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Few military strategists have been prepared to concede the extraordinary role helicopter gunships have played in many African conflicts during the course of the past half-century. Mali's government was on the verge of collapse following a largely al-Qaeda-backed invasion of the country when the French went in, early 2013. Three weeks later they had battled all the way up to the gates of Timbuktu and driven the rebels into the desert. It was ground forces that were at the vanguard of that onslaught, but they would have taken months without the backing of France's legendary helicopter-orientated Armee de l'Air, details of which are to be found in the first chapter. It was exactly the same with Rhodesia's war. Without gunships that guerrilla struggle would have been over in a couple of years, ground forces overwhelmed by preponderate insurgent numbers. Again, in South Africa's Border War and the civil war that followed in Sierra Leone, it was gunships did most of the damage, as happened more recently with various mercenary groups fighting in Angola, Somalia and elsewhere. In Nigeria, a group of about 70 South African mercenaries went in against Boko Haram Jihadis in 2014.With chopper gunship-support they caused the rebels more damage in three months than the Nigerian Army achieved - or rather, did t achieve - in six years The Chopper Boys was first published a quarter century ago on three continents: Britain, the United States and South Africa. It went well, the original edition having become a collector's item, which is why this edition is w appearing, reinforced by six new chapters that cover some of the events that have since taken place.
British national Al Venter has written more than a dozen books on recent military history including War Dog: Fighting Other People's Wars on mercenaries as well as Gunship Ace (which covers the exploits of Neall Ellis, the world's most famous mercenary aviator). He spent much of his professional career reporting on wars for Jane's Information Group as well as for various news and photo agencies. These assignments ranged from visiting Beirut several times to cover the Lebanese civil war from the Christian side to a spate of African conflicts that included Biafra, South Africa's border wars, the Rhodesia insurgency, the Congo, Tanzania's invasion of Idi Amin's Uganda, Executive Outcomes mercenary operations in Angola and Sierra Leone and others. He was operational in El Salvador's guerrilla struggle and later, in the Balkans. At the behest of the CIA, he made a one-hour TV documentary on the Soviet offensive in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s. Venter has written three books on nuclear proliferation, including Iran's Nuclear Option and How South Africa Built Six Atom Bombs. He originally qualified as a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers at the Baltic Exchange in London.