by Migs occurred. As a consequence, a considerable number of border patrols were flown in the Beihan area by the Hunter squadrons during the week.

Other Hunter activities consisted of strikes on dissidents in the area to the east of Dhala, including several in support of FRA ground forces attempting to control them. A number of flagwaves were also flown in this and other areas.

The only operation in the Internal Security (IS) role during March was carried out by a 37 Squadron Shackleton attacking a dissident hideout south east of Dhala with 20 lb air grenades. As cover for the aircraft carrying the Duke of Edinburgh on the leg Beirut - Muharraq - Karachi and back again, two airborne SAR sorties were flown by 37 Squadron aircraft, landing at Sharjah and Masirah respectively.

The Strike Wing aircraft allocation and hours flown in March are shown in the table below:

Aircraft type Allocation Hours flown
Hunter FGA.9 25


Hunter FR.10



Hunter T.7



Shackleton MR.2



Total flying hours   1,047.40


Air defence operations continued along the Yemen border near Beihan throughout the month of April in the form of Hunter patrols devised to ensure no further incursions by Yemeni Mig fighters. The Hunter squadrons also took part in Operations Park and Brick and carried out strikes in the Wadi Bana (east of Khandara) and in the Al Kara district. A number of flagwaves were flown in addition and towards the end of the month, two top cover sorties flew in support of an AAC Scout helicopter en-route to Habilayn.

Meanwhile, five IS sorties were flown by 37 Squadron Shackletons comprising two flagwaves at Shingra and Yashbum, and a leaflet drop in the Yashbum/Ataq area, while more lethal 20 lb anti-personnel bomb attacks were mounted in support of operations at Dhala and Habilayn. Operations in the maritime role consisted of an unsuccessful search for an Iraqi Lines vessel, the ‘Fourteenth July’, suspected of gun-running to Saudi Arabia and a detachment to Nairobi to shadow and photograph a Soviet arms vessel, the ‘Fizikle Bedev’, which had been ordered out of Mombasa Harbour (still laden) by Premier Jomo Kenyatta.


Royalist victories on the ground in the Harib area relieved the pressure on the Al Haqla Pass and resulting in border violations by Yemeni aircraft being limited to one incursion by an IL-14 ‘Crate’ transport aircraft. As a consequence, the Hunter Air Defence commitment in this area dwindled to a virtual standstill, only eight such sorties being flown during the month. However, strikes were carried out at Al Kuraibah, where an arms dump was destroyed, with further strikes being carried out on targets five miles to the west of Thumier. Other Hunter operations included flagwaves at Habban, Siwan and Am Kidda and a fire-power demonstration at Al Mithaf. Six further sorties were flown by FGA.9s in Operation Mish Mish in support of 22 SAS. Eight operational sorties were flown by 1417 Flight FR.10s during the month.

The first of three IS sorties flown by 37 Squadron in May comprised escorting a convoy up the Dhala road while the remaining two were flagwaves in Wadi Harakhia and the second over an area where the Quaiti and Wahidi tribes had been reported fighting each other; no fighting was seen. Maritime operations were unusually large in number this month with the Kenya detachment continuing to shadow and photograph the Russian arms ship ‘Fizikle Bedev’ from Mombasa on its way north up the Indian Ocean and a successful sortie with the same aim was carried out against another Soviet vessel steaming down the Red Sea. Another Iraqi Lines ship, the ‘Fourteenth Ramadan’, suspected of arms smuggling, was shadowed in the Persian Gulf in co-operation with the Royal Navy. Operating from Sharjah, two sorties were flown in support of this task and a further four sorties were flown in the search for gun-running dhows in the Gulf area.

In view of the build up of maritime commitments in AFME territory, two 38 Squadron Shackleton MR.2s were attached to Khormaksar on 29 May in support of 37 Squadron for an anticipated period of two months.


Sqn Ldr Des Melaniphy assumed command of 8 Squadron on 1 June, Sqn Ldr Tam Syme having come to the end of his tour. As if by way of a welcome, the month began with a flourish of activity, one strike by 8 and 43 Squadron Hunters being carried out in area Delta near Dhala, and two more in the Wadi Bana on the 3rd. A number of flagwaves and ten top cover sorties were also flown. A brief interlude of relative serenity then preceded an attack on two targets by Yemeni Migs on 29 June; one on a well near Nejd Marqad and a second on a Federal Guard Post at Bulaiq, killing two Arab women and injuring two others and a guard. From the same day, Beihan Air Defence patrols were re-instated to deter further incursions.

To familiarise its new pilots with the Gulf area, 43 Squadron along with two 1417 Flight FR.10s and pilots, flew up to Masirah on detachment from 10 to 25 June. As in the past, tactical training gained in this area proved of considerable value to both GA and FR elements involved.

At Khormaksar, 1417 Flight was called upon to fly nine recce sorties, two of them on the 30th in connection with the Mig attacks of the previous day, enemy ground forces having been suspected of crossing the border in the Beihan area. The bulk of the Flight’s remaining operations involved convoy escort duty along the Dhala road.

Two IS sorties were flown by 37 Squadron early in the month, the first as escort to a Dhala road convoy and the second in an area south west of Lodar where two rival groups were reported to be fighting, but nothing was seen. On the 2nd, one aircraft on the Sharjah detachment performed a search in the Persian Gulf for gun-runners before returning to Khormaksar three days later, leaving one 38 Squadron aircraft at Sharjah. Two SAR operations were flown on 30 June to search for a Greek ship, ‘Thrazy Voulos’, reported to be in difficulties in the south western monsoon some 300 miles south of Socotra Island.  Nothing was seen on either sortie, but on 1 July, a 38 Squadron Shackleton found wreckage but no survivors. It was assumed that the ship sank with all hands on the night of 29/30 June.


Twelve Air Defence sorties were flown by Strike Wing Hunter FGA.9s in the first half of July, but with no infringements having been reported, they were discontinued. Four strikes flown in support of an FRA patrol being engaged by dissidents east of Dhala, resulted in the death of two dissidents with another wounded.

Six photo recce sorties were flown by 1417 Flight FR.10s; two on Dhala convoy escort patrols, another two in the Beihan area looking for dissidents, and the final pair on a search for a dissident hideout in the Wadi Yahar.

Only one IS sortie was flown by the Shackletons, consisting of a recce of two small villages on the border of the Trucial States and EAP. And only one maritime was sortie was called for, consisting of a search for a Soviet vessel, the ‘Sovetsk’, which was located in the Red Sea and its deck cargo photographed as tasked.


Following the relative quiet of the previous couple of months, August was a much busier month with a total of thirty-three operational sorties being flown by Strike Wing FGA.9s. With no border infringements reported for some time only two sorties were tasked in the Air Defence role. Five top cover sorties were flown in support of ground forces in the Awabil area on the 11th but, due to unserviceability of the FAC’s radio, no attacks could be carried out even though the targets could be clearly seen. On the 17th, two aircraft performed a dusk strike under FAC control to the north of Blairs Field in the Radfan, killing two dissidents and wounding another two. The wounded were believed to have been evacuated to Taiz in the Yemen. A total of sixteen flagwave sorties were flown in the month in areas as diverse as Ruseis, Nisab, Subaykh, Marfad, Al Kharba, Halyan, the Imrad area and in the Wadi Hatib. The month’s operations concluded with eight armed recces on the 29th and 30th in support of an FNG sweep in the Yashbum area. No targets were engaged and the operation failed to reveal the dissidents believed to be in the area.

Strike Wing FR.10 Hunters flew eighteen operational sorties during the month, eight of the eleven in the WAP being in search of dissident hideouts and ammunition dumps in the Wadis Kurdara, Yahar and Mayfa’ah. A further two sorties were assigned to road recces in the west of Lahej State and a final sortie was flown at Jebel Hanak prior to a fire-power demonstration. The remaining seven FR sorties were flown from Salalah in the EAP but the missions and results of these sorties were not disclosed in the ORBs for security reasons, although the operation was know as Thesiger.

Strike Wing Shackletons also saw an increase in their workload with five IS sorties tasked during the month. Four were concentrated on escort cover for convoys travelling the roads to Dhala and Habilayn and the final sortie, flown on the 31st, a leaflet drop, gave warning of a fire-power demonstration at Jebel Hanak, scheduled to take place on 1 September. The aim of this operation was to deter the notable dissident leader, Ahmed Bubaker Bin Saridh, from causing further trouble in the area. One maritime sortie was flown at the request of HQPG to look for the freighter ‘Fourth of July’ which was suspected of gun-running. She was located and identified on the night of 12 August in the Persian Gulf. Of the three SAR sorties flown, the first was a night callout to look for a small Dhow which had put out a Mayday call. She was not located during an all night search and had, apparently, crept back to port without informing anyone. The remaining two sorties were in support of SAR Flight Whirlwind helicopters operating at maximum range with the task of lifting seriously ill personnel from various ships on the 27th and 29th of the month.


Hunter operations for September commenced on the first day when the ground attack elements of Strike Wing were tasked to support 4 and 5 FRA who were heavily engaged by dissident forces in the Jebel Khuder area. Air support continued through the afternoon of the 1st and further sorties were tasked from dawn on the 2nd to cover the withdrawal and evacuation of casualties by helicopter. In all, 35 sorties were flown in support of this action and known losses inflicted on the dissidents included the death of Muhammad Ali Ghalib and four others, and the wounding of a further three. Also on the same day, a six aircraft fire-power demonstration was carried out on Jebel Hanak in the Upper Aulaqi Sheikdom as a further deterrent to the Bubakir Bin Farid. On the 3rd, fifteen sorties were flown in the Wadi Maraban, near Wilan, with the aim of destroying two houses belonging to a collaborator. This operation was concluded successfully. Remaining operations during the month consisted of ten flagwaves flown over Jebel Urr on the 2nd, and Ruseis, Nisab and Dhi Surah on the 11th, 17th and 27th respectively.

Number 1417 Flight flew 43 operational sorties during the month, 27 of these being in support of Operation Thesiger, the purpose of which was still not disclosed for security reasons. Other sorties consisted mainly of reconnaissance of buildings suspected of housing dissident sympathisers or their equipment and post strike recce of the Wadi Maraban operation. Towards the end of the month the Flight recommenced Operation Ranji which involved a daily task flown at irregular times to investigate coastal and shipping activity within the three mile limit.

Meanwhile, 37 Squadron Shackletons were kept busy flying four IS sorties during September, two on a fire power demonstration and two in close support of Dhala convoys. The fire power demonstration, which involved dropping 30 x 1,000 lb bombs on Jebel Hanak, was part of a combined operation which included the Hunter effort already recorded. In addition, one maritime operation was tasked with locating the Russian Freighter ‘Ola’. She was sighted steaming down the Red Sea just north of Perim Island and was seen to be carrying a large crate on deck.


October was a quiet month for the ground attack squadrons with just two flagwaves, one on the Dhala road and the second as top cover at Am Shudayf, some 50 miles west of Khormaksar.

By contrast, 1417 Flight’s FR.10s flew 27 operational sorties, 17 of these on Operation Ranji. The remaining ten were mainly concerned with dissident activity in the Wadi Bana and Yaffa areas.

The reduction in operational sorties enabled both 8 and 43 Squadrons to hold detachments at Masirah for periods of tactical training. 8 Squadron departed on the 11th and returned on the 23rd with 43 Squadron departing on the 26th, it still being there come the end of the month. Both detachments included an element of pilots and aircraft from 1417 Flight.

It was a similar situation on 37 Squadron where only one operational sortie was flown by one of its Shackletons, a recce of the northern coast of the Somali Republic. One Shackleton was detached to Gibraltar from 18th to 25th for a period of maritime training.


The tempo increased slightly in November with Strike Wing FGA.9s being tasked to fly seven flagwaves at Ruseis, Al Mithaf, the Jebels Khuder and Harrir, Wilan and Wadi Dulay’ah. Of the nineteen sorties flown by Strike Wing FR.10s, fourteen were on Operation Ranji with the remaining five concentrating on post-strike recces following a Shackleton IS sortie, a search for a 105 mm gun west of Beihan and a recce of Sheikh Othman prior to an Internal Security cordon and search. 43 Squadron returned from detachment at Masirah on 9 November.

The 37 Squadron IS operation referred to above, occurred on the 1st of the month when two Shackletons were tasked to bomb a known dissident hideout at the junction of Wadi Bana and Wadi Taym. In addition, two maritime sorties were flown in search of a Russian ship named ‘Ostrogozhsk’ which suspected of carrying missiles. She was located steaming east and away from Aden on the 8th and found to be carrying a deck cargo of 42 lorries and four tanks.


The activity increased in December with 42 operational sorties being flown by the ground attack Hunters. The standby pair were scrambled on the first and last days of the month in response to calls for support from 45 Commando at Al Gibia and Wadi Taym. The second location call was a ‘Lulu’(?) which resulted in offensive action being taken by the Hunters, their arrival time from the call being received at Strike Wing HQ from Habilayn to the aircraft arriving overhead the target, was a creditable twelve minutes. On the 30th, five aircraft attacked and destroyed a dissident arms dump at Al Mazabah in the Wilan area of the Yaffa. The house concerned was successfully wrecked with cannon and rocket fire. The remaining FGA.9 sorties comprised, flagwaves, armed recces and border patrols.

FR.10 activities by 1417 Flight consisted in the main of Operation Ranji sorties, the scope of which was extended to the coastal area of Ras Fartak. The bulk of the Flight’s remaining sorties were flown in search of the target subsequently struck by Strike Wing FGA.9s at Al Mazabah and concluded with a post-strike recce late on 30 December.

The Shackletons of 37 Squadron were called upon to fly five IS sorties and one top cover sortie for a convoy en-route to Ataq. Two of the IS sorties were flown on the 12th and 13th, tasked to search for arms running camel trains in the Sabarayn area of the Yemeni border, while a third, on the 19th, was required to locate a party of sixty armed men on camels in the Husn Al Abr area. Nothing hostile was spotted on any of these sorties. The remaining two IS sorties were flown from Salalah on the 15 and 16th, the objective being a search for two Dodge lorries suspected of running arms to Muscat along the EAP border from the north. These were also unsuccessful.

As the end of the year approached, Air Vice-Marshal ‘Johnny’ Johnson came to the end of his tour and was succeeded as AOC, AFME by Air Vice-Marshal A.H. Humphrey. No AOC in Aden had endured a stress-free tour, but that of ‘Johnny’ Johnson was a particularly strenuous two years, being accountable for not only the Radfan campaign but a steadily worsening security situation in Aden itself.

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