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"FAPLA and Cuban Uniforms in Angola in the '80s" Topic

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Royston Papworth24 Jun 2013 5:01 a.m. PST

Can anyone point me in the direction fo information on FAPLA's uniforms in the late '80s in Angola?

I have a couple of books, the Osprey, the Concord book, but they concentrate on the SADF and only mention FAPLA in passing.

The Osprey shows a FAPLA Colonel in vertical lizard with a khaki background.

However, elsewhere there is also mention of grey lizard and some of the pictures in the Concord book (and there aren't many of FAPLA) seems to show Olive Drab.

Likewise I have seen pictures of the Cubans in lizard, but references to them in Olive Drab.

Any help and I would be much obliged! It is a shame that the Osprey was really just a book on the SADF, with only a small amount on the Angolans. The subject would be worthy of a short series on its own!

Irish Marine24 Jun 2013 6:17 a.m. PST

Camopedia is your friend! Here is a link to the website it's fantastic for painting moderns.


Royston Papworth24 Jun 2013 6:37 a.m. PST

Hi IM,

Yep, seen Camopedia, and it's normally a great help, but this time it only tells me that the camo was worn by some people, not whether it was extensively used by who and if there was a mix of the two camo's and Olive Drab.

If you see what I mean? Thanks btw!

Jemima Fawr24 Jun 2013 6:48 a.m. PST

From talking on the web to a few former SADF men and some Russian advisors who were there, they are adamant that FAPLA wore Portuguese-style camo to the near-total exclusion of all other uniforms. It really was a distinguishing feature of FAPLA.

As a consequence, the SADF's 32 Bn also adopted Portuguese-style camo as a way of blending in when behind FAPLA lines. UNITA took the opposite tack, opting instead for plain olive green in order to prevent friendly-fire incidents. The Cubans meanwhile, initially arrived in their trademark olive greens, but quickly adopted North Korean-made 'Lizard' pattern camo again chiefly to avoid friendly fire. Soviet Advisors also tended to wear the Cuban/North Korean uniform.

Some Cubans in Angola:



Royston Papworth24 Jun 2013 10:01 a.m. PST

Thanks Mark.

I like that colour picture. The interesting thing is that the shirts on the three in the centre appear a lot lighter than their trousers and that the 'look' is green, rather than the grey I expected.

So, if I went for the Cubans in a greener end of the spectrum version of grey lizard (!) and for FAPLA the sandy/light green version of vertical lizard I wouildn't be far off?

Hmmn, I think I'll need to give this some careful thought on how to paint these… Perhaps something based on Elheim's French camo…

kingscarbine24 Jun 2013 11:49 a.m. PST

Cubans and FAPLA also used North Korean made camo. I've painted some FAPLA using two shades of grey and rusty brown.


Jemima Fawr24 Jun 2013 1:03 p.m. PST

You'd see the same sort of wild colour variation in 1970s/80s vintage British DPM. It all depends on dye quality, wear, weather, age and whether or not there was an 'r' in the month.

The Portuguese camo generally used by FAPLA was on a light khaki base, with roughly horizontal 'swooshes' of green and brwn. The North Korean/Cuban camo was much the same, except on a 'field grey' base.

Yes, FAPLA undoubtedly also made use of North Korean/Cuban-supplied uniforms, but the general 'theme' remained the Portuguese type.

thejoker24 Jun 2013 4:59 p.m. PST

Horizontal lizard pattern Portuguese and others
Vertical Lizard pattern French and others
from my reading the Portuguese liked the French Lizard camo but to get round the possible problems with copying it simply changed the brush stroke colours to a more horizontal look.

Royston Papworth11 Jul 2013 4:48 a.m. PST

Just come back to look at this thread again, to refresh my memory and what struck me is how in the colour picture, the Cuban's uniforms look monitone.

Ok, I am not saying the shirts and trousers look the same colour, but each item looks one colour. If I peer at the dark green, ok I can make out the brown 'blobs', but overall they look just dark green. Likewise the light grey/green shirts.

The camo looks more pronounced in the black and white picture…

Time to think again about how to do this on 20mm figs. Luckily I am still painting the SADF types at the mo…

Rino8805 Mar 2022 2:20 p.m. PST

According to Camopedia:
Originally introduced for service with units serving in Africa, the m63 "vertical lizard" camouflage pattern was worn by Portuguese units throughout the Angolan War for Independence. Remaining stocks ended up in the hands of FAPLA, UNITA, and the FNLA, when they were liberated from supply houses after Portuguese military personnel abandoned the country.

So why does everyone keep calling the Portuguese and Fapla camo horizontal? Shouldn't it be vertical lizard, and so matching with the Osprey picture of the Fapla colonel?

Soldat13 Mar 2022 4:10 p.m. PST

i have some surplus portuguese lizard camo and it is verticle.

144man27 Oct 2022 9:01 p.m. PST

Note that like other web pages, Camopedia content is not fixed, so the information available when the post was written may not match its current state. As the original thread was from 2013, the information on Camopedia could have been incorrect or just confusing at the time.

Honestly, for uniforms in the "liberation" period go with your best guess as to uniforms, and chances are that you will be at least partially correct.

By the way, from reading several accounts of the Angolan conflict, I agree with the statement above that FAPLA seemed to prefer the Portuguese "vertical lizard" camo, although almost all of the unit pictures feature a mix of camo with solid military and civilian clothing.

Oldgrumbler10 Nov 2022 12:22 a.m. PST

Try this website for anything about wargaming the Angolian War, the last hot war of the Cold War.

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP15 Nov 2022 3:03 p.m. PST

The portoguese stuff was the first to run out being most popular. After that it was either the East German or North Korean knock offs of the lizard cam. There was big variation in colours and fade speed.

Olive green was the next most common. Once cubans were there, they tended to look for the lizaed stuff to 'stand out' less.
Definitely lizard cam for anyone in an advisor role.

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