SDSR – Analysis #03 (The Elephants in the Room)

Unfortunately there was a whole pack of elephants; the crushing nature of the financial crisis, a blatantly obvious EU agenda, The Falkland Islands, criminal MoD incompetence, ongoing operations in Afghanistan and crippling service rivalries.

I am surprised there was any room for any discussion at all; the room chock full to the brim with elephants.

The Financial Crisis

The size of budget deficit is difficult to visualise but it’s big. This, coupled with the projected future over spend in the Equipment Programme and the ‘Libdem Trick’ movement of the Trident replacement into the Core Budget meant that significant budgetary adjustment was an inevitability.

However, one must question the Governments values if it thinks that making 12,000 personnel redundant whilst increasing the overseas development and EU budgets by significant amounts tallies with their much trumpeted repair of the military covenant.

Forget the issue of weakening defence whilst contributing to contraception programmes in Africa or space programmes in India it is the rank hypocrisy that sticks in my craw.

It is very difficult not to be emotive; because some young tom or matelot is going to pay the price and come home in a flag draped coffin because of it, still, some reduction was inevitable.

Afghanistan

Whatever your views on Afghanistan it is beyond comprehension that anything that hampered the operations would proceed. If we are to draw down in the 2014/15 timeframe then quite rightly we must absolutely concentrate resources on achieving a sensible outcome.

What that sensible outcome might actually be is of course, another huge debating point but here seems to me to be a rather unseemly and unpleasant move to sweep Afghanistan under the carpet and get on with the business of buying shiny new toys, sorry, looking strategically at future threats.

Despite the significant contribution of the RAF and RN (Including RM) it is the Army that is most heavily engaged in operations in Afghanistan and therefore the RAF and RN would have to bear the brunt of the cuts in the SDSR.

Inter Service Rivalry

Always present and always corrosive the shrinking budget brought out the worse in the senior and ex senior people.

Where we needed vision and leadership we go squabbling.

Now the process is finished for now, perhaps they should reflect on their conduct.

It isn’t helped by vitriolic, one sided and bitter ranting in other online resources either. Perhaps instead of getting bothered we should simply ridicule this hysterical ranting but it should serve as a lesson for 2015, where budgets are likely to be cut even further.

The European Union

For many people that voted Conservative the continued love affair of the party with the European Union is difficult to reconcile. The Liberal Democrat policy on greater EU integration is well known but for a Conservative government to backtrack on issues such as a referendum, budget increases and transfer of power would seem to explode the myth that they are cool on the EU.

A reduction of Greater EU defence cooperation was signalled in the election run up but the SDSR has delivered more, not less.

MoD Incompetence

David Cameron in his speech made the point that the UK still has the world’s 4th largest defence budget but that is nothing but a sick joke because the true value of a defence budget is not what one spends but what it buys.

The MoD’s criminal negligence has resulted in so much waste it truly is astonishing but I do have some sympathy for the MoD, not that much mind, but some. The department tries to spin multiple plates, the need to maintain sovereign manufacture and design capabilities, political interference and long term crystal ball gazing.

Is it any wonder that with so many competing influences the end result is often so bad.

The SDSR would be completed against an unchanged backdrop, the same old vested interests, be that dashing fellows in red trousers, the industry lobby or plain old regional politics.

The South Atlantic

This isn’t a real elephant but depending on what paper you read might be a mouse or a prehistoric giant woolly mammoth so I thought I would cover this in this section.

Most of the hyperbole about the SDSR and those bemoaning the loss of Harriers and, surface vessels and naval aviation capability usually gravitates to retaking the Falkland Islands.

How could we defend the Falklands comes the shrill cry?

I actually think the South Atlantic and southern Africa will become a strategically important area in the future so I don’t want to totally discount the issue but the clue to how we could defend the Falkland Islands is in the same sentence, defend that is. I am sure most sensible people would agree that it is better to prevent than cure, better to deter than react and better to defend than attack.

Since 1982 the Falklands Island Defence Force and UK forces have been working out, practising and generally perfecting how to defend the islands and given the collective expertise and experience one might think they might have a pretty good idea how to do it.

Let’s just imagine Argentina sets it mind to retaking the Islands by force, the scale of the challenge is immense. They would first have to build up their capabilities from their current woeful state. Assuming they can do this without the CIA, SIS and Wikipedia not noticing they would have to get past an advanced air defence radar, patrolling Royal Navy vessel, Rapier FSC installations, the small matter of 4 Typhoons at Mount Pleasant airfield, the Falkland Islands Defence Force and roulement Army battalion. Within a matter of days we could have an additional squadron or two of Typhoon, AAR, SIGINT, AEW and additional ground forces.

The existing ground forces would be augmented by forces comprising one of the most battle hardened and generally ‘nails’ army forces anywhere on the world.

No matter what the noises coming out Brazil or Venezuela the fact is, Argentina would be on their own.

So, unless the Argentine forces have a TARDIS and can dematerialise in the middle of Port Stanley and MPA with 4 or 5 thousand Cybermen there is no possible way they can do anything but harass the odd trawler.

Let’s get real.

All Them Elephants

Let’s face it, it was almost impossible to generate a sensible review that had anything vaguely strategic when the room was so full of elephants.

39 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
October 25, 2010 1:55 pm

re: the falklands hysteria

very much agreed.

DominicJ
October 25, 2010 3:01 pm

As I’ve argued before, the Army is not Afghanistan.

Announcing a FRES cancellation would have half filled the hole.
Announcing a withdrawl from division level armoured warfare and instead maintaining a Brigade of Challenger/Warrior replacements would have filled it (cutting half a Brigade of tanks, half of warriors and two APCs, but some time in the future), with no job cuts till after 2015, most likely no sackings at all, simply recruitment cuts.

jed
jed
October 25, 2010 3:12 pm

Admin and Jedi – agreed the FI issues sometimes verges on hysteria BUT I think that paragraph is highly disingenuous Admin !

I don’t think there has been a roulement battalion for some time, I believe it is now a company. 4 Typhoon’s – wow thats a lot, how many are simultaneously serviceable / available ? The RN patrol ship – the one with a 30mm canon and no sonar ?? Yep, deterrent value there then…..

Now I don’t believe Aregentine forces are any better off budgetary wise than ours are, and I am not saying they could just wonder over there and do what they like, but please don’t fall for the “Fortress Falklands” claptrap – if they want the oil, they could take it, and there is only a single runway to destroy to prevent all the rapid re-inforcement you mention.

So while I don’t subscribe to the “Argies are coming” hysteria, I also don’t subscribe to the “they are easy to defend” hogwash either !

paul g
October 25, 2010 4:55 pm

it been the RIC (roulement inf coy) at least 10 years as it was when i was there in ’99, lots of empty rapier pits as well.
Interesting to see a lot of media interest in the raising of overseas aid even a piece on the one show (obviously slipped it past the BBC pc nazis) and although it’s the daily express and therefore taken with a pinch of salt 98% voted against the rise, especially after it was calculated that the extra £3billion could’ve kept harrier going for 20 years. (clever headline).
Cameron will be tested next year with the rebate fiasco (thanks for not bothering to go and fight the GB corner baroness ashton, you unelected waste of rations) and also the rise in contributions they want, people are going to snap and use their vote in local elections.
Best thing now is sort out who what and where ASAP for the returning units, I would suggest sorting out kinloss as that’s making media time, surely it would be good PR if they were to make it the scottish regiments homebase, keeping lossie as an airbase just down the road would quantify rapid deployment, good mountain training in the area, possible sideline in assisting RM witht the cod war patrols etc etc and they’re not stuck in the south of england where you need to sell a kidney to afford the train fare back home. locals keep jobs (not aircraft ones i know but transfers to lossie could be on the cards). Next up lakenheath and fairford, shut bloody cerney!!! i could go on but hey things to do

Anon
Anon
October 25, 2010 5:52 pm

I find it shameful that the Government of the day appears to be more worried about not offending Bono and Bob Geldoff than it is about providing adequate resource for our armed forces.

It is an interesting juxtaposition in the context of the covenant.

jim30
jim30
October 25, 2010 5:55 pm

I’m not too worried about the FI – having worked down there, the islands are well defended and have excellent capabilities. The problems the Argentines would need to solve to take them would mean they’d have to scrape together some 6-10,000 troops to assault the MPA complex and provide the supporting artillery, aviation, weapons and logistics etc.

To get to the stage where Argentina poses a threat to the FI, they’d need to build up the worlds 2nd largest amphibious fleet, lots of escorts and then be able to sustain it. They then have to practise the assault without being spotted by foreign intelligence, and then sail an invasion fleet launching one of the biggest invasions since WW2 to the FI without the UK noticing. They then have to sustain an attack against a hugely well prepared installation, while coming under immense international pressure to withdraw and also putting pretty much every soldier in their army in the first combat it has fought since 1982.

The FI are not invulnerable, but you woulkd need to see a massive paradigm shift for them to be at credible risk of invasion, and this is something which HMG will (hopefully) take measures to deter against.

x
x
October 25, 2010 6:19 pm

@jim30

Though you are spot on with everything you say secretly I hope MPA has more in common with German fortifications in the Channel Islands than it does with RAF Lyneham…… :)

Mat
Mat
October 25, 2010 6:52 pm

Re: Falklands

I sincerely believe the Falklands are up the creek, should the Argentines want to invade.

Rapier’s short range, and these days not much good for anything but helicopters and ‘low and slow’ aircraft. Not really jets. Argentina currently has dozens of aircraft that could piddle bombs all over the islands, from well outside Rapier’s engagement envelope. Updating Argentine aircraft with targeting pods, and then qualifying appropriate weapons, would be quite cheap.

Argentina could take out the existing flight of Typhoons (I thought it was two, but I might be mistaken) by the simple expediency of some cheap cruise missiles, or precision guided munitions launched from any available platform. Say, the excellent and cheap Israeli Jumper missile, launched from the back of a motorlaunch. (Or, indeed, a regular Argentine Navy warship – we let them get within 20 miles of the Falklands all the time.)

Or Norway’s Naval Strike Missile, from Argentine navy ships approaching when the South Atlantic weather’s too atrocious for the Typhoons to fly. White-out conditions happen a lot. Heck, they could just use PGM mortars from the back of a modified fishing boat. It would cost peanuts.

The Argentines also have the option to repeatedly approach the Falklands’ airspace and turn away at the last minute. The Typhoons would soon be overwhelmed, out of fuel, and forced to turn tail and land.

And, let’s not forget the the Typhoons have no capability to engage ships, beyond their Paveway bombs and their cannon. No anti-ship missiles have been integrated.

The guardship is normally a low-end vessel more akin to a US coastguard cutter than a warship, and that could be taken out with nothing more than anti-tank rockets. It has no serious defences. The Argentine Navy is quite capable of sinking it in short order.

The Falklands enjoy no detection capability or defence against submarines. Pop up, disgorge commandos to take out the Typhoons and shoot down anything from the UK airbridge, and the job’s done. Within 24 hours, Argentina would have flooded the islands with ships and aircraft.

There’s no military presence at Port Stanley, so the settlement is at risk of surprise attack. Maritime law demands that the port be open to Argentine military vessels in distress (as their ports have been to ours, much to their disgust) and the Argentines always have the option of simply buying cruise tickets for disguised commandos. Or perhaps announcing that they’d no longer embargo vessels approaching the Falklands, embrace ‘normalised’ relations, and promptly sail over a cruise ship entirely packed with troops. We couldn’t stop them.

Finally, it half-killed the RAF to get two Typhoons down to Mount Pleasant. There’s simply no chance that reinforcing fighters could appear within 36 hours. 48, if you want the pilots to be half awake then they get there.

We could change all this for comparative birdfeed – a patriot missile battery, some coastal missile batteries, and some ASW helicopters. But why spend a billion pounds on buying that off-the-shelf, when we can give it to BAE for some computer generated images. Or use it to prop-up Iranian stooge and confirmed drug trafficker, Hamid Karzai.

x
x
October 25, 2010 7:09 pm

@ Mat

It is 4 Typhoon. But would I be right in thinking that is 4 more than fly above the skies of Afghanistan?

You are right though Mat “we” are not thinking about some form of asymmetric attack or engineered incidence. It isn’t like they haven’t done it before with the hijacked plane onto the race coure and the scrap metal men on South Georgia. With an emboldened post-Cold War Third World majority in the UN it would get a bit sticky for the UK should it come to a vote. Though I am not saying the UN has any real power, just appearances count for a lot in the IR arena.

Mike W
October 25, 2010 7:13 pm

Mat’

I agree with much of what you say.

“Argentina currently has dozens of aircraft that could piddle bombs all over the islands, from well outside Rapier’s engagement envelope.”

Couldn’t some of those same aircraft be used to shoot down many British transports (C17s etc.)? They would not be escorted by our own fighters, not unless our re-fuelling capacity has increased considerably. As you say: “It half-killed the RAF to get two Typhoons down to Mount Pleasant.”

Didn’t the 1982 invaion of the Falklands take place when we had a fair number of Royal Marines on the islands, together with the Island Defence Force? Would they have totalled much less than the resident battalion of infantry?

Brian
Brian
October 25, 2010 7:19 pm

According to Christopher Booker and Richard North, the EU Elephant has been in the room since 1996.

x
x
October 25, 2010 7:43 pm

Mike W said “Didn’t the 1982 invaion of the Falklands take place when we had a fair number of Royal Marines on the islands, together with the Island Defence Force? Would they have totalled much less than the resident battalion of infantry?”

No. There was a less than 100 in total. 50 – 80 RM (depending on what point in the crisis), some RN, and 2 dozen or so Falklands Island Defence bods. The RM were in the middle of hand over.

(Really I should get off my backside and give you exact figures.)

x
x
October 25, 2010 7:45 pm

I meant yes. I meant no they didn’t equal a battalion.

dominicj
dominicj
October 25, 2010 9:01 pm

mat
either side can start a war.
If a typhoon pilot says he was under fire before he shot down six fingers, who’s going to argue?

Euan
Euan
October 25, 2010 11:14 pm

Oooo! I have been tempted into saying something by all the talk of penguin land Erm! no sorry the Falkland Islands. Personally I’m with Jed on this one they are not a walk in the park to re-take if the Argies wanted to but they are not safe or easy to defend never mind reinforce if something happened. Any reasonable reinforcement depends upon AAR and our fleet is in a dire state never mind what it’ll be like in a few years time and even with a good deals notice it would be rather hairy and hectic. Short of forming the United Penguin Defence Force the Falkland’s will always be something to keep in mind as long as the Islanders wish to remain British and have the support of the wider British Public. (Hmmm! The UPDF could probably give the Peoples Liberation Army a run for their money)

As for Kinloss perhaps I think I should mention that something will be done with it because IIRC the Air field is on leased land so it either has to be used or returned to its original state. This AFAIK means lovely clean agricultural land which is not exactly cheap to do after years of military use and silly when reuse is cheaper. Also as people have mentioned with all the media coverage the closure has gotten it’s now rightly or wrongly a nice stick to beat the Government with and will be until something is done.

Some theories I’ve heard about for Scotland involve moving returning units into the Kinloss site, closing Leuchars with its auxiliary helicopter training role going to Kinloss and the QRA going to Lossie. Although the problem I see is that does leave the Royal Marines at Arbroath a little further from those helicopters to train with unless they also get moved around which is doubtful and Leuchars got money spent on it for Typhoon arriving. Saying that however I think construction work stopped at Leuchars before it was finished at some point last year to save money and allow them to think about things some more. Money already spent seems not to matter after all they canned MRA4 after Kinloss was made ready the crews trained and the aircraft were all but ready to go so who knows. Sorry for adding more to the pot but my memory is a little foggy on the specifics but as a Scot it’s something that I see in the media and is of more interest to me than it is to others.

Jim30
Jim30
October 26, 2010 6:48 am

Matt

I think that you are completely wrong in your assessment and have gone through line by line to show why. I should note that I have deployed to the FI recently and am basing my assessment on this.

“I sincerely believe the Falklands are up the creek, should the Argentines want to invade.”
The Argentines have no capability to invade at all. It would take 10 years and a lot of highly obvious construction to provide a reasonable amphibious capability.

“Rapier’s short range, and these days not much good for anything but helicopters and ‘low and slow’ aircraft. Not really jets. Argentina currently has dozens of aircraft that could piddle bombs all over the islands, from well outside Rapier’s engagement envelope. Updating Argentine aircraft with targeting pods, and then qualifying appropriate weapons, would be quite cheap.”
Firstly Rapier is a highly effective weapon system. Secondly, the Islands have a number of air defence radar sites which provide highly effective coverage of the region. It would take a concentrated attack, well outside Argentine capabilities for the forseable future to take them out. Until this point, the UK will have good warning of any raid forming up.
The argentines dont’ have dozens of planes, at best their entire current operational airforce numbers approximately 40 aircraft of all FJ types. This includes a few ancient Etendards, some (roughly 20 skyhawks) and some Mirage A/D interceptors. An all out effort, putting every single serviceable plane they possess into the air would probably put something like 20-25 aircraft together – to do this would be a one off. A sustainable Argentine task package would be 4-5 aircraft per strike tops.
The updating of Argentine aircraft assumes they have the funds to do this – don’t forget that nearly 90% of the Argentine defence budget is consumed by personnel costs. Their procurement budget is very limited and doesn’t stretch to targeting pods and LGBs.

“Argentina could take out the existing flight of Typhoons (I thought it was two, but I might be mistaken) by the simple expediency of some cheap cruise missiles, or precision guided munitions launched from any available platform. Say, the excellent and cheap Israeli Jumper missile, launched from the back of a motorlaunch. (Or, indeed, a regular Argentine Navy warship – we let them get within 20 miles of the Falklands all the time.)”

Argentina doesn’t have any cruise missiles in service. If it did then it would need to gather targeting information, and also put the strike package together – something that would be very obvious on the A/D radar, and would provoke a response. The airfield is huge, and has massive redundancy built into it – they would need perfect intelligence to know the locations of the 4 peacetime (or significantly more if reinforced) Typhoons.
As for the idea that we let Argentine warships within 20 miles of Stanley – sorry to say that that is rubbish. We maintain an exclusion zone around the islands which extends considerably beyond this point for Argentine vessels. No Argentine warships have come within 20 miles of the islands since 1982.
“Or Norway’s Naval Strike Missile, from Argentine navy ships approaching when the South Atlantic weather’s too atrocious for the Typhoons to fly. White-out conditions happen a lot. Heck, they could just use PGM mortars from the back of a modified fishing boat. It would cost peanuts. “
The Argentine navy has 4-6 operational escorts, most of which have hardly any sea time per year. They do not have the funds for a ‘naval strike missile’ and if they did, and they had accurate targeting data (its not just a question of pressing the ‘on’ button) and they went to sea, then we would have a reasonable idea of what was going on.
PGM mortars only work if they have the range, and an accurate steady firing platform – as noted the SA is rough, and the chance of a fishing boat lurking and having a stable firing platform would require it to go inshore where it would be spotted. More to the point MPA is a sufficient distance from the coast to make most mortars or other devices out of range.
“The Argentines also have the option to repeatedly approach the Falklands’ airspace and turn away at the last minute. The Typhoons would soon be overwhelmed, out of fuel, and forced to turn tail and land.”
They could do this, but as noted, they only have a finite package of aircraft and to play this trick would mean taking the rest of your strike package offline. Don’t forget that the FI has a VC10 tanker to extend crew time on station, and that if this became a regular occurrence then further reinforcement may occur.
“And, let’s not forget the the Typhoons have no capability to engage ships, beyond their Paveway bombs and their cannon. No anti-ship missiles have been integrated.”
IMHO Anti ship missiles are overrated – they need accurate target data to be certain of hitting anything – the last thing you want to do is fire them from a FJ platform. Thats what you have your FI Guardship with an anti ship missile package for.
“The guardship is normally a low-end vessel more akin to a US coastguard cutter than a warship, and that could be taken out with nothing more than anti-tank rockets. It has no serious defences. The Argentine Navy is quite capable of sinking it in short order.”
One element of the FI Naval presence is a guardship – perfect for peacetime and ideal for 99.9% of what we do down there. Don’t forget the other RN vessels – namely a T23 or T42 (which carry Harpoon or Seadart in SSM mode plus helos with Sea Skua SSM), a tanker, a survey vessel and usually an SSN too. All of which could act in some way or another in this circumstance.
“The Falklands enjoy no detection capability or defence against submarines. Pop up, disgorge commandos to take out the Typhoons and shoot down anything from the UK airbridge, and the job’s done. Within 24 hours, Argentina would have flooded the islands with ships and aircraft. “
There is usually a guardship in the region like a T23 which is one of the worlds best ASW escorts. There is also usually an SSN in the region which excels at finding submarines.
The Argentine SSK fleet is limited, and barely seagoing – at best they could put 20-30 people ashore. To travel to the FI and attempt an insertion would be an enormous challenge to their capabilities. If they could land, then their patrol of 20 – 30 men would need to cross many miles of hostile terrain, where locals spot anyone who is not from round their area. They then need to enter one of the most heavily defended airbases in the world, past a well worked up and highly aggressive guard force and identify the locations of all 4 Typhoons (on a large airbase with multiple HAS) and destroy them. The moment they are discovered then the UK will assume it is at war with Argentina and all bets are off – and the reinforcement plan begins.
Even if they did take the aircraft out (which is incredibly unlikely given what is needed), then a clear RN presence remains to act as a visible deterrent against any ship moves. The Argentines know what SSNs can do. Their navy will not dare put to sea with an amphibious fleet until they know where the escort is, and they are happy that the SSN is taken care of- the Argentine navy has no experience of ASW against SSNS and would find any wartime operation to be short and painful.
To take out the airbase and naval presence simaltaneously requires ISR and targeting skills way beyond what the Argentines or any other nation, possibly bar the US, could do.

“There’s no military presence at Port Stanley, so the settlement is at risk of surprise attack. Maritime law demands that the port be open to Argentine military vessels in distress (as their ports have been to ours, much to their disgust) and the Argentines always have the option of simply buying cruise tickets for disguised commandos. Or perhaps announcing that they’d no longer embargo vessels approaching the Falklands, embrace ‘normalised’ relations, and promptly sail over a cruise ship entirely packed with troops. We couldn’t stop them. “
That as an idea is approaching bad Clive Cussler novel territory. Firstly the Argentine military vessel would have been identified a long time before it came near our ports – it would be escorted in, if permission was granted. However, you assume that if this happens that the UK would sit there happy and play dumb and just let the ship come alongside– Stanley is only 40 minutes drive from MPA. By the time the vessel has cleared into Stanley harbour, there would be a large UK and FIDF force present waiting to greet the Argentine military vessel. The chances are that for discretion purposes, the UK would inform the Argentines to pull into East Cove Military Port, and put up an even larger guard force.
As for the cruise ship idea – fine in theory, however, how do you get all your military assets ashore except in the tiny leisure boats, which are not designed for amphibious landing? Then you have to use the tiny number of jetties in Port Stanley which are a choke point and would delay landing the commando party. At best, you may get a couple of squads ashore before the alarm is raised and the RIC plus support is driving or flying to Stanley to deal with the problem. End result is a cruise liner sitting in the harbour which is a sitting duck of a target. Meanwhile you’ve a small number of unsupported commandos ashore with very limited stores who will be in a totally hostile environment with no way out– it is a suicide mission.
“Finally, it half-killed the RAF to get two Typhoons down to Mount Pleasant. There’s simply no chance that reinforcing fighters could appear within 36 hours. 48, if you want the pilots to be half awake then they get there. “
It didn’t half kill the RAF – routine moves of aircraft such as F4, F3 and F2 have been going on for nearly 25 years. The RAF does this all the time to service their aircraft. Has it not struck you that practising for this very eventuality is a contingency that is regularly exercised? (In terms of rest, just fly down a C17 or passenger jet and let the relief crew get their heads down).
“We could change all this for comparative birdfeed – a patriot missile battery, some coastal missile batteries, and some ASW helicopters. But why spend a billion pounds on buying that off-the-shelf, when we can give it to BAE for some computer generated images. Or use it to prop-up Iranian stooge and confirmed drug trafficker, Hamid Karzai.”
Why do we need a patriot battery – Rapier is fine for the job at hand. Coastal missile batteries are unnecessary as the chances of them being able to get accurate targeting information and the likelihood of the Argentines posing a credible threat are near zero. Finally ASW helos are carried on the escort, and can be surged there if required.
In summary, the FI are well defended, except in the heads of people who read too many clive cussler or Tom Clancy novels. For Argentina to pose a credible threat to the FI would require a step change in military procurement, training and readiness, something that has proven beyond their capabilities for 28 years. They do not have the assets or equipment to launch an invasion, or anything close to an invasion, and the UK would receive considerable advance notice of this. The FI is a well defended fortress with hugely capable assets which can be reinforced quickly and thus preventing any credible threat to the FI.
I say again, it would take nearly 15 – 20 years of naval construction and effort to put Argentina into the position where she could credibly take the FI, let alone hold them.

x
x
October 26, 2010 10:19 am

Euan said “but as a Scot it’s something that I see in the media and is of more interest to me than it is to others.”

Don’t worry. The BBC is more concerned with what happens in Scotland than anything that happens outside Metropolitan England. If Pompey or Kninloss were to close I know where the BBC would be centring their coverage……

@Jim30

Again from military point of view everything you say is true. But in today’s more complex world there are political dimensions. The Falklands aren’t just a UK-Argentine issue, they are UK-South America issue, they are UK-nations with Antarctic territories issue. If there was another Falkland incident we could well lose it New York before even a shot is fired. Look at Israel in 2006, they kicked seven shades out of Hezbollah, but who in the eyes of the majority world won the war, who was seen as the aggressor? Same over the Peace Flotilla, who ended up giving up concessions? The Argentines have got to win a war, just create a situation. That might sound like a Tom Clancy novel to you (it does to me!) but stranger things have happened. As Mrs Thatcher once said the Foreign Office looks after foreigners……..

x
x
October 26, 2010 10:47 am

I should have said “The Argentines haven’t got to win a war.”

Somewhat Removed
October 26, 2010 11:38 am

If the Argentines ever take back the Falklands it will be because the government was too week willed to fight our corner in the United Nations, and failed entirely in its duty to maintain peaceful relations with the rest of South America. With Chile making friendly overtures, I think we’re fairly safe for now.

Besides, there isn’t enough viable oil down there anyway (unless we get so desperate for the black stuff.. I’m not going there, that IS like a bad novel!)

DominicJ
October 26, 2010 12:24 pm

X
But “international support” is meaningless unless it translates into international military action.
Who’s going to conscript their sons to die for Argentinas occupation of a worthless rock?

The BBC might think 2006 was a stunning success for Lebanon, but Lebanon didnt fancy round two in 2009 when Israel moved onto knocking seven shades out of Gaza.

Theres words, and theres actions.
Israel has to pay attention to US opinion, because it if doesnt, it loses something, its big subsidy cheques.
The UK doesnt.
We arent a subsidised state, unless someone is sinking our SSN’s enforcing a naval blockade of south america, we can tell them to go **** themselves, regardless of what the UN says.

Mike W
October 26, 2010 12:26 pm

Jim 30,

What an incredibly detailed post, full of first-hand military knowledge. It looks like “game, set and match” to you. However, I would urge one cautionary note.

Your response contains many points based, presumably, on accurate military intelligence. When the invasion of the Falklands took place in 1982, British intelligence about both Argentinian capabilities and intentions was horrifically and catastrophically WRONG! A Minister actually resigned over it. Now, of course, the great and the good (our political leaders) will have seen to it that the intelligence shortcomings of the early 1980s will have been rectified. Or will they?

You are certainly right about one thing. “Rapier is a highly effective weapon system.” It is. The most recent version (Field Standard C or Rapier 2000) is a vast improvement over the early versions, almost a different system, in fact, and is certainly not confined to shooting down helicopters and and low and slow aircraft!

x
x
October 26, 2010 12:56 pm

@ Dom

We know as people who follow military affairs who won in 2006. But perceptions in IR count at times more than facts. It is unsurprising that a left wing organisation that the BBC portrayed the 2006 conflict as a loss for Israel. My views on what the world thinks and thought about that conflict are based on wider research than just watching the BBC (which actually I don’t.)

For international support to work it doesn’t mean the likes of Venezuela sending troops. They just have to rabble rouse. Since posting I have come up with at least two or three scenarios where South American could engineer an incident to provoke world wide “sympathy.”

HMG government would never ever even attempt a blockade of Argentina. It is simply a political non started. As I have said here before what hampers are armed forces the most isn’t the equipment but ROE drawn up by civil servants and politicians who have little understanding of military realities (and are at heart of liberal/socialist persuasion.)

wayne
wayne
October 26, 2010 1:41 pm

What would the Goverment do if the Argies just landed and began to set up a base on West Falkland, in a way that was a surprise but within their current means?

UK could send the nuclear attack boats, but my understanding is that they would have to close to torpoedo range because the SubHarpoons have been withdrawn. Very risky in a point defense situation for the nukes….The nuclear boats might be at a disadvantage if the Argies use a location where the sea bottom depth does not favor the large submarines and they put some of their diesel electrics on guard.

We could send the amphibs/Ark Royal/Ocean/Illustrious but they have no BVR air capability, and most of the flat deck/Harrier potential is about to go away, coiurtesy SDSR.

We could reinforce the existing base structure via Stanley and other airstrips, but the logistics are formidable even with the C-17s.

If the Argentines could establish a presence anywhere and resupply it by air, using shorter range lifters, I do not see how the Falklands would be in the long run viable…the Typhoons have no antiship and little antiground capability..UK could not kick the Argies off, or in the long run defend the rest of the islands against a build up. If one unimproved airstrip is established anywhere, the whole balance of power in the area is changed….think Guadacanal and Henderson Field, or Imphal-Kohima.

Remember, one mutant cell becomes a cancer that kills the whole body. A strategy that is modest, but long term, and daring, could make the best laid plans of mice, men, and the SDSR go awry.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
October 26, 2010 1:49 pm

unsupportable forces, incapable of achieving any useful objective, are nothing more than a diplomatic embarrassment.

Jed
Jed
October 26, 2010 2:40 pm

Jim30 – although you have been applauded for your knowledge by other commentors, I think you got a few things wrong.

We don’t keep a Frigate or Destroyer on FI guard ship duties anymore, we don’t have enough of them, and they are about to be reduced even further. Sea Dart is no longer in service, and I am not sure the T45’s Aster missiles have an anti-surface mode. So, yes, some times there is a major surface unit on south atlantic station, but not all the time.

Why do you think anti-ship missiles are over-rated ? The simple Exocet did enough damage to our fleet, to the USS Stark etc nearly 30 years ago – there are better models now you know ! Ask the Israeli navy about its recent experience…..

Yes, I know our tactics and defences against them have improved, but on the other side of the coin, the inability of the Typhoon to carry a modern Exocet, Harpoon, NSM3 etc is just another element of cost cutting – any of these could easily be integrated, after all they have been on plenty of other aircraft.

Finally as others have noted, we don’t have crystal balls. What happens when Argentina discovers closer oil reserves, makes a bit of money, buys some SU37 with Brahmos and decides it wants the rest of the oil….. stranger scenarios can be devised !

Jed
Jed
October 26, 2010 2:42 pm

Mike W said: “Now, of course, the great and the good (our political leaders) will have seen to it that the intelligence shortcomings of the early 1980s will have been rectified. Or will they?”

Oh yes, they are much better now – WMD and Iraq ring any bells? :-)

DominicJ
October 26, 2010 3:04 pm

X
I wasnt accusing you of ignorance, sorry if it came over that way. Perceptions can matter, but they arent the be all and end all. Sympathy only matters when backed up by hard action.

I dont see consumers of the world uniting with an embargo like they did against South Africa. Nor do I see sympathy in Southern California leading to the deployment of a US Army Division to enforce a UN decision against us.
We’d more likely get volunteers for Southern Florida.

“HMG government would never ever even attempt a blockade of Argentina. It is simply a political non started.”
Why not?
Its standard military doctrine, carried out in virtualy every war in history. Who’s going to run the blockade?

Wayne
Argentina could land a few hundred men from the T42 it converted to a commando carrier, and any other boats it could cobble together.
It has no capacity to land the equipment needed to build a runway, and we could shoot down any planes attmpting to land even if it did, along with any ships attempting to resupply. Ships Argentina doesnt even have, IE those capable of landing supplies on a beach without docking at a port.

The few hundred men it landed would have a few weeks food, at best, or a few hours ammunition and food, again, with no equipment heavier than a few men can unload from a dinghy.

Anmd all that assums that the SSN on station doesnt just sink the ship at the border.

The Typhoons do have an air to ground capability, and the Astutes have anti ship, so even if they do build an airstrip somehow, we can cut it with Tomahawk and Paveway.

Worst come to worst, fly a few rifle companies down on a couple of C17’s and have the police place them under arrest for firearms offences.

Think Russians at Pristina, yeah, they’re there, but they’re also out of food and water, with no heavy equipment, outnumbered 10:1 and outgunned 10,000:1

Now, if there was another party willing to step in and save them, its different.
Suez is a good example for this.

Argentina could start a war.
Argentinas allies could declare a cease fire and order all British forces back to east falkland, and all Argentine forces back to the landing site +20 miles.
But then they have to enforce it. If the British forces dont retreat back to East Falkland, they have to drive them back violently, and shooting dead English soldiers is a risky business.

We (with France) could enforce it on a weak and beaten Egypt without much trouble, until the yanks stamped on our feet.
Could The Union of South American Socialist Republics enforce its will on the UK militarily?
Not if the UK Government takes the gloves off and starts hitting the mainland with SeaShadows, and theres simply no reason to believe we wouldnt.

The BBC can show all the pictures of Brazillia burning it wants, only the US could realisticaly stop the UK on site, if Russia tried to get involved up North, it becomes a NATO issue.
Now, the British people could of course feel sympathy for the Argentine cause, but if we didnt 20 years ago, except in the Mirror, why would we today?
Especialy once “Dozens of British soldiers have been Murdered and Cameron Talks of Surrender”, sorry, slipped into Sun mode there….

x
x
October 26, 2010 3:29 pm

@ Dom

I didn’t take it that way. We bang this stuff out on the fly. It is all very complicated. We are reading it quick. etc. etc. Little errors creep in. Personal beliefs trump facts etc. If I wanted bare facts I would read Janes’. As long as what is said not too far off the mark I think in the spirit of friendship we just have to let stuff slide. It isn’t like we are writing uni’ essays.

All I am saying is there is another dimension beyond the hardware and kit; there is politics and diplomacy too. Events don’t happen in a vacuum.

If I ever come across as angsty believe me it is all tongue cheek.

wayne
wayne
October 26, 2010 3:36 pm

I am not very sanguine about the dismissal of the threat of an Argentine toe hold in the Islands. It does not take that much to lay down a simple short landing strip and begin to build up, especially if there is any delay in response by the UK. It also does not take very much to support such a toehold. As for the ability to interdict with TLAM, I am afraid that what the air war over Iraq demonstrated is that there is not much as far as a simple runway or road that a million dollar missile can do that a bulldozer cannot fix, and quickly. Britain does not have the rounds or the ships any longer to risk to counter a determined effort and an adversary willing to take losses. It seems to me the assymetric threat, the thinking outside the box threat, is real and I fear that UK and the Falklands are quite vulnerable. A long thin supply line, only four aircraft on station, hundreds of miles of coast and thousands of square miles of empty territory…reverse the situation, put the Argies in the Brits place and vice versa, and do you think the Brits would figure out the problem and take the Islands? Do not underestimate the creativity of a defeated or embarrassed enemy. Germany 1933, USSR after the Russo-Finnish War, and a lot of other examples abound.

x
x
October 26, 2010 3:49 pm

Forgot to comment. Blockade! Couple of things really. One the rest of South America would ensure Argentina got what it needed. The Argentine coast is very long. It took a good effort off NATO to just keep stuff reaching the Serbs and Iraq by sea even very narrow waters. The UN’s Third World majority wouldn’t pass the action; go have a look at the current membership of the UNSC.

If you remember back into 82 the RN could have sunk the 25 del Mayo but chose not to because of the political ramifications. Same would happen if the UK targeted the Argentine mainland; it would be seen as escalation.

Would we carry much support in the EU? Real support? I don’t think so. Spain is upping the anti over Gib, despite having two similar colonies in North Africa and having half inched a sizeable chunk of Portugal about 100 years after they lost Gib. Speaking of Portugal which way would they jump (politically) if we started sinking Brazilian ships?

South America would only have to have ships sunk to gain sympathy. They don’t have to win the shooting war.

Unfortunately we don’t live in a 19th century world. As I have said the liberal/socialist base of the body politic that dictates the rules. Though I believe once resources start to grow short there will be a return to realism (that is the political paradigm.)

All this is in away why we can get away with few exquisite platforms because they will have to be wielded like a surgeons scalpel on rare occasions.

x
x
October 26, 2010 3:52 pm

@ Wayne

All they would have to is surface an SSK next to an oil drilling platform. Land a few commandos on to them. And start banging on European imperialism (conveniently forgetting that they are imperialist too.)

This all getting a bit too Tom Clancy. I think we should stop…..

Jim30
Jim30
October 26, 2010 3:56 pm

Jim30 – although you have been applauded for your knowledge by other commentors, I think you got a few things wrong.

“We don’t keep a Frigate or Destroyer on FI guard ship duties anymore, we don’t have enough of them, and they are about to be reduced even further. Sea Dart is no longer in service, and I am not sure the T45′s Aster missiles have an anti-surface mode. So, yes, some times there is a major surface unit on south atlantic station, but not all the time.”

Actually we do – its known as Atlantic Patrol Task South (APT(S)) which is a standing commitment involving 1 DD or FF (and occasion a slightly larger platform as a stopgap). Generally speaking the role involves 1 escort within the vicinity of the islands, or within a couple of days steaming time – its one of the few RN deployments left where they are relieved in the area, rather than sailing home and a new one going out. If you note the SDSR you’ll also see that the South Atlantic is the only post guaranteed permanent cover in the text. HQ NAVY continues to programme a permanent presence in the south atlantic region.

Seadart is very definitely still in service – either that or the large number of live rounds I saw in HMS York (IIRC) magazine earlier this year in East Cove Military Port were a bloody clever decoy! It is due out of service with the last 42s, and I’m conscious that its not carried as much now, but every operational 42 on a military task takes warshots with them.

“Why do you think anti-ship missiles are over-rated ? The simple Exocet did enough damage to our fleet, to the USS Stark etc nearly 30 years ago – there are better models now you know ! Ask the Israeli navy about its recent experience…..”

Sorry, wasn’t too clear – I meant to put – I think SSMs on fast jets are overrated. The FJ is a wasted asset in this role. The Israeli navy experience owes more to the stunning arrogance and incompetence of the Israeli navy (by far the least competent of the Israeli Defence forces) and not operating as if they were in a high threat environment. From what I recall the reason they had problems owe as much to not doing some fairly basic precautions as anything else.

“Finally as others have noted, we don’t have crystal balls. What happens when Argentina discovers closer oil reserves, makes a bit of money, buys some SU37 with Brahmos and decides it wants the rest of the oil….. stranger scenarios can be devised !”

A good point, but consider the timelines involved – if the Argentines struck oil tomorrow (which they won’t as to the best of my knowledge they have no rigs drilling right now), it would be at least a year, probably longer to get the first rigs in place for commercial extraction. Lets assume to get the industry to the point where companies have raised finance, got licences, begun extraction, paid revenue to the Government etc – thats at least 3-4 years away (I invest in a number of oil exploration companies in the region and the closest extraction estimate that I’ve seen from today is roughly 2014 if we’re looking at a virgin field). Then the Argentines have to sign the contract (at least a year) and deliveries begin – lets assume another 2-3 years to get the aircraft manufactured, worked up, delivered, integrated and trained. By my reckoning the absolute earliest that the Argentines would have a credible basic ASM capability with the SU37 is late 2018 – early 2019 – just as Queen Elizabeth is coming up to speed with her CTOL airwing.

Don’t underestimate how slow Argentine procurement is, and how mistrustful the Argentine politicians are of the military. The Kirchners have starved their armed forces of funding precisely because they don’t trust them not to mount another coup. Even if Argentina struck oil, the wider pressures of the Kirchners to put the money into social projects, or areas which would help win votes to retain power is immense. There is simply no appetite for a military build up in the region at present – the Argentines are not stupid. They know full well that any invasion would cost a fortune to get to the point where they have capable forces, and achieve very little, but risk Argentinas position in the world. The Argentines are slowly emerging as an ally of the US – why would they risk this on a highly foolhardy expedition with little credible chance of success?

There will always be a ‘Las Malvinas’ dimension to Anglo / Argentine relations, often stirred up by our media. However, its much like immigration is here – an easy headline grabbing initiative which stirs the masses, but nothing will actually be done about it. Personally I would worry if I saw signs that they were regenerating their Amphibious capability, and their logistics chain – signs of wanting to land and support a presence somewhere other than at home.

wayne
wayne
October 26, 2010 4:12 pm

Do some internet research: look at commercially available light earth moving equipment, the number of unimproved airstrips in the Falklands approximate to defendable anchorages, the range and cargo carrying and rough field capabilities of the aircraft in the Argentine Air Force or available for charter, and the limited munitions that the UK has that could interdict a toe hold operation. Work the logistics figures assuming that the Argies do not repeat the mistake of having a largely unprofessional force overwhemlming the logistics of their core, elite personnel, and I really do not see how this can be casually dismissed with references to past Argentine political incompetence. Some of the board posts here sound like “they would not dare come through the Ardennes” or “Stalin purged the military and they will not be ready to fight a war for another generation.” Dare to put yourselves in the potential enemies shoes and think outside of HIS box, or you will get his box slammed down on your head.

DominicJ
October 26, 2010 4:26 pm

Wayne
True, we dont have many TacToms. But it only takes a day or two to fly down a few infantry companies, and they they crater runways all day with a simple mortar.
Hell, destroy the aircraft once they land.
It all goes well until the UK gets bored, throws the chess board across the room and punches Argetnina in the face.
Argentina could wear down the forces on the island.
But the UK can send more, or do our on bit of wearing down.

X
Theres blockade and there is blockade.
Sure, a few light ships could sneak through, but a containership isnt.
True, Argentina could truck everything to Brazil and thumb its nose at us, but thats expensive. And we can bomb out the road.

Strikes agaisnt the mainland would escalate a limited border war into a full scale war.
But thats an arguement for caution for Argentina and Estonia, not Britian and Russia.

Off home now, will answer rest in a bit

Jed
Jed
October 26, 2010 4:33 pm

OK Jim I stand corrected, hearsay from friends who are still connected suggested that the South Atlantic may well be a “standing” task, but not one that is always fulfilled.

As for Sea Dart – I thought I read somewhere it was already gone – apologies for that !

Fast jet is an ideal platform for “delivering” anti-ship missiles, if you have the other assets for targetting. I have had the privelege of sitting in FRADU Hunters playing the role of anti-ship missiles, as well as sitting in the Ops Rooms of various frigates and destroyers seeing it from the other side. A fast and low delivery vehicle which is not actively transmitting on its own radar is an excellent launcher ! The caveat being the communications required to pass the targeting solution from another platform (in our case say a Sea King AW&C or even a Merlin HM1).

As for Argentine procurement – I agree, as I said I am not one that believes there is a wholly convincing threat, but I also believe that Fortress Falklands is a myth :-)

Jim30
Jim30
October 26, 2010 4:34 pm

There are a small number of light (as in practically dirt) airstrips. The maximum that could be landed would be a small charter plane, maybe carrying 10-20 troops without any support. In other words, you’d need approximately 40 -50 flights in to dump a basic infantry battalion without any form of logistical support.
Now, we have an extremely good air defence capability in the FI, and if an unidentified aircraft were spotted (not difficult as there are only 1 – 2 planes a week flying in from the South American mainland) then it would quickly be investigated by QRA. At the same time the RIC would show up in the resident helicopter transport and have a cordon round the site very quickly.
Now, if there is a harbour nearby, all it takes is for an RN warship to track all surface vessels in the region, and intercept any vessels entering the FI conservation zone. If the Argentines pushed through, then they leave themselves open to arrest under international law.
Even if a vessel entered the anchorage, it would require a significant amphibious capability to put its stores ashore – essentially an act of war. Only a very, very stupid Argentine government would willingly do this unless it was very sure of its international position. More to the point, the Argentines don’t have the capability required to do this at present.
The end result is a small infantry presence, which will have been identified as it approached the FI, and if it landed would quickly find itself constrained. It will have no logistical support to speak of, unless the Argentines plan on landing a range of kit through means that they don’t currently have. The end result is a hungry, reduced strength infantry presence with no support, no supplies coming through and no ability to be reinforced. The UK would doubtless tell the Argentines to politely leave, or face an eviction.
Such a move is extremely risky politically as it would rely on the assumption that the UK would not use force to remove the argentines from the islands. I wouldn’t see it that way – I would expect a firm ‘get out by this time’ or face the consequences. This would take 72 hours or so, in which time a much larger reinforcement operation is underway in the FI, and the poor Argentines find themselves on the receiving end of a much larger UK assault in response.
Images of the Argentines being evicted from the Falklands again would be a political disaster for the incumbent argentine government, and probably cost the Kirchners their hold on power. I fail to see why they would risk everything for a gamble which doesn’t deliver anything tangible, and risks utter humiliation again.

x
x
October 26, 2010 4:50 pm

Jed said “Only a very, very stupid Argentine government ”

Um. True they are just normally very stupid.

We should remember that South American politics are very different from our own. Things are very volatile. And the most implausible rhetoric wins support.

paul g
October 26, 2010 7:57 pm

why would they have to invade? the tart that runs argentina has already had the tart called hilary clinton over for tea and cakes, nice couple of photos of them laughing together and then oh quelle surprise tart face clinton is suggesting we open talks with the tart over the malvinas (note not the falklands). back door pressure, still we’ll be alright barry o loves the UK, oh wait, no he doesn’t

x
x
October 26, 2010 8:49 pm

In the Reagan government there was a large pro-Latin group. We take for read that Ronnie was on our side……

Though the growing Espanic community in the US is increasingly vocal I wouldn’t worry about it too much just yet.

I forecast that within the next decade it will be Arizona desert that US armed forces will be rushing to secure. I see a hardening of US and Latin American relations.