168. Report Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1


  • Status Report on CIA Assistance to the Congolese Air Force

1. This memorandum presents a status report on the CIA program for assistance to the Congolese Air Force.

2. Summary

A. From January through March 1963, CIA, with Special Group approval, covertly furnished to the Congolese Air Force (CAF) pilot and maintenance personnel and assorted supplies for the operation and maintenance of 6 Harvard T–6 aircraft which are the property of the CAF. In April 1963, in coordination with the Departments of State and Defense, a determination was made to expand this activity to include additional aircraft, pilot and maintenance personnel. In February 1964, as a result of the Kwilu uprising, the Department of State concurred in shifting the mission of the air support program from a non-combat, psychological effort to an active combat participation.

B. Anticipating the June 1964 withdrawal of the UN forces in the Congo in face of an active Kwilu rebellion, President Johnson, on 24 April 1964, approved a Department of State recommendation to provide to the CAF on a loan basis six T–28 aircraft, and to provide on a grant basis ten H–21 aircraft through the Military Assistance Program. In the absence of Belgian or Italian willingness to fly the T–28s in [Page 240] combat, CIA has been requested by the Departments of State and Defense to provide the necessary personnel to maintain a T–28 combat capability.2 CIA intends to add a helicopter rescue capability for the air support program, and to operate the T–28 aircraft as replacements for the original Harvard T–6s for a period of one year beginning 1 July 1964, or to terminate this activity should the Belgians assume responsibility.

3. Discussion

A. The continuance of an active air support program for the GOC is necessitated by both political and military considerations. Originated as a psychological effort to enhance the prestige of the Adoula government when it was faced with the politically demoralizing Katanga secession and the militarily superior Katangan air force, this support program was continued after the Katangan conflict when it was determined that withdrawal of this air arm would be interpreted by both Prime Minister Adoula and Commander-in-Chief General Mobutu as a strong indication of a U.S. policy decision to withdraw its support of the present Congolese Government. The advent of the Kwilu uprising in February 1964 added a genuine military significance to this support program, and the decision was made by the Department of State to accede to a GOC request to fly the T–6 Harvards in combat, using .30 caliber machine guns and rockets. Although this force has been an effective deterrent to the Kwilu revolt, the revolt continues. Upon withdrawal of the UN forces in June, the GOC will be faced with the Kwilu situation as well as a possible security threat in the Katanga and Kivu areas.

B. The U.S. Government has attempted to persuade either the Italian or Belgian Governments to furnish pilot and maintenance crews for the aircraft provided by the U.S. Department of Defense. The Italians have deferred flying in combat areas to the Belgians. The latter have agreed to fly the unarmed C–47s and H–21 helicopters in combat areas, but have not reached a decision on operating the armed T–28s.

C. While it is possible that the Belgians would cooperate with CIA personnel and support them with a helicopter rescue unit, there is no way of insuring control over such a unit. CIA is prepared to provide necessary personnel to establish a helicopter rescue capability under the direct control of CIA operational personnel, and to supply the necessary pilot and maintenance personnel to operate the armed T–28 aircraft in lieu of the Harvard T–6 aircraft. The latter aircraft are already [Page 241] considered unsafe to fly in combat conditions and will be retired on or about 1 July 1964. It is anticipated that unless the Belgians agree to fly the T–28s in combat, this activity will continue at least for an additional year at an annual cost of [dollar amount not declassified], exclusive of those spare parts and ammunition furnished by the Department of Defense. CIA has the necessary funds for this activity.

4. Coordination

This memorandum has been coordinated with the Department of State (Bureau of Central African Affairs) and with representatives in the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, AF/CM Files: Lot 67 D 63, DEF 19–3, Military Assistance, January–June 1964. Secret. No drafting information appears on the original.
  2. On May 28, the 303 Committee approved the budget of [text not declassified] for operation and maintenance of these aircraft by [text not declassified] contract personnel through fiscal year 1965. (Central Intelligence Agency Files, Office of Congressional Affairs, Review Staff Files, Job 86B00975R)