The Falkland Islands and Our Pants

Some interesting and recent comments on other blogs and in posts on Think Defence about being able to defend and/or retake the Falkland Islands from an Argentine attack and invasion.

The Falkland Islands and surrounding smaller ones are sovereign territory, we have a clear obligation and mandate to protect them from aggression. Any operation there would not be a war of choice and we must not forget that Argentina has not relinquished her claim to the Islands.

The Argentine authorities have declared that any shipping that wishes to travel between Argentina and the Falkland Islands (including South Sandwich and South Georgia) must seek permission. This is a gradual upping of the general tempo around an issue which has never been fully resolved, i.e. Argentina continues to refuse accept that the Falklands are the Falklands and not the Malvinas.

What of the claims and counter claims about defending those islands down south?

The first thing we must be very clear on is that the defence of the Falkland Islands is based on a strategy of graduated readiness and scalable response, when the threat level increases ‘things happen’

The UK maintains a very close eye on the political and security situation within South America in general and Argentina specifically so military readiness on the islands is matched to observation and analysis. It is judged that currently, there exists a relatively low but tangible threat from Argentina and maintaining an appropriate defence and deterrent force is the right strategy.

Should this change and a more belligerent government come into power that matches sabre rattling with the buying of real sabres, then calculations would change and so would force levels and capabilities.

If we look at the actual capabilities of the Argentine forces to mount a combined arms amphibious operation to retake the islands, sustain an occupation against experienced and well armed dispersed defence forces and resist an operation to retake them then again, it is quite clear that fantasy does not meet reality.

They can huff and puff all they like but the piggies are quite safe, sitting in hardened aircraft shelters and 100m below sea level thank you very much.

So lets assume that MI6, GCHQ and the combined intelligence capability of the UK, plus of course Jane’s and Shepard Defence, have all completely missed a change in Argentine intentions and military capability to such a degree that the alert state on the islands remains low, no reinforcement having taken place and jogging is continuing to be carried on normally. We might also assume that intelligence and security relationships with our NATO and EU allies have also completely broken down and no product has been forthcoming from them either.

To lend credibility lets make some more Captain Fantastic assumptions, the internet has been disinvented and and the thousands of expats living in Argentina, defence contractors and Argentine press are doing their very best hear no, see no, see no and type no evil.

In short, all the vast array of instruments of intelligence at our disposal in a globalised world and interconnected defence economy have completely failed.

For Argentina to have built up a capable force and prevented it’s discovery would be a deception on a par with that perpetrated by the allies before D Day  but again, lets suspend reality for the sake of the argument and assume that they have the intention and means to do something about it, poised ready to attack, crouching tiger style.

Lots of assumptions here.

How might an attack proceed?

That of course depends on what they want to achieve, if it is a limited operation designed to make a statement, force the issue onto the worlds agenda and gain some recognition then a limited special forces attack might be chosen.

This limited special forces attack might also be a precursor to a more substantial attack designed to occupy the islands and force a negotiated settlement.

For the government of Argentina to attack the territory of another nation, however it might see things differently, would be incredibly foolhardy. They have done it once before and the prospect of the UK handing them their arses a second time around would weigh heavily on the minds of the military, national embarrassment is difficult for any nation, let alone one in South America with all that latin machismo.

The objectives would have to be very clear and capabilities well matched to those objectives.

Of course it is feasible to land a small scale special forces team on the islands, there is a long coastline and the islands are sparsely populated. If Argentina manages to bring into service a credible submarine force then yes, it would be possible, if Argentina manages to approach the islands under some sort of false flag type cover then a small force is eminently possible.

Who knows, perhaps there is one there now, shitting in plastic bags, but I doubt it.

But, there is a world of difference between getting sand between your toes and doing anything militarily useful.

Attacking Mount Pleasant Airfield and disabling the multipe air defence radar installations on the islands would be the obvious first task if such an operation was a precursor to a full scale invasion but how likely is it that a small team of swarthy underwater knife fighters will be able to completely destroy a large military airfield, disable multiple radar locations, deny the widely dispersed hardened aircraft shelters, disable the 4 (ish) Typhoons that might be there or might not be (they could of course be in the air), destroy the 10,000 foot long reinforced concrete airfield at key points, get the fuel facilities to go up in smoke, navigate the worlds longest corridor and generally create all sorts of mayhem while the garrison stationed in and around MPA were enjoying a quite night in by the fire with a penguin curry, avoiding stagging on, watching the TV or out on a sheep safari.

Once the attack starts they would also have to move about what is actually a very large place dodging the personnel who would of course not be standing to, executing pre-arranged drills and getting on top of the situation but instead be running about, Captain Mainwaring style, telling everyone not to panic.

Executing a neat shimy, Strictly Come Dancing style, our scenario also forgets that the roulement infantry company, detachment of Short Range Desert Group (Shemagh and Shades optional), Falkland Islands Defence Force, RN presence and various other capabilities basically sit on the sideline with a note from mum, excusing them anything strenuous.

The RIC will of course all have various shades of sun tan from their extensive world tour and therefore likely have ten times more actual combat experience than the forces ranged against them.

But none of this matters does it.

Filed in the ‘not relevant’ section of the scenario is the inconvenient fact that UK forces have been doing nothing for the last 30 odd years except planning for and rehearsing such an attack on MPA by Special Forces, I mean, whoever would have thought of that!

Credible so far?

If any of the Typhoons are in the air or launched within this initial attack , remembering there are more HAS than aircraft, each one could carry up to 8 air to air missiles and it is acknowledged to be one of the most potent air defence aircraft in the world.

It just does not add up to any sort of credible threat but lets assume there is another means of attack.

The Argentine Air Force wakes up one day and finds Santa Clause has delivered a fleet of fighter bombers, the support infrastructure and training necessary for an attack against one of the worlds  premier air dominance fighters and slip on shoes champions 70 odd years running and decides to go for an attack. Against 4 Typhoon it could be a numbers game, probing and feints might sap the endurance but this scenario assumes that yet again, the UK has decided not to bother swinging into action with the very well planned reinforcement plan that would see multiple Typhoons tanked south along with an E3 Sentry or two.

Yet again, the whole deception by distraction idea has never once been thought of, the RAF are complete chumps (stand fast at the back) and these scenarios have never been tested, ever, once, not ever.

Meanwhile various naval vessels and an amphibious force would be on their way, UK C17 and C130 fleet would be flying South full to the brim with every high readiness unit at the UK’s disposal, all of course taking the time to plan, receive intelligence whilst inbound, slap on a fetching shade of cam cream and get busy styling their luxuriant facial hair accouterments.

In very short order we could reinforce the Falkland Islands with a serious force, on top the very serious force that already exists.

Any operation to invade the islands would therefore be an issue of timing, Argentine forces would need to destroy the ability of Mount Pleasant before the UK could reinforce it.

If Argentine forces want to use MPA for themselves then a small team of special forces would have to overwhelm the entire station and assume complete control, if they want to deny it to us, this would be a suicide mission and require a force of such capability and numbers that it would need significant means of transport, where is this coming from.

Stepping forward into our fantasy scenario, MPA has been denied to both sides so this only leaves a follow on approach by sea.

Acting on a tip off, we now know that Tom Clancy has been sacked and a dose of realism injected into the plan, the attacking force would now require amphibious assets to mount an attack either over the beach or using one of the few port facilities, Mare Harbour or Port Stanley for example. Yet again, this assumes that they have completely neutralised the Falkland Islands Defence Force and other UK forces on the island because to mount an amphibious assault (with equipment they don’t actually have) against a force armed with Javelin missiles, and organic ISTAR  capabilities that leaves very few places to hide for example, would be rather risky, or suicidal depending on how you see these things.

So far so good, the Argentine forces have been able to change the political process in their country, build a credible force under the noses of the worlds intelligence and defence economy community, launch an attack against a hardened and well defended island, subdue vastly more experienced and better equipped forces and consolidate their gains with a handful of personnel, what next?

Forgetting the political and diplomatic angle, the occupying forces would have to reinforce and establish logistic support to sustain an occupation. If they have denied MPA they would have to effect repairs and/or use somewhere else and these somewhere else’s are in rather short supply.

The UK would immediately declare an exclusion zone that would extend to the Argentine coast and anything that was moving towards the Falkland Islands, naval or transport would likely find themselves bailing water in short order as the on station SSN was joined by several of her sisters, each desperate to fly the Jolly Roger when they get home. These would likely launch Tomahawk strikes against key locations such as airfields. Special forces would be flown down to join the submarines and would start infiltrating the islands or even mainland, things would really kick off then.

Assuming that sea movements became a non starter the only means of reinforcement and logistic sustainment would be by air.

I wonder how many transports would be downed by MANPADS armed Special Forces or key facilities at MPA and other locations denied by those .50cal Accuracy International Anti Material Rifles we seem to have a few of?

Things would become very difficult, very quickly, for any occupying force and that is before a task force could be assembled and sailed South. Admittedly we are in reduced circumstances at the moment but we are not that shabby either and using our newly signed Lisbon Treaty we might even expect those very nice chaps over the English Channel to wade in and go windmilling down south.

This is why our pants will never be around our ankles again, a sensible force structure against credible threats with a realistic reinforcement and deterrent plan

Much better to win the fight by not fighting than having to fight twice to regain the islands.

We should not be over confident though because over confidence and hubris leads to complacency, however, the notion that Argentina poses an imminent and credible threat might make a good novel, but is not realistic so lets not pretend otherwise.

Penguins, this is as close as Argentina is going to get

Falklands Penguins

About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

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jedibeeftrix

“Much better to win the fight by not fighting than having to fight to regain the islands.”

Absolutely, but it is nevertheless true that all this pre-planning for graduated response is backed up by the ultimate insurance policy; we can always take it back off of them.

This capability to take back the Falklands is also highly complimentary with Britain’s desire to maintain rapid/limited intervention forces, so it is dual-use and not therefore as ‘expensive’ as might be imagined.

Wibble

They key thing here is the poor quality of the Argentinian military and its equipment. They would need such an overwhelming force in order to succeed that we would notice there build up in advance and would be able to react.

Tubby

Great post TD, this reminds me of the well reasoned line taken over on ARRSE where one poster continued to battle the ever increasingly silly ideas of how Argentina would invade – such as false flag attacks, with Argentina using cargo ships flying false flags and mounting missiles in the deck mounted cargo containers to launch a surprise attack and pilots bailing out of an old cargo plane aimed at MPA, with plane full of explosives to cripple the runway.

I think its safe to say that in order for Argentina to invade it needs to increase its defence spending from 0.65% of GDP, it needs to recapitalise its air force, buy several amphibious ships, significantly improve their ASW and spend at least one to two years training with all these forces to stand a chance of taking the islands in a way that does not result in political failure.
What interesting is the limited options they have to recapitalise their forces given their budget constraints, their aversion to Russian or Chinese equipment and their desire to have new or newly new equipment. If they were willing to buy Chinese I would imagine they could easily change the dynamics with the UK, would we be quite so relaxed if they purchased say 24 J-10B’s, plus 36 JH-17’s plus a good number of PL-9 short-range missiles and PL-12 BVR missile, along with LT-2 LGB’s plus the JH-17 is apparently also cleared for Exocet missiles (apologies for not using the export designations for the J-10 or the missiles, I could not be bothered to look them up, and I cannot find any evidence that China has incorporated the KH-29/59 on either the J-10 or the JH-17 and they seem limited to LGB/Satellite guided bombs for the most part). They have already made steps to re-capitalise their transport fleet, and they will be able to use the transports in the tanker role as well. They might need to look at expanding their maritime helicopter and SH forces, but again buying Chinese or Russian might be the answer given their budget constraints

They could then look at improving their naval capabilities – this is their greatest weakness, they need more ASW frigates, possible a couple of new submarines, and they would also need new amphibious forces. I guessing all told they would need to persuade the Chinese to sell them three to four new build Type 54A frigates, a new build Type 71 LHD, get hold of a couple of the older Type 73 medium landing ships before they could be reasonably sure of getting (as the older Chinese frigates that they are likely to sell would be no better and possibly worse than current Argentine Naval frigates). Alternative are of course older frigates being retired from the US or European navies, but again I am not sure they are any better than the what they currently have. Also the older amphibious ships being retired (excepting the Bay sold to Australia) are rubbish and have already been rejected. Of course they could go to South Korea or Singapore, the Endurances for example are full of French systems and are pretty good medium sized amphibious ships.

x

The reason why the Falklands gets constantly raked over on sites like this is as a scenario it has nearly all the elements of an all arms war. What happens is that readers sometime mistake the hypothetical scenario for “real” propositions. Once the rat hole is entered it is hard to escape!

Argentina is no threat to the Falklands. Most Falklanders I know still dislike the nearest neighbour. And of the small number of Argentines I know they either don’t care about the issue or are blissfully ignorant of life islands, still see it as a passing romantic notion, but don’t really see how if ever the islands will be returned to them.

I think the RAF should have kept Tornado ADV down there instead of Eurofighter. 4 aircrew with 12 airframes mean there will always be a ‘plane available in theory. Tornado is bought and paid for. It would have eased the Typhoon situation a little perhaps too. Perhaps the ideal situation would have been for a Bristow like entrepreneur to step forward with PFI the support contract with Tornado maintainers about to leave the service. Experience would be kept, but leaving the RAF’s newer bods to concentrate on Typhoon.

jedibeeftrix

“fundamentally, nothing is defended unless we can take it back if necessary. That means carriers…which we no longer have. It’s that simple.”

for now.

but that has more to do with keeping 10,000 troops in a faraway dusty places for the last decade (and the next five), than it has to do with carriers.

come 2020 things will be different.

x

Ralph said “nothing is defended”

If SeaViper works as advertised and given the parlous state of the Argentine military I don’t think carriers would be needed to secure the air space of the island.

Wstr

Not forgetting that it was a single SSN that forestalled an invasion in ’77 and the stupid announcement that one was on the way (playing off an inaccurate news report & forgetting a deterrent has to be actually in place to be effective), that gave the window of opportunity in ’82.

Even if the Argies had a fictional force of the type described & actually succeeded against the odds, the biggest danger to their goals & long-term retention of the islands, would be the number of British casualties that would necessarily have to be inflicted in able to defeat the current 1000 strong garrison.

With only a single death in the initial ’82 invasion the world could stay out and treat it as a regrettable colonial issue between the two countries. With a modern surprise invasion inflicting say 100+ dead & wounded (to defeat on land alone: inf coy; FIDF; HQ & base installtion staff; armed RAF ground crew & naval pers ashore) I suspect the majority of the international community would take a pro-UK stance (even an Obama-led US!).

wf

I’m sure we have done due diligence re MPA, but fundamentally, nothing is defended unless we can take it back if necessary. That means carriers…which we no longer have. It’s that simple.

Tubby

@Wstr

Totally agree on the casualties issue, especially if civilians are injured or killed. Not to mention that we are talking about sinking the guard ship and likely a frigate or destroyer in the area, shooting down four Typhoons, destroying the rapier batteries by either by bombing or firing an anti-radar missile at them, and bringing up artillery to suppress the garrison before attacking dug in defenders who have planned for 20 odd years on how to defend the garrison and have experience in combat, in situation where you have to absolutely take the island in a few days or you face the prospect of the UK being able to bring additional forces to bear. Then once you have captured the islands your only logical recourse given that the islanders do not want to be ruled by Argentina would be to “ethnically cleanse” the island by deporting all the islanders back the UK.

Gabriele

I won’t enter fantasy war scenarios which i love far too much for my own good, but…

The Typhoons are four, but one is an on-site spare airframe named “Desperation”. Only 3 Typhoons are actually flying as a norm, and carry the names of Faith, Hope and Charity as the Malta’s famous Gladiators.
(1435 Flight was the unit which defended Malta in world war II, even if it later had Squadron size during the war)

Anyway it would make a lot more sense for the argies to create some kind of “incident” at sea, serious enough to lure the Typhoons away from the airport…
And then strike the runway to rip holes into it, denying the Typhoons a place where to land. The jets would then have to crash-land or enter Argentina and surrender just because of the lack of fuel. And there goes the air cover.

Upgraded Skyhawks can do the work, so the Argies have what they need as it is without any shopping.

There’s plenty of places where the Skyhawks could hide, flying low over the sea not to appear on Mount Pleasant’s radar until it is too late. There’s no AWACS in the islands.
Prior to the bomb-run, after pop-up they would have to climb above 5000 meters, which is their better defence from Rapier (http://www.army-technology.com/projects/jernas/specs.html)

Coordinate the time, and disabling the runway is actually feasible.

Also, we do not know if, what and how many weapons the Typhoons have available in the islands. Have they got AMRAAMs and ASRAAMs in decent numbers? Do they regularly fly well armed?
Almost certainly they have no AG weaponry available in Mount Pleasant, and currently most definitely no Air-Ground capable pilots, even if the Typhoons in there are (hopefully) compatible with AG stores.

In which state is the Rapier battery? Fully operational, partially operational…?
Certain satellite photos show plenty of missile launch pads, but little in terms of launchers.
And there is always the problem of just how limited Rapier is.

Is a SSN REALLY close to the Falklands? In theory, yes, in practice possibly no.
With Astute not yet operative and anyway in Faslane at the moment, there are only 6 SSNs in the RN. Not all of these SSNs will be available, and we know that HMS Talent just got back in port after Libya, Turbulent is outside Libya and another might be in the Gulf.
There’s actually a serious risk that there are gaps in SSN coverage, more often than not, and it does not take the CIA to realize it.

HMS York was sent towards Libya and left the islands without allocated destroyer for some time, too. HMS Edinburgh is now preparing to go south and relieve York in the near future.

Yes, the Falklands are well defended. Yet, as you see, ten minutes are enough to list several very real dangers.
Assaulting the island, even with current Argentine kit, is not impossible conceptually. Politically, the situation is also a lot more complex than the article admits, with even Brazil voicing open support to Argentina on the issue, and south american countries backing argie claims at the UN.

Argies probably fear the Tomahawks, that is the point i truly do agree with. That’s something they can’t really counter, and i suspect it is what really scares them, because the RN subs could hit the argie’s airbases with the TLAMs, and make the campaign really, really complex.

Red Rat

There is no requirement to ‘take’ Mount Pleasant Airfield (MPA). All that is required is that its use to us is denied for so long as it takes for an opposing force to land a bn plus grouping and secure another airhead. Port Stanley airfield would make a suitable airhead and there are numerous other grass strips on East and West Falklands that would make possible airheads.

Denial of MPA can be done with MANPADs or indirrect fire, personally I would use a combination of MANPADS and mortars.

A battalion dug in on an airhead will require a brigade to remove it. Two battalions gives the enemy commander the ability to retain an airhead and manoeuvre aggressively against the UK in place forces.

Two battalions is relatively easy to sustain, but difficult for the UK to counter against for so long as it does not have an airhead.

The RN I believe retains a South Atlantic Frigate although that may now have morphed into an ‘Atlantic Frigate’. The Atlantic is a large place and if not on station at the Falklands it would possibly take time to get there. It would be foolhardy to commit a frigate or destroyer by itself to a hostile situation, it would be better staying out of the way until a task group can be formed.

The big deterrent is the SSN. However if the Argentinians are not using naval assets but focusing on air then its use is more limited.

All hypothetical, but enjoyable hypothesising!

a

All that is required is that its use to us is denied for so long as it takes for an opposing force to land a bn plus grouping and secure another airhead.

This would have to be done by C-130. Argentina has seven, of which realistically you can expect five to be available. With this fleet it would take, at a very rough estimate, three or four days of perfect jump weather and no aircraft losses to shift the Argentine Rapid Deployment Force (based on the 4th Parachute Bde) in to the Falklands – one wave would carry half a battalion of infantry. Daylight drops at low level are highly risky for the transport aircraft if there is any sort of AAA/MANPAD threat at all, which there would be; even if MPA is denied to both sides (and the C-130s are therefore operating without a fighter threat) it’s more realistic to assume that the entire C-130 fleet would be destroyed over the course of this operation, leaving roughly half the RDF on the ground in the Falklands and the rest either dead or stuck back on the mainland. Night drops would not really be practical if you wanted to assemble the RDF as a coherent fighting force quickly.

Then, without C-130s, they’d be truly stuck. Doesn’t matter if they’d managed to seize a grass strip – they haven’t got anything to fly into it any more, so no reinforcements or supplies. As for marching the RDF to take MPA from their drop zone, that’s going to take time – see 1982! – and you’d be doing it without vehicles, helicopters, or artillery, and with limited logistics and supplies.

And, as I mentioned elsewhere, don’t forget that the other side has paratroops too. And seven C-17s (not C-130s) to jump from. One wave of those is going to carry a battalion and a half of infantry (albeit the waves will be further apart if they’re flying from Ascension).

Red Rat

A yacht or fishing boat can be used to infiltrate SF. There are a surprising number of yachts in South Atlantic waters now. Once the QRA cannot take off then there is a window of opportunity to fly in sufficient assets to pose a more enduring problem to the UK garrison and bolster the denial capability.

I do not know what air assets the Argentinians have but I imagine a couple of C130s (literally) would be sufficient to provide a force to overmatch UK forces in the sense that they would not be able to take significant offensive action against the enemy.

Naturally this all assumes an intelligence lapse the size of that in France 1940, Singapore 1942 or Israel in the Yom Kippur War…

a

And of course that scenario assumes that you can keep MPA continuously unusable for three or four days with nothing but a few SF with mortars and MANPADs while you bring your RDF in. This is also a bit unlikely.

Gabriele

“Its always an interesting discussion but how would Argentina actually get a battalion onto the islands to deny MPA and Gabriele, how would Argentina manage to lure away the Typhoons so they could sneak an attack in, an attack by the way that would be detected long before they arrived because there are multiple means to do so.”

Their last Type 42 has been modified into a Commando carrier and alone can deploy 238 soldiers and two helicopters.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARA_Hercules

More can be carried by their last amphibious ship, the ARA Bahía San Blas (B-4), which would also deploy the AAV7 vehicles they have left.

The rest could come aboard trawlers, merchant ships and other vessels. If they have one advantage, it is being much, much closer to the target.

And with the Typhoons not in condition to strike their surface transports, whatever works.

They’ve also 3 small SSKs, 4 frigates and 9 corvettes too.

In 2010 the construction start of four 1.800 ton offshore patrol ships was announced.

In May 2010, Defense Minister Nilda Garre announced that the Navy would continue working on a system that would enable the launch of Exocet missiles from the Navy’s P3 Orion aircraft (they have 6 even if not all of them were airworthy for lack of spares. Something that can be fixed.). In addition, the financing of the local development and construction of a coastal Naval defense system that may also be based on the use of Exocet missiles was announced.

Orion with Exocet. An interesting thing that gives them a reach they did not have in 1982. A reach that the UK has not, either, especially after losing the Nimrod.

They have still a number of C130s, 29 Mirages of various types and 34 A4 Fightinghawks upgraded and generously sold to them by the US.

As to luring the Typhoons out… causing Scrambles, last time i checked, wasn’t really complex.

I do not say they are going to invade, TD, don’t get me always wrong.
However, i have a bit more worries on the situation than you, that is for sure.

x

Doesn’t Mount Pleasant have the world’s longest corridor at something just over half of a mile?

Aren’t Argentine Sea Kings wired for Exocet too?

Gabriele

@X

They are. Argies have got this funny love for Exocets, they want it everywhere.

@TD

I did not say it is easy or tidy an exercise for the Argies to get troops ashore. But they can, to a degree, getting them there.
As to the Falklands defence force, it is around 200 men armed with Steyr AUGs, and their effective capability to do much to contrast a landing, in particular if the Argies use their ship-guns for bombing them, is questionable.

The big obstacle are the stationed battalion from the british army and the TLAM missiles which would, at some point, start to hit Argie airbases.
The rest, it is not impossible to work around 3 Typhoons and a OPV.

Where the Falklands war II will be really won or lost will be in politics. If at the trial of the facts Brazil and others continued to endorse Argentina’s claims, then the problem might be really bad, and even if pretty much incapable (currently) to win the operation militarily, the Argies would win politically. And the risk is that at that point the UK would not have enough military mass to ignore the political factor and secure the islands by force.

x

@ Gabby

As opposed to the British apparent disdain for ASMs…. :)

a

The point here that I think Gabriele is missing is that the clock starts ticking as soon as the first action is taken to deny MPA. After that you’ve got to keep that airfield shut all the time; which involves your SF teams staying in their positions within range of MPA with their mortars and SAMs, despite the sweeps by infantry, FIDF and helicopters (there’s a couple of Sea Kings down there) trying to locate them.

The buildup’s the killer. The commando carrier and its two companies of marines, the tiny C130 fleet and the risks of dropping paras that I’ve noted above, the trawler fleet and how long it would last landing its troops in tiny boats in an opposed landing (because you wouldn’t be able to hold a beach head _and_ a DZ _and_ keep MPA suppressed at the same time)… it would be a bloody business and more importantly a slow one. Because you haven’t got long before the response arrives; first the SSN will sink the commando carrier, then TLAMs, Paras, and (if you take your eye off MPA for twelve hours) airlanded troops.

Red Rat

@a You do not have to deny MPA for days, just a couple of hours while you fly something bigger in. With a coy based in the Falkands a battalion minus with mortars and mandpads is sufficient to deny MPA to UK use indefinitely against the combat power of the FI Garrison. The requirement is simply to buy enough time to get your first wave in. Your first wave only has to be big enough to ensure that the FI Garrison (a light role infantry company) can not overmatch it.

Infiltration by yachts and fishing boats etc might sound Tom Clancey but criminals, drug smugglers and terrorists (Mumbai) do it frequently. Interestingly:

http://www.falklandnews.com/public/story.cfm?get=509&source=7

Mark

While I certainly dont think the argies have the capability in the next 5 year to do anything about the Falklands their growing co-operation with china and that countries interest in resources may start to increase Argentina’s capability.

Indeed TD the intelligence failures that proceeded the last conflict is on a par with what you described at the start of your piece. Also lets not forget how well the western intelligence agencies forecast the current uprisings in the middle east and we were already involved in that part of the world.

Haven’t a clue how you’d take mount pleasant but from what ive read its a pretty difficult place to get to. But havent our sf made the art of the impossible possible purely because everyone thought it to be impossible. Through out time this has come back to bite people even the japanese attack on pearl harbour was considered impossible.

I would have thought if you’d crashed a plane on the runway you could knock it out for a while maybe long enough to get some people ashore to cause confusion.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

There are in excess of 2,000 UK service personnel in the Falklans islands not counting RN shipborne personnel. Every single one of them has completed OM 525 (2 week 5.56MM l85A2) course and there are rifles and ammo for all of them. Then you have the Resident infantry company and the FIDF, a highly motivated company sized organisation trained by the Royal marines and well equipped, Steyr Assualt rifles and GPMGs, mobile utilising quad bikes and know the terrain like the bacl of their hand. 72 hours warning is all that would be required to move the spearhead battalion via a couple of 747-400s requisitioned from BA and that is game over. Also ref gabrielle the Falklands doe not have AWACS but does have radar sites spread across the Islands on the high ground. Plus the 1022 radar of the resident type 42 and the extremely capable air search radar on HMS CLYDE. Any invasion other than somewhere remote on West Falkland would be an opposed bloodbath.

Tubby

Several problems I can see. All these plans sound complicated, I cannot see how we would fail to see the build up as they would need to train in order to stop the complicated plans from falling apart. Plus the political fallout means that Argentina needs to prep the political ground carefully or it might find its so called allies in the region deciding that actually they do not want all the trouble that will be heading their way if they stand by Argentina, which is also likely to be spotted.

Then there’s the idea that you could land a SF unit large enough to deny MPA even for a few hours and simultaneously suppress the Garrison’s ability to deny MPA to Argentine Air force. I presume that in addition to rapier batteries which you will have to disable, the Garrison has man portable Starstreak, which I imagine would be more than enough to shoot down a C-130 on final approach, plus mortars, Javlin and LASM all of which could be used to attack disembarking forces as they form up. I think it would be a bloody plan and one which gave at best 50:50 chance for victory.

Of course you could get the SF in by foot, and get them to laser the air field for an all out attack by the Fightinghawks, assuming that they can all make it with in-flight refuelling (the need to in-flight refuel would limit sortie rates), and I cannot find any evidence that they have integrated a targeting pod or that the Fightinghawks have the ability laser designate, meaning they will be using dumb bombs and I am not sure how successful they would be, and they certainly would need to pull off a lot of training to do it, which we would spot.

So while I can imagine with the resources available they could take the island, they would need to be lucky and it would also require us to be stretched. If we are still in Libya in six months time then they might have a good chance of pulling it off, as I suspect we will be stretched to buggery – and there is a rapidly diminishing window, once FTSA starts to deliver are tanking capacity increases, and once we start UOR upgrades to the Typhoons and improving the training the more dangerous the Typhoons on the Falklands will be. Give it a few more years and we will be replacing our Rapier batteries with CAMM which would be a much greater threat to the Fightinghawks, and as I discussed earlier given Argentina’s budget, wish for nearly new or new fighters and reluctance to go Chinese or Russia they have few options to replace their Mirages, and should they fail to put MPA out of action they the Typhoons will be the deciding factor.

Tubby

Realise there is an inherent contradiction in my last post about the Fightinghawks. If the SF are designating for the Fightinghawks the can of course use LGB’s and do not have self-designate.

Lizzie T

Very interesting stuff! I follow defence sites and yours is one of the better ones, but come on, time to put your Airfix soldiers and plastic aeroplanes away and get a …..beer!
You won’t though, mind my posting the link to my Argentine colonel friend who of course will be in fits of laughter! He’s got lots of exocets to use up! :)
Regards,
Lizzie

jim30

An interesting debate – I’ve served in the FI (and Iraq & Afghan) and would say that its a seriously tough nut to crack. I posted at length on this on ARRSE (I post there as Jim30), but essentially to suceed, the Argentines need to massively increase their budgets, massively raise their training tempo, and come up with a plan which denies the UK an asset built and designed to resist such an attack.

The terrain round MPA favours the defender, its built to be defended and it is some distance from the coast. To take it requires a major amphibious assault, while the Argentines have got to be certain of denying it in one go, without tripping the early warning radars, and without letting the UK garrison dig in. If the airfield isn’t denied, then the FI Reinforcement plan begins and its game over.

I have considered this at length and am genuinely struggling to think of a credible scenario, within current and predicted force structures in which the Argentines could take MPA without major use of artillery or WMD.

IXION

TD

Don’t want to feed carrier junkies fantasy but do not undersetimate your enemy.

Isrealis did not see 73 comming, who’d have thought the Arabs would invent the pressure washer!

UK keeps an eye on south america does it.. Just like it did on Libya and Egypt 3 months ago so no possibilty of surprises there then..

I’d land first waive by c130 rest by chartered civil transport.

Really TD very complacent Just because the Argies could not take it by conventional means; does not mean Argies would not try by unconventional means.

Euan

Rumbles in the South Atlantic? bung Chile a couple of Billion from DFID or somewhere and a couple of squadrons worth of unwanted Typhoon and maybe old Tonka Toys. Then suggest to them how nice a map of South America would look with Patagonia or chunks of Argentina as Chilean territory. Aye ok that is dreaming a little too much but arming Chile would certainly make Argentina watch it’s back rather nervously if the Chileans had billions of nearly new British military equipment and training teams to show them how to use it.

The politics of it all especially with Brazil would in my opinion be affected by the French as they have been getting all friendly with the Brazilians and France also has the problem of overseas territories and the need to protect them. The Yanks and most others would maybe mutter something at the UN but stay out of it unless there are casualties then they might step in to halt military operations until we all finish arguing in the UN.

Personally in lala land if I had my own vision of the UK Armed Forces realised I would be doing RIMPAC biannually rolled into a big round the world cruise to show the flag to folk in support of the FPDA in Australasia etc. The South Atlantic would maybe get a visit by a combined task force on the way home for some tea and biscuits with the Chileans and some penguin chasing for those unfamiliar with the sport.

x

Why is everybody assuming the Argentines need to win a war to win what they want?

The Third World has become ever more vocal in the UN since the end of the Cold War. A few hundred dead teenage conscripts may just be enough to get the UN to ask the UK to be “reasonable” about the Falklands. And knowing how committed our governments are to giving the people, sorry foreigners, what they want well……

Wibble

@Gaby

There are daily patrols of the area around the Falklands, there are radars, rapier and more than 3 Typhoon. It will took a level of planning beyond the Argies to get through. As already stated they could not do a surprised attack like they did last time as the intelligence services would notice the build up.

If you have ever been to the Falklands and MPA you would see how easy it would be to hold off anything but a large scale attack. The ground is a nightmare to walk across let alone attack hardened positions.

Additionally, they have regular exercise to prepare for this sort of thing and there are other measures in place that are not for discussion here.

x

I think Gabby is to be applauded for caring so much about our defences.

I bet there isn’t a Brit on any of the Italian defence sites displaying such a wide knowledge of Italian military history and procedure.

paul g

jim30 is right ( i’ve read your stuff on arrse) plus i’ve done a 6 monther there and agree with his asessment of the defence in depth.
Although i have to say with a huge sigh and a heavy heart x has probably spoken the future.

oh yeah 10,000ft runway really enjoyed FOD plodding that in 40mph winds! (chief tech never deviated from the rules even when common sense should’ve kicked in, either that or he hated pongos)!!

Chris.B

To be fair to the Foreign office and the intelligence services re: Libya, there is a hell of a difference between monitoring the build up of a military force over a period of time, and monitoring a bunch of protesters spontaneously agreeing to meet up and go march on Facebook. It started as a protest and got out of hand very quickly. You can’t blame that on a lack of intelligence.

Repulse

The fact is wars are rarely as clear cut as is commonly described when people discuss a falklands 2. In the short term a full invasion of the FIs is pure fantasy and would be counter productive. Slow tightening on the restrictions on sea freight and RN refueling, plus political pressure from other south american nations make alot more sense. In the end they will hope that the high cost of keeping the islands will be too much for the UK tax payer and we will want to negotiate

Repulse

… also, if the wanted to crank up the political pressure what in my mind is more likely is to try and land a couple of hundred troops on South Georgia without firing a shot. Assuming they had the supplies it would be a pain in the arsenal to get them off without unacceptable casualties from either side.

To me the falklands should serve as a reminder of the dangers and consequences when people at the top try to pretend that we can neatly package defence for political / financial / inter service reasons and that the world is a simple / predictable place. It is not; falklands was not the first time this has happened and will not be the last. I am pro carrier as without them our options to respond to events are severely restricted.

Red Rat

@Wibble. “There are daily patrols of the area around the Falklands”. And this is conducted by? The Falklands has a land mass of 4,700 square miles and a coastline estimated at 800miles. The Islands have territorial waters extending 12 nautical miles and and Exclusive Economic Zone extending 200 nautical miles from the islands.
That is a lot of real estate to patrol with 1 x infantry company, the Falklands Island Patrol Vessel
http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/river_class/

and a south atlantic frigate. There are no Maritime Patrol Aircraft based in the Falklands although the FI government in conjunction with the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Government does maintain some Fishery Patrol Vessels (although the latter are normaly focused on the SGSSI fisheries). It just seems not a lot to patrol an awful lot.

The two key weaknesses appear to be the lack of maritime patrol assets (especially aircraft) and the lack of ground based assets (or air to supplant the ground).

As has been pointed out repeatedly on this thread, one would hope that the UK’s strategic intelligence capability in South America is good enough to detect any threat of a magnitude likely to cause the FI Garrison cause for concern, with the FI Garrison demonstrating UK strategic intent and a deterrent capability.

Red Rat

@Chris B. There was plenty of evidence that the status quo in the Middle East was unsustainable in terms of social dynamics. A very young population, high unemployment, rampant corruption and nepotism linked to the increasingly free flow of ideas. This is a society where to get married costs money and if you are without a job or patronage you are unlikely to be able to get married (and where sex outside of marriage is not just frowned upon by society, but difficult to achieve in practice; all powerful drivers for social change.
The intelligence services could have and should have seen the potential for rapid change (plenty of others did) allowing the government the ability to make strategic decisions early.

Perhaps they did, perhaps they didn’t. Governments are rarely noted for their ability to make bold decisions, with most politicians being risk averse and consensus drive, so having the advice and acting on it are two different matters.

Chris.B

@ Callum Lane

“plenty of others did” – who?

a

There was plenty of evidence that the status quo in the Middle East was unsustainable in terms of social dynamics. A very young population, high unemployment, rampant corruption and nepotism linked to the increasingly free flow of ideas. This is a society where to get married costs money and if you are without a job or patronage you are unlikely to be able to get married (and where sex outside of marriage is not just frowned upon by society, but difficult to achieve in practice; all powerful drivers for social change.

Yes, but that was also all true in (for example) 2006, when capitals across the Middle East were conspicuously not overrun by a wave of anti-government protests. SIS and FCO were no doubt aware of these things – they’ve been discussed in the public domain ad nauseam since the 1980s! – but you can’t go from listing those causes to predicting that it was all specifically going to kick off in Tunis in January.

Red Rat

@Chris B.

The terrorists infiltrated into Mumbai by fishing vessel.
The PIRA successfully ran weapons into Ireland by a variety of vessels in the 1980.
The arms embargo on Libya is being breached successfully by a variety of means.
The IDF regularly intercept seaborne consignments to the Gaza Strip – undoubtedly there are others that get through.
Criminal smugglers routinely evade border control, worldwide and on a daily basis.
And:
http://www.falklandnews.com/public/story.cfm?get=509&source=7
someone came ashore from something to do what?

Red Rat

@a. I am not saying that they should have, mnerely that at the strategic level intelligence analysis and subsequent strategic planning is as much about trends as specifics. The middle east turmoil should have come as a strategic surprise and not as a strategic shock. Strategic planners should have had the chance to consider options based on the ‘what if’ basis instead of the ‘so what’ basis.
Again I am not saying that this did not happen, merely that it should have happened.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

Callum.
The difference between the Falkland Islands and other cases of Maritime Insertion is traffic density. the traffics density in the Eastern Med and off coast of India is a thousands of times busier than the Falklands. The embargo into Libya is being breached across the land border and by hiding weapons on large containerships that NATO(lacking a diversion port) cannot fully search. Saying that if they did get onto land what next? They have to walk to MPA and do enough damage to the runway to put it out of action for some time. The minute the runway gets hit the entire garrison stands to. 2000 personel at MPA with rifles and the FIDF plus 1 or 2 Ships and possibly an SSN. Any attempted landing in the face of that is going to be extremely costly. The Uk begins to deploy troops to Ascension whilst runway repairs take place cutting the flying time for reinforcements down to about 8 hours. For the Argentinians to have any hope they have to figure a way of disabling the runway and almost simultaenously getting enough troops on the ground to defeat the FIDF and Resident Infantry Company before the rest of the Garrison can stand to. It takes approximately 8 hours to issue everyone else with rifle and ammo. This is exercised evry 6-10 weeks as part of the full scale Cape Petrel Ex.

ArmChairCivvy

A sideline to this thread, but RE “Also lets not forget how well the western intelligence agencies forecast the current uprisings in the middle east ”
– it has been well known for a decade plus that a “boiling over” would happen, at least in the S of Med part of the wider M. East (i.e. Maghreb included)
– “Madrid process” was formulated to make “it” manageable, but EU did not stick to it, because it took less effort & money to cosy up to dictators
– here we are, even though Algeria and Morocco don’t look too bad, and Tunisia and Egypt are not lost cases

ArmChairCivvy

RE “suggest to them how nice a map of South America would look with Patagonia or chunks of Argentina as Chilean territory” I think Chile is quite busy (and budget burdened) with their mini-arms race with Peru, exactly for that sort of reasons?

Red Rat

@ All Politcos
Good points. All situations are different. My point with regards to border and maritime security is that it is not foolproof and is breached regularly.

I am not an airpower expert, but there are different ways to deny an airfield, not just by denying the use of the runway although that is the most obvious.

Of the 2000 pax at MPA some will be required to run the air operations and so will not be available for defence tasks. The remainder will not be in formed tactical units and sub-units and will not be trained in offensive Dismounted Close Combat operations, therefore relegating them to static point defence tasks. One can use them in extremis for offensive dismounted close combat tasks but the risks are high and the effectiveness low. That leaves the infantry and the FIDF, both of which will take time to muster and deploy. All this would suggest that the defence is credible with warning, but there are gaps in the ability to respond to a surprise assault. The point being made that in theory all the Argentinians have to do is to deny the airfield to our ARA aircraft for sufficiently long for them to get more assets onto the Falklands to overmatch the garrison’s ability to clear them. This level of forces is a company plus.

That said this defensive posture is entirely realistic because threat is a combination of capability and intent and while the Argentinians may have the capability to infiltrate a small team onto the Falklands they currently lack the intent. I also suspect that they lack the capability and intent to deploy larger force elements onto the Falklands and they definitely lack capability to garrison and defend the Falklands from any UK response.

Richard W

I agree a full frontal invasion by Argentina is unlikely to: (a) occur, and (b) succeed, if success is assessed as the complete military domination of the islands.

But I think it’s a mistake to reduce the analysis of who wins and losses to a simple count up of our equipment and say we are better than them. Strange and unwelcome setbacks happen in war. In ’82 HMS Sheffield was lost to a SkyHawk it could easily have shot down simply because at the moment of attack its radar was shut down so a radio message could be sent, two Harriers collided in cloud, and a boat load of Guardsmen was wiped out because it was left sitting in the open without any orders.

The four Typhoon might be a formidable force if they were armed and airborne in the hour they were needed. But the RAF’s usual ratio of aircraft availability is apparently one out of five, so with four they have to do better than normal just to have one aircraft available. I’d wonder how many aircraft are kept at QRA status and does QRA in the FI mean the aircraft is ready to go or is the pilot having Sunday dinner in Stanley at the time?

X has a good point with the question “Why is everybody assuming the Argentines need to win a war to win what they want?”

Argentina simply wants to win a claim to the FI, not to actually live there. The ’82 war started with some Argentine scrap metal merchants landing at an old whaling station to pinch the metal scrap. Suppose they orchestrated the same thing again. They could be fairly sure that the landing party would be arrested. Argentina would then protest to the UN about the unreasonable treatment of Argentineans on ‘Argentine soil’ by British colonisers. (You can imagine what would happen if we actually shot them.) The rest of South America would join in the chorus; we’d tell them all to back-off and the UN sensing conflict would be passing motions telling the UK not to over react and require a UN mandated discussion about the sovereignty of the islands. And there it is – Argentina would have had people on the islands and the UN saying they had the right to be there.

WW

It’s fun to play Tom Clancy or Patrick Robinson (see his novel Ghost Force) and to create all kinds of Falkland Islands war scenarios.

Some things are for sure:
(1) the SSN is the ace of the game and the UK has them all
(2) the best option for the UK is to make sure they do not loose the islands in the first place.
(3) time favours the Argentinian team.

Ten years or so from now, Brasil will be one of the leading economies in the world. It most probably will have a GDP at least similar to that of the major European economies (Germany, UK, France). In its wake, other South-American economies will also grow. Argentina today is the 27th world and the 2nd SA economy with a nominal GDP of about 16% of the UK’s GDP. As per IMF chrystal ball estimates, Argentina will rank 22nd in the world in 2016 with a nominal GDP of 22% of the UK’s. Argentina will catch up on the UK year after year. I think it is fair to state that defense capabilities will be growing on a par with GDP. So it is not totally unconcievable that Argentina somewhere in the next decade theoretically will possess military capabilities similar to those of e.g. Sweden or the Netherlands. If investments are pointed in the right direction and are being concentrated on offensive capabilities (read: ability to conquer the FI by force), the cost of countering this capability by increased and better defense arrangements for the FI will become difficult to bear for the UK.

This evolution leads to the conclusion that the solution for the future of the FI is not military but political and the driving forces will be economical and financial. The solution for FI self determination and prosperity (with or without oil – but even more so with) does not reside in the UK, but in South-America.
The main Argentinian arguments to claim the FI as the Malvinas are “history through South-American glasses”, “continental shelve” and “leftover from colonialism”. The main UK arguments to keep the situation as is today are “history through European glasses”, “no indogenious population” and “right of the FI inhabitants to self-determination”. Combine all of these and you have the FI inhabitants peacefully requesting/obtaining their independence from the UK and joining the “league of independent, democratic and peacefull South-American nations”. This approach would kind of defuse the current situation, and if carefully prepared on the diplomatic level, I do not see why major world and local players would oppose the idea. Of course, it will take several years for Argentina to make a 180degree turn, but the more they find themselves alone opposing the idea of an independent FI state without support from e.g. Brasil and Chile in South-America, from the US and from sympathetic countries in Europe such as Italy and Spain, the more they will see that it is also in their best interest to swallow their pride and to accept it.

This is a difficult process that the Falklanders themselves must start by stating their intentions. I don’t think it is wise for them to stick to the “we are part of the UK”. Some day the UK will no longer be able to guarantee that “independence” and they themselves will not be able to provide the same guarantee (note that current FI defense arrangements are said to cost 1% of MoD budget – say 300M – compared to a FI GDP of about 100M). The “hostile” attitude of Argentina is also costing them in terms of growth potential, be it in oil exploration or in tourism. The guarantee for a future independent FI state must come from the US and Brasil. They must also enforce for other countries to behave and establish normal political and economical relations with the independent FI state. And of course, there can be and there will be a special and preferred relationship with the UK. Falkland Islanders can continue to speak English, send their youths to UK universities, drive left side of the road and sip tea in the afternoon.

The FI themselves, the UK, Argentina, all three of them will benefit greatly from such an arrangement. How to start? FI government should hire an internationally renowed diplomat to explore the way. In the meantime, the UK must continue to provide a credible defense force for th FI to make sure they do not loose the FI to the Argentinians as retaking them will be difficult and costly (though not impossible).
Is this wishfull thinking? Maybe, but I think in the long term it’s the only realistic option. Argentina is never going to accept today’s situation, the other South-American nations will support Argentina’s claim, the threat of the use of military force will continue to exist and with Argentina’s improving military capabilities, the UK will find it increasingly and financially difficult to provide a credible defense/deterrent. In the UN of today, the “leftover from colonialism” argument has more weight than the “right to self-determination” argument, so don’t count on the UN for support and don’t wait until there is a resolution that supports Argentina’s claim, because then it will be too late. Defuse the “leftover from colonialism” argument and go for independence with strong backing from US, Brasil and most other South-American and European countries.

ArmChairCivvy

RE “8 hours to issue everyone else with rifle and ammo”!
– for a garrison of regular forces?
– the Swiss sleep with the rifle under the bed, and a cupboard stuffed with energy biscuits
– in 8 hrs the whole country would be up and armed

DominicJ

Callum
A war runs on logistics.
Yes, you could land 10 men from a fishing vessel life boat.
You cant land 200 mortar bombs with them though.
2 days rations, an infantry weapon and 200 rounds of ammunition is likely to be it.
Even if they do hump an 81mm aboard, and enough rounds to knock out the runway, the guard force will then proceed to kill them and repair the runway.
You need to paradrop your assault brigade before the runway is repaired and the Typhoons blow them up.
You need to keep reinforcing your landing zone so that you can take MtP before its reinforced and kicks your arse.
You really need to hope Cameron doesnt need a good headline and tells the RAF to hard land C17’s, he’ll buy them new ones whilst targetting the President of Argentina personaly with Tomahawks.

Richard W
“And there it is – Argentina would have had people on the islands and the UN saying they had the right to be there.”
The UN also told Gadafi to stop shooting civillians, Iraq not to kill kurds, Israel to stop killing terrorists and, well, do I have to carry on?
No one cares what the UN says, unless its followed by US will to enforce it.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

ACC

Good for the Swiss. If the tension heightened then you would see the same thing down the Falklands, however, at the moment other than security personnel and the Infantry company and there weapons are at their HQ, the rest are in the armoury.

DominicJ

ACC
I thought that sounded a lot, but didnt really want to press the issue for quite real security reasons.
As far as I’m aware, Squaddies generaly dont have their own weapon available 24/7, never mind aircraft fitters.

Even those in Afghanistan, to my knowledge, get issued a weapon in the UK, fly to Afghanistan, report to the armoury, hand it in, 6 months later, request it back, fly home, and hand it in.

McZ

@x
“Why is everybody assuming the Argentines need to win a war to win what they want?… The Third World has become ever more vocal in the UN since the end of the Cold War.”

The Argentine claim is held in the UN through the Special Committee on Decolonization, with a UN-charta backed approach to end all non-self-governing territorial claims, which are ==> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UN_list_of_non-self-governing_territories

The problem lies in the fact that the UK is unwilling and stupid enough to make this “anti-colonialism-matter” in the UN possible.

There is no drive into the direction the french are heading, i.e. including the overseas territories as an integral part of the mainland (like Mayotte became a couple of weeks ago). Hell, we cannot even convince Man and the Channel Islands.

After the devolution of Scotland, Wales and NI, having integral overseas parts of the UK with an assembly should not pose too much a problem. A very low-level federal system.

x

The Danes keep there reservist weapons at home. I am not sure about the Norwegian home guard…….

Given the size and shape of Stanley harbour a Javelin team would have field day.

Wibble

@Callum

The resident C130 is used for maritime patrol, not ideal but certainly able to spot anything serious going on. In fact part of its duty is to ensure unlicensed fishing boats are not in the area.

@Richard W

The entire purpose of the Typhoons in the Falklands is to defend the islands so I can assure you procedures are in place to ensure they are ready at all times. I can not discuss details but trust me on this one.

Red Rat

@DominicJ. I think we may be talking at cross purposes. I have been consistent in stating the logistical difficulties in securing the Falklands by an invading force. However, denying the use of the QRA at MPA for the period of the flight time from Ushuaia to the Falklands is a different matter. In terms of combat power all that is required to do this is the ability to prevent the QRA from taking off, by direct or indirect fire. 200 mortar bombs is probably excessive and there is no requirement to destroy the runway, but the ability to deny the use of the runway would have the same effect in terms of denying the use of the QRA.

Sticking on the issue of logistics and lift it is a matter of:

Can the Argentinians deny the use of the RAF QRA for sufficiently long to insert via air a company plus infantry grouping? If so how?

Once a company plus grouping is in place then it effectively fixes the FI garrison and allows the ‘deny’ of the airfield to continue. With the QRA neutralised the Argentinian build up can continue (there are airstrips at most settlements, although how many are suitable for C1-30 I do not know). The question then becomes can the Argentinians build up quicker then the UK? I suspect it could in theory build up quicker then the UK sufficiently to make the dispatch of the SLE or Lead AirBorne Task Force unviable, but only if Argentina maintained a battalion plus at very high readiness. It would need to do so or else (one would hope) our intelligence would pick up the warning and indicators of the change in readiness of Argentian force elements and we would pre-emptively re-inforce. Currently as far as I know Argentina maintains no elements at very high readiness.

So what? Even if the Argentinians could get a foothold on the island I still fail to see how the Argentinians could succeed militarily based on current capabilities. The UK still over matches them in amphibious and air lift. The Argentinians are however very unlikely to use amphibious means without being very sure about their ASW capability.

Brian Black

We shouldn’t forget that in 1982 Argentina had a military regime struggling to keep a hold on the country. And the capture of the islands was meant to be an essentially unapposed (unapposed militarily rather than politically) exercise that would give the junta a huge domestic propaganda victory.

The UK was believed to have been totally unwilling, as well as unable to defend the Falklands. If Britain had cottoned on to the Argentine plan back in 1982, and made any effort whatsoever to reinforce the islands, then an invasion probably would not have happened.

It was the Argentine political circumstances of the time coupled with their belief that they could achieve a bloodless and almost effortless victory that preceded the invasion.

Today Argentina is a democracy, and democracies tend to be further seperated from that kind of stupidity; and the UK has shown a willingness to defend the islands.

So while you could always plan a theoretic invasion that could overwhelm the British and island defence forces, in reality any ability to inflict casualties on an invasion force rules out any realistic threat.

Red Rat

@Wibble. Thanks. But a C-130 with the mark 1 eyeball is not the best of maritime patrol aircraft, even with the ramp down and extra spotters looking out back!

The point has been correctly made that there is little sea traffic around the Falklands and what there is tends to be: fishing, cruise and leisure craft. The FI Government do tend to police their EEZ effectively which implies a coherent system of marine surveillance, although I do not know what form that takes. There was some talk a few years back of the FI Government buying some Maritime Patrol Aircraft for fisheries protection duties, but I am not sure if anything came of it.

I defer to any dark blue brethren out there to enlighten me as to how to conduct effective maritime surveillance and control.

Red Rat

@ Brian Black. Of course if sizeable oil and gas reserves were found in the Falklands claimed (and Argentinian disputed) Exclusive Economic Zone then the dynamics would change.

The military capabilities would not however, at least not overnight and we should still have sufficient time to track change in intent and capability to adjust our defence posture accordingly.

x

It should be remembered that the USMC said the Falklands couldn’t be done.

DominicJ

Callum
Fair enough then.

X
They were operating under the assumption that the Argies were up for a fight and would have built a fast jet capable airstrip.
A Forward Deployed airforce would have shot the FAA down with little trouble and sank the fleet shortly after.

Instead Argentina was genuinely suprised when we played silly buggers and started shooting.

Red Rat

@DomonicJ’s point about a forward deployed airforce got me thinking. Does the UK possess an air anti-shipping capability such as the venerable Exocet?

Jed

Callum

No we have no air launched anti-ship missile at all anywhere EXCEPT the venerable Sea Skua launched from RN Lynx helicopters, which might better be described as an “anti-small-ship missile” (?)

Until recently the Nimrod had the capability to carry Harpoon, but I don’t know if the RAF actually had any on inventory. Also the Harrier GR9 had the U.S. Maverick missile, more useful for anti-ship work in the Infra Red guided variant.

I suppose you could hope to disable ships sensors and cause damage to the upper decks (including weapons mounts?) with Tornado carried ALARM, then we said sensors disabled, do a medium altitude attack with laser guided bombs ???

Jed

TD – Just being pedantic, but I don’t think we can really count Brimstone as anything other than “anti-fast-boat” ???

Jed

x said: “It should be remembered that the USMC said the Falklands couldn’t be done.”

It should also be remembered that they were ALMOST vindicated !!

“It was a close run thing” is the understated quote which springs to mind…..

gopher

Jed,
“It was a close run thing”.
I think this just about encapsulates every war that the UK has taken part in (and thats a few).
We always seem to take things to the wire by emasculating our forces between conflicts,which was a subject that Kipling refered to again and again so it’s nothing new.

jim30

were I being exceptionally cynical, I would argue that if you believe the Carrier Fanatics (and I make a distinction between them and those of us who believe carriers are a good, useful but not mission critical thing), then the FI will be totally safe come 2020 as Argentina wouldnt dare tackle a country which owns a proper aircraft carrier…

Wibble

@Callum

Just what do you expect to find in the sea around the Falklands? Subs? A low flying C130 can cover a lot of sea and see a lot of boats in a day and is of course backed up by radar and then all the other RAF and FIGAS aircraft keep an eye out too. There is other stuff going on to that can’t be discussed here.

I think of you are giving a real disservice to the military effort and organisation in the Falklands and assuming they are sat down there watching BFBS and penguins.

The defence is appropriate to the threat as it stands if things change PJHQ will react.

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All Politicians are the Same

As far as maintaing an RMP goes an AWACS or two would be ibcredibly useful. E3A/D/F have been operating in a maritime surveilance mode in the Med in support of Op Active Endeavour for a couple of years. The radar is incredibly capable at detecting surface contacts and it can look at AIs data and provide a live JTIDS feed at the same time as well as providing an air picture. In teh Med the E3s have been incredibly useful at vectoring MPA onto non AIS shining contacts to make a poss visual id.

Gabriele

Sea Skua and Sea Skua II, also known as FASGW(H), are both targeted at fast attack crafts and units up to corvette size, indicatively 500 to 1000 tons max.

In 2003 the SSNs were left without Sub-Launched Harpoon, and with the retirement of Nimrod even the air-launched Harpoon has been lost.

All what’s left is 2-million pounds each Spearfish torpedoes, which are more than a tad overkill for most targets, and frigate-launched Harpoons.

Brimstone is, again, an (expensive) anti-small craft weapon. Good to “kill” a pasdaran fast boat, but definitely not much to use against a frigate.
In particular if the frigate’s got SAMs. Brimstone does not have a very long range, after all.

Laser guided bombs can glide for many miles, but that is valid against fixed targets. At the moment, perhaps only the Paveway IV bomb has any real chance of being able to nail a moving target. In order to do so, it would need upgrades and a Infra-Red Imaging seeker (which Selex Galileo could supply “rapidly” enough and the RAF has a “wish” for future acquisition)

After upgrade the Paveway IV should be able to hit a moving car up to 100 km/h. Americans plan to do it to their JDAMs, notably after turning the JDAM in a Paveway IV by adding a laser-guidance.
The MOD wasn’t wrong at all in pursuing a combined guidance weapon, and the USAF learned it by discovering during ops all the limits of GPS-only guidance on bombs.

As it stands, however, it is definitely not so wise to expect an old Paveway II to hit a frigate doing escape turning.
Lots of bombs would likely make loud “splash”. And i believe that a proper SAM system, like Sea Wolf, would be easily capable to shot down a bomb.

In 1988 during Praying Mantis, US navy planes attacked a couple of iranian frigates with laser-guided bombs, but the first was also targeted by no less than 3 Harpoons in the same engagement, and likely they were the ones which scored the kill.

A second frigate was hit with a laser guided bomb later on, but was repaired.

All in all, i wouldn’t want to be send attacking a modern warship with decent SAMs carrying Paveway II bombs, honestly.

Gabriele

@Jim30

“if you believe the Carrier Fanatics […] then the FI will be totally safe come 2020 as Argentina wouldnt dare tackle a country which owns a proper aircraft carrier…”

Well, call me a carrier fanatic then, but that’s for sure.

Now it is a difficult and nearly impossible thing to do [for the Argies] to invade the islands, but they could totally do it if somehow they could take out Mount Pleasant, which is the main point.

If an aircraft carrier was back home ready to sail south, however, taking out Mount Pleasant would not be enough, and even trying would lose any sense/hope of success at all.
And the Argies know it.

It is not a case that they acted, back in 1982, when the UK had sold away its carriers.
They were over-entusiast, and that was their only error. A few months more of patience, enough to see Invincible and Hermes leaving the UK for real, and today the islands would be the Malvinas and fly an argentine flag.
They went in too early. That’s what lost them the war.

x

@ Jed

A win’s a win. :)

x

@ DomJ

Yes I know that too. But if I qualify stuff TD’s comment count goes down….

Red Rat

@Wibble. I have been consistent in saying that the defence posture in the Falklands is in my opinion appropriate to the threat.

I am however intrigued by your comment that it is the C1-30 is “backed up by radar”. A C1-30 on a search pattern has a limited capability to detect. But a C1-30 (or any other assets)cued by radar is significantly more effective. Does that mean that the Falklands now has maritime radar coverage to augment the air (radar) coverage?

Persistent maritime radar coverage means that air assets and maritime assets can act in an ‘interrogate mode’ and not as ‘detectors’. This is a significant enhancement to capability and allows coverage to be maintained during bad weather and bad visibility when air and naval assets either cannot deploy or are limited in what they can see when deployed.

I revise my estimate of FI defences, comprehensive persistent maritime radar coverage makes a huge difference.

Dominic Johnson

ok, so one sea skua sized missile isnt going to trouble a 4kt frigate
but doesnt typhoon carry 24?

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All Politicians are the Same

Callum

I wouldn’t get too carried away, there are no dedicated maritime surveilance radr outposts on the Falklands.

Wibble

@Callum,

A radar does not know what it is tracking only that it gets a return.

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All Politicians are the Same

@Wibble

A bit of a simplistic view. A good operator on a simple ARPA radar will by looking at range versus contact strength and course/speed and track behaviour be able to make a pretty good classification. certainly at leat MV/Cruise ship vs FV/Yacht(in a falkland Islands type scenario). The with a further period of observation a yavht/small pleasure craft can be distinguished from a FV by track behaviour. a Fv alters course and speed in a certain way to shoot/haul its nets. An advanced radar like those on sentinel or with aclever processing kit like SKASACS is even better.

lol for god’s sake, when I thought TD was safe from fantasy posts I read this…

I have an argentine freind over there in the patagonia… I put this blog to him and he replied (He’s a teacher) “…when they finally pay my salary in full and on time” aka ‘not a snowball’s chance in hell’.
What many here dont know is how many issues the country/government has… ‘Las Malvinias’ are as much a issue with their society as us with talking about the weather…rather ingrained, and past the childish nationalist bombasting (from both sides) its more a non-issue.

Falklands oil, which brought up the latest spat, has turned out to be rather dry than thought…soon it’ll settle down until the next thing to bring it to their attention and again we’ll all purse our lips about ‘could we do it again’… if it turns out a gold mine, well the argentines are hunting for wells too…

This is another post for pro-carrier and anti-carrier peeps to sling the brown stuff.

In all, argentina has far greater concerns at the moment, like my freinds pay.

A lot of people here forget how things have changed since… that the RN and ARA worked side by side in Gulf I, and the Ejército does work alongside our troops in Cyprus, Not to mention the sea kings at Mount Pleasent have saved a good few argentine (and other) lives from the seas…and lets not forget which port that allowed HMS Endurance to limp into, without much PR spinning… lol infact the port workers took the oppertunity to go on strike over pay and conditions to make their own government sweat more due to the potentially politcally embarassing episode.

I dont like fantasy posts :x During my time there, I never really worried about the noisey neighbour… I am not saying ‘it’ll never happen’ (lol who here really thought Libya would go the way it went?) but it does annoy me when people tout the falklands argument/example…”but the falklands!” The world is another place now.

Brian Bllack sums up my own feeling about this;

“Today Argentina is a democracy, and democracies tend to be further seperated from that kind of stupidity; and the UK has shown a willingness to defend the islands.

So while you could always plan a theoretic invasion that could overwhelm the British and island defence forces, in reality any ability to inflict casualties on an invasion force rules out any realistic threat.”

Does it make a good argument for carriers? Yes! But does it make a good case in todays interconnected, economic and political world? meh, not sure…more of a ‘it’d be usefull’ but I’d rather have more then 4 tiffies there along with a carrier with joint force F35 to come if the turd really hit the fan.

Also, just to dip into the air-launched anti-ship…well, we could dust off the old sea eagles…remember the ‘Tornado Gr1B’? That filled in after the Brick bowed out… or would not be so costly to integrate harpoon? As the sea Skua II isn’t particularly designed for fast jet use. Then again, the Irainians scabbed on Mavericks to to Anti-ship work and were sucessful enough to persuade the USN to design their own naval Maverick.

Chris.B

Just briefly, on the subject of using Brimstones as Anti-ship missiles.

HMS Sheffield was sunk by a fire caused by a missile that didn’t even detonate. In the same war, Royal Marines used MILAN rounds to damage Argentine shipping. I’m sure with enough rounds they could do the job, and at the very least siginificantly hamper any Argentine threat.

Jed

Mike

It’s a great scenario for war gaming, that’s why this “fantasy” always crops up.

Long way from home, super long logistics tail, fight the game with current forces, or add some projected ones to our side, and the best Russian and Chinese kit to the other side – always makes for a fascinating thought experiment :-)

“Retake the Falklands, Fun for all the family”

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BRIMSTONE has a range of under 10Km though, difficult to find exact range odf the aspide SAM system on MEKO destroyers but beleive it to be not much more than 20KM, yjeu would have to keep transports inside 4NM to provide an effective isoleth against BRIMSTONE.

x

When you are trotting along at a few hundred kts 10km isn’t much distance to launch and turn away.

And how big is the warhead? I know it is one of those clever things for punch through armour. I know the Hellfire’s warhead packs about half that of 4.5in shell.

Interesting…….

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All Politicians are the Same

Whole weapon only weighs 50KG! so guess small warhead but millimetric intelligent radar would allow a penetration of bridge, and the probably next 2 decks(wardroom accomodation) result mission kill!

Gabriele

Brimstone has got a tandem shaped warhead for armor busting, derived from the Hellfire. Perhaps 8 or so Kg at best. I believe Dual-Mode Brimstone adds a Fragmentation element, but i’m not sure. Anyway, it is not able to significantly damage a warship past pasdaran missile boats at most.

@TD
that’s true, but as it is the Brimstone radar can recognize a ZSU-23 from a T-72 and a civvy car from a military AFV.
But unless the software is significantly upgraded in this sense, it has not an on-board computer which could, once tracked a warship, guide the missile on a specific area (say the bridge, the main gun or the radars). So this is a no brainer.

@Chris B.

For the record, it was indeed an Exocet which did not detonate, but which flew at nearly 1000 km/h and weighted 500 kg, most of which highly-flammable fuel.
Not exactly a Javelin missile.

Besides, more modern warships are far more fire-resistant. Sheffield had the (sad) record of providing evidence of why alluminium and certain kinds of electric wiring are no good on warships.
[Interestingly, US Ticonderoga are alluminium built too, and likely would burn worse than Sheffield when hit, but i’m going off topic]

Of course you can damage a ship with a Javelin. Javelin fires 2.5 km, however. A bit little.
How long before the frigate answers with its medium gun and obliterates the missile section?
Like… one minute. Less, possibly.

@DominicJ

“ok, so one sea skua sized missile isnt going to trouble a 4kt frigate
but doesnt typhoon carry 24?”

No. Definitely it does not. One day, once the missile is integrated, it will carry up to 18 Brimstones at once. But not today.
It could also use anti-ship missiles such as Penguin, carrying to, or even four.
But the UK does not plan for that.

The UK plans no anti-ship missile capabilitity at all, not on Tornado, not on Typhoon, not on F35.
Nor is it likely to make it a plan anytime soon.

The most potent flying ship-killer planned is a Navy Wildcat with 4 Sea Skua missiles. End of it.

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@gabrielle
The upgrade to brimstome to identify a ships bridge is kids play and I mean that literally ank kid currently designing computer games could do it.
As for Javelin, it is guided and ever seenthe video og the T72 tank turret going 40M in the air despite armour. A hidden Javelin firing first against a warship could hit the medium range gun tirret the warhead would penetrate to the ready use magazine/hoist below and bobs your uncle. Alternatively hit the bridge and the gun has no means of attacking land targets. A really, really worked up RN warship may be able to switch to ops room WECDIS reconfigure and engage with 4.5 upon loss of Bridge, anyone else in world will be wearing another 3 or 4 Javelins in meantime.

ChrisM

Thanks TD, I can sleep more soundly now!
I still think Ascension is the weak link in the reinforcement plan, but the Argentinians would have to rely on us not being able to bribe/lean on a West African place with a big airport (Sierra Leone owe us a favour…). As you demonstrate that MPA can hold out for ages the SSN is the ace – as long as we have troops still fighting we could politically justify sinking things and lobbing TLAMs into the mainland.

I still dont understand how the Argentinians think they have any kind of case at the UN. The total lack of Argentinians on the island means the decolonisation argument is a near total non-starter, overwhelmed by self-determination. I cant see too many countries backing the takeover of land purely based on vicinity (and ignoring the current occupiers), as nearly everyone has such a skeleton in their cupboard – the Mexicans have a better claim on California and Texas!!

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All Politicians are the Same

@ChrisM

Wideawake Airfield although owned and operated by the UK has lots of US personnel, it was an alternative space shuttle runway and is normally home to a substantial US KC135 detachment. Any attack on it would be an attack on US personnel rendering it extremely unlikely.

ChrisM

You wouldnt need to attack Wideawake. You could land an airliner with a few troops on it (make a distress call to get in) and then just sit it on the runway refusing to let anyone near it. Then leave when the job was (theoretically) done down south. You shouldnt need to shoot anyone, and the US wouldnt want to shoot first.
But I think TD has pretty much proved that it would be pointless, even disregarding alternative airfields

Chris.B

@ Gabrielle

Re; Brimstone “Anyway, it is not able to significantly damage a warship past pasdaran missile boats at most” – so it can punch through the armour of a main battle tank, but warships are immune? How so?

“Of course you can damage a ship with a Javelin. Javelin fires 2.5 km, however. A bit little.
How long before the frigate answers with its medium gun and obliterates the missile section?
Like… one minute. Less, possibly” – Presuming of course that the ship detected the firing position and that the Javelin team then sit patiently in the same spot waiting to get shot at.

ktsub

How important is Ascension, if we could use Sierre Leone? I doubt SL would have any problems, with using their airspace, they would most likely welcome transiting UK forces.

wf

Not quite sure why people keep calling me Ralph :-)

In order to sustain a defence of the Falklands, or anywhere else for that matter, you need ships. We cannot sustain the tonnage required by air alone. So we need ships, which requires that they are escorted, from air and sea attack. The MPA based Typhoon cannot do so because their range is limited, and worse, because effectively, it’s one runway. You can’t shut down a runway for ever, but you can do so for a few hours…which is all that is required. Without carrier based AEW, Sea Viper or any other (proven and properly tested) missile has an effective range of the horizon, and that’s not enough.

There is no substitute for carriers. God knows this has been proven again and again over the last 70 years, but apparently some of us need to be reminded, again and again. Personally, I would never have signed up to F35B, because the chances of an single aircraft development program working well with such a diverse set of requirements are low. We cannot afford a “don’t worry, we’ll maybe have a squadron in 2020” attitude, and personally I would buy F18E/F off the shelf now with a view to bringing them into service in 2016, while leasing AV8B Plus as a stopgap right now

Jed

Mmmmm’ just feeling pedantic….

Yes RM used Carl Gustav recoiless rifle against an Argentine corvette “back in the day” – that does not make Brimstone or Javelin “anti-ship missiles”. I have been on a ship that came under small arms fire, but 7.62x39mm is not recognized as an “anti-ship missile” either… :-)

Seriously though, there is the anti-landing /anti-invasion role, for which Carl Gustav and Javelin are a fine idea. However there are plenty of ways to avoid coming into range, or attacking even a well camouflaged infantry team if you suspect their skulking in wait for you.

APATS, I am not sure if tweaking the software of the Brimstones Milimeter Wave (MMW) radar would be so simple – designed to image a certain size target against a certain type of background and all that. Not sure how MMW frequencies cope against the sea as a background ?

As for “Alternatively hit the bridge and the gun has no means of attacking land targets.” Why?

Why can’t an Argentine Meko frigate use it’s electro optical turrets/directors, which are probably run from the Combat Information Centre (CIC – Ops Room). You absolutely need to re-establish conn of the ship if its on the “gun line”, you need nav fixes (radar and GPS antennas may also have been destroyed) but I can assure you, in the RN, the officer of the watch and his bridge team have no direct role what-so-ever in NGS fires.

Why would this be different in any other navy ?

Gabriele – just FYI, Ticonderoga are not Aluminum – well not entirely. The hull is steel, the superstructure is Aluminum, due I believe to a requirement to keep the weight down due to the rather massive superstructure and is AEGIS antennas and missile director radars.

Jed

Good link tks – so still anti-small boat, and some time in the “future” :-(

Jeebers

@Gabriele

For the record, it was indeed an Exocet which did not detonate, but which flew at nearly 1000 km/h and weighted 500 kg, most of which highly-flammable fuel.

“I was there, and there is no doubt that the warhead exploded.” Captain Sam Salt, CO HMS Sheffield. The claim that “the Exocet that hit
Sheffield didn’t detonate” is as widespread as the notion that “Sheffield’s aluminium superstructure was a major problem”.

@Gabriele

Besides, more modern warships are far more fire-resistant. Sheffield had the (sad) record of providing evidence of why alluminium and certain kinds of electric wiring are no good on warships.
[Interestingly, US Ticonderoga are alluminium built too, and likely would burn worse than Sheffield when hit, but i’m going off topic]

Salt hasn’t said much about aluminium superstructures, because Sheffield did not have one. The Type 21 frigates did, of which Antelope and Ardent were lost. In neither case did the aluminium contribute to their loss.

DominicJ

Gabriele
True enough, it doesnt have brimstone yet, I was sure it was cupposed to mount 8 launchers eventualy, so 24 missiles, but even 16 should be plenty to mission kill all but the biggest ships.

Obviously, a stormshadow sized ship killer would be far more effective.

Regarding Aspide
A Eurofighter going all out moves at 2500kmh
As[pide has a range of 20km, not sure what the radar range is for low level flight, but if we use 20km for now.
A Typhoon flying at full whack right at the ship would be detected at 0, release Brimstone at 14.4 seconds, be directly overhead at 28.8 and be 20 km away at 57.6s after detection.
A level maths was a long time ago so I wont be working out minimum exposure times and such, but the maximum is under a minute.

Also regarding small arms.
I would guess most of us are drawing on South Georgia, where a group of royal marines wrecked a corvette with small arms and a carl gustav.

ChrisB
Javelin is designed to penetrate extremely heavy armour and then kill the blokes sat in about three cubic metres.
That doesnt really describe a ship.
It would likely hit the outer skin, use its first charge to blow a hole, the main warhead enters, blows, and kills anyone in the vicinity, but unless it hits an ordnance room or a fuel tank, the ship will likely suffer very little capability degradment. Unless it hits something that isnt protected by redundancy, like the command staff, or hits enough of the the same thing to counter redundancy, like both engines.
I’m just guessing here that ships are networked as a matrix rather than a ring.

KTsub
Even if they dont, it wouldnt be the first time we begged forgiveness rather than asked permission.
“SL: How dare you invade our soverign state”
“GB: Heres $5billion”
“SL: God Save Our Gracious Queen”

Rupert
What do the Argentinians have that could track and attack a UK fleet in the deep sea *and* that could defeat Sea Viper?
The answers nothing.
Dumb Bombs against a T42/22 was possible, barely.
Against a T45, theres just no chance.

But anyway, As TD pointed out, we’d know that the Argies were going to try something and fly down an extra infantry battalion and a couple of squadrons of CVR(T), and then we’d have some very unhappy argentine paras.

Mike
But the situation you describe is exactly what led to the first war.
The government needed a “win” and expected a quick occupation, followed by a shared sovereignity deal and a big boost at home.

jim30

“There is no substitute for carriers. God knows this has been proven again and again over the last 70 years”

Sorry but that is total rubbish – Carriers have one one occasion since 1945 been mission critical. Name me a single operation, other than 1982 in which the Carrier was the mission critical asset, without which the war could not have begun, been continued, or been completed?

a

Name me a single operation, other than 1982 in which the Carrier was the mission critical asset, without which the war could not have begun, been continued, or been completed?

MUSKETEER and (arguably) PALLISER.

How many times, on the other hand, have MBTs been mission-critical? I can only think of Korea and GRANBY.

a

I am going to throw some petrol on the fire here, play devils advocate and ask if carriers were really that vital in 1982

Ah ha. I was wondering when you were going to get to this point. Would be interested to read that.

DominicJ

I’m with TD on this, Carriers were hardly essential, because these things dont exist in isolation.
If we’d not build the carriers, what else could we have built/deployed?

Could we have design a Type 65 Air Defence destroyer?
Armed with the long range missile unbrella of the 42, the short range ship defence missile of the 22 and a couple or dual phalanx point defence weapons.

Could we have designed our own Submarine launched cruise missile?
Best way to protect against air attack isnt to blow up the missile 50m from the ship, or to blow up the enemy aircraft 50km from the ship, its to blow up the runway so the plane cant even take off, and then blow up the planes.

Could we have maintained the guard ship?

Wanting a Carrier Battle Group Navy is just as “mini US” as wanting a multi armoured divison army.

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Oghh Jed “I can assure you that the OOW/Navigator and his team have no direct role in NGS naval fires” Not a PWO(A) then Jed? The Navigator and WECDIS on the bridge do the grid conversion and gain true range and bearing. Though DNA2 is making it simpler. the Argentinians are probably still on paper charts and using a SNAPS equivelant system to gain range and bearing.

Chris.B

@ Dominic J

“… but unless it hits an ordnance room or a fuel tank, the ship will likely suffer very little capability degradment” – It’s called fire, and it burns like you wouldn’t believe. And although Javelin was brought up, the brunt of my argument was around whether Brimstone could knobble a ship.

wf

DominicJ: without carriers, even the Argies old P2’s can quite happily find a task group, while staying out of SAM range. The Russians are quite happily touting Sunburn’s and Sizzlers to all comers, and the Chinese will doubtless clone the same, having them in service already. Since ASTER/Sea Viper has artfully never been tested against a supersonic sea skimmer target, the chances are that it will fail: we learnt that in the Falklands where all sorts of failures dogged both Sea Dark and Sea Wolf, all traceable to a lack of real world testing.

Jim30: we relied on US carriers for the entire Cold War to protect our own naval forces in the North Atlantic, Artic and Meditteranean. I’m a little surprised you either regard this as “non mission critical”. Surely deterrence is the best possible advertisement for any capability, we don’t actually want to use the things for war if we can avoid it.

DominicJ

ChrisB
We used Sea Skua several times during the 82 war.
Most importantly, four were fired against an 800t patrol ship.
One missed, one hit the dingy and did little damage to the ship, two hit the brige, killed fair few of the command staff and knocked out power.
The ship limped home.

Sea Skua has a 30kg warhead.
Brimstone is more like 3kg.
Its rather accurate targeting capability means its going to put a ship out of action if fired in sufficient numbers, and we have accurate information on key target points.

RF
But they arent things Argentina has now, which was my point.
Wolf was designed to hit high flying targets over the North Sea, not low flying targets over West Falkland, its failure was one of specification not testing.

Viper was designed to intercept supersonic popup targets, but as you say, we dont know if it can actualy do so.

Russian aircraft in the Med, North Sea and Arctic were also, discomforted, by the land airforces of the Scandies, Italians, Greeks, Turks, and USAF, not just, US Carriers……

Brian Black

Hi, DominicJ

“I’m with TD on this, Carriers were hardly essential, because these things dont exist in isolation.
If we’d not build the carriers, what else could we have built/deployed?

Could we have design a Type 65 Air Defence destroyer?
Armed with the long range missile unbrella of the 42, the short range ship defence missile of the 22 and a couple or dual phalanx point defence weapons.”

Given that it was seen as too costly to fit Hermes and Invincible with phalanx CIWS prior to the Falklands (seen as an expensive optional extra when viewed in the context of the primary threat against the fleet – Russian subs); and given that no AEW replacement had been introduced after the navy lost the ability to fly Gannet, it would seem unlikely that such a ship would have been built.
And the first part of your ‘what if’ scenario had already almost come about by that time – Illustrious was being built for sale; bulwark was preparing for the scrap yard; and Hermes and Invincible had an uncertain future, even as commando carriers.

IMO, the army and RAF -rather than RN- would have sucked up any money saved by not investing in the little carriers.

Chris.B

@ Rupert Fiennes

“we learnt that in the Falklands where all sorts of failures dogged both Sea Dark and Sea Wolf, all traceable to a lack of real world testing.”

I’m not saying Aster might be much better – until we’ve properly tested it against the full spectrum of targets we wont know – but the failures of Sea Dart and Sea Wolf were primarily due to;

a)The tactics
b)The ship mounted guidance

In the open water, with plenty of open sky in all directions, the ships and their weapons did well. In tight against the shore the ships were denied the maximum possible time to detect and track targets. Engagements became very rapid and the on board guidance systems of the ships had – at times – difficulty picking out targets. The missiles themselves were fine and scored a number of kills.

Brian Black

A couple of the issues that crop up repeatedly are that of land basing aircraft over using cariers, and also whether we bring both QE ships into service and fit both for F35.

At the end of the Falklands conflict, four Phantoms were sent to Stanley, and later MPA was built. However, fast jets were unable to operate from Stanley immediately due to some joker dropping a big bomb smack bang in the middle of the runway. The Navy was able to use Lusty to relieve the two other carriers after the fighting had ended, and keep it on station until the necessary runway repairs had been carried out.

Not only am I a carrier fan (not junkie, I can go without for a few years – I don’t have a problem), but I think the Islands example makes a good argument for getting both new ships into service, and having them both at the same spec.

Land basing is the obvious long term solution, but a carrier is a very handy and flexible tool to have – and two carriers offer a reasonable level of availability and operational endurance.

Sirs, I poo-poo your anti-carrier sentiments.

Andy

Carriers aren’t needed if you only ever intend your navy to fight/deny below-peer navies outside of home waters.
I too am a carrier fan (no, hell I’m unashamedly a junkie!) as I believe they represent the UK’s only means of a conventional deterrent and make the UK have a niche capability very attractive to a coalition.

We do not however need a carrier to defend the falklands as of now. A lot of the Argentine attacks mentioned in this post are pure fantasy, based on current strength of their forces.

In the future, who knows? A CVF which could serve till 2060 would be a decent investment IMO.

DominicJ

Andy
I vary between accepting and pro for carriers.
In the back of my mind, I worry its 1939 and we’re building battleships.

Jed

APATS: “The Navigator and WECDIS on the bridge do the grid conversion and gain true range and bearing”

No I was not a PWO(A) I was an NGS trained Radio Op.

Being old I did not have the benefit of WECDIS, having done my NGS RO’s course when serving on a T42, in 1990 so ADAWS was the command system and paper charts on the bridge. OOW had no part in the evolution at all, no conversion of coordinates, we did that in the Ops Room. Well I would not say OOW had no part to play, the bridge crew did of course have a range safety type role.

On the NGS course with the Booties at Poole we had to learn how to convert those strange ‘Mils’ and “Klicks” into “proper” degrees and nautical miles, just in case the computers ever weren’t functioning, so between us shipboard types with an easy life, and the completely rock ard’ RO’s of 148 Battery hiding in the mud, we could manage to talk to each other and drop the 4.5’s in the right place.

So, APATS are you saying there is no WECDIS terminal in the Ops Room on a T23 and the Navigator has to do the conversions ? Seems like a backward step to me ? I presume from your comments that there is not interface between WECDIS and the DNA2 command system ?

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All Politicians are the Same

Jed,

There is, unfortunately the GPS aerial is on the bridge roof. Also the display in the Ops room is a slave display. With no visual fixing means available to the ops room quite simply any loss of the bridge means they cannot fix their own precise position instantly and drop bricks in correct place. WECDIS give the ability to overlay mills on top of WGS84 making it more efficient for the Navigator to do the conversion instantly allowing the PWO(A) to concentrate on C2. before WECDIS the Naviagtor updated SNAPS(and checked PWO range and bearing) firstly so Ops room command system knew where it was and secondly as a safety measure, double check. Command systems have a habit of drifting. The input from WECDIS now makes it the primary means of knowing exactly where you are. If you lose the bridge and gps input the ops room cannot continue with NGS as they cannot precisely fix their position. this could be worked round in time but not instantly.

Gabriele

Come on people, we are touching the heights of madness in some comments.

“Carriers have one one occasion since 1945 been mission critical. Name me a single operation, other than 1982 in which the Carrier was the mission critical asset, without which the war could not have begun, been continued, or been completed?”

Korea.
Iraq 2003 and Afghanistan 2001 – 80% of the air strikes came from US Navy airplanes from the four Nimitz aircraft carriers that were gathered up for both attacks. No real way to substitute that contribution, unless most of the USAF was to somehow find space in Saudi Arabia and redeploy.

RE:

“ask if carriers were really that vital in 1982

Been reading about the Port San Carlos FOB and Atlantic Conveyor and it is a very interesting what if;

if Atlantic Conveyor was not sunk, might write something up on it”

Very funny.
Six ships sunk by air attacks DESPITE air cover from aircraft carriers which shot down 23 enemy planes.
Whitout air cover, nothing would have reached the shore and created any FOB at all. It is well known that without air cover from the carriers the operation would have never been started. The losses would have been absurdly high.

And most definitely there’s no way that, without carriers and Sea Harriers, the Atlantic Conveyor would have had better chances of not getting hit. Quite the opposite, indeed.

Re: “In tight against the shore the ships were denied the maximum possible time to detect and track targets.”

Partially true. But ships were sent close to the shore in a locked-up bay such as San Carlos because this drastically reduced the chances of the Argies of being able to fire Exocet in the area and forced them to waste fuel and concentration in flying low over the hills before running their attacks.

The idea was to nail them when they “popped up” from behind the hills around San Carlos.
It did not always work, but it had the unexpected advantage of argie bombs not exploding because launched from too low altitude, thus having no time for the fuze to activate.
San Carlos was the “bomb”

In the end, it was the smartest thing that could be done.

Especially because, back then, Sea Wolf had still defects (just entered service) and Sea Dart, which proved good at killing anything which flew high, was considerably handicapped in trying to deal with sea-skimming targets.

A problem which was solved, but only well after the war, and which ultimately allowed a british ship to shoot down an Iraqi Silkworm anti-ship missile about to strike a US vessel.

@Dominic J

Yeah. A minute of exposure. Sounds little time? Supersonic russian killing missiles give 30, max 45 seconds of warning, and ship-based SAM systems must track and shot them down in that time.
A minute is a lot of time for this kind of engagements. Also, it is funny to assume that the Typhoon flying low will be detected at the moment in which it fires. Sadly, the radar of the ship will be following it from a lot of time already before that.

Re: “so it [Brimstone] can punch through the armour of a main battle tank, but warships are immune? How so?

It is easy to hole a modern warship, which is not armored. The fact is that you need a very LARGE hole, and you need it where the water can use it to get inside, said in a very unprofessional way.

Brimstone uses two small HEAT warheads. One explodes first to clean a tank’s surface from ERA blocks, and the other pierces inside the tank to damage its systems/crew and, in the LUCKY cases, cause explosion of ammunition and fuel.

A Brimstone would open a hole in the outside of a ship with the first charge, while the second would be able to do little-to-nothing: HEAT warheads are explosive shaped-charges that use the Munroe effect to create a very high-velocity partial stream of metal in a state of superplasticity that can punch through solid armor.
Molten, incandescent metal used as a spear, in other words. The first hole is “fist” sized, and then it goes down to “finger” size.

The distance is critical because the stream disintegrates and disperses after a relatively short distance, usually well under 2 metres. That’s why against RPGs you see Mastiffs fitted with spaced cage armor. Space is a big enemy of HEAT.

So in a ship we get a hole bigger than a fist (superstructure not armored) but little to no damage inside because the jet of molten metal finds open, wide space behind and quickly disperses.
You’d, like… wound, or maybe kill the unfortunate guy passing by in the wrong moment.

But sinking a warship like this…?

HMS Ardent was savagely pounded with bombs. Go read its history to get an idea of what a beating a warship can endure.

Jed

APATS

Ta for the update. I can’t see why we don’t have multiple GPS antennas, spread all over the masts etc (masking and EMC nothwithstanding of course) also can’t see why we don’t have a SINS plugged into command system. With SINS and the EM Log you would have a pretty good fix even without GPS, radar or visual.

You point out an interesting vulnerability when you think about it – bridge with its polaris’ etc, nav radar and GPS on bridge roof, even the EO turrets might be on the bridge roof depending on the type of vessel – maybe all this kit should be spread around a bit !

You do also of course make a good point about what happens when you loose electronic kit for whatever reason, which is why we still carry sextants and teach Middies how to ‘shoot’ stars and the sun :-)

Jed

On the whole Brimstone versus anything bigger than a Pleasure Cruiser debate, take a look at this interesting posting which examines the subject of what it takes to sink a ship in detail:

http://cgblog.org/2011/03/14/what-does-it-take-to-sink-a-ship/

wf

DominicJ: sorry for using the P2 example, I had wanted to emphasise the low bar re ocean radar surveillance. Argentina actually has 6 P3B’s, so yes, does have the capabilty to find a task group in mid ocean.

I would also aver that the Atlantic was the most important naval theatre in any Soviet confrontation, because it was the key route connecting the US and Europe. There are plenty of other such routes, and unless we want to garrision half the middle east and asia with standing RAF bases and/or no-notice basing arrangements, the cheapest way of securing these routes is to use an aircraft carrier.

Jed

TD – totally understood ref Brimstone and “disabling” a larger vessel. It’s all relative as Einstein said…..

JohnHartley

Argentina is broke. An attack now is unlikely, but recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria shows how stable states can change fast. A Falklands invasion is unlikely, but not impossible.
With only 4 Typhoons, the simplest way, would be to launch an Argentine plane towards the Falklands. Turn back as soon as a Typhoon is launched. Keep doing this til Mount Pleasant runs out of Typhoons. Hit them with everything when they are on the ground refuelling. Not rocket science. Then drop Paras to take the airfield. Job done.
If the UK must ring fence foreign aid, put it to good use. Use some of the aid to India to buy Brahmos missiles for our T45s. Trade not aid.
Instead of giving money to third world dictators Mercedes fund, build airstrips & a deepwater quay on St. Helena, Tristan da Cunha & South Georgia.

Salvador

A very interesting topic, well covered, not too much to add really. The Falklands are very well protected now and the Argentinian’s would not be able to occupy as they did in 1982. Could they be better? Yes of course, rapier replaced
By CAAM, MPA, AEW and a land based PAAMS would be good.

Following on from Mike, we have a lot in common with Argentina and unless they succumb to a military dictatorship again, then I think the great us small. The thought if arming Chile is abhorant! They are not the sort of country we should be associating with!!!

Jed

Phil: “The thought if arming Chile is abhorant! They are not the sort of country we should be associating with!!!”

Seriously ? Bit late now don’t you think…..

ArmChairCivvy

RE “, we have a lot in common with Argentina and unless they succumb to a military dictatorship again, then I think the great us small. The thought if arming Chile is abhorant! They are not the sort of country we should be associating with!!!”
– yes, A & Chile are the countries on that continent that play rugby (horse polo, anyone?)
– what’s wrong with Chile, these days? They had pretty bad practices with their own citizens in the days when they were also willing to harbour SAS teams (and Peru was willing to be a third party for flying in arms from Israel to te Argies – to fight us, advice included free of charge!)

WW

@John Hartley re build airstrips & a deepwater quay on St. Helena, Tristan da Cunha & South Georgia ….

Not possible because of geography and lack of flat terrain, climate and harsh conditions in winter. Tristans have to repair their small breakwater after every stormy winter season.
Not very usefull either as a staging point enroute to FI as at most the distance between Ascension and FI is reduced by 1000nm or so.

However, Saint Helena airport will be build. Google for Saint Helena Airport Project to find lots of info about this project. But, as said, it will be used to bring in tourists from Cape Town and from the UK (via Ascension) in 737’s and A320’s. Only a single 1950m runway and small apron and no room for expansion.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@WW the distance is only cut by 900NM but a 1950M strip on St helena would be C17 capable.

ArmChairCivvy

RE “a deepwater quay on St. Helena, Tristan da Cunha & South Georgia …” put Ascension and Falklands themselves in there
– I wonder what the Economic Zone belonging to the UK would look like, across the whole of the S. Atlantic?
– it is getting to be well known by now how the seabed under the Arctic is likely to be claimed (big overlaps, Lomonov ridge and all that)

JohnHartley

TD
what do you want the RAF to do with only 4 Typhoons? Stay on the ground until they are attacked? Or challenge intruders for a few hours till they run out of fuel?
No disrespect to FIDF, but they hardly stopped the 1982 invasion, did they?
Look at Madiera for how to extend a runway off a cliff. The extension sits on concrete stilts. Do not see why the same trick should not work for St.Helena & Tristan da Cunha.

Jan Guest

I love the fact that discussion of a hypothetical war caused ten times more discussion than that of the real ones!

Chris.B

@ Gabrielle

Thank you, but I’m well aware of what a HEAT warhead is. As has been mentioned, the goal is not to sink, but to damage, disrupt, start fires. Multiple hits casuing multiple problems, with the main hope being to cause enough damage to force a mission kill.

Gabriele

Yeah, and if does not work they can always try with SA80, Steyr and GPMG fire… thousands of tracer rounds will set fire to the steel!

Please.

And it is worth repeating that the Typhoons which fly from MPA are 3. One is an on-site spare airframe.
And for probably at least 4 more years (major integration of Brimstone, Storm Shadow and etc on Typhoon is not planned before 2014) the Typhoons will have nothing more than, in the best case, Paveway II and, from 2012 or more likely 2013, Paveway IV.

Actually, due to the shortage of weapons and AG-capable Typhoon pilots, the Typhoons in the Falklands are only air-defence assets and will be so for quite some time.

Let’s not continue to overinflate defences that simply are not there. True, the islands are well covered.
But do not try to make them look more secure with fantasy.
That is the kind of overoptimism that loses war and generates abort strategy guidelines such as certain assumptions of the SDSR 2010.

Chris.B

I’d imagine a HEAT warhead would do a fair bit of damage once inside. Granted it’s armour penetration will degrade after a few feet, but we’re still talking about what is essentially molten metal kicking around inside. The laws of thermodynamics tell us that thermal energy must go somewhere.

Brian Black

To keep weight down and CoG low, there are often a lot of light alloys and composites used in the upper structure of modern warships, Chris.B. It’s all stuff that will burn a whole lot better than steel.

I’ve seen a few lynx that have burned up, and all you’re left with is a pile of ash and dust with the titanium rotor head sat on top and a sprinkling of bearings and pins. So I can imagine a HEAT warhead in a ship could do a fair bit of damage if not dealt with quickly; I guess that with a single hit damage would probably be quite localised to start with though, which could make all the difference.

JohnHartley

Some think it is pointless to replay a Falklands scenario, as Argentina is broke.
I think it a handy touchstone for Britain to keep an independent expeditionary capability. If you can project a force 8000 miles, fight & win, then very few other countries can do that. Look at all the trouble spots within 8000 miles of UK. It would be good to know we had that capability. Sadly between Brown & Cameron, I do not think we still have.

Jedibeeftrix

“then the FI will be totally safe come 2020 as Argentina wouldnt dare tackle a country which owns a proper aircraft carrier”

This is more or less true, as said in the first post:

“it is nevertheless true that all this pre-planning for graduated response is backed up by the ultimate insurance policy; we can always take it back off of them.”

This capability to take back the Falklands is also highly complimentary with Britain’s desire to maintain rapid/limited intervention forces, so it is dual-use and not therefore as ‘expensive’ as might be imagined.

Wibble

@ Gab,

Please can you tell us where you get you information on there only being 4 Typhoons in MPA? And your information on weapons fits etc?

topman

It’s easily available on the net. It’s probably on the MoD website. Although she’s wrong about the 4th as a source of spares.

Wibble

@topman,

Last time I checked (about a week ago)the MOD website it still listed the F3 and 111 Sqn!!!! It cant be trusted! The weapons fit for QRA aircraft will not be open source either.

topman

It might not be open source, but I don’t think it hard to work out. A mixture of asraam and amraam.

Euan

The aircraft down there have a nice selection of things that go bang according to the family crab that spent 8 months down there looking after them between annoying the fluck out of the local penguin population oh and of course getting pissed.

Adam Sugden

The defenders:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_the_Falkland_Islands
Army has 500 men plus sationed on the islands.
RAF has 2 Sea King helecopters and 4 Eurofighters.
Navy has 1 patrol ship and has a the ships of the Atlantic Patrol Task (South) which is usualy a destroyer or frigate and a RFA vessal. The could also have the arctic patrol vessal ond there are some times submarines patroling the area.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falkland_Islands_Defence_Force
Made up of 80 to 225 well trained and armed locals.
A far more able force then in 1982.

Adam Sugden

The attackers:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armed_Forces_of_the_Argentine_Republic
A budget of 4 billion $US, 1.5 %GDP.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_Army
Has purchesed new eqipment since 1982 to replace what was lost. It has new armored vehicls, anti-arcraft weapons and Artilery.
They are no longer conscripted and are there for now professionals.

Adam Sugden

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_Air_Force
Has purchesed new eqipment since 1982 to replace what was lost.
It has 14,000 percenal with 195 aircraft.
These are on 10 airbases

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navy_of_the_Argentine_Republic
Has purchesed new eqipment since 1982 to replace what was lost.
They have 49 ships. 4 Destroyers, 9 corvettes and 3 submarnes being there main offencive force.

2 transport ships that operate with the navys marine force (Comando de la Infantería de Marina)

The also have an aircaft wing which operates from 5 bases.
The pilots maintain carrier qualification by flying of training misions off the brazilion and US carriers.

Argentine now has the capacity to produce its own weapons.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_defense_industry

Waylander

Does the UK have AC-130 gunships, as the Sky news
correspondent Sam Kiley said that it does,he sounded certain of this when
he was reporting from Libya. He said they were disguised C-130s with hidden weapons ports.
Is this true? Intersetingly he never mentioned it in later reports. Also, perhaps a stupid question,
but why are there no Challenger 2 MBTs or even Warriors IFV on the Falklands, it said on one site that it was because they would sink in the boggy peat & be useless?

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