A series of guest posts from AndyC
The only UK sovereign territory that appears to be under any potential threat remains the Falkland Islands.
Argentina regularly re-states its claims on the Islands. However, its air force and navy are much depleted compared to 1982 with no aircraft carriers and obsolescent A4 and Mirage aircraft. This could change as they are trying to buy more current Mirages and Israeli Kfir fighters.
The established Falklands defence forces of the equivalent of two Infantry Companies (one regular and one local Self Defence Force) plus some artillery and SAMs, four Typhoon swing-role fighters, one A330 Voyager aerial tanker, one transport aircraft (soon to be an A400 Atlas), two land based helicopters, one destroyer/frigate, one patrol ship and one icebreaker are still a sufficient garrison.
The most important factor remains the ability of the Joint Rapid Reaction Force, and especially the RAF, to reinforce the fighter force with the assistance of its aerial tankers and to ferry troops with its transport fleet. The Royal Navy’s ability to deploy an attack submarine at short notice is also significant.
Force levels are currently more than adequate to do this.
To provide a minimum effective defence of the Falkland Islands requires:
- the equivalent of 1 Infantry Battalion
- 4 Typhoon swing-role fighters
- 1 A330 Voyager multi role tanker transport
- 1 A400 Atlas medium transport aircraft
- 2 land based helicopters
- 1 destroyer/frigate, 1 patrol ship and 1 icebreaker plus
- support from the Joint Rapid Reaction Force.
Falklands Air Defence – the white area is covered by Typhoons from RAF Mount Pleasant and the blue by carrier based F-35Bs.
Should a repeat of the 1982 naval task force be required then having two large QE class aircraft carriers and a range of amphibious ships available would be absolutely essential.
Any task force would need to be able to defend itself against land based air forces while landing troops on a potentially hostile shoreline. Relying on just one aircraft carrier would make the operation extremely vulnerable to air attack.
In this planning scenario one of the QE carriers would operate three F-35B Squadrons – one would be a Naval Air Squadron for fleet air defence/anti-shipping and two would be RAF Squadrons primarily for CAS/SEAD and land strike.
The second QE carrier would operate one Naval Air Squadron of F-35Bs for fleet air defence/anti-shipping but would primarily operate Merlin naval medium lift helicopters and Chinook heavy lift helicopters. This carrier would support the Royal Navy’s full amphibious forces.
Defensive escort would be provided by nine destroyers/frigates, their maritime helicopters and three attack submarines.
Long distance support for the task force would also be provided by Maritime Patrol Aircraft from Ascension Island with the assistance of A330 Voyager aerial tankers.
To provide a minimum effective naval task force requires:
- 2 QE class aircraft carriers
- 4 F-35B Squadrons – 2 fleet air defence/anti-shipping and 2 CAS/SEAD/land strike
- 2 amphibious transport docks
- 3 landing ships
- Special Forces and Royal Marines Commandos plus elements of the Air Assault Brigade and an Infantry Brigade
- 1 Apache AH Squadron
- 1 Wildcat Marines AH Squadron
- 1 Chinook HC Squadron
- 3 Merlin HC Squadrons
- 9 destroyers/frigates
- 3 attack submarines
- 3 Merlin HM/AEW Squadrons
- 2 Wildcat HMA Squadrons
- 1 Maritime Patrol Squadron and
- 1 A330 Voyager aerial tanker Squadron.