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Falklands War Links

December 27, 2009

The typical attitude toward the 1982 Falkland Islands War between Great Britain and Argentina seems to be “nothing to see  here, no lessons for us. Move along”. Or, if any lessons are learned, it is often the wrong ones, such as “sure, the British won, but only with large deck aircraft carriers could they have won the right way, the American way”.

More likely, with an expensive fixed wing carrier to pay for, she wouldn’t have possessed adequate destroyers, frigates, or amphibious ships to pull off the invasion, since these would be cast off to pay for supercarriers, as is happening today in the Royal Navy. Consider also that large and exquisite warships aren’t built specifically to fight a conflict but to deter, by the Navy’s own admission.

James Daly, at the Daly History Blog, is putting together a good study of The Falklands: Then and Now, which I have enjoyed reading and think you will too. Here are the articles published so far:

America ignoring the lessons of the Falklands Conflict today might be compared to the European view in the 19th Century toward the US Civil War. A rude awakening was soon to come.

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2014 3:20 am

    dim complex

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  3. Pablo permalink
    April 7, 2014 6:47 pm

    Las Malvinas son Argentinas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!VIVA LA PATRIA

  4. James Daly permalink
    December 29, 2009 4:46 am

    re Woodward, I think the command set-up in the Falklands left a lot to be desired. The real problem seems to have been that no-one really understood what the chain of command was. Read Woodward, Thompson and Clapp’s accounts – all of them give a different version. Woodward came to be the Battle Group commander by being in the right place at the right time rather than design, particularly when you think he had no experience of Carrier or Amphib operations.

  5. December 28, 2009 4:35 pm

    “That light cruiser was a member of the Brooklyn class, and they carried five triple turrets (fifteen gun tubes) of six inch (152 mm) / 47 cal. guns.”

    RN gunnery and engineering really did lag behind the rest of the world by the time WW2 broke out.

    The scenario you laid out is exactly what I was thinking about. The first generation Exocet had a much shorter range than today’s model (and the Harpoon.)

    One of things that always amazes me about ships is how thin hull plating is. I wouldn’t want to be a few decks down when underfire!

  6. December 28, 2009 4:30 pm

    “Woodward certainly isnt a perfect account. As far as I can tell he had quite a prickly manner – probably explains why he didnt rise much further post 1982 – and that comes through in his book.

    Actually, what balanced books on the Falklands are there? Is it still too recent?”

    I was trying to be a bit diplomatic re Woodward. If I were to be a truly honest I was left wondering whether he had actually gotten any further south than the Isle of Wight. (OK I exaggerate a little bit!) But I did actually go and check one or two things out from my other sources.

    As for balance you are probably correct. It is apparent that certain individuals and units didn’t receive the acknowledgement they should have. Perhaps Woodward is the classic example as “the taskforce commander” when he was one of three in theatre commanders.

    “Its funny you should mention that, I’m just starting a guest column on Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s blog, and tales of a 1970’s Dockyard worker are among my articles I have planned.”

    Super! I will have look at that.

  7. James Daly permalink
    December 28, 2009 12:55 pm

    Joe, its impossible to say apart from unsourced rumours that crop op in the British press, but given the funding situation, and that after the election in May 2010 there is going to be a Strategic Defence Review, its virtually odds on that there will be some kind of cuts to the RN. The major one being held out has been the conversion of one of the QE class as a Helicopter platform, or its sale. The RN accepted cuts to the Escort fleet just to get the QE class laid down. The other possibility is ships being retired early, as this looks better politically than selling ships. The Type 42’s being retired before the Type 45’s are ready is a possibility I guess.

  8. Joe permalink
    December 28, 2009 11:08 am

    Grrr, didn’t mean to “bold” all of that, just the word “However”. Wish wordpress had an editing option so you could catch early Monday morning coding goofs.

  9. Joe permalink
    December 28, 2009 11:06 am

    James,

    Assuming that the Q.E.-class carriers are a given & come online in the 2010’s, do you have an educated guess as to what (if any) additional surface fleet cuts might result to afford them?

    I see no problem with the RN wanting to have readily deployable naval air. Something of the size of the Q.E.-size class does seem to be optimal if your main concern is maximizing the power of a naval air arm. However, given the fiscal realities that were known when the new carriers were being discussed, it seems to this layperson to have made more sense to instead attempt to maximize the qty of smaller carriers available and not so much individual capabilities.

    That way, the rest of the fleet isn’t under as much financial dure$$ and you need not feel like the State’s assets must be pawned off in order to outfit the carriers with planes.

  10. James Daly permalink
    December 27, 2009 8:49 pm

    Matthew I think that is a very good summary of the situation. As I mentioned in my article on Amphibious Warfare, we now have an impressive Amphibious Group, but we would be unable to provide air cover for it, nor the escort vessels to protect it or a Carrier Group.

  11. Matthew S. permalink
    December 27, 2009 8:37 pm

    I just finished Woodward’s memoirs and I don’t even believe Britain can duplicate the Falklands war even against todays depleted Argentina force. The RN had about 65 escort ships at the time and have 22 now. If they were able to deploy 11-12 escorts with 2 Invincible class carriers would that even be enough? Also, the Sea Harriers are retired so they would be hard pressed to bring much air cover from the carriers. Now there would be a huge difference if a few of those 11-12 escorts were Type 45 destroyers but those won’t be ready for combat for a few years. The one area there has been improvement is in amphibious warfare where they could bring Ocean, Albion and Bulwark to the front.

  12. D. E. Reddick permalink
    December 27, 2009 7:57 pm

    X,

    Whether the two DDs with General Belgrano actually had Exocets SSMs is an appropriate question to ponder. Consider a first strike (Exocets) and then second strike (naval gunnery) scenario for an attempt to engage the RN forces off the Falklands.

    If the light cruiser General Belgrano (ex-USS Phoenix, CL-46) had gotten close to any RN forces then things might have gotten dicey. That light cruiser was a member of the Brooklyn class, and they carried five triple turrets (fifteen gun tubes) of six inch (152 mm) / 47 cal. guns. Due to their high rate of fire, that class was often called machine-gun cruisers. In October of 1944 the USS Phoenix had gotten hits upon the IJNS Yamashiro (with the fourth group of radar-guided ranging shots) during the Battle of Surigao Straight and had then cut loose with full broadsides. Some authors have speculated that it was more the effect of Phoenix’ six-inch barrage rather than the slower-firing heavy cruiser eight-inch and larger guns of battleships that caused the destruction of a Japanese battleship (Yamashiro or Fuso, depending upon how the battle is interpreted). General Belgrano had Seacat short-range SAMs for defensive purposes and those radar-directed fifteen guns for offensive engagement. HMS Conqueror’s expenditure of three Mark 8 torpedoes (two of which sunk the General Belgrano) may have a truly advisable action versus allowing that elderly light cruiser getting into gun range of RN forces.

  13. James Daly permalink
    December 27, 2009 7:31 pm

    Its funny you should mention that, I’m just starting a guest column on Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s blog, and tales of a 1970’s Dockyard worker are among my articles I have planned.

    Woodward certainly isnt a perfect account. As far as I can tell he had quite a prickly manner – probably explains why he didnt rise much further post 1982 – and that comes through in his book.

    Actually, what balanced books on the Falklands are there? Is it still too recent?

  14. December 27, 2009 7:03 pm

    “My Dad was a Dockyard worker who was laid off in the Nott cuts, having worked on many of the Task Force’s ships.”

    I bet he has some good stories from that time. You should get some of it down onto paper (or disc!)

    The RN went to war with the tools it had to hand.

    I don’t think Woodward gives a balanced account of the war. When I read his book I had alrady read well in excess of 60 or so other books on the conflict. Couple with conversations with those who went South too.

  15. James Daly permalink
    December 27, 2009 6:51 pm

    My Dad was a Dockyard worker who was laid off in the Nott cuts, having worked on many of the Task Force’s ships.

    I know hindsight is a great thing, but the Nott cuts are a fine example of how to cripple your Navy. The Admirals were almost glad that the Falklands crisis blew up as it gave them a chance to make a point. Without the Falklands the RN would probably be even weaker than it is now, which is quite a sobering thought.

  16. December 27, 2009 6:43 pm

    “If we’re dealing with facts on the ground, using the UK’s limited defence budget paying for bigger carriers would have led to severe cuts in the escort fleet, which is pretty much the situation the RN finds itself in now. We cannot afford to ignore the political-economic context.”

    The point I was making that small carriers can’t do what a large carrier can. My reference to larger hull was put forward to reference that and not as case for. I am well aware of the Nott cuts and the political-economic context of the 1970s/80s I lived through those decades.

  17. James Daly permalink
    December 27, 2009 6:26 pm

    At the time of the Falklands we were planning to sell Hermes to India and Invincible to Australia. Its unrealistic to think that the UK could have afforded bigger Carriers. If we’re dealing with facts on the ground, using the UK’s limited defence budget paying for bigger carriers would have led to severe cuts in the escort fleet, which is pretty much the situation the RN finds itself in now. We cannot afford to ignore the political-economic context.

    Reading Woodward’s memoirs on the Falklands, the commanders were under no illusions that given their limited air assets they would not be able to achieve complete air superiority.

    Granted a couple of big carriers would have helped, but the Falklands is also a lesson in making use of what you have and what you can afford.

  18. December 27, 2009 6:19 pm

    “Was Belgrano really a threat? Or were its Exocet-carrying escorts the real threat?”

    The RN were concerned by the Belgrano’s guns. You have to consider the range of that generation of Exocet. And the fact that the RN ships weren’t armoured.

  19. December 27, 2009 6:16 pm

    The definitive work on the Falklands air war is “Sea Harrier over the Falklands.”

    Ward writes that given the conditions in the South Atlantic that CTOL carriers would have been at a disadvantage.

    But Eric is right the lack of AEW cost the RN dearly.

    And though the RN won the war at sea it did reveal that Invincible was operating at her extremes against a second rate power. (That is in comparison to the Soviets.) Another 10,000 tons would have made operations far, far easier.

    You have to be careful what lessons you draw from the Falklands.

  20. B.Smitty permalink
    December 27, 2009 6:13 pm

    Eric,

    Was Belgrano really a threat? Or were its Exocet-carrying escorts the real threat?

  21. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 27, 2009 5:12 pm

    “had the U.K. had real carriers present with real AWACs and real air refueling tankers in quantity there would have been a lot less lives lost.”

    Eric, to pay for that type of airpower, she would have gutted the surface fleet, as she is doing now to pay for the same. It would have made little difference.

  22. December 27, 2009 3:55 pm

    Big lessons…. The reason for the shooting gallery in the closed waters was that the U.K. failed to achieve air domination early on. A lot of people died because of that lapse. Expensive or not, had the U.K. had real carriers present with real AWACs and real air refueling tankers in quantity there would have been a lot less lives lost.

    The other lesson? Submarines. The General Belgrano was a good and justified kill.

  23. Matthew S. permalink
    December 27, 2009 1:46 pm

    Western navies have failed to learn the lessons regarding air defense from the Falklands Islands war. Warships should really have layered defenses that include at least 2 missile systems and a CIWS. Amphibious ships in particular have downgraded defensive armament. They really are do have a peace time armament.

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