The reality of the challenges involved in recapturing the Falkland Islands

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Hello all, and welcome to my first ever Think Defence article.

My name is Sir Humphrey, and I’m the author of a small blog called the Thin Pinstriped Line.

Some of you may know me from ARRSE, PPRUNE and Warships1, where I post (or posted) under a variety of different usernames. I originally set my blog up to write about some of the issues in Defence at the moment, and try to look in more depth at what was really going on in some issues which were being inaccurately reported by the media. It’s also served as a means of providing some more in depth analysis for other issues as well.

I was contacted by the owner of this site, and asked whether I’d be interested in occasionally writing some articles here too. I’m delighted to say that I’m now able to do so, and that from now on you’ll be seeing the odd longer analytical piece from me on a variety of issues. I won’t be posting here every week, but between this site and my own blog, you should see a fair amount of my work. My aims here remain the same as on my blog – to look a little deeper into the story, and try to present a more positive (dare I say balanced) perspective than may sometimes be seen in the media. My one philosophy though is that in the MOD decisions, no matter how odd they appear, are almost always taken for a reason that makes sense – the challenge is making sense of these reasons!

In terms of my professional background, I have a strong background to a lot of the issues described on this site, and have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Hopefully this will come through in some of the pieces that I do. As always with my pieces, I am happy to discuss via the comments page or on my blog.

For my first piece here, I’ve combined the three articles on my blog about the Falkland Islands, to try to turn them into a single article looking at the nature of the threat, and the challenges faced by an attacker to the islands. Enjoy!

[This is a more sensible post than my article about our pants, TD]

The reality of the Falkland Islands dispute – why quiet diplomacy matters more than willy waving and why the Falkland Islands are unlikely to be invaded again.

A perennial favourite headline of so many newspapers, particularly tabloids, is to proclaim that Argentina threatens the Falklands, that the Royal Navy couldn’t possibly mount a task force again, and that western civilisation as we know it is threatened by the fact that a  territorial dispute exists between Argentina and the UK. For this inaugural Think Defence article, I want to try and look beneath the dispute, to try and examine the real level of threat to the Falklands, and to also explain why it is highly unlikely that the Argentineans could repeat 1982 without some spectacular investment, planning and luck.

Argentine Bellicosity

The Falklands are an election issue, and an easy means of unifying the Argentine people against an external wrong that must be righted. At its most simple, the dispute has little to do with any geographic claim, but instead provides successive Argentinean leadership figures with an easy means to distract attention from any internal domestic woes, or political problems.

Almost without fail, the Falklands will be mentioned in any Argentinean political campaign, usually to much alarm from the UK media, but this is as much a reality of Argentine politics as an election campaign is in the UK when the parties roll out the tired old cliches of protecting the NHS, investing and whatever else is the mantra of the day. In other words, to talk of the Falkland’s in an Argentine election is normal – its when they don’t get brought up that we should start to worry.

In recent months, there has been much alarm in the UK over the fact that Argentina appears to be placing pressure on other South American countries to ban Falkland Islands registered vessels from ports, to increase pressure on the UK getting access for its military assets staging through South American countries, and to try to raise the issue at every opportunity in international fora.

The reality is that these efforts have achieved very little – international initiatives are commonplace, and many countries sign up to them, not because they passionately care about the issues at stake, but because it is easier to go along with something in order to keep your neighbour sweet, so you can call in the favour when you need it. It is highly unlikely that Brazil or Uruguay particularly care about the Falkland Islands, but they do care that they share borders with a large nation with a reasonable economy, and that annoying them over something like the Falklands is more hassle than its worth.

So, even though the press would have us believe that the world as we know it is threatened by these statements, the truth is that nothing has really changed, and that the dispute remains primarily one between the UK and Argentina. What could change this? In reality, it is hard to see a situation emerging where Brazil or Uruguay would willingly close access to their ports permanently, or send vessels to side with an Argentine cause – it would cause immense economic damage, and the potential political fallout would be enormous. Is Brazil seriously willing to risk isolating itself for an attack on a foreign nation in support of Argentine goals?

The reality is that we’ll probably see Argentina continue to try to press the small advantages in local organisations, and see very verbose declarations which will then be seized on by the Argentines as evidence that others support them. Then, in reality, nothing will change and Argentina will continue as before. The moment that the UK should really begin to worry about wider South American support for the Argentines position is when they follow through on pledges, or begin to link wider diplomatic support or pledges of assistance to movement on the Falklands issue. Until this point, declarations are little more than worthless – great if you want to feel good about something, but in reality delivering nothing of tangible value.

UK Diplomatic Response

There are some who feel that the UK should be far more assertive over the Falkland’s, and take a tougher line with countries that support the Argentine position. The question is what would this achieve? Having worked in the diplomatic arena, it is clear that while in the short term highly emotive statements make the originating country feel good about itself, it quickly causes more harm than good. If the UK threatened to sever relations, or cut off trade to countries which supported Argentina’s stance, then what would actually be achieved? In reality such a move would isolate the UK in South America, do immense damage to our long term reputation in the region, and bring countries on the fence into the Argentine camp.

It is important to remember that diplomatic actions have very long term consequences – arguably the UK is still dealing with the aftermath of messy colonial incidents from the 19th century today as a result of its possession of the Falklands. If the UK sought to view its entire relationship with South America through the prism of the Falklands, then there is real danger that our longer term ability to influence, support and work with many countries would be harmed. Countries remember insults for far longer than compliments – in many ways diplomacy is like children at school arguing over who likes or hates one another the most. Flexing the UK muscle now would merely irritate and in the longer term, isolate us and do more harm than good to our position.

What can the UK do to counter the constant Argentine charm offensive? Well for starters it needs to be realistic about goals – the UK has to ensure it retains good relations with the continent to ensure that 8000 miles from home, 2000 people and 1500 plus service personnel remain safe, secure and with open lines of communication in perpetuity (or until the Falkland Islanders determine they want another way of life). Pissing off your neighbours, acting like the local bully and generally throwing your weight around won’t achieve this – it will achieve the opposite.

The UK has to try to secure a form of quiet diplomacy in South America – an accepting policy which realises that other south American countries have to live with Argentina, and that they will sign up for things, but equally one which applies discrete threats / carrots / sticks at a point where nations will not be publicly humiliated, nor in a way which merely fuels Argentina’s policy goals. This means not reacting in a manner which will make tabloid readers feel good about themselves, but which ensures continuity of access to ports, airports, logistical facilities and prevents South American nations from feeling isolated, humiliated and unwilling to make concessions to the UK.

The worst thing the UK can do now is to go on an aggressive diplomatic offensive – it would play straight into Argentine hands, and make our life much harder. Our primary goal is to keep the Falkland Islands secure and British for as long as they want to do so – this goal is much easier to achieve when other nations are unlikely to back Argentine actions.

In the next part of this article, we’ll look at why the Argentines lack the ability to invade the Falklands, and also why, despite the best efforts of the Daily Mail, it is unlikely that a small team of special forces soldiers (even if they had escaped from a military stockade to the LA underground), could take out the UK garrison in one night.

Part 2 – Planning Considerations to capture the Islands

Following on from the earlier piece about the diplomatic issues surrounding the Falklands, Humphrey now wants to take a look at the reality of the challenge facing any potential aggressor, and to show the planning considerations that any J5 planning shack is going to have to think about when looking at a successful attack on the islands.

Firstly, a mild disclaimer – unlike many Falkland Island commentators (FI), Humphrey has actually been to the Falklands, and has a very good understanding of the military structure and capability on the islands. Because of this, the author is not going to discuss some specifics, and may seem vague in other areas. This is because he is one of the few people left who think that PERSEC isn’t a dirty word.

Secondly, unlike some websites / publications, Humphrey has no time for the concept of ‘ORBAT Porn’, by which he means the lining up of two paper ORBATS between two countries, and deciding that as X is greater than Y, Y wins. It’s pointless, silly and as seen in countless wars over the years, almost always an inaccurate means of predicting the outcome of a crisis.

For the purposes of this article, Humphrey is looking at the current balance of power as it stands NOW. Not in 10 years, not if Argentina gets new LPDs, not if the UK gets CVF, and not if the Death Star parks in orbit and uses its super laser to wipe out all penguins.

The first part of this article looks at wider planning considerations that need to be taken into account when considering an invasion. The next part will look at specific considerations relating to the islands defences.

Situation

The first, and most critical question that must be asked when considering an invasion is ‘why’? The Falklands serve as a useful lightning conductor to Argentine leaders – whenever distracted by political problems at home, they can quickly rally support around the concept of the Falklands issue. Invasion not only removes this as a lightning conductor, but also opens up a range of longer term problems – a quick invasion without bloodshed followed by Argentine occupation is a good idea in theory, but a leader would have to be certain that this could be achieved. Failure would result in them losing office, power, and probably liberty as well.

Whenever considering the Falkland Islands, one has to ask ‘what does the President of Argentina personally gain from an invasion’? The reality is that unless they have the most successful invasion in history, it’s likely to be the end of their presidency. Few people willingly relinquish power until they have to – it is hard to envisage circumstances where an Argentine leader would do so over the Falklands.

Military Planning

But, assuming the go ahead was issued, then the first planning consideration when considering the invasion of the islands is what is the defined Argentinean end state? In other words, what is their view of campaign success? In 1982, the Argentines arguably defined their end state as the initial occupation of the islands militarily, and did not plan, nor assume any requirement to fight beyond this point. The author would argue that any future Argentine plan needs to define its end state as ‘the successful capture of the islands, followed by the mounting of a sufficiently robust defence as to prevent their recapture in perpetuity’.

One of the problems with looking at this potential conflict is that everyone assumes that if Argentina invades, then the UK will immediately turn around and launch ‘Task Force 2’, followed by a short bloody war in which the UK either kicks Argentina off the islands again, or is sent home humbled and never again enters the South Atlantic. Humphrey would suggest that this is unwise to consider – after all, UK planning is based on holding the islands for perpetuity (where perpetuity means ‘for as long as the Islanders want us to remain’), and that if Argentina seeks to capture the islands militarily, it needs to be ready to defend them in perpetuity as well.

So, the first thing to ask is whether Argentina has sufficient military capability to not only invade the islands now, but also defend them in the long term without a major increase in defence spending.

The next issue when planning such an invasion is the level of violence and casualties one is willing to inflict upon an enemy force to achieve mission success. In 1982, the Argentine attack was predicated on landing roughly battalion sized forces to take out a sub company (barely platoon) sized formation. Its often forgotten that Argentine SF made a deliberate attempt to destroy the marine barracks, presumably hoping to take out the marines in their beds, rather than have a fight.

The world has changed dramatically since 1982 and the arrival of 24/7 media coverage, global news and analysis and the internet & other social media means that any attack or use of force will be questioned. To force the UK defending forces to surrender will mean either denying them the ability to fight or to sustain, or inflicting sufficient casualties to make the ground commander decide further resistance is futile.

Let’s put this in context for a moment. The FI are garrisoned normally by up to 1500 military personnel, and supported by a range of logistics and infrastructure that will enable the garrison to continue fighting for a considerable period of time without requiring external support. For an Argentine attack to put the UK garrison in the position where it has to surrender due to an inability to sustain itself, we have to assume the loss of air and maritime resupply for a prolonged period of time, backed up by an aggressive land campaign which reduces stocks. This would seem to require a maritime and air presence beyond that which the Argentines currently possess.

Similarly, to put the defending force in a position where it has lost sufficient casualties that it feels it has not option but to surrender, one would need to inflict realistically more casualties than the UK has lost in Iraq & Afghanistan combined in over 10 years of fighting, and inflict them in a time scale probably measured in days. This would again require a very aggressive campaign, and one which would be quickly portrayed in global media as an exceptionally aggressive and brutal attack by Argentine forces.

The reality would be for Argentina that any attack has to be done in such a manner so as to force a surrender, without causing a massacre. Unless this occurs, then global opinion will swing firmly against Argentina, and it is likely that UNSCRs, or even possible military support from allies may be offered to the UK in any attack. Argentina has to be seen to be a liberating force in the manner of the Indians in Goa in 1961, and not the Iraqi ‘annexation’ of Kuwait in 1990.  In other words, a short military attack, limited resistance and then general global apathy, despite anguished pleas from the defending power (in this case Portugal, which the author understands still technically claims Goa is a part of its empire).

So, even prior to the launching of an invasion, Argentina is faced with a series of high level policy & political challenges – these can be summarised below:

  1. What is their justification for war?
  2. What is their desired end state?
  3. How do they recapture the islands using minimal force?
  4. How do they hold onto the islands in perpetuity?
  5. How do they manage international reaction to the invasion?
  6. Can they afford an international crisis / incident on this scale?
  7. Is it really worth it?

 

The next part of this article will look in more depth at how an Argentine commander would need to consider options, based partly on their ORBAT, but also partly on the defensive considerations

Part 3:  The reality of capturing the Falkland Islands.

In earlier posts, the author has looked at the threat posed by Argentina to the Falkland Islands, and has suggested that if you ignore bellicose public statements, then the reality is that the islands are unlikely to be attacked by Argentina anytime soon.

In this final post on the subject, the intent is to explore some of the challenges surrounding any potential aggressor who wishes to attack the islands, and the sort of planning considerations that they need to consider when factoring in an attack. This is perhaps more timely given that yet another senior general (Sir Mike Jackson) has now claimed that if the islands were lost, then the UK could not recover them.

The challenge

Any potential aggressor intending to occupy the Falklands needs to plan an assault around the following factors.

  1. A remote airbase with good ground defences, and located a not inconsiderable distance from the nearest credible port is the centre of gravity.
  2. The defending force is well equipped, and has considerable operational experience accrued over the last 30 years of occupying the terrain.
  3. There are multiple defensive structures dispersed across the facility which would require potent munitions to deny.
  4. The facility is located some distance from international airlanes, and is unlikely  to see significant commercial air traffic. There are multiple satellite facilities to provide radar coverage. There are air defences present, both air and ground based.
  5. There is a not inconsiderable maritime force located in the region, which is self-sustaining and which may include an SSN.
  6.  Any attack has to be conducted in a manner which denies the defending force the ability to reinforce, and must force a surrender of all occupying forces in under the  time it  would take to begin the reinforcement plans from the UK.
  7. Any prolonged attack is going to lead to calls for talks, and be highly damaging to international opinion against the aggressor. A swift fait acompli is essential to secure victory.

What this means is that any Argentine commander has to consider some immensely challenging tactical problems which in turn build in time delay. No plan survives first contact with the enemy, and it is likely that any assault will encounter delays. Lets now examine these considerations in a little more depth.

When considering the defence of Mount Pleasant Airfield (MPA), commentators who have not been to the islands often make the mistake of assuming it is a small facility which could easily be overrun. The reality is somewhat different – it occupies a large area of ground, and has many highly dispersed facilities. While the main admin / life support hub is located in the near legendary ‘death star’ complex, the remainder of the facility is spread over a large geographically dispersed area. This means that any assault has to factor in the challenge of denying multiple facilities, many of which may be defendable, and in doing so while operating on unfamiliar terrain.

To even get close to the facility would require a significant march by troops. Not exhausting in itself, but it would probably require insertion of special forces by SSK – this limits the locations that landings can be conducted. The terrain of the islands is not particularly conducive to building shelters, and the islanders are exceptionally suspicious of outsiders. At best the Argentines could hope to land a small SF force (roughly 50 men), which then has to avoid detection while it marches to the airbase.

At this point, it then has to conduct an assault against a large, well defended facility which is designed for the purpose of being used to fight a defensive battle, and they have to do so against a garrison which outnumbers them 30-1. They have to complete this assault and force the British to a position where they wish to negotiate for surrender prior to the airfield commencing reinforcement flights.

The airfield was designed in the 1980s at the height of the cold war, and reflects much of the thinking at the time. It is likely that it could easily be repaired in the event of a denial attempt, and there is likely to be sufficient room to permit landings in the event of damage. It would take a very significant attack to deny the runway to the point where it could not be used further. Such an attack would require equipment and munitions accuracy beyond that currently possessed by Argentina.

Any air movements, either transports to land troops, or bomber attacks are going to be picked up by early warning radar stations. There will be significant warning of inbound air attacks, and there are plentiful defences in place to handle them. Any air attack has to conduct a long overwater transit, and then will only have seconds on station to deliver its munitions. It will be doing so against a force likely to be expecting it. Similarly, if transport aircraft were inbound, then if needs be, they need not even be shot down. The base could merely park sufficient vehicles across the runways at regular intervals so as to prevent the plane from landing. While some bad fiction writers postulate about the idea of an Entebbe style strike, the reality is that the planes have to land first to deliver this strike. Again, a failure to land first time and commence the assault will see the reinforcement plan kicking into action.  Also, given the lack of air traffic in the region, one would hope that it is unlikely that anyone would be fooled by an aircraft faking an SOS message and then landing to disgorge hundreds of armed troops.

The defensive structures of the base suggest that significant munitions would be required to deny some facilities. It is all very well landing 50 SF, but what happens when people deploy into trench and bunker complexes which require artillery or mortars to deny? This then requires the landing of further troops ashore with the ability to call in support fire – in turn this requires both the ability to find a beach where a surprise landing can be carried out and artillery moved into position to conduct fires missions, and to do so without being detected. Again, the author would suggest that the sighting of an Argentine battery digging in, would be enough to trigger the reinforcement plan activation.

The rule of thumb is that an assault against well dug in and defended troops, particularly well motivated ones, with reasonable supplies, is that it requires a ratio of 3-1 attackers to defenders to be certain of success. Assuming a garrison of 1500, this means that Argentina would need to move sufficient troops to land 4500 troops on the ground to conduct the attack. More troops would be needed to provide support, and logistical work. Let’s assume 5500 troops are needed to be certain of putting the attack force together.

Firstly, the Argentine navy doesn’t have the ability to conduct an amphibious operation carrying 5500 troops. In fact, very few navies do. Even the Royal Navy, arguably one of the worlds more potent amphibious forces, would struggle to deliver more than 1500 personnel in its current structure. To successfully land the troops, supplies and equipment needed to crack MPA in a conventional assault, Argentina would need to be build the world’s second largest amphibious force, develop the doctrine and training required to ensure that they could land successfully, and then ensure that their troops are capable of doing so without messing the plan up. These troops are then required to land, march a significant distance to the objective and conduct an assault against a well dug in force which is likely to expecting them. Significantly, this force will have got a reasonable amount of operational experience, compared to an Argentine force which hasn’t seen action for 30 years. The Argentines are expected to do this while maintaining complete surprise, as if the reinforcement plan starts, and more UK troops are flown in, then they go from 3-1 ratio, to likely 1-1, or worse. Oh, all the while, Argentina needs to maintain the element of complete surprise while building up, training and delivering this invasion force to the Islands.

The other key point – if Argentina has built an amphibious fleet, and then sails it with deliberate intent to the islands, it needs to be certain that the UK maritime assets have been denied. Otherwise, they will need to be prepared to encounter a range of maritime capabilities, potentially including nuclear submarines that will present a significant tactical challenge.

The final point – this attack has to be done in a manner which denies the defending forces the ability to operate, and for their commander to feel he has no option but to surrender, and this has to be done in less than 24 hours, or else reinforcements will arrive. This would require an untested force engaging a defensive force which has spent 30 years preparing the ground for this fight. The fight will have to occur on the defenders terms, and would pose an enormous tactical challenge to the aggressor.

There is some suggestion in some quarters of fantastical ideas of cruise liners disgorging SF into Stanley – which would be a challenge given the lack of adequate berths, or alternatively somehow capturing the town. While this would be challenging, it still comes back to the earlier issue of a lack of manpower to actually get on the ground, and also the fact that MPA is the centre of gravity. In extremis, the loss of Stanley would not lose the UK hold on the islands. MPA is the key, and it remains a well-defended installation.

While much remains uncertain, and while this author deeply hopes that such a situation is never tested for real, he would suggest that any potential attack against the islands using current Argentine ORBATS would result in a very bloody and humiliating defeat for Argentina, and one that is completely unnecessary.

UK policy is not to lose the islands in the first place – the author would suggest that the current force laydown ensures that this remains a realistic policy goal.

 

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Think Defence

Cracking stuff Sir H, welcome to TD and its merry bunch of contributors

As a comment it seems that Argentine sabre rattling at the UN has fell on rather deaf ears, as highlighted by Merco Press

http://en.mercopress.com/2012/02/21/timerman-falklands-militarization-claim-with-little-echo-at-un-admits-argentine-press

Or, I thought a better response would be

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=your+not+singing+anymore&oq=your+not+singing+anymore&aq=f&aqi=g1&aql=&gs_sm=3&gs_upl=490l4329l0l4450l24l23l0l13l13l0l168l1012l4.5l9l0

Wstr
Wstr

Excellent analysis. I argued the casualties point in an earlier post: 1 death (’82) & no idea of how far it would eventually escalate = worldwide view of a quaint colonial dispute that got a little bit out of hand and should really be best left to the participants to calm things down;
Dozens of deaths & wounded in a surprise attack and now with the knowledge of potentially hundreds more if it was successful and the islands need retaking (‘?) = Hugo Chavez as the only man left standing in Argentina’s corner.

SSNs are Britain’s trump card here. They were a successful deterrent in ’77; would have been in ’82 if not for the cock-up of using a incorrect press report to signal that one was on the way (i.e. not on station yet – feel free to adjust your invasion schedule accordingly) and now they have TLAM. So any air or navy base on the mainland must face the prospect that they can be safely targeted, without any risky SAS thru Chile caper.

Observer
Observer

“(even if they had escaped from a military stockade to the LA underground)”

Sorry, the A-Team is busy. Can the B-Team help you instead? :P

I do agree with Sir H that it really isn’t in Argentina’s interests to invade the Falklands. He focused on the initial assault and it’s difficulties, but I think any ongoing occupation of the Islands itself would face significant problems considering that the long time residents of the area have made it abundantly clear that they do not want Argetina there. Can the Argentinians justify parking a force there that the residents hate and with the concurrent risks of insurection and attrition due to guerrilla warfare?

Chris Werb
Chris Werb

The tiny resident population could easily be relocated elsewhere – for their own safety of course….

Observer
Observer

@Chris

How nice. I’m sure the residents, all 2,000 of them, would appreciate it.

Argentina Hilton you said?

wf
wf

@Sir Humprey: thanks for the cogent analysis. I agree with most of it, but I feel it misses the main point that the coup de main crowd make.

MPA is the centre of gravity, but you don’t have to destroy or capture it in the first instance to nullify it: you just have to deny the runway for 24 hours. Some SF teams with ATGW can land from an SSK or small boat, set up 3km from the runway. One fine morning, out of the 3 operational Typhoons, 2 are destroyed and the runway is effectively shut. The RIC instantly set off after the SF teams, but a para company is dropped to secure Mare Harbour an hour later. Four hours after this, AR warships are disgorging troops and vehicles that were on “exercise” off Patagonia. After a battalion group is landed unopposed from a RO-RO at Mare, it marches off to attack MPA, whose RIC has hurriedly returned to the airfield. The RIC cannot, without artillery or armoured vehicles, do much other than sit in trenches with the RAF and cooks and bottle washers while the AR battle group attacks the Rapier posts one by one, then progresses onto the base. The fight is bloody, but with the air defences down, air support from the mainland arrives and tips the scale against the defenders.

We can’t do anything much. The guard ship arrives after 12 hours, but it cannot stop the flood of aircraft flying in, since they can route around even a T45 and MPA is over the horizon unless the T45 is actually docked. Even if an SSN arrives, it can’t do much about all those AA airliners airlifting in a brigade group. It cannot do much about the follow up civilian ships, filled with jubilant women and children that will lift the rest of the stores to the islands either. We could always drop a para battalion to recapture MPA, but since we cannot refuel our C17’s in mid air, it would be a one way trip, and we don’t have enough AAR to mount using C130J. We can always send a task force, but it will take a month to arrive, and without carriers defence against AR’s Super Etendards relies on us seeing the sea skimmers as they pop up over the horizon: we cannot “shoot the archer”. It might be possible, but the risks are very high.

Disapproval of AR’s action will last 5 minutes, if that. The General Assembly has always voted that the “Malvinas” is a colonial issue, and despite AR behaving like the coloniser over South Georgia and the FI, and the forced ethnic cleansing of awkward islanders, the world will happily look the other way. Our plea to the French to let us borrow CDG will remain unanswered, since pissing off South America doesn’t mesh with French interests. Obama hates us because he hates most of his allies.

We will have been humiliated, and it won’t end there. We will have learned the hard way that Basra has consequences and that relying on others for capabilities needed to defend against even third world powers is flat out stupid.

We could improve the defences at MPA: station an MLRS battery, add a squadron of CVR(T), add some land based Harpoon, develop an AAR probe for our C17’s…all useful stuff. But in the final analysis, without a carrier with even minimally effective air defence aircraft and AEW on board, we cannot take the islands back, which gives AR a great incentive to try.

And Argentina didn’t even need to develop the world’s second largest amphibious force!

Wstr
Wstr

@Observer
I think holding the Falklands for Argentina would be a long running political problem rather than a military one, as a guerrilla or insurgency movement would be hard for the following reasons.

1a.) Staying in plain sight – Very small population/settlement sizes ‘sea’ for the insurgent fish to hide in.
1b.) Hiding out in countryside (camp) – Quality British bureaucracy! If any resident is missing you exactly who it is, who his/her relatives are, what land or remote buildings they own, etc.
2.) No industrial centre and no need to hold any pop. centre except for symbolism. All meaningful resources (fish, oil) are off the islands so bar one port (existing or new build) you can eventually move all your bases & airstrips out into the camp where with a bit of ISTAR people can be seen coming from miles off
3.) No international border in which the insurgents can cross to rest or smuggle replenishment arms.
4.) Pop. dependant on outside supply so easy to enforce sanction punishments (albeit exasperating political fallout).

steve taylor
steve taylor

In case some of you haven’t seen this,

That is part one of four.

Observer
Observer

@wf

I’m not sure if you came across one of solomon’s post saying almost the same thing, my reply and a lot of others are similar. Real war not = C&C.

Such a simplistic plan will never succeed, too simplistic, no fallback, all or nothing proposition based on a slim reed.

Observer
Observer

@Wstr

You got a point, irregular warfare looks like it’s going to be difficult. Political pressure it is then.

Wstr
Wstr

@wf
You state that an SSN can do nothing about the airliners and cruise ships (ok, fine) but you did have it conveniently arriving after you had already landed your battalion group; something that could be prevented if already on station and forewarned.
Also if we can’t secure the airbases with 1500 men before the arrival of the stated MANPADS armed Argie SF team and airborne coy (200 ish ?), what is to stop us shutting down the airstrips for -military- flights exactly the same way?
You are right though that mixed civilian/military cargo or pers on cruise ships or civilian airliners would indeed be political suicide for the British to engage, but you must also consider the political impact on Argentina for using those civilians as shields, even if they were willing volunteers.

The UN’s weak position is based on the status quo standoff, and a hope that things will be resolved peacefully in the long run. However start killing dozens of servicemen in taking the islands; enforcing the suppression of a whole pop’s right to right of self-determination (potentially also removing them) and deliberately utilising civilians into your frontline military ops in violation of the rules of war and you may see the UN take a different stance. As for ethnic cleansing this is a post-Balkans, post-E.Timor world so I would not expect the matter to be forgotten in 5 mins/ That level of group amnesia only happens with respect to Africa, where no UN member with the assets to prevent it, wants to get bogged down with boots on the ground.

Alex
Alex

Some SF teams with ATGW can land from an SSK or small boat, set up 3km from the runway

Wouldn’t that actually be within the perimeter?

Wstr
Wstr

@X I’ve seen it before and it’s a great documentary (by two Brazilian film students if I recall)

What I really like is the general understated approach of the islanders and their refusal to hate the Argentine people (although some polite contempt for the Kirchner govt). Their keep-clam-and-carry-on approach is a refreshing change to all the jingoistic dick-measuring (by both sides) going on in the press and many comment forums.

Wstr
Wstr

That’s meant to be ‘calm’ not ‘clam’ – although I confess no knowledge of the food stored in their refrigerators. Keep clam may indeed be a sensible strategy! :)

Observer
Observer

@Wstr

*ssshhh!!…*

The clams are a secret biological weapon to be served to invading Argentinian soldiers after fermenting in the sun for 4 hrs.

;)

wf
wf

@Alex: fair point! But securing an airbase the size of MPA with a company is difficult.

@Observer: I didn’t see that thread that I can remember. War is certainly not C&C (never played such stuff!), but the thin reed is MPA. Unless we have something larger than a company, we cannot effectively dominate the area, and if the Typhoon’s cannot fly and reinforcements cannot land, MPA is a large zero as far as defence is concerned.

@Wstr: we cannot maintain an SSN permanently in the FI. We only have 7, we would need 3 to keep one permanently here, and we have plenty of need for them elsewhere

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

An excellent post Sir Humphrey. I shall attempt to visit your blog more often if this is representative of your writing.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

An excellent post. WF you conveniently place the guard ship in the wrong area, you have a para company land despite teh fact that as soon as the first ATGW was fired the base would be stood to so HMG and rapier and manpad plus 1300 rifles.
Your 50 kt Argentinian Ro RO sails serenely throught the 40 M wide gap into Mare Harbour whilst the Port and Maritime Troop decide not to put a few Javelin in to the side of her and machine gun the hulk.

Wstr
Wstr

@wf
Apologies I usually state my assumptions. I was assuming that Britain would have more than 12 days warning (UK-based sub transit time). Like Pearl Harbor in ’82 there were warnings aplenty and all of them ignored or downplayed. e.g. The Buenos Aires Herald (incidentally the only newspaper with the balls to report on the ‘disappeared’ under the Junta) published rumours that were swirling around the capital cocktail circuit in early Feb. The British Military Attaché fired off a specific invasion warning in Mar to Rex Hunt, cc’d FCO and MoD. The invasion itself didn’t happen until April 2.

Wstr
Wstr

@Observer. Plenty of sheep too, maybe we can inflict haggis on them as well, or does that fall under Hague Convention restrictions!

mikezeroone

Welcome Sir Humphrey!

Excellent post! A clear level-headed look at todays senario rather thinking along the lines of ’82.
This should be linked to any post that plays “….but the Falklands!” card.
Deffo gonna re-read and check out your blog if its like this :)

Cheers TD for this one c:

*btw wf; our C-17’s can and do carry out mid air refueling – they use the probe system, which an ally could be used (if said ally wants to use Ascension anymore ;) ) and would make plumbing for probes easier I’d Imagine, then there’s St Helena Airport (I know its a while off yet, but this hypothetical situation means this airport must come into account)

mikezeroone

bah! TD please bring back the edit function :c

I mean, the C-17 uses the boom method, along with our E-3D’s

wf
wf

@APATS: the guard ship can’t be everywhere at once. Last time, it was frantically steaming back from South Georgia.

1300 rifles available in MPA? All organised for more than local defence? Only the RIC could be considered mobile, and with no fighting vehicles, it would be likely to concentrate on defending MPA anyway.

I wasn’t aware that the RLC usually carried Javelin at troop level, but no matter, if they did Javelin would head for centre mass: not likely to do a lot of good. Now if they issued Milan to the RLC…

A 50kt catamaran is not required. Just a ferry that happens to be steaming along outside Falklands waters minding it’s own business. Bahía San Blas would fit into Mare Harbour.

wf
wf

@Mike: we don’t have any boom equipped tankers sadly. The RAF’s E-3’s are fitted with probes

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

All miltary personnel deployed to the FI now complete OMG 525 course. Culminating in the static trained Soldier Shoot at 50, 100, 200 and 300M, they all deploy with their own weapon. As Sir Humphrey pointed out and I can confirm there are plenty of well positioned static defensive obstacles to man.
We did not have a guard ship in 1982 at all. The 50 ky quip was a joke based on the SOA required to mtke your timings work.
So we will ignore the Argentinian military amphib steaming just outside the FI teritorial waters?
These scebatios are exercised reguarly and there is a red cell input that comes up with and test scenarios. Without going into details the ability to deny the enterance to ECMP to a hostile vessel has actually benn thought about and I would not like to be on the bridge if they tried it.

steve taylor
steve taylor

I am still worried about a few ship loads of ardent Argentine nationalists beaching their ferries on Stanley’s sea front.

And I am also concerned how an honourable Argentine defeat at the hands of imperialist European pigs would play out in the UN. I think we have to be careful not to count too much on the UK’s world standing to garner sympathy. I think Brazil has to been seen playing the game now it is a rising power. But I am not sure many would stop trading with her, if any, if she came out right and supported the Argentines. (The French School of Trade over Geo-poltics!)

wf
wf

@Sir Humphrey: replying in order.

“It is built to be in use despite repeated bombardments, as per many airfields of that era”. Absolutely, hence the RE Field squadron. But not *during* bombardments. AR don’t have to shut it, just stop the Typhoon’s flying for a few hours.

“requires multiple things to go well for the Argentines”. Agreed. But nothing that strains credulity. Given the density of troops in the area of Mare Harbour, and the availability of one guard ship, landing an SF unit is not impossible. A nighttime company sized parachute assault is hardly impossible either, unless we have a Rapier unit actually in Mare Harbour. I’m not suggesting they drop into MPA!

“The islands will have forward warning of any inbound Argentine air attack”. They will. But if Typhoon isn’t flying, there’s not much they can do about it.

“Its also making strong use of assumptions to assume that the RORO ferry can sail up to a military installation at the east cove military port, and quietly land without any support”. Hence the parachute company, for that support.

“By all means land and conduct a shock and awe attack -what happens when you need to resupply, feed or deliver first aid to your troops”. MPA can accept 747’s. Sounds like a great way to receive support to me.

“There is surely a logical fallacy in arguing that the sites are vulnerable to attack, then arguing that more landbased sites are required”. Seems logical to me: land based site is vulnerable due to minimalist defences, so reinforce those defences. I’m just saying that the super paranoid would look at the FI and see a requirement for a brigade and a wing of Typhoon’s. We don’t have a 500000 person Army on call all the time, we operate on the basis that we roll with the punches and then take it back. Having a carrier available allows us to save on the “preventing smuggling” mode of defence planning, if we want to become all Napoleonic :-)

wf
wf

@Wstr: there are always plenty of warnings. The trouble is, they only seem obvious in hindsight :-(

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

Wf, I am pretty sure we will be paying a lot more attention to the warnings this time. Inside 48 hours of feeling the need we can have spearhead battalion Hq and 1 other company on the ground. I have not checked who the spear head Battalion currently are but the odds on them not having had recent combat experience are long.

R L-C
R L-C

I agree with WF on the point of one company being to little to effectively guard MPA.

I would argue that their might be reasons to re-build Stanley Port Airfield to international Standards and have all civil flights, national and international to there.
There is also a need to increase the garrison to a battalion strength, or if not battalion too two companys. Preferably in high mobility vehicles with AT and MANPADS

James
James

@ Sir Humphrey,

very good article, and I am in agreement with about 90% of what you write, particularly with the assessment about motivations and constraints at the political level. Where I depart from your logic is you not also looking at the reverse side of the centre of gravity (which I agree is MPA). Specifically, MPA only functions as a secure base from which to conduct military operations islands-wide. If MPA cannot do that, then Argentina has opened for itself a window – perhaps a week long, in which to generate enough forces locally to overmatch MPA.

If you take the mindset of stopping MPA from operating, rather than taking on the well-defended area with inadequate force levels, the start of the operation looks considerably less risky, although I’m not foolish enough to think that it would be easy. Significant risk would remain, but if the Argentine Government for some reason decides that international reaction is less painful than not having the islands, risky operations would be easier to sanction.

I’ve never tried to underestimate the enemy. The Argentines have the capacity to generate 100 SF and an “elite” Brigade if they concentrate resources and training on the matter.

Land covertly half of the SF within 10 kms of MPA, infiltrate them into overwatch positions of the runway / taxiways, and the road to MPA from Stanley. ATGW the weapon of choice, with surveillance and range of ideally 6 kms. Do nothing but watch.

Land (also covertly) the other half of the SF within 10 Kms of Stanley airport. Handheld rocket launchers and GPMG the weapons of choice. Infiltrate to assault the narrow neck of land separating Stanley airport and the harbour, and hold the terrain.

Once the assault to seize the airport / harbour has gone noisy, the SF over-watching MPA use ATGW to stop vehicle movement in/out of MPA, and hit any aircraft or helicopters trying to take off.

Not without risk, at all. Would require coordination, good training, and probably a quiet purchase by Argentina of up to date ATGW. But achievable I feel if the political masters accept the degree of risk.

The Brigade is embarked on a civilian ship. MPA cannot react effectively, and is temporarily neutralised. Stanley airport is C-130 capable if the Argentines need it (actually, I don’t think they do, at least not initially). Stanley harbour can berth a cruise ship, and nothing the RIC or TA company have got can stop it. UK ROE and decision making is not going to be able to react fast enough to allow the cruise ship to be sunk in the first 6 hours, which means it could be loitering 100 miles offshore in international waters until the “success” signals are sent by the 2 SF parties. That is if an SSN or the Guard Ship is present. Argentine Int will probably know where the Guard Ship is (it also has responsibilities for St Helena, South Georgia, the South Sandwich islands, and makes port visits to Chile and Uruguay). The SSN may have to be a calculated risk for them.

Once the Brigade is ashore, the UK Garrison commander is in a poor position. He’s got no mobility, he’s lost his air cover, he is outnumbered 3:1, and in effect about 30:1 in terms of formed and trained cohesive units that could take the fight to the Argentines – I don’t credit the ability of the 1400 assorted maintenance, C2 staff and administrative personnel to transform themselves into 14 infantry companies instantly. He is also further weakened if the elite brigade concentrates initially on taking out his ground-based air defence and shrinking his perimeter. If the Argentines got their Int right, the Guard Ship arrives in a few days, but even a T-45 cannot cover all possible approaches to MPA for the 34 Fighting Hawks (range 1700 nm), and is itself somewhat vulnerable to the 2 SSKs that are probably stooging around in the waters that a T-45 would need to be in to provide a dome over MPA which is itself in radar shadow from the sea, obscuring low level approaches.

A second Brigade landing at Stanley within a couple of days of the first brings the local force ratios at MPA to around 9:1. Accompanied by a logistics ship (vehicles, spares ammunition and rations). A full-blown assault on MPA is threatened, but surrender opportunities also offered to the Garrison Commander. He’ll take instructions from Northwood, but 9,000 combat troops supported by close air support against a single infantry company, a TA company who probably got rounded up in Stanley, 1400 others, and no air cover is probably only going to end one way. I don’t think the MoD or the Government have the stomach to order an Alamo style defence, even though I do not doubt the willingness of the servicemen at MPA to follow their orders.

The interesting bit is what happens next. Can we generate enough T-45 and other ships and SSNs to isolate the FI from Argentina which has both ship and air bridge options? Probably not very quickly. What do we do when one of the civilian ships is used to ferry the islanders off the islands to a neutral country (I think Uruguay was used for PW exchange in 82)? If the islands are denuded of inhabitants and the Garrison released from captivity on a dockside in Uruguay (all extremely well-treated, of course), how interested is the rest of the world going to be in the UK’s position? How long can we keep half a dozen ships and SSNs patrolling in the South Atlantic around a pair of islands with 9,000 Argentines and no Brits?

All of that above is

James
James

…last paragraph got cut off. But I was being too long-winded anyway!

R L-C
R L-C

I don’t think that AG will invade again I’m just paranoid, thus the extra company-batalion. A Its been mentioned before but the idea of putting the vikings/warthogs in the FL is a very good one

wf
wf

@APATS: good to hear that all personnel are small arms qualified. I’m sure we pay more attention to intelligence, but I worry about the attitude from @Sir Humphrey that the UN will protect us. It will do no such thing, and even if it did, it would have no practical impact: the US allowing us to raid their Sidewinder stocks and pilfer their fuel tankers was.

@R L-C: I don’t think the Stanley location is big enough to be expanded to take long haul. But probably more to the point, another airport is another site to defend, when we are short on resources.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

James. a couple of quick points, Stanley harbour cannot berth a cruise liner, they anchor out of the inner harbour and transport tourists in by boat. The training of this Elite Brigade should surely be a massive combat indicator? How may SSK trips to land 100 SF as that is the most feasible method of doing it undetected and then they have to avoid detection on Islands with no strangers and no natural cover. This cruise ship which is not on any cruise schedule and is not expected to berth of following Normal patterns Of Life would also be a huge red flag.
It is not impossible but damm it really requires them to be brilliant and us to be stupid.

Phil

“@APATS: good to hear that all personnel are small arms qualified”

It concerns me that anyone would think otherwise?!

“the US allowing us to raid their Sidewinder stocks and pilfer their fuel tankers was.”

It wasn’t from an overall shortage of missiles. We had well over 3,000 AAMs in service back in those days with stocks being built up to 6,500 by 1990. I do believe we didn’t have many of those Sidewinders because they were spanking new.

Observer
Observer

Sigh…

Didn’t the last Falklands War have an Argy corvette that got its’ hull shoved in by an ATGM for getting too close to the shore?

Sir H gave a ratio of 3 is to 1 for fortified areas, but the ratio might be low. In built up areas, the ratio jumps to 7 to 1.

@wf, you claim that your plan does not strain credibility, but the reason for my C&C comment is that it DOES strain credibility to an extreme extent and reads more like a fairytale than a coherent ops plan.

R L-C
R L-C

@ Sir Humphrey
Very nice article maybe you should get it published in a newspaper, or private eye. Really enjoyable. I think I agree with everything you say. But I always want the be a diplomatic “child” and through the rattles out of the pram etc. I wish their was something more substantial we could do to persuade Brazil and other MERCOSUR members to not be so unwilling to stand up to Argentine.

On another note, is it not possible to fly to Punta Arenas without going into Argentine territory? remove the Argentines from the ounce a week flight diktat.

Would their be any savings if we built a base in Namibia (+ alliance, treaties & “ties”) as this would remove the south american/ascension dependency we have?

wf
wf

@APATS: no, it requires us to be complacent. I imagine SF operating around Stanley would be likely to be detected, although the AR Marines Commando Company was not in 82 until they hit Moody Brook. But near to Mare Harbour…there is precious little there, let alone people wandering late at night

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Phil

It isn’t that long back that a RN NE could pass in with not completing the small arms handling qual. Of course there is a shooting on a range and then there is shooting in combat.

And yes those Sidewinders were the latest and greatest versions.

@ James

The Argentines have their own ATGW called the Mathogo.

When I read your Falklands stuff it always makes me think the FIDF are under gunned and for all there quads etc. are effectively immobile.

How well trained are RE in infantry tactics?

Phil

“It isn’t that long back that a RN NE could pass in with not completing the small arms handling qual”

Oh dear. I can understand not every sailor needs to be current on small arms but I’m glad they changed that as its a basic skill any serviceman should have. I also support the return of Cutlass Drill.

“How well trained are RE in infantry tactics?”

They’ll be pretty good. Not infantry, but a very solid force in defence (especially since they cna throw up their own obstacles!).

Topman
Topman

‘Didn’t the last Falklands War have an Argy corvette that got its’ hull shoved in by an ATGM for getting too close to the shore?’

Yes a milan round hit one of the arse end of one the argie ships.

Think Defence

“How well trained are RE in infantry tactics?”

That will be soldier first, combat engineer second, tradesman third, all round love god and and champion euchre player, probably about the rest of the numbers there are

R L-C
R L-C

@WF
The other airport at Stanley is just to take civilian flight away from MPA, the google satellite map show there is around 2km to play around with at Stanley airport and there is only one road that connects the airport to Stanley and it goes through a very narrow land-bridge, easy to regulate the flow of traffic and warn MPA and thus England. At around three flights a week you only need one runway, if its built s that it can be destroyed easily that would be an added bonus.

sorry about any spelling errors

Phil

“all round love god and and champion euchre player”

Steady!

Think Defence

I was going to say champion piss drinker but thought I might upset people :)

Alex
Alex

Think, for a moment, about the vast mass of shipping we needed in 1982 to get 3 Cdo ashore and supplied, plus all the extra we needed to move 5 Brigade and then deploy them using the first lot of assets.

That would be 2 cruise liners (Canberra and Qe2), 2 LPDs (Fearless and Intrepid), a big passenger Ro-Ro (Norland) and several other trucker Ro-Ros (Elk, Baltic Ferry, Europic Ferry etc), 4 LSLs (the Galahads) (this subunit in itself, on its alone-i-o, is 4x Argentina’s total amphibious shipping), a couple of big RFAs (Fort Austin, Tidespring, Stromness) in use to carry troops and stores, two containerships (because we had an oops with the first one) plus the RFA tankers and store ships supporting the other ships logistically.

They wouldn’t need as many tankers and they wouldn’t need a repair ship or tugs or a tankerful of fresh water or an aviation forward repair ship. But they would still need a vast amount of specialised shipping that they don’t have, can’t build, and can’t afford to buy. I haven’t even started on the support helicopters or landing craft.

I’m pretty sure the massive shipbuilding programme required to support a division-sized amphibious operation would be a huge strategic indicator, as well as being ludicrously beyond Argentina’s budget.

We have 3 big “LSD(A)” (the Bays – any other navy would call them LPDs), 2 modern LPDs, a modern LPH, 4 big Ro-Ros (the Points)…and we think it would be only just enough to embark our amphibious forces and all their stuff.

Observer
Observer

@Alex

Like your diplomatic “oops with the first one.” You’re a born diplomat. :)

And your post kind of brings to light what was lacking in wf’s war plans, a sense of scale and the degree of logistical burden a war of occupation of that size needs. Not just 8 men carrying MANPADs.

wf
wf

@Topman: that was the Guerrico, in South Georgia. It was a Carl Gustav recoiless rifle, which scored three hits, plus rather a lot of small arms fire. Unfortunately, the round that hit the Exocet launcher failed to detonate :-(

@Alex: Argentina doesn’t need to mount a standard amphibious assault, just lift cargo from one port to another. It has a reasonable amount of shipping for this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_in_Argentina#Merchant_marine

Observer
Observer

@wf

Think Topman got the right incident, I did remember the report as a Milan too.

wf
wf

@Observer: in the FIW we needed to land effectively a full division with stores, over the beach, move over 100’s of km, to fight a break in battle, and fixed wing air transport wasn’t a factor. There’s only going to be one break in battle here, on MPA, which is 8km from the harbour where the ships would unload. Furthermore, our supply line extends 8000 miles, whereas AR has to contend with only 400. The level of shipping required is going to be vastly less

Phil

Carl Gutav. Don’t think there was a Milan down there. They were relatively new at the time.

Observer
Observer

@wf

…. in shipping containers???

Stacked deep in without a way to extract necessary equipment fast???

Ouch… heaven help you if you loaded your tanks 1st in. It’ll be the last out.

wf, you have interesting individual ideas, but they just don’t mesh well into a coherent ops plan.

Topman
Topman

@ wf, I’m fairly sure a ship in the intial invasion got hit by rm party.

Topman
Topman

Thinking about I think it was a 66mm rocket disposable jobbie.

steve taylor
steve taylor

I also wonder if the RN has the capacity to engage in a Cod War style confrontation in the South Atlantic.

The Brown’s outgun T45 if it comes to a less than war, argie-bargie, shot across the bows, confrontation.

That is the key to all this for the Argentines keeping just this side of the line.

@ Phil

The last time I mentioned the cutlass here in passing as a bit of colour one of our serving RN guys here got all offended.

wf
wf

@Topman: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Grytviken

Carl Gustav :-)

@Observer: I suggested RO-RO for the initial assault to speed unloading. There’s a limit for how long any group of SF, even supported by parachute drops, can deny the use of an airfield against a competent infantry unit, certainly no longer than 24 hours. But that is all that would be required

steve taylor
steve taylor
steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Topman

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Mills_(Royal_Marines_officer)

The RM officer who made the “eyes water” comment.

Phil

“The Brown’s outgun T45”

Not sure what a Brown is but the T45 has 13 gun mounts. 1 4.5, 2 Phalanx, 2 30mm mounting, 2 miniguns and 6 GPMGs.

Seems enough to be getting on with gun wise.

Gabriele
Gabriele

“But they would still need a vast amount of specialised shipping that they don’t have, can’t build, and can’t afford to buy.”

They are 300 miles away from home instead of 13.000 miles away, as they like to remind us.
If they buy the Endurances that Singapore is to sell, or the second Foundre LPD when France retires it and sells it off, (they nearly acquired the first one but they could not beat Chile who had the money ready, won’t happen again) they arguably have what they need and more.

3rd Commando had 11.000 men to face.
They have 1000/1500, of which the true fighting core is a single british army Company which can count on 2 civilian sea kings and SAR helos for mobility and are protected by 3 + 1reserve fighter jets with little to no Air to Ground attack capability. Worse, the air-to-air refuelling and cargo situation is such that the RAF is realistically able to either sell down more fighters OR send troops. Both can’t be done at the same time, even if the Voyager will improve the situation significantly once it has replaced the current tankers.

Excuse me if my reserves continue to stand.

James
James

@ APATS,

good spot on Stanley Harbour. A quick Google gets this http://www.falklandislands.com/assets/documents/2011-harbour-info-basic.pdf which seems to be up to date and official. You’ve got 300 metres of berthing for vessels that draw less than 6.5 metres, and sheltered deep water anchorage 200 metres to the north of the airfield peninsula, for which some form of ship to shore relay would be needed. I don’t think that would be insurmountable for them to solve.

2 SSKs can land 48 men covertly. A couple of possibilities exist for the other SF group: dropped off covertly by a boat that is legitimately going into Stanley half an hour before it docks, or (not my first thought – riskier) straight onto the jetty.

“Elite” Brigade training may not be such a combat indicator as you think – Armies do it all of the time. A public announcement of an Army reorganisation a year or so before, creation of a new all-Regular Mountain Brigade that does exercises in the Andes, and deploys to an from a base in the far north of Argentina be chartered ferry, several such instances of these exercises, all routine stuff…

Their biggest problem – or rather the one thing they have to get right – is surprise. As I have said above, this would not be an easy or risk-free operation. But, assuming the political masters are prepared to prepared to re-invade the islands (and I fully agree with Sir Humphrey on that being a very long shot), I think it would be wise to assume that they have the military capacity to get 100 SF ashore covertly, particularly at some isolated spot 10 kms from Stanley or MPA.

Observer
Observer

@wf

“There’s a limit for how long any group of SF, even supported by parachute drops, can deny the use of an airfield against a competent infantry unit, certainly no longer than 24 hours. But that is all that would be required”

I estimate 2 hours. Which is about the time needed to form hunter-killer teams in section size and go hunting. Remember, if you’re running or in a firefight, you’re not going to be casually using a MANPAD while ground troops shoot at you. Those things tend to have a set up time and need exposure to fire. Backblast, you know.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Phil

Brown’s has,

1x Oto Melara 5 inch dual purpose gun
8x Breda/Bofors 40 mm/70 anti-aircraft guns (4x twin)

plus small arms mounts (they have lots of M60 and .50cals too) all you need is a welder and some steel

steve taylor
steve taylor

Another thing about these SF teams. You can’t just run here, there, and everywhere on the Falklands because some fools have scattered lots of mines about the place. Can’t remember who it was……

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
Observer
Observer

@x

LOL seriously good one there mate!

If it came to just shooting cross the bows though, then does it matter if he has 8 guns or 80? They’re not firing for effect.

Though in war, in a ship gun to gun battle, the ship that wins… is the one who fires the torpedo. :p No such thing as “cheating” in war.

James
James

X,

see page 16 of the link I posted at 1904. Not insurmountable.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb

@Observer

Funny you should say that. Late in the Falklands conflict the Argentines were adapting the Pucara to carry an air-lauched anti-ship torpedo – the US Mk 13 IIRC. The war ending ended the project.

James
James

Observer,

you’ve got a single infantry company. Pick the right time of day and you can guarantee many will be inside MPA, or if they are deployed on a field firing exercise too far away to influence the situation. Given surprise, and the mental shock that follows, the company commander is unlikely to have enough situational awareness of the wider defence area around MPA to know where to send his section sized patrols. A section size patrol coming close to a 4 man SF team is not going to have an advantage. All they know is that a taxiing Typhoon went “bang”, and their platoon on QRF was tasked to mount some clearance patrols. They are not going to fire first, because it may have gone “bang” for a maintenance-related reason, and the figure they may see in their NVG could be a shepherd or farmer.

It’s going to take more than 2 hours to sort out what is happening, get the ROE changed, etc. Achieving real surprise gives the Argentines 24 hours realistically, before the Garrison has enough local SA, political clearance to get all aggressive, and in the intervening period a Brigade landed from a ferry.

Repulse

Great post and lot’s of the usual what-if scenarios which makes an entertaining read.

My view is that by all this we miss the most likely scenario; that is the slow clever take over by the use of engineered events and the accumulation of broader international support. Wasn’t the start of the 82 war the arrest of “scrap merchants” on South Georgia after they raised the Argentinian flag?

Something to invoke an over reaction by British forces would be a classic start.

Also, the only country in the world which could take and keep the islands by force is the US. Maybe that is the Argies

wf
wf

@James: Germany’s primary trading partner in 1939 was France. The Soviet Union would have starved if they actually had kicked off WWIII. Cristina doubtless has a time horizon of the next election. If she’s desperate enough, and God knows the country is in shit order, she’ll do it. Banning the sale of newsprint to opposition newspapers is desperation in my book.

@Observer: section sized hunter killer teams? Against section sized SF groups, probably around half their number? I’m sure British army infantry units are better than AR, but they aren’t that much better. And what happened to mutual support? It’s going to take a bit longer than 2 hours, particularly since the rest of the base are going to have to be organised to backfill the RIC in the bunkers. The biggest help the RIC could have would be Javelin’s and mortars for smoke.

@x: the minefields are being cleared. I would have thought Mare Habour MPA was largely cleared in 84 when they were building MPA

TrT
TrT

WF
“Four hours after this, AR warships are disgorging troops and vehicles that were on “exercise” off Patagonia”

What happens if, instead of your scenario occuring, the UKs South Atlantic Astute had been shadowing the wargames?

Now, the fleet might not be sent to Davey Jones Locker when the first tiffie is hit, but it bloody will be long before it starts pouring men and materiel onto The Islands….

Of course, there may not be a South Atlantic Astute, but if there is, the greater portion of the Argentine Army and Navy dies in the space of 20 minutes.

Its an impossible risk, and the more Argentina pushes, the more likely the participation of one.

Its not like they can Yom Kipurr us, its nothing for us to up the Astute order to allow a Falklands Guard Submarine and base a combined arms battle group into position for the foreseeable future.
A Scimitar Troop and a couple of Fire Support Platoons in Spartans, and suddenly, it looks rather suicidal.

They cant wear us down, they can only hope to suprise us, and thats both unlikely to work and be devestating if it doesnt

Personaly, I think their best bet is landing some heavy artilery pieces and hoping they can shell us out.

Repulse

*damn phone* … Also, the only country in the world which could take and keep the islands by force is the US. Maybe that is the Argies Plan B.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ wf

Yes I know………………..

Observer
Observer

@James

That scenario has so many assumptions that it belongs in Heaven.

1) Mental Shock… you’re depending on this??
2) Lack of situational awareness? Try the direction the missile was fired from…
3) A section cannot outmatch 4 men? Possible, but if forced into a gunfight, they’re not interdicting the airfield.
4) “because it may have gone “bang” for a maintenance-related reason” Yes, I commonly do maintainance with surface to air missiles….

Seriously, you’re postulating criminal levels of incompetence and willful ignorence on a very large chunk of people. Something that I have severe doubts that will happen.

Observer
Observer

@wf

Right tool for right job. Search and destroy needs dispersal, not concentration. You concentrate only AFTER you localised the enemy. Pin them down and wait for your other teams to join you to get critical mass for the push.

I doubt anyone is stupid enough to draft people doing HK sweeps to do RIC, they have dedicated firefighting staff for that.

As I said, your scenario is too far fetched to be even remotely plausably. Think Sir H described it as “Death Star” impausable? He’s right on that.

Jame’s sceanrio is slightly more possible though fraught with incredible risk. You have to have all the cards fall in place all in the right order or it’ll collapse. Still possible, just very, very difficult.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Observer re argie bargie

The point I am trying to make is a salvo fired as a checking action or as a calculated response could seriously harm a ship like T45. I am not talking about a surface action per se. Imagine 2 ships steaming close together neither wanting to give way. One contact too many. And one of the captains fears for his ship and fires. Not enough to go to war over. But played out in front of TV news crew with some spin. T45 (SeaViper to one side) isn’t that well armed. The RN chaps here would argue quite rightly that they have no need to be. But in a less than war situation where measure responses are needed a gun is more use. It is willy waving. As well as the Brownes the Argentines have the Esporas which also just about outgun T45. What if Whitehall orders T45 or T23 to steam away from the harassment; that could be spinned as running away.

It works even better if the Argentine vessel is unarmed. What if the Argentines decide to start issuing their own fishing licences for Falklands waters? Sending I don’t know their “fisheries officers” out in tugs or fishing boats. Are we going to sink these? No. What if they do this with say 10 vessels? Does Clyde and APT(S) chase all of them? They can’t. It is very easy for the Argentines to engineer a situation at sea that isn’t clear cut that could have a small RN running around itself.

wf
wf

@Observer: imagine this. You are the company commander, and all your company are on stag or in bed, in MPA (best case). Alert is called, 2 Typhoon’s on a night patrol have blown up. You know AR has TOW and RBS70, so we are looking at up to 6km radius. You will need to:-

– organise local defense, there are likely more sneaky beaky sorts on the way. You need to get the bunkers manned and the plans tied in. I’d say 2 hour minumum

– simultaneous with this, you need to be planning clearance patrols. You may have been lucky and seen the launching points, you may have to draw a circle.

– you then mount up to get rid of the awkward ones. It’s rough terrain, so at patrol pace, you are covering maybe 2k an hour, and you have a lot of terrain to clear. If you are brave, you could mount up in Land Rover’s and see if that spooks someone into firing. You potentially have 100+ sq km to clear. Obviously, the majority of that will be unsuitable, but clearing 20 with an infantry company will take 24 hours, assuming no downtime, no major engagements.

Of course, if a company of paratroopers lands 6 km away, your clearance operation will cease instantly.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Observer

This sort of happening………

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ James

Do you think the Argentines know where they planted mines in ’82?

And again I was joking about the minefields.

James
James

Observer,

we may agree to differ, but even if you are right, we still have concurrent events happening that make it difficult for a small force to react effectively to events even if 100% accurately reported. Put yourself in the position of the J3 Current Ops cell in MPA:

Telephone reports that access to the airfield and harbour in Stanley has been denied across a narrow isthmus.

Credible reports from the Stanley harbourmaster that he has an unidentified large radar contact 20 nautical miles out which does not respond to radio interrogation.

30 miles distance between MPA and Stanley. QRF of a single platoon on 15 minutes notice to move from MPA. The TA company in Stanley asleep in their beds.

Split the forces to react to 2, possibly 3 separate events? Concentrate on MPA, realising that MPA is the linchpin that keeps the flag flying? Or react to events in Stanley by ordering the QRF up the road as fast as possible? Probably the latter. MPA may be the linchpin, but you cannot ignore events in Stanley.

Off they go. The next report is that the leading helicopter got taken out while loading the QRF on the taxiway at MPA, and a Typhoon got hit by another missile in the HAS. Now what? Local clearance patrols or send more troops to Stanley via vehicles leaving from the back gate? The radar contact from the harbour master is now only 10 miles out. You don’t want to leave MPA undefended, but equally not reacting to events in Stanley is going to allow that large radar contact to get into the harbour and you don’t know what is onboard.

Can you conduct clearance patrols around MPA out to 6 Kms with an understrength infantry company in enough time to find, fight and kill 50 SF, and then redeploy your company to Stanley in enough time to attack and take out 50 SF holding a narrow isthmus, and then close with and destroy a regular Brigade that has landed unmolested? I think not, particularly as MPA itself seems to be under attack with ATGW. The 1400 non-infantry Garrison reacted very well and are in defensive positions, which is where you want them to be, but they don’t have the weapons or the surveillance equipment to react to ATGW coming in at irregular intervals from 6 Kms out and that seem to be concentrating on anything moving in or out of MPA, and in particular any aircraft or helicopter movement.

Phil

Typhoons randomly blowing up?!

Have the Argies developed teleportation? Is there a teleportation gap?!

Seriously. A sneak attack with a weak armed forces when a large chunk of intelligence machinery is literally straining to hear anything untoward happening AT ALL? I know one shouldn’t under estimate ones enemy, but Christ, there needs to be some realistic and reasonable assumptions!

If it was the US across the water then it’s conceivable Typhoons would randomly explode and screaming men would descend on MPA. But it isn’t.

Reality pills. I prescribe many to be taken. With water.

Think Defence

What man portable ATGW’s are on the open market that can go to 6km

wf
wf

@TD: Kornet goes to 5. RBS70 goes to 5 (which AR already have)

Alex
Alex

I think it would be wise to assume that they have the military capacity to get 100 SF ashore covertly, particularly at some isolated spot 10 kms from Stanley or MPA.

I think everyone assumes that, in fact it sounds like the defence plan is designed to deal with just that.

They are 300 miles away from home instead of 13.000 miles away, as they like to remind us.

True, but they have to count on losing the use of the sea to SSN as soon as the balloon goes up, and plan for not necessarily taking the airfield quickly, or taking it after it was blown up or otherwise denied, and therefore they need to bring their 60 days’ war maintenance reserve or whatever in the first flight of ships.

Also, Ro-Ro is only easy to offload if there’s a functional, compatible Ro-Ro terminal that’s cooperating. (i.e. some troublesome person hasn’t blown it up or sabotaged the linkspan hydraulics) The RN hoped to be able to sail landing craft up to Norland’s stern door and roll vehicles straight from the car deck into the LCU, but it’s too high. Fortunately she also has a side entrance (I remember looking up at it from the quayside in Hull as a kid) with different geometry. Is there even a Ro-Ro terminal on the islands?

If not you’d have to try to lower the bow door onto the open wharf (hoping it fits) by manoeuvring the ship end-on in the harbour without hitting a rock at the far end. As for a cruise ship, well, what’s the offload plan? The lifeboats? The last time we tried that was Cape Helles and the Aussies still haven’t forgiven us.

Actually, Helles is a case in point – you can’t just chuck together an amphibious operation, if you do it goes badly wrong and quick, and a relatively tiny Turkish force (about a division spread around the whole peninsula) was able to contain the landing well away from their objectives, with much loss of life on our part.

wf
wf

@TD: you can switch off RBS70 proximity fusing too, and with a shaped charge warhead, it’s quite useful against ground targets

Think Defence

Kornet is 30kg a piece, how many of them can they hump up the mountain without using vehicles?

James
James

@ TD,

I had MAPATS in mind. Range “up to” 5,000 metres, but some sources declare 6,000 metres for the upgraded version the Estonians bought. That’s why I originally said ideally a 6 km range. 5 km for the original version is still giving the MPA defenders a real headache though. Israeli developed, in service with Chile, Venezuela, Estonia and Ecuador. I imagine that given enough folding hush money Argentina could lay its’ hands on 12 launchers and 48 missiles, with enough missiles for pre-operational training.

steve taylor
steve taylor

I think another company wouldn’t go amiss. Further I have queried before here what vehicles the infantry company has down there.

And I do think the FIDF isn’t very well armed. I know we can argue the Argentines won’t get close. So if we can argue that why have the FIDF? Is it a sop? What do they demonstrate? 82 was lost because of the Argentine’s had overwhelming manpower. But what would have happened if the RM had gone to the right beach with MILAN and .50cal to hand? The Argentine nose would have been even bloodier. The FIDF need to demonstrate to the Argentine government that they have the weapons (Javelin) to damage ships and destroy vehicles. They need to show they can hurt anything coming up the beach. (And they need proper vehicles too.) They are a dedicated bunch and need to be treated as such.

I think Typhoon only saves the Argentine air force from deploying. Why deploy if you are going to get shot down. And would Typhoon’s limited air-to-ground capability sway a ground fight. Considering how close the fighting will be to Stanley or MPA or Mare Harbour is a Paveway or 1000lb dumb bomb suitable ordnanace? Again the Argentines aren’t going to land so need to worry. Then again during the 82 invasion the Argentines didn’t use one FJ so. Oh yes! The cannon! I forgot the cannon. I wonder if the Chinese will sell the Argentines some MANPADS? I should imagine those engines look pretty hot to an infra-red sensor. Lastly has Typhoon any real anti-ship capability? If not unless there is an SSN down south or T23 with Harpoon things seem pretty open.

I am depressed again about this now. :)

James
James

Phil,

“randomly blowing up” is not what is suggested. It rather describes the reaction of the control tower staff when a Typhoon parked on the hard-standing suddenly explodes. Unless someone was looking at it directly, the missile efflux would probably go un-noticed. Even if someone was looking directly at it, putting the facts together is going to take a few moments.

Not teleportation. Now that is silly!

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Phil re Brown’s

This is what I am on about,

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a7/ARA_Almirante_Brown_D_10_%28cropped%29.jpg/486px-ARA_Almirante_Brown_D_10_%28cropped%29.jpg

Notice the two turrets in B position. Those are twin 40mm’s. There is another pair back in Y position. This is one with both guns firings,

Observer
Observer

@James

Not as silly as your sudden appearence of 100 men. That’s a company’s worth of trooplift. And a covert insertion. You ever tried squeezing 100 men on a sub which I think only carries half that crew? Someone’s going to be sleeping in the torpedo tubes. And ATGMs added in too. Talk is cheap, go find some covert transport to insert 100 men. Now THAT is hard.

wf
wf

@Observer: 100 is quite a few. But 30 would do just as well

Observer
Observer

Did some checking. The T-1700 class has a complement of 26. You’re squeezing 4x it’s normal complement + support weapons + zodiacs in. Good luck.

Observer
Observer

@wf

Then I’ll send 600 men on the sweep. Duh…

There is more than enough men to keep the airfield open from an SF attack, and you CANNOT fire ATGMs if you have to constantly keep displacing to avoid contact.

Seriously, most of the situations you come up with is really scaremongering and pretty low grade ones at that.

2 hours to keep the airfield closed is the most likely result before being forced out of position. 4 is the most extreme end I can envision. Then the planes go up to do air recce and things go to hell in a handbasket for the people in passenger liners, cargo ships and 747s.

wf
wf

@Observer: let’s hope Faith, Hope and Charity survive the opening salvo :-)

Think Defence

Is this faith hope and charity thing actually real or just some bollox you read on the net, like the word phoon or ghanners!!!!

steve taylor
steve taylor

I am telexing Chris B now. I have this great idea to fit sheep and penguins with webcams. See how you like them apples Christina!!!!!!1

James
James

@ Observer,

I did say 2 SSKs (and they have 3) could land 48, which is what they declare. Another 50 could come from another covert means.

I think you and I are thinking on 2 separate tracks. As someone pointed out above, the Argentines have a track record of being “unconventional”, landing military people on South Georgia disguised as scrap metal workers. Do you really want to assume that if they are desperate enough to try to retake the FI, they might not again resort to unconventional approaches?

I am sure that if the best brains in Argentina’s defence department put their heads together, they could get 100 SF ashore covertly in two remote locations if they wanted. It does not really matter what analysis of Janes or even Wikipedia reveals. Janes does not consider deliberately underhand deception.

A 5 kilometre radius circle around MPA has an area of nearly 79 square kilometres. Actually more, because it is 5 kilometres from the outer wire of MPA, so probably over 120 square kilometres. That is a lot of ground for a 140 man infantry company to search, in a confused situation with competing calls for the force to be split into several tasks, probably at night, on foot (there are no roads accessing all parts of that terrain), looking for an unknown number of SF patrols who are alert, hiding, and in possession of equal or better STA than a regular British infantry company. If you think you can achieve that in less than 4 hours then you should name your price to the MoD and seek permanent employment in the FI. A couple of million pounds a month would be cheap for a man of your capacity, and I’m sure we’d happily pay it.

Think Defence

Or they could make multiple trips and lay up before moving off

Chris Werb
Chris Werb

Would the RIC have some of those nifty hand-launched drones?

wf
wf

@TD: Faith, Hope and Charity are the names of the Gladiator’s from the original 1435 Flight that garrisoned Malta. The RAF named the current aircraft in the same manner (the 4th being called Desperation)

wf
wf

@Observer, @James. Many large fishing vessels call at Stanley during the year. Quite normal for them to sail south of Stanley, since the main fishing grounds are that way

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Observer

Just in case you didn’t know James was part of a staff team working on defence plans for the Falklands.

It cannot be confirmed or denied whether he did this wearing red trousers either openly or by other covert means.

Topman
Topman

‘Is this faith hope and charity thing actually real or just some bollox you read on the net, like the word phoon or ghanners!!!!’

It’s a link to 1435 flight when they were in Malta during WW2 they only exsisted as a flight for a few months. The nicknames for the a/c there given to them by their groundcrew.
More of a spotter or unofficial thing. All 4 are opertional, the rumour that one is down there as a spare is a myth, same when the F3 were down their and no doubt when the Phantoms were there.

James
James

X,

red long johns. Had to be. It was winter and therefore King Billy, and I believe I was the only cavalryman on the islands at the time. You can’t take too many chances in a joint staff mess. Too many RN types who would laugh (despite being very proud of their floaty little boat that was at the time considerably elsewhere and thus made one of my main points), and other riff RAF.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ James

Joint staff mess? Oh you mean the Wardroom! For a moment there I thought you were eating with your horses.

James
James

@ Sir Humphrey,

your points are well made, and taken. Given what you have revealed of your own experience, I place credence in what you choose to put onto the internet. Having myself been the J3 Ops lead for an OPEVAL-type inspection / seminar for a fortnight about 10 years ago, there are many things I would not place onto the internet, and indeed it was 10 years ago, and much changes.

And yet…. There is always the unexpected. Our biggest strategic emphasis should be on pre-warning. Intelligence routinely collected, and diligently analysed. The impressions of our diplomatic mission to Buenos Aires. Our Defence Attaché in BA having an uncommon curiosity, and a close link to SIS.

If we ever let them spring a strategic surprise on us, we do not have the capacity to effectively resist a well-executed coup de main operation. I posit above that 100 SF in 2 groups could deny us freedom of reaction or manoeuvre, and if they combine that with a well-drilled Brigade coming ashore then we have lost the islands. In your original piece you talk about we the 2 sides have NOW, and in our case we don’t have an amphibious landing force that 8 weeks later can come ashore. They will have learned their lessons from 1982, chiefly put enough troops ashore to force us to mount an impossible maritime operation that could land a 3:1 numbers superiority. Secondary lessons will have been learned about logistics and air support.

We’ve got a fantastic facility in MPA, but if we lost it to them, they’d then have a fantastic facility to keep us at arm’s length. Couple that with some political decisions about treating UK PWs and the islanders with grace and respect, but still firmly off-shoring the islanders to Uruguay with generous compensation, and we’ve got an uphill battle to even get the world’s ear in the UN debating chamber, far less launch another Task Force.

So it all comes down to what Argentine cunning can achieve against British intelligence and vigilance in those first crucial days.

James
James

X,

I’m not even going to try to recall 1986 and my financially ruinous decision to take 1 and 1/4 shares in a pair of polo ponies. Let’s just say that they were in luxury eating hay, and the vet was in luxury on the bills I paid, and Mastercard were regular correspondents with me, normally using red ink. Eating with the ponies was about where I got to before deciding that field hockey was cheap enough, and of course the rugby in the winter.

wf
wf

@Sir Humphrey: I’m not assuming any posture changes, merely an AR political decision to act. This is not a minor matter, but such decisions were taken last time arguably as a condition for naval support for the promotion of Galtieri to the presidency. On such unrelated matters, the world sometimes turns.

AR has a amphibious commando group (they spearheaded the invasion last time), a parachute brigade, RO-RO vessels, TOW and RBS70 missiles. It doesn’t have a large submarine force, but it’s large enough to deploy a platoon. Nothing has changed, for AR.

What has changed is that we have decomissioned all of our carrier air for the next decade. To be accurate, the GR9 was not an air defence aircraft, the F/A2 was, but perceptions count. Now a coup de main looks attractive because, if it succeeds, there is no comeback: we’ve lost. And, after Basra, the mantra of “the British never give up, they just come back stronger” has lost it’s force.

wf
wf

“I would also suggest that our landing force NOW is infinitely more capable than that of 82, and also that the argentines force is far less capable”. Agreed! But it will make no difference if there’s no air cover for them

Brian Black
Brian Black

Whether Argentina could take the Islands is less relevant than whether they could do so at an acceptable cost – diplomatic, financial, and mortal costs.
It’s all very well dreaming up theoretical scenarios for an Argentinian coup de main, but these are all high risk adventures; and what no one putting forward these ideas has done so far, is to suggest a compelling reason for Argentina to take such risky action.
Also, folks seem to assume an unwritten rule that the UK cannot begin to reinforce the garrison prior to Typhoons exploding. Britain can respond at any time to any diplomatic or intelligence event, and that leaves big unknowns for an invading force – the SF troop that arrived last week, or the Javelin platoon arriving next week, can do so without fanfare and without Argentinian knowledge and can provide an unexpected spanner in the works for any small Argentinian vanguard.

Simon257
Simon257

This is my first reply to a post, although I have been visiting the site for about a year now. So please be gentle!
Sir H’s is well thought out and well presented. However a few thought’s:

The T45 has no Harpoon.
Typhoon has no Anti-Ship capability. (Mind you, the UK has no fast-air Anti-Ship Missile capability at all.)
The UK has no Maritime Patrol aircraft.

A couple of months ago a Russian Carrier Group popped up off the coast of Scotland, without anyone apparantly noticing! Until it dropped anchor!

So, a surprise Sea Landing is not out of the question. As long as the Argentine Navy can keep the T45 at arms length. They could land where they wanted. Could 4 Typhoon’s stop an Amphibious Landing, I doubt it. Typhoon is good but not that good. If they could use the runway that is.

How long the garrison could hold out for is open to question. As I dont know how well armed they are. And I dont think we should be speculating on it either.

Now we all know that Fact is Stranger than Fiction. I have to admit, I am a fan of Tom Clancy. One of his first books was called RED STORM RISING, Basically the book is about the Cold War going Hot. Now, one of the storylines of the book is the fall of Iceland. And the use of a Ro-Ro ship, carrying Hovercraft and Russian Paratroopers to seize the Airfields there. Now, please do not think that I am a fantasist. But if someone in the Argentine Military has also read the same book, and just happens to think, ‘now thats a good idea’..

Now I know it is a fictional book. However in 1994, Tom Clancey published the Jack Ryan book- Debt of Honour. That book ends with a 747 delibratly flown into Capitol Hill Building wiping out the US Government. On Sept 11th 2001, whilst watching that days terrible events playout, I thought of Clancey’s Novel as Fiction became Fact in front of my eye’s.

Phil

There is a principle in British risk management. ALARP. You reduce the risk As Low As Reasonably Practical. Our posture is essentially based on the ALARP principle. Given the threat, now existing, the risk is manageable. As Sir H has pointed out, our posture down there is not set in stone. If the threat increases things can change.

There is not going to be a bolt from the blue. In the history of modern warfare there has rarely been a true bolt from the blue. We are lucky in that the Argentine objectives are very clear, their means of attaining them are very clear. There is little scope for ambiguity or deception and this is coupled with a hair trigger on the reinforcement option. I’d guarantee that there is a book somewhere with a list of things the Argies simply HAVE to do to pull off an invasion. And we’ll be watching those things VERY closely.

James
James

@ Sir Humphrey,

we could agree on you aim for MPA, but I’d counter-point that our force levels are inadequate to defeat a well-handled SF coup de main operation. MPA’s strength is also a weakness.

Leaving aside another good debate about the wisdom of Argentina trying it on again (with which I agree on your initial article, but countries often elect bonkers Presidents), the question is really does Argentina have the capacity to train up a relatively small number of men to effect such an operation? I think it does, and to land them covertly, whether it be by SSK, fishing trawler, cargo ship in mock distress after an engine fire, or whatever else they can come up with. OPSEC is vital for about 200 people who would have to know. Not for the elite Brigade conducting their 4th exercise in a year in Patagonia and for the 4th time recovering to home base on a ferry. They can be briefed on the mission after departing port. Their mission is simple: disembark in good order from a jetty onto already seized terrain, then go GBAD hunting in company groups and avoid direct fire contact with the pinned down MPA defenders.

Think Defence

Welcome to TD Simon

James
James

@ Sir Humphrey,

in addition to the need for Int vigilance, I’d also argue (and did) for Spearhead workup training to also include battalion deployments to the FI for field firing, perhaps for 3 weeks every 4 months and if possible at slightly random intervals, and for publicised port visits to Mare Harbour by SSNs in addition to the routine presence of the Guard Ship which should stop fraternal port visits to other places that leak instantly and well in advance. Keep the buggers in BA guessing.

ChrisM
ChrisM

Couple of points that spring to mind.
Firstly, we have some of the best SF in the world. I am sure that they have come up with great ideas how they would take the FI, and passed them on for those defending them to think about.
Secondly, I would imagine that whenever one of our SSNs is down south they go looking for the Argentinian subs, follow them about, record their signatures and operational styles. It would be very embarrassing if (possibly due to intelligence, possibly by luck) our SSN was following the Argentinian sub that was landing the SF. If playing nice they could alert the MOD (can the SSNs communicate whilst still tracking?), get the reinforcements on the way unannounced, and have the locals round up the bad guys and parade them and their ATGWs before the flown in press – very embarrasing indeed.
If we were particularly grumpy we could sink the Argentinian sub, and never own up. Either after rounding up the SF (“we have no idea how they got there”) or before/during – the Argentinians are hardly going to complain publicly that a sub full of SF has disappeared off the coast of the FI….

wf
wf

@Phil: I can see ways of improving things, but given that warnings are likely to be ignored and the consequences of failure so comprehensive, I would like see the following.

– 3 C-RAM systems to detect and shoot down ATGM/SAM. Could replace some Rapier

– smoke pots, with infrared screening smoke, positioned around the base to screen movement

– a troop of MLRS to shower any landing with fire

– 2 more Typhoon, with all 6 cleared to fire an antiship missile. The Norwegian NSM would seem to be suited to the cluttered FI environment

– expansion of the Army garrison to a battalion so as to give commanders options

– re-activate some Sea Harriers, or beg some AV8Bplus from the USMC.

Alex
Alex

and if they combine that with a well-drilled Brigade coming ashore

from what shipping, in what landing craft or helis?

James
James

We’ve got UOR-acquired C-RAM in Afghanistan that won’t have a job after 2014. I have no idea if MPA has C-RAM, but it does have surrounding terrain with high spots that is eminently suitable for C-RAM, and a nearby population of uniformed spanner wranglers that could no doubt do the machine-fettling C-RAM needs.

Alex
Alex

As you know, my suggestion for an improvement is deploying CVR(T). Let’em see the trousers.

Phil

Warnings are not going to be ignored. Losing them would be like Tobruk and Singapore rolled into one. It’s a Government Ending Event. And like I said, there’s little scope for ambiguity in reality when it comes to interpreting Argentine actions. And considering all we have to do is send SLE on ‘exercise’ to almost certainly thwart their plans it’s not something I am going to lose sleep over.

James
James

Alex,

if you control a reasonable port with 300m of berthing for <6.5m draft ships, and an anchorage for ships of any draft less than 200 metres from the coastline you are trying to get onto, without being flippant at all (and my remarks on this topic as ever reflect that risk exists), how difficult is it in comparison with what they already achieved in 1982 when they put a company of craft ashore over 700 metres of shallow water and surf onto a beach? They still maintain that option, BTW, but that's their grey funnel line and less easy to disguise from watching eyes.

ChrisM
ChrisM

@wf – wouldnt the IR screening smoke be rather a nuisance in finding the SF bad guys? Some warm bodies in a cold bog is going to stand out beautifully to anyone looking out the window with an IR sensor….especially if they have just fired a missile….
That bog is then going to be a collateral free free-fire zone for the mortar crews…I would rather be the blokes inside the wire.

James
James

that’s landing craft, LVT-7, not craft…

wf
wf

@ChrisM: yes, it would hamper the view out. But the idea would be you only turn them on while an aircraft is taxiing or taking off. Once it’s up, it’s flares and ECM are operational, and Typhoon can go straight up to minimise exposure

ChrisM
ChrisM

If the bad guys can see the Typhoon then the defenders can see them. After all you arent talking about an OP in a hide, your bad guys are lugging about and setting up an ATGW in miles and miles of nothing. After landing without being noticed, from a submarine that wasnt noticed, and then marching miles without being noticed. Anyone who volunteers for that luck-fest probably isnt sane enough for you to want to use them.

wf
wf

@ChrisM: you said it, miles and miles of nothing. At night. When military forces never move, because no one can admire their fetching trousers, red or otherwise, while they march. Those Argies are going to have severe self-image problems even if they blow a few Typhoons up :-(

Alex
Alex

I think the problem is the offload of some sort of big merchant ship without the use of a port, and tactically. Your scenario doesn’t guarantee use of the port – just (temporary) denial of the airfield.

British history includes a couple of episodes when we tried this (usually because Winston Churchill thought it was a GREAT idea). Gallipoli is the worst, but the WW2 amphibious landings include a couple of attempts to “run a ship right into the harbour and secure it undamaged”. This was tried in Madagascar and North Africa and then given up as it usually ended with a lot of dead, a VC or two, and the harbour well and truly denied with an extra sunken ship to get rid of. Even against Vichy French colonial conscript militia and using a warship with armour and guns and adapted to be easier to disembark from.

There was a plan at the battle of Narvik to grab the place with some ships’ Marine detachments and two companies of Guards, landing in ships’ rowing boats after Warspite’s guns had had a crack. (Winston again.)

Alex
Alex

Come to think of it, the original “sail right up the fairway, they’ll never suspect it” plan was Zeebrugge, which was very, very brave but also entirely ineffective as it actually failed to close the port.

Chris.B

@ X

I received your Telex. Penguins and sheep with cameras. Like it. Can we replace their wool with Kevlar, give them some more protection?

—-

Re; Sir Humphrey’s blog

Been reading it now ever since TD first highlighted it. If you haven’t read it then do, it’s good stuff and provides a solid counter-balancing opinion to a lot of the bluster you see in the press. This article is representative of the quality you will see there and so yes, I would recommend it.

(Sir H, I take cash or cheque, whichever is easier ;) )

—–

Re; the general topic

I would agree with those who say that many of the scenarios require a lot of things to go right for Argentina and not for us. For me there is far too much complacency needed on behalf of our forces.

Someone brought up the Russian Fleet as an example of such but they hardly went in undetected. Their prescence was known and was being followed. They were forced closer to our Islands by poor weather, and were then shadowed by a Type 42 (and that’s the allocated resources that we know of).

It’s like the idea of the Argentines having a big work up exercise without us knowing about it or doing anything about it. I imagine any kind of major Argentine exercise would prompt a heightened state of alert in the garrison and in London.

I just can’t see all the planets aligning in Argentina’s favour without any kind of detection by us or any successful counter-actions or lucky breaks for us.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ Chris B – Seriously? You’re “gold-platting” sheep cameras?

Chris.B

We’re not “Gold Plating”.

We’re “enhancing the operational capabilities of key assets in the UK defence specturm to assure the survival of said assets and to maximise the utility of these force multipliers to British warfighters”.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ Chris B – ah, thats alright then. Wjhat about stealth? you got to have some stealth nowadays…

Jackstaff
Jackstaff

Chris B., two spots above,

Before I have time to weigh in on the thread properly (other than to echo on the quality of Sir H’s blog and claim my five quid, cap doffed, boss :) that was another beautiful piece of bullshit bingo. I can’t recall now which of the Open Threads has your memo on TD-brand biccies in it but it’s proof you should have taken the Civil Service Exam yaers ago and looked for the nearest press officer’s posting soon as you were in.

GJ just above,

“Harold is that most dangerous of animals, a low-radar-cross-sectioned sheep ….”

I would like a photoshop of the SBS’s new Penguin Squadron up on I Can Has Cheezburger, straight away. Do wonders for recruiting in the southern dependencies and for site advertising.

Jackstaff
Jackstaff

Alex,

“British history includes a couple of episodes when we tried this (usually because Winston Churchill thought it was a GREAT idea) ….”

Even against the dogged competition of stealth sheep and penguin commandos I think you win the last few hours of this thread. Any Admiralty or Premiership memos from Winnie the Bloodthirsty Pooh labeled “Amphibious Warfare” should have been stamped “Run Away Screaming” ….

Jackstaff
Jackstaff

James, a little ways upthread,

Last dash in for the moment — very good point about C-RAM upthread. There are a number of smart, economical enhancements of that sort that would make a meaningful difference in terms of layering defence.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
Jackstaff
Jackstaff

Gareth Jones links … is there anything they *can’t* do?

Ta very much.

Jed

OK never mind the FI bollocks, I want to know why Alex was no king about King George dock in Hull as a kid!

As far as i remember she had bow and stern doors, no side door.

OK, back to the invasion planning now………..

Jed

Sorry, not sure how nocking became no king in last comment

Observer
Observer

Stealth post jed.

No “C” em. :P

martin

Excellent post Sir H – I particuarly like your focus on the difficulty of Argentina holding the islands in perpetuity. I am not sure why it is always considered that we would have to run down there in 3 weeks to re take the islands. Why not 6 months, Why not a year giving time to regain certain lost capabilities such as FA2. The political pressure in the UK woud be emmense for the leader who was prepared to admit defeat and through in the towel while the pressure on Argentina possibly through sanctions imposed by the UNSC would also be difficult to bear in the longer term. Our SSN’s would also give us the ability to conduct a longer cheaper war on our own terms striking Argentine bases to gradually degrade their air power making way for the eventual task force.

Jackstaff
Jackstaff

Observer,

“no C ’em”

And we award you ten points. Now it’s Dennis Norden’s turn ….

Sir H. and James (in particular, though it’s good that x has pushed is towards a bit more clarity in re: trousers, red, cavalrymen, for the identification of),

I’ve enjoyed both the ‘granularity’ and the good sense of the debate hugely. Like James I am both concerned about the shape of Argentine domestic politics and whether it’s possible to get “inside the loop” (in the Yanks’ overused phrase) of MoD’s response process, and especially to the degree that secure internet communications make it possible to muddy the waters with too much initial and conflicting information, and allows political leadership a chance to muscle in on the operational details of a fast-moving crisis. As an example: if the Argies did put substantial lead elements of a brigade on commercial shipping and point them full ahead at the islands, do the elected school ties balk at whether the SSN in the area has ironclad ID of the correct ships, and whether breaking the hulls of a lead ship or two with Stingrays might drawn hundreds of hapless soldiers at a time and start a “war crime” PR disaster at the diplomatic level, rather than giving the professionals in both uniform and pinstripe time to evolve options? I would like to think there’s enough patience to accept martin’s view ( 23/2 at 0401Z) as one of those options — the long game — but that’s something better observed by those (like Sir H.) closer to the pols’ orbit and subject to change with each election or reshuffle.

Also worth considering genuinely “unconventional” options, as mentioned in another recent TITSNBN (no worries on manners, Sir H., just TD argot for The Islands That Shall Not Be Named after earlier heated posts in re: Falklands.) A Falklands “peace flotilla,” creative civil disobedience by Argentines in the EEZ, memorial services for Argentine casualties of the war turned into demos a la Marching Season in Ulster, all options for turning up the pressure while also creating a more varied, dense, and confused data set for analysis of possible future AR intentions. I’d recommend straightaway — and not in the more obviously Tory press, find some contrarian lefties like myself who remember the Dirty War all too well — who can point out that it’s a bit rich having a landscape-ravaging, pampas-genociding (some of what was done to First Peoples there would make Custer or Von Trotha — architect of the Herero genocide in Namibia — blush), Nazi-abetting, Dirty Warring, Shock-Doctrined, vividly class- and income-divided nation muscle in on one of the most mild-mannered and positive colonies of settlement in the Southern Cone. Change the narrative a bit.

As a technical note, do we think that, given prevailing wind conditions down there, one could effectively tie red pleated trousers (with or without turnups? Might affect wind resistence) to the proposed squadron of CVR(T)s? Probably helpful for aerial IFF when we send in the rocket-propelled penguins ….

Jed,

Who’s badmouthing Occupied Hull and her docks, God save them?

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