The Falklands Then and Now… AND Now: initial thoughts

Soon after starting my blog, I ran a series looking at the 1982 Falklands War. As a long-term resident of Portsmouth I have always had a very strong interest in the conflict, and wanted to do something of an annual ‘Open University Lectures’ style series over Christmas to give us all something to do. I didn’t really expect anyone to read it, but thanks to a plug from Mike Burleson (proprietor of the now-ceased New Wars blog) things snowballed and my hit ratings have never quite been the same since!

Much has changed in two years In the winter of 2009 we were looking ahead to a closely fought general election, under the spectre of a massive economic crisis. In the years since we have seen a new Government, a swingeing Defence Review which has radically altered the picture of British defence planning and capability. No strike Carrier, No Harriers, half the amphibious ships, less escorts, less everything really. Since 2009 tensions have also arisen with Argentina pulling various diplomatic strings to unsettle the British presence in the South Atlantic. Coincidentally, since the discovery of oil reserves in the South Atlantic.

With much change since then, and also with the 30th Anniversary of the war coming up next year, I think it is the ideal time to revisit the ‘Falklands: Then and Now’ series. Over christmas and the new year period I will be re-examining my original conclusions, and trying to find some sort of assesment as to how the Falklands War might feasibly be re-fought in 2012.

In 2009 I looked at the following:

  • Aircraft Carriers
  • Amphibious
  • Escorts (Destroyers and Frigates)
  • Submarines
  • Auxiliaries
  • Merchant Navy
  • Land Forces
  • The Air War
  • Command and Control
  • The Reckoning

If there is anything that I should add, or if anyone would like to make suggestions, please feel free to comment or email me via the ‘Contact Me’ bar above. If anybody would like to guest on any of the sections, please feel free to get in touch.

As I’m sure you can see, it is very sea-orientated, but then again as the Falklands are Islands 8,000 miles way then that is always bound to be the case. I remember also getting some pretty snobby comments in the past, about it being ‘hardly rocket science’. Well, that’s exactly the point – we need ordinary people to support our military, and we won’t do that by getting excited about the screws securing the sprockets in a Sea Wolf missile’s motor.

Suffice to say, only the most deluded of commentators will find this a positive exercise, but it is an opportune time to assess the declining state of Britain’s defence capabilities, and to use a historical yardstick to illustrate how we are incapable of defending those who wish to live under British citizenship.

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32 Comments

Filed under Army, debate, defence, Falklands War, Navy, politics, Royal Marines

32 responses to “The Falklands Then and Now… AND Now: initial thoughts

  1. John Erickson

    So what, you’re telling me that blood, gore, and guts ISN’T a good thing? Better not say that anywhere near Hollywood! ;)
    (Hey, I coulda been nasty and say “How would the RN re-fight the Battle Of The Falklands? Call the USN.” But I’m trying to be nice! :p )
    Seriously, I wouldn’t mind throwing my two cents in, though I’m far less knowledgeable about all things RN than your other commenters. Perhaps a Devil’s Advocate or Argentinian point of view? I’d have to study a bit, but it would be quite interesting.
    Let me know if I can be of assistance! :)

    • James Daly

      One aspect I am interested in is the US’s policy on the Falklands. ie, whether Kirchner-Fernandez’s flirting with Obama holds any great sway. Obviously in 1982 Weinberger’s covert support was pretty useful – use of Ascenscion, supplies of avcat, and being moved to the front of the queue for Sidewinders. US and EEC sanctions also curtailed Argentina’s ability to fight a protracted war too.

      Maybe we need to consider the politics?

      • John Erickson

        I can definitely look at the current politics if there were a conflict. While we have been schmoozing with the South Americans for their oil and our image (in that specific order), we are still VERY pro-British for your assistance in Iraq, as well as your political leadership telling the EU to shove off. (It’s rarely mentioned over here, but in senior monetary circles, there is a strong faction who would LOVE to see the Euro tank!) We would probably feed the RN all the intelligence it could take, and maybe even have a few Predators or their ilk “loaned” to your task force. We would DEFINITELY not shoot anything, even missiles from a UAV, unless Argentina was completely looney and shot at us first.
        I’ll dig around a bit, see what I can find.

        • James Daly

          The international political situation is something that would have a huge bearing on our ability to prosecute the war, I suspect. In terms of the US, traction with Argentina and the other latin american states would be interesting. In terms of things like sidewinders, we won’t need them as we haven’t got harriers, but in the same manner we could run short of munitions such as Tomahawks. I guess the international politics depends on how the ‘invasion’ happened – if Fernandez unilaterly decided to invade, then I don’t see how the US, EU and UN couldn’t pull rank and put sanctions in place. I think if US and EU support wasn’t forthcoming there would be a lot of problems with British public opinion, after the part we played in Iraq and Afghan.

        • x

          There is a large Latin lobby on Capitol Hill; has been for a long time. I don’t always buy into the Special Relationship idea.

          • John Erickson

            If Argentina attacked first, you can bet there’s still enough of the “special relationship” that we’d approve sanctions and provide weaponry. I doubt, regardless of the relationship, if the US would initiate any actions, economic OR military. And the response to the Latin lobby is more Central American, with ties to Brazil for their oil. Not so much further south with Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Chile would be the hard call – we want to be their friends, but they like China WAY too much for our liking. A bizarre relationship at best.
            Besides, our military is getting UAV-happy. I’m sure we’d provide a whole boatload (quite literally) of our best model airplanes! :D

  2. James Daly

    The Chile issue is an interesting one. A key ally in 1982, and a diversion given S American ‘internal’ relations, I don’t think they’re anywhere near as keen on us as they were during the Pinochet-Thatcher era. Since Argentina went down the democracy road the thaw amongst South American countries has emboldened Buenos Aires, with Fernandez engineering collusion from Uruguay, Brazil and others. And then a while back we had some incoherent ranting from Chavez of Venezuela telling the Queen to ‘go home’.

    But then again, in the current climate one would imagine that any agressive invasion of another state (excepting those of despots and terrorists) would lead to swift sanctions, regardless of who it was.

    • John Erickson

      My geography fails me right now, but the “Guay” that borders on Argentina is VERY unhappy with them – an argument over water rights to the River Platte. So that would be one big vote against Argentina, and Brazil just bought some oil drilling rights in the southern Gulf of Mexico, so they’d be on whatever side the US favoured. Not sure about Chile currently – depends on how much they appreciated the earthquake aid versus how much our anal-retentive Monroe doctrinism is pissing them off! They are fairly pro-China due to mining contracts, but they do a lot of that in co-operation with companies from Australia, so that complicates things a tad.
      By the by, Happy 67th Anniversary of the launching of Operation Wacht Am Rhein, known to us Yanks as The Battle Of The Bulge. (Happy? Not sure that’s something to wish as “happy”. 8O )

      • James Daly

        It seems to me that South American politics can be very, errm, latin – lots of arguments and arms flying in the air one minute, then best buddies the next.

        The one constant for me is just how incredible it is that the Argentine people are sucked in by Fernandez. She’s clearly got no real credentials of her own, apart from being the widow of the last President (gotta love democracy) and being able to flirt on the international stage. And we think we’ve got a bad track record for being sucked in by politicians…

  3. An interesting topic… see comments about our only chance in the event of a unpredicted crisis:

    http://www.pprune.org/military-aircrew/431997-decision-axe-harrier-bonkers-82.html#post6893208

    • James Daly

      some interesting ideas on that thread. I really don’t think we can take the possiblity of re-generating gate guardians and museum pieces as credible – maybe in the case of scavenging a few parts as a last resort, but not a fleet of complete airframes that have been rusting for decades in some cases. Not to pre-empt my series, but air asset wise we are in a realy fix with absolutely no options.

      • x

        There is footage of F35b flying off the USS Wasp on the YouTube. Makes me a bit tearful………..

        • John Erickson

          Enjoy it while you can. The accountants are sharpening their pruning knives as we speak, and the F-35B is the guest of honour. Just keep selling our Marines your Harriers, so we have SOME kind of STOVL capability. ;)

          • x

            Well for the cost of the programme it would be simpler for the USN to operate two CVN as a CAS carrier, one for each coast, flying FA18 in reduce air groups. Keeping them in port and only going to sea for carrier qual’s with only occasional forays abroad would keep the cost. (With a third CVN in refit.) This would leave USN to CBG at sea on each coast.

          • John Erickson

            Might happen with the cost cuttings, but I doubt it. Carriers are “glamour” items – the USN will kill to keep them active. They’ll do crap like cutting drug interdiction patrols, savaging the supply ship fleet, and leaving the Coast Guard with rapidly aging ships to do more drug patrols with less aerial support. And they’ll keep the F-18s flying eternally, just like the USAF is still stuck with F-15s, older than my car, whose wings are falling apart from age fatigue.
            But we’ll still have the glory that is the Army Navy Football game every year! Gotta have your priorities! (I’ll shut up now, before I start getting profane. ;) )

  4. James a number of Sea Harriers are intact, used for ground based training at Culdrose, or in storage on on sale as “ready to fly”….

    ….and we still have Naval Flying Standards Flight (Fixed Wing), and RNR fixed wing pilots.

    • James Daly

      Hmmm, interesting. How long and how difficult would it be to get them into action off of an LPH configured Illustrious? Even a handful could be a game changer.

  5. Pingback: Refighting the Falklands War (2012): The political dimension « Daly History Blog

  6. Pingback: Refighting the Falklands War (2012): Auxiliaries and Merchant vessels « Daly History Blog

  7. Pingback: Refighting the Falklands War (2012): Submarine warfare « Daly History Blog

  8. Pingback: Refighting the Falklands War (2012): Land Forces « Daly History Blog

  9. Pingback: Refighting the Falklands War (2012): The Reckoning « Daly History Blog

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