Looking South – An Alternative Slant

THE SEARCH for oil in the South Atlantic has briefly caused the eyes of the nation to divert its gaze from Afghanistan to the Falkland Islands. The Government of Argentina has seen fit to voice its concerns over the potential untapped mineral wealth under the ocean, and is clearly unhappy about the UK getting all the benefits it would bring.

The present rumblings in Buenos Aeries therefore, are more down economic desires rather than some grandiose nationalist intent. In essence, Argentina would like a seat at the table and a large slice of the pie. However, seeing as your average British senior civil servant would rather cut his own throat with a rusty carving knife before considering a mutually beneficial agreement to share oil wealth, albeit in the name of peace and international relations, then the potential exists for conflict. Unfortunately, oil is one of the greatest catalysts for conflict known to man.

To those concerned with defence the opportunity arises to evaluate the conventional forces we have to hand, given that much of our present armed services are deeply entrenched in a counter insurgency conflict.

Although we could not mount a task force to recapture the Falkland Island’s, we should not need to. But the question needs to be asked, are the forces and capabilities we have at present adequate to repel an invasion or at least handle a heavy duty stand-off?

Before we ask this, we should also ask, does Argentina have the political and military capacity for an invasion?

The answer to that is probably not, as they no longer have an aircraft carrier and their only dedicated landing ship has been scrapped. The only ships they have that could land troops and equipment are a small number of LSL types. However, they still maintain a credible submarine capability as well as four destroyers and around ten corvettes.

In addition to this, the Argentine Air Force still has around 50 A-4 Skyhawk and Mirage sub-types, as well as nine Exocet armed Super Etendard’s. These aircraft may be old in comparison the RAF Eurofighter Typhoon’s based on the Island’s, but they still pose a significant threat to shipping, as do the handful of P-3B Orion’s they operate.   So, although there equipment is far from being state of the art, it has the potential to a painful, if not deadly, thorn in the side.

The threat to the Falkland Island’s therefore does not come from invasion, but from Argentina attempting to implement an air and naval blockade. The oil rig currently being positioned could be taken out with a torpedo or an Exocet missile at any time, as could HMS York, the current Type 42 destroyer on patrol in the area. The other ships in the Royal Navy flotilla could do very little as they consist of an RFA tanker, a hydrographic survey ship and fisheries patrol boat armed with a 30 mm cannon. The Admiralty could have a nuclear submarine in the area, but if they have, they are keeping tight lipped about it. As the Argentine navy can muster three submarines, the RN would need to send more than one should things heat up.

The five Eurofighter Typhoon’s based at Mount Pleasant provide an adequate deterrent from an assault on the Island’s themselves, but cannot provide a watertight defence of the whole exclusion zone alone.

One significant deterrent the Typhoon could provide, if it was integrated, would be the AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile. This, and a robust submarine force would seriously curtail any Argentine designs on the Malvinas and the surrounding ocean. Unfortunately, and herein lies the crux, the only aircraft in the RAF inventory able to carry the Harpoon is the Nimrod. The powers that be have announced that the MR.2 variant will be withdrawn this year as a cost saving measure, and its replacement, the MRA.4, will not be operational until around 2012.

It should be remembered that it was the proposed withdrawal of HMS Endurance that triggered the invasion in 1982, a decision which Argentina viewed as a sign of weakness. What we need to consider is this, if we withdrew the Nimrod and its long range, anti-ship/submarine capability without a credible alternative, would they view this in the same way?

As we begin to make stringent cuts and changes to our armed forces we should clearly understand that we could not fight another Falkland’s style conflict. What we should be doing therefore, is ensuring that the forces we have stationed there have a sufficient deterrent capability so we don’t have to.


Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
February 21, 2010 8:50 pm

Yep good’ol Air Vice-Marshals strike again. We dont need any fighter launched anti-ship missiles, but there again the Navy does not need fixed wing aircraft either, because the RAF will always be there operating from friendly air bases. Poppycock !

Do the Typhoons at Mount Pleasant even live in HAS ? And 5 is only 5, they can’t be everywhere at once. Is there engineering capability to fill bomb holes in the runway / taxi-ways ? How does the River class patrol vessel detect enemy submarines delivering special forces troops ashore ??

Really, the Argentine forces may or may not be “up for it” but it would not take a whole lot of imagination to take the islands, garrison or not.

If the government expects to ‘fight’ for resources then it must fund the armed forces appropriately.

February 21, 2010 9:27 pm

There are actually only 4 typhoons on the islands and no they do not live in a HAS as such. It’s more like a giant metal shed and there are around 16 or so for fast jets over on the north east part of the airfield. The 4 Tornado F3’s are no longer down there as they had their wings removed and shipped home from what I have gleaned from the internet although that information could be false. There has been a suggestion that we could rapidly reinforce the Falkland’s which is far from the truth but I don’t really want to go into too much detail as I’ve no idea who reads this.

I think Argentina is capable of taking the Falklands if it wants but I doubt it will actually do it as it would not look good politically especially since the USA might be a bit more on side and so might others. The idea that our intelligence services would spot any preparation for War as many seem to suggest is a bit farfetched as they are more than busy with Afghanistan and Iraq as well as trying to keep an eye on Iran. Let’s not forget that this Government is not exactly sensible so I doubt the intelligence services have been appropriately resourced and are most likely overstretched as well and Argentina would hardly be a priority.

Sven Ortmann
February 22, 2010 12:07 am

“One significant deterrent the Typhoon could provide, if it was integrated, would be the AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.”

Harpoons? Aren’t the Sea Eagles operational any more?

February 22, 2010 12:16 am

Sven sorry to tell you the Sea Eagle Anti Ship missile was retired in 1999 without replacement if memory serves. I’ll try and find a better source than my head and post it later.

February 22, 2010 12:21 am
Reply to  Euan
February 22, 2010 12:27 am

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile will be withdrawn from service; and what anti-surface capability the aircraft carriers will have after the withdrawal of the Sea Eagle missile. [24025]

Mr. Ingram: The decision to withdraw the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile from service in April 1999 was taken as a consequence of the Strategic Defence Review. The review
19 Dec 2001: Column: 337W
Concluded that since the end of the cold war the threat of open ocean warfare had reduced and that the requirement for air launched anti-surface ship capability had diminished. While our carriers no longer possess an organic anti-surface ship capability, they would normally operate as part of a Maritime Task Group whose component escorting vessels would typically be armed with a potent mixture of anti-surface weapons including the long range, ship launched Harpoon missile and the helicopter launched Sea Skua missile.

There we are sorry for being lazy could have Googled and posted my comment as well as this in one go oh well. Although this specifically refers to the carrier based aircraft it was also withdrawn from RAF service as well presumably to save some pennies and possible because the Nimrod was able to carry the Harpoon. So basically we currently have no fixed wing anti shipping capability, What? We are the United Kingdom after all a suburb of Brussels and not an Island State dependant on the sea.

February 22, 2010 9:45 am

Surely wes still have the capability to take back the falklands if the argies did invade. We have fewer ships but they are more capable with much better CIWS defence. Our amphibious capability is the best in NATO after the Americans isn’t it?
The MOD would have to get their wallet out to lease some transport ships and pull our ships from round the world duties but surely that’s it?

re. harpoons, the subs have torps as well as harps so for all we know there are a few lurking down there already…..

February 22, 2010 10:32 am

Look at it from Argentina’s Point of View, sorry it’s a bit long

Lets look at what Argentina would need to do to successfully invade.

Destroy our air force on the ground
Put the runway out of use for our airlifted reinforcements
Land an invasion force to seize the islands,
Repair the runways
Deploy an occupation force in place that could resist our sealift efforts.

That’s about the best they could reasonably hope for isn’t it?
Well, there is a lot that could go wrong that that.

Firstly, they would need to get our air force on the ground, which means hitting 16 unarmoured sheds when they’re all on the ground, for from impossible, but it’s possible their ground attack aircraft could fly into 4 Typhoons who were training and fully armed for air to air combat, which would see their strike force all but wiped out.
There are several dozen possibilities in between a success and a failure, and a lot of them pretty much doom the entire enterprise.

If they destroy the air force, the landing should be quite easy, they just have to seize the airfield before our forces can render it completely unusable, so as to prevent them destroying out landing ships later on.

But, even if assume they destroy out air force without loss, seize the islands, fortify them to the point where out surface fleet is overmatched, its still not over.

We have an ally, the US, now, its true, the current President doesn’t like us very much, what with us being on opposite sides during the Mau Mau revolt, but he isn’t all powerful, even in his own land.
If the US failed to intervene on our behalf, we could simply withdraw everyone back to Bastion and start flying them home, within days we’d stop any action except self defence of a small area and a third of the troops from his recent “surge” would be lost just replacing us. Losing what the American Public views as a key ally and the main participant in what Obama has declared His War is one hell of a price to pay.

Throw into that that the power to declare war resides with congress, which elects again this year, not the president, and it’s not unreasonable to ask if the UK’s liberation force would be protected by a US Carrier Battle Group, against which Argentina would be mental to put up a fight.

Theres also the possibility of an EU task force, France isn’t going to like a precedent set for Overseas Territories to be lost and British Euro scepticism would be hard pressed if a joint EU task force takes 800 casualties retaking them with us.

But, lets again assume that the Invasion is a success to the point where the UK can’t retake them alone, and the diplomatic corps fails to gain any allies, the war isn’t over.

Argentina could seize the islands, but that’s the extent of its reach.
The UK could maintain an Astute class submarine on station for the next 5 years and randomly destroy 80 targets a year in Argentina as and when we felt like it, be that the presidential palace, military headquarters, or a hydro electric dam above a city.
We could certainly sink any drilling rigs they tried to use in the area, and if we felt like being really mean, any oil tankers trying to make port and pipelines into the country as well.

Hell, we could double the defence budget start a massive re armament plan, build a fleet capable of carrying 400 SeaPhoons and bomb Argentina until they surrendered their south eastern province to Chile and their Antarctic claim and all their coastal waters further out than 6 miles to us.

There are simply too many ways a war could escalate well beyond anything Argentina could hope to prevail against, even if they do their part flawlessly.
And if they don’t do their part flawlessly, they could have declared war on a superior foreign power with an unsinkable aircraft carrier just off the coast.

Personally, I’d move the full compliment of 16 Typhoons South, or possibly the extra 12 could be a mix of the other 3 types we operate, and I’d like to throw in a few dozen tanks as well, just to be safe.
Compared to the resources available the cost is minimal.

I hadn’t realised harpoon wasn’t integrated with Eurofighter, presumably the Storm Shadow missile would be usable in that role though, if somewhat overkill for a frigate.
It lacks in-flight update and seems to be guided entirely by GPS and a camera, but does it need more for ships on the open ocean?
I can’t imagine being hit by even Brimstone would be a pleasant experience, even if the ship survives the first couple.

February 22, 2010 10:49 am

If they deployed an airforce to the islands and dug in, it would be a bloody affair to get them out.
Our close in defences are much improved, but our outer layer lacks radar now SeaHarrier is gone and the Argentines now have radar (albeit a bad one) in spades.

Richard Stockley
February 22, 2010 2:12 pm

I couldn’t see Argentina attempting to invade the Falkland’s due to the political fallout. However, hassling the exclusion zone seems like a more palatable alternative for them. The four Typhoon’s on the Island only have a limited CAP endurance. Continuous probing from the mainland with just a couple of aircraft at a time could exhaust our CAP capability over an extended period; the Super Etendard’s and A-4’s also have in-flight refueling capability.

With numerous corvettes, destroyers and submarines they could also probe the exclusion zone at multiple points keeping our naval forces continuously on the hop. To counter this we would need either a larger naval force in the area, or a small number of maritime patrol aircraft, a capability which we are to lose at the end of March for around two years.

Also, trying to hit a ship with a Brimstone is easier said than done, the Argentine destroyers are armed with Apside SAM’s, which are equivelant to AIM-7 Sparrows and have a range of 75 km’s, compared to the Brimstone’s 20 km. They also have Exocet, as do their corvettes. The RAF’s AGM-84D Harpoon has a range of about 220 km, well out of range of any naval air defence systems.

Politically it would be undesirable to send additional forces to the Falklnd’s as this has the potential to escalate the problem. However, a couple of extra Typhoon’s and several Nimrod’s could be sent within 24 hours without being seen as a dramatic increase in forces and would deter the Argentines due to the time they can stay on station. The way I see it, if we have to go without the Nimrod for a couple of years, we need to put Harpoons on the Typhoon to fill the capability gap.

February 22, 2010 3:09 pm

“However, a couple of extra Typhoon’s and several Nimrod’s could be sent within 24 hours…”

I can confidently assure you no Nimrod’s will be going anywhere especially not to the rough South Atlantic to fly long low and slow patrols daily over the sea, the Nimrod is essentially dead. Even although it’s OSD is next month you would need to be a bit of an optimist to think that they are still usable for anything other than doing a quick tour of the UK to say goodbye.

As for getting Typhoons down there in anything less than a week I would love to see the RAF try as they would need to pull almost the entirety of the tanker fleet to do it well. Not to mention pulling some C-130’s to move equipment and provide SAR cover screwing up the Air Bridge to Afghanistan so that would need to be covered by some really friendly ally with spare air transport capacity. These transports would also require AAR so that adds to the AAR requirements burden. So tanker wise we would most likely need the help of the 100th Air Refuelling wing based at RAF Mildenhall to pull off such a stunt in a short period of time. Either that or we could ask those lovely French if they could provide AAR services for us at short notice but wait Squadron Leader Oink just requested permission to take off. We simply don’t have the AAR capacity unless more or less every tanker could be pulled from current op’s and somehow all made serviceable and positioned to move Typhoons but wait pigs do fly. You may be thinking why all the tankers needed well for a kick off I doubt the Spanish would allow us to use Gran Canaria as a stopping point so essentially fewer but much longer legs. Less tankers would be needed if we decided to move them a few at a time but that would take days possibly into weeks rather than a short sharp build up all at once which would show the Argentineans we can still act fast.

Even although moving a squadron of aircraft would be a massive pain and logistical nightmare never mind the cost I think it would be well worth it for the training value gained from such an operation never mind the prestige. If it could be carried out I feel it would give a signal that the RAF can still do something rapidly when needed so watch out Gordon Brown and Co have not managed to destroy everything yet.

February 23, 2010 7:56 am

So as an island nation we have no aircraft that has a large anti-ship missile capability except the ‘dead’ nimrods?

I thought the Harpoon was cleared for Eurofighter use or is it just the RAF Typhoon that hasn’t got it?

February 23, 2010 1:35 pm

James that is essentially correct we are an island nation with basically no fixed wing anti-shipping missile launch platform and I doubt this will be remedied for a few years at least. Are you that surprised when we are an Island nation populated by people who seem to have forgotten what an Island is and what it entails.

The Eurofighter can carry the Harpoon however the missile is not integrated with the aircraft at this time and is unlikely to be done for a while as it’s not something that is seen to be in much demand. I would imagine it should be integrated at some point in the current Tranche 2 blocks and should be hopefully standard on Tranche 3 aircraft.

February 23, 2010 3:05 pm

Is the Storm Shadow / Scalp not an anti ship missile, of sorts?

Richard Stockley
February 23, 2010 4:31 pm

Unfortunately not, as far as I know it’s purely a fire and forget cruise missile for use against static targets. Although it’s smart, it’s pre-programmed on the ground with no interface after launch.

February 23, 2010 4:55 pm

I thought Storm Shadow could receive mid course updates but not sure how it would fare as an anti ship missile though because its speed and means to evade anti missile defence systems likely found on major surface vessels (Phalanx for example) is not developed.

I wonder if it could be developed into an effective anti ship missile though, if they can modify a sidewinder to be an anti surface missile then I suppose anything is possible.

February 23, 2010 5:09 pm

Short and simple answer, No. Basically for anti-shipping via fixed wing it would be down to using guided bombs or firing off a couple of brimstone missiles per target which should do the job. I hope and suspect Harpoon could possibly be integrated as a quick and dirty rush job if it were really needed as it is meant to get integrated at some point so it shouldn’t be an impossible task.

The Storm Shadow supposedly has the ability or some ability to attack ships as it does have an infrared imaging sensor in the nose of the missile which should be able to detect and target ships within an area. I have no idea what testing has been done to see how well the missile performs against ships I personally have not come across any reports of testing in the anti-shipping role however I have not spent time looking. It could just be unfounded speculation based on the idea that it has a camera so should be able to see a ship or it could be possible but just something that is not talked about. One thing to keep in mind though is that MBDA also makes the air launched Exocet missile so the Storm Shadow could be capable but not mentioned for obvious reasons or it might not be capable for the same reasons. A major problem if it could would be the fact that the Typhoons crews or Tornado crews have not trained for this mission and I don’t think it would be wise to have a go at an Argentine ship to see if it works. Mind you I think the RAF would love to use the old Type 42’s as targets to practise this and work out the problems before deploying trained crews or telling the people down there how to do it. However this would cost money, upset fishermen and all the assorted hippies so it would need to be done relatively quietly not least because it would also be seen as provocation.

13th Spitfire
February 25, 2010 1:27 am

Well lads, if the shit hits the fan we are alone.


February 25, 2010 4:13 am

I don’t think we would be alone if the shit hits the fan or at least I strongly hope that we would not be standing alone. The diplomatic problem as I see it is that here in the UK we have Gordon Brown and the labour party essentially a spent force depending upon your political persuasion and in the USA they have the Democrats. Obama is new and some would argue different and he has problems as the change he wants to happen is meeting tough resistance so he has to watch his step hence the very much neutral line by the USA. If he committed one way or the other or even slightly gave anything away it would add fuel to the fire that is burning so it is wise to say little or nothing to add to either side of the argument. However if it does come down to actual war the feeling I get is that it would be difficult for the US administration to stand and do nothing while what is left of the Royal Navy probably gets sent to the bottom. There may be many in the United States that would not support a decision to help the UK but there are also many who would want the United States to do something to help what they see as their closest dependable ally.

This could easily turn into a much more serious dent in relations between the United Kingdom and the United States for instance it would probably be necessary to withdraw out forces from Afghanistan. If this happened the US troop surge would essentially be filling in a hole left from the UK and Netherlands withdrawing there would also be a question of political support for the war if relations turned frosty. Basically who knows where this could go if the US was seen to be abandoning us to our fate as politicians here would be under pressure to react due to the impending election.

Rant or unpalatable opinion incoming>>>> Personally I hope the Labour Government makes an absolute arse of trying to solve this dispute so it mutates and blows up in their face adding to the reasons to exterminate Labour in the elections. Hopefully all their chickens come home to roost to expose how idiotic, incompetent and dangerous labour have been in the last 12-13 years or how little they value or care about human life. Sadly however all the chickens coming home to roost will inevitably result in far more deaths if there is a war than if we were well equipped to fight a war that is something that might just register in the public mind. However we never learned the lesson before in 1982 or after any other war big or small even after 2 World Wars and I doubt that will ever really change for any length of time. Also if we were well enough equipped and sized to fight and win various forms of war some including me would argue that it in itself would even act to deter escalation during disputes. A “Speak softly and carry and big stick” idea or a “If You Want Peace, Prepare for War” idea, the world is unpredictable and I believe it is better to prepared for something to happen than let it sneak up and bite you in the rear.

February 25, 2010 9:49 am

Well thats the Yanks out then, unless some fairly unlikely events occur.
So, we’re on our own then.

I’ve sent a letter to CCHQ asking if they still feel we should support the US in afghanistan given they have no intention of supporting us in the Falklands.

Richard Stockley
February 25, 2010 10:23 am

I think we will be on our own with just about everybody, the south and central Americas are a lot more unified and democratic in comparison to the 1980’s and will undoubtedly lend Argentina their support. If conflict avoidance is a priority, we could still do a deal and share the oil revenues. Unless the UK is still stuck in the 80’s mindset of ‘greed is good’.

February 25, 2010 11:01 am

All or nothing, if we do a deal, we’ll be doing another deal in 5 years time, and another after that, and another, until we’re a minority partner in the oil business and South Georgia has an Argentine airfield.

February 26, 2010 12:11 pm

In 1982 the US State department was indifferent and the US representative on the Security Council was actively hostile to the UK. It was only when Mrs Thatcher bent Reagen’s ear that policy changed to our advantage. There seems little sign of a good relationship between Brown and Obama, so we can probably forget about any help from the US.

How about making a start by flying in a couple of hundred Royal Marines to Ascension to look after the airfield?

Richard Stockley
February 26, 2010 3:54 pm

I’ve just read that the RAF are using a Nimrod as part of Ex Cold Response in Norway, which will last until 4th March. At least we still have one serviceable aircraft available if things turn sour!

Also, the Argentine corvette that was intercepted happened on 28 January. It makes me wonder if its something the Argentines do on a regular basis, much like the Russian Tu-95 Bears probing UK air space.

Richard Stockley
February 27, 2010 4:57 pm

One of the reasons is that Argentine Destroyers have Aspide SAM’s, although not state of the art, they still provide something of a deterrent.

During Op Corporate, a lot of the RN ships were attacked and damaged by bombs when they were too close to the Islands, which cluttered the ships radar. Also, the Argentines lost some 22 aircraft in doing this, which highlights the risk. Why get in close and risk aircraft and crew when you can take a vessel out at long-range with a Harpoon?

We’ve cut our defence budget and opened up a capability gap, as we will have no Nimrod for two years and no air launch anti-ship capability. We should be maintaining this capability rather than trying to get by with having to use Tornado’s.

February 27, 2010 5:47 pm

“Why get in close and risk aircraft and crew when you can take a vessel out at long-range with a Harpoon?”

Why indeed. Which current aircraft are you using?

Ian B
February 27, 2010 11:57 pm

The chances of the Argentines invading the Falklands are extremely remote, they have a useful surface strike fleet but next to no amphibious capacity at the mo, they would have to ‘borrow’ units from other countries (and with a Brit nuclear sub patroling who give them that capacity).
Also they cant destroy the airfield because they will need it for themselves for Fast Jet use to combat the likely Brit counterstrike.
And finialy they made a poor showing against 40 lightly armed RM, what will they do against 500 heavily armed battle hardened troops.
So would a democraticaly elected argentine government send hundreds of their soldiers and sailors to their certain deaths against a well trained,equiped and entrenched force i dont think so, its just political hyperbole

February 28, 2010 9:41 pm

I know many of you have mentioned the lack of Nimrods soon to appear. I’m equally angry about the gap and the lack of numbers we’re buying in total.

However I would like to point out that Britain hasn’t become entirely useless since the last conflict when we managed to put a rush on quite a few things for the war.

If it came down to it and we really needed Nimrods, the first MRA4’s are ready or soon will be, they just don’t plan to start operating them for a couple of years, it doesn’t mean we couldn’t in an emergency. Likewise, the MR2’s aren’t landing from their last flight and then being dragged of the runway and set upon by angry mobs, they’ll still be there to use if we need them for a while at least.

And as someone else pointed out, if it comes down to it, integration work on Typhoon for Harpoon could be done pretty quickly if necessary. The problem is a lack of will at the moment, but put an imminent (election losing) threat there and suddenly its amazing what we can do in a short time. Hell i’ve even heard people say that with a quick overhaul we could have a small number of sea harriers (sat in the Culdrose deck handling training area in a workable state) back in action. It’d at least be on par with what the Argentinians could send our way.

So it’s not all total gloom and doom.

Richard Stockley
February 28, 2010 10:26 pm

You make a very good point Grim, but like you said, “In the event of a emergency,” why do we have to await the onset of a crisis to put the right kit in place? Is crisis management a British disease or just something we’re naturally good at/too reliant on as a nation?

We could always mothball our nuclear capability to save a shed load of money and just bring it out in a crisis?

March 1, 2010 12:04 am

Grim your right it’s not all doom and gloom but it’s bloody close to it in my opinion and it’s only getting worse but hey the US will save us erm! Maybe not then. I doubt the RAF can still do what they did in 1982 in regards to getting things sorted in a short period of time for various reasons but I don’t want to bore you all. I know I’m the gloomy one and I don’t really intend to be like an anchor weighing down on things but if your expectations are lower then you might avoid getting disappointed.

” the MR2’s aren’t landing from their last flight and then being dragged of the runway and set upon by angry mobs” Well they will be parked up on the Apron and have equipment removed and basically decommissioned by techies and they may be angry who knows? And I doubt there will be enough of them to call a mob. The MRA4’s will be appearing but everyone will need training as the MRA4 is positively space age in many respects compared to the MR2 it’ll be nice to see them in service. Maybe whoever is next up in Government might see sense and put the MRA4’s into immediate service and convert the 3 test aircraft so we have the bare minimum but that’s optimistic. Ideally they would order more to maybe coming close to the numbers that were meant to be as well as additional aircraft to maybe replace the R1’s but hey looks like we are getting RC-135’s the last time I checked.

Richard I don’t see how you can mothball a nuclear capability you are either nuclear capable or you are not and we are already at the bottom as one sub on patrol is our only nuclear capability at present. You could maybe find a slightly cheaper alternative but I’m in the camp that believes that SLBM’s are the only true option for a survivable nuclear deterrent that is however a totally different discussion. If you went further you drop to having the capability of designing producing nuclear weapons just like many other nations currently do in some form. We would not be a nuclear power in my opinion nor I suspect would we be considered as such abroad and it would also have a negative affect although it would have a positive side to it.

Harold Bastow
March 7, 2010 8:19 pm

Well we have been on our own before.1939/45 is a excample.We were not strong anougth to win on our own,but America,only arrived for thier own reasons,not ours.Pearl Harbour,was thier reason.We all know how big and strong they are,but they have lots of enemies,Russia,China,Iran,so they will always need some one like ourselves.What about thier early warning system installed on our Island.If I was the Prime Minister,I would bring our troops out of Afghanistan,to defend the Falklands.After all only a few of the United Nations,ever stick to the agreement which was signed to prevent any more wars.The ones that do always have a get out,excample,we will deliver the post,and the ammo,but its not our principle to fight.

July 27, 2010 6:21 pm

Forgive a ignorant voice, but I often hear on this site and others that “we can’t mount a taskforce to retake the Falklands like we did in the 80s”.

Could someone explain to me what sort of modern taskforce we’d need to do so, and how much that would cost? I’m trying to grasp the scale of how defence has fallen down the priorities list (Since, no matter the current situation, we’re still better off then we were in the 70s).



July 27, 2010 6:54 pm
Reply to  Mark

Hi Mark

You might hear that often said here but in general, my view is that I would rather we didnt have to mount an operation in the first place i.e. defend the islands rather than retake them in a rather expensive manner, we all tend to forget what came before the invasion and concentrate on after.

If you wade back through the posts on here you will find analysis and historical figures on defence spending and equipment numbers. In many ways our amphibious capability is much better than it was in 1982

July 28, 2010 8:58 am

Its a tricky subject.

The usual problem raised, is last time we sent a medum and a light aircraft carrier with air to air (Sea Harrier) and air to ground (Harrier GR) aircraft.
This time we would be sending, at best, two light carriers and they only operate air to ground aircraft, although on my understanding, the air to ground can still fire air to air missiles, it just lacks a radar to aim them at long range.

Now on paper, that looks very bad, however its questionable how bad it would be in real life.

The Argentineans lacked a long range strike arm, our fleet was at their maximum range and they had a couple of minutes to actualy sight a ship, attack it and break for home, air to air combat was usualy us disrupting their efforts to sight a ship, or shooting them down as they bolted for home.
The Argentineans still lack a long range strike arm, and have much fewer planes (we shot most of them down as they headed home) however they now have radar allowing them to find our fleet much easier and bomb it much more accuratly.

But, in 1982 we didnt have a long range strike capability to hit their airfields with, now we have Astute, and even if the Americans havent and wont sell us any more, we should have 40 Tomahawk missiles we can fire from just off the coast.
We could probably render their airforce impotent with such an attack.
In theory, we could carry 200 missiles south if we sent all available submarines.

Our ability to actualy land an army is greater than it was, both as reinforcements by transport jet, and if that fails, by a variety of landing ships, happily capable of landing a tank regiment, a mechanise regiment and a few thousand infantry soldiers, and then going back to pick up extras off “borrowed” cruise ships.
Last time the Argentine defence was unable to deal with 4 CVR(T)’s, this time it could face C2’s, AS-90’s and Warriors deployed in force.

Theres also the question of combat experience.
Argentina last fought a war against us and has taken part in a few peace keeping ops around the world.
The British Army has fought actual wars almost none stop since 82, including the last 4 years in Afghanistan, which has been about 48,000 6 month deployments, many of them multiple tours.

As for the actual task for we would send, everything we could frankly.
Both Carriers if they could be readied, as many landing ships as can be readied, as many destroyers and frigates as we can pull together and as many submarines as we can spare, plus as many ships as we can “borrow”.
Cost would probably be a billion or so depending on losses and how muhc of a fight they put up

And as Admin rightly says, the best way to win a war is to never fight it.