From: thomas smith Subject: Sia-Marchetti S260 Operations in Chad-1989-1990
To: "dudley.fort" Cc: "bob scot" Date: Sunday, December 6, 2009, 11:59 AM
1. The following bit of history happened to me, in Chad, during an assignment to the American Embassy at N'Djamena from 1989-1990, as the Political/Military Officer. During the first weeks of my tour, I flew in a U.S. military C-130 to an oasis in the north-eastern corner of Northern Chad to a former Libyan airbase, called Ouadi-Doum. The base had been overrun earlier by the Goran military forces loyal to the President of Chad, Hissan Habre. The Goran tribes were a majority element of the Chadian army, FANT (Force Armee National du Tchad) and were, as a group, the most suicidal and ferocious troops, I have ever encountered. Using cut-down- no cab tops- Toyata pick up trucks, fitted with long-range gas tanks, and armed with 30/50 caliber machine guns, the Gorans simply charged through the elaborate minefields with cross-fire aimd Libyan machine guns and overran the airstrip. Out of approximately 2500 Libyan personnel, only 50 were spared. It was explained to me that these "survivors" were found the day after the initial attack, "after our blood had cooled", and were thus saved. The evidence was plain to see, as the bodies of dead Libyans were scattered all about, as the Gorans did not deign to bury the bodies of the enemy. The ambient temperature ( about 135 degrees) had dried their remains in various twisted positions, and they are,in all probability, still there! I explored most of the camp, and saw no evidence of any non-Libyan "advisers" or any sign of organized executions, although the sun and drifting sand, made it difficult to be certain on these matters.

What brought me to this god-foresaken bit of desert was the fact that an extraordinary amount of Soviet equipment had been captured in the raid in excellent condition: most importantly, a fully operational HIND-24 helocopter, complete with the latest "look down-shoot down" firing sytem, the first such find the U.S. military had discovered (those in Afghanistan, when found, were in various pieces)! Along with the HIND, an array of mobile radars, air control equipment and spare parts, were found which the Pentagon was happy to purchase from an even happier Chadian government. In a separate part of the airstrip were eight S260 aircraft, covered in sand/dust, alone and forlorn. I looked them over and discovered they had Lycoming engines! And so the FAT (Force Airienne du Tchad) was born!

A series of inspired cables back to Washington and the FAT PROJECT was approved! It proved that three of the eight S260 planes had sustained too much damage during the Goran attack and were not operational, so a total of eight Lycoming rebuilt engines along with a ton of spare parts duly arrived in N'Djamena. There already existed a section of the FANT, which consisted of a gaggle of transport aircraft, ranging from an ancient DC-6 to a C-130f, provided by the U.S. Government, with Chadan pilots, trained by U.S./French technicians.The Chadian President fully supported the formation of the FAT, and pilots, and necessary support technicians were formed up from the existing FANT section, so all was set to go except the S260s were in Ouadi Doum and all the new engine installations had to be done in N'Djamena, about 1200 kilometers to the south of Ouadi Doum. A Belgian pilot's services was hired along with a Belgian owned/leased S260 who came to N'Djamena and trained five pilots to fly the Marchettis (take off,landing and flying in a straight line), and consumed almost all the red wine in Chad during the process! We all went up to Oadi Doum, along with a tough old mechanic from Lycomng, who patched up the S260s, which had not flown for six months, and flew the FAT to N'Djamena via a French air base at Abeche in eastern Chad, without a single problem! I am a licensed FAA, single fixed wing pilot, andI had qualified in Cessnas, 150s, 127s, and 182s so flying a stick plane was new to me, but I found the S260 remarkably easy to adjust to, so this first trip was quite enjoyable, except I watched the oil pressure gauge the entire trip! With all five planes in N'Djamena, a second mechanic was brought out from the U.S. and the rebuilt Lycomings were all installed. The FAT was ready to become operational!

The Chadian pilots loved flying the S260 aircraft, and beame better and better in flying the plane. We had a real problem with replacing the cockpit canopies, as they had been scratched, and clouded over by the long period of neglect at Ouadi Doum. Marchetti people were not helpful in this matter, and I went "out of channels" to talk with a friend in the airplane parts business in Miami. Through him, I put the Chadians in touch with a parts supplier in, once again, Belgium, who were able to order the canopies from Marchetti! A word about the political situation in Chad. Two close associates of President Habre from the Zagawa tribe located in Western Sudan located around the town of El Fashur, in the Darfur,fell out with Habre and fled back to Sudan. One was killed in the attempt, but the other, Colonel Debbe escaped. With the support of Libya, he began preparations to invade Chad. It was time for the FAT to be useful. Initially, the FAT had been planned to be a reconnaisance element for the FANT, as the Sahara will instantly show the tracks of vehicles, which can be photographed from the air and provide a record, (particularly in black and white) of movements of tracked vehicles. Thus the first role of the S260s was photogrphic reconnisance. We encountered an unexpected problem. The canopies refraction affected the quality of the photographs! After some efforts the best solution we could manage was to cut a small section out of the canopy and shoot through this. The third man in the plane shot over the shoulder of the co-pilot. Not the best of solutions, but the best we could manage, working under the limited budget we had. The major drawback was the chaotic wind blast in the cockpit and everything had to put away prior to using this option. A plywood plug fitted in the hole, helped somewhat but still produced some turbulance and lot's of noise! Much more to the pilots enjoyment was the discovery that the rocket pods under each wing, actually worked! The pods held five air-to-ground rockets, with the copilot having a plastic aiming sight. THIS really got the attention of the flight deck! The only problem was that the Chadian pilots didn't like flying low enough to effectively aim and deliver the rocket on target. We set up targets and I flew third seat and tried to get them to bore in before firing a rocket. As I was specically forbidden to fly on actual missions, I have no proof of the efficacy of their rocket attacks, but we did talk with captured Zagawas, who told us the FAT scared them to death!

All told, during the period I was handling the FAT PROJECT, approximately fifty mission were flown. During this time no Libyan aircraft were seen, and no damage from ground-fire was recorded. There was wear and tear from the constant sand, which required TDY visits from a Lycoming mechanic to repair. We lost one plane on takeoff at N'Djamena, where the canopy was not properly secured , and retracted during early climb out. The pilot tried to attempt a go-around, and stalled in, killing both pilot and co-pilot, who survived the impact, but subsequently burned to death, attempting to escape the burning plane.

I retired from the Foreign Service and left N'Djamena 1 June, 1990, surviving huge party at "Le Central" a famous restaurant in N'Djamena, were I said goodbye to my colleagues in the FAT. President Habre abdicated in the fall of 1990 and Colonel Debbe became president. I have no idea what happened to the S260 planes or the FAT.

Ok, Dudley, there it is. Memories a long time ago! I have one or two photographs I will send to you if you think they might be useful.
Cap'n Tom.