Best plan for Argentine Air Force and FAA for Falklands War?

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Admiral Beez

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Oct 21, 2019
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Assuming you have to go ahead with an idiotic invasion of the Falklands, what's the best plan for the Argentine air force and fleet air arm?

My thinking is a priority would be extending the Stanley airport so that Mirages and Super Etendards can operate. And take the leap that Reagan won't tolerate Britain bombing Argentina's cities so focus your fighters and bombers on supporting the invasion not mainland air defence.

Other ideas?
 
Go on offense -- the Argentine aircraft carrier and other surface ships and air forces attack the British task force.

As the old saying goes, "nothing ventured, nothing gained."

You can't expect to achieve anything if you never take any risks.
 
Could Argentina stop Black Bucks, and fight Harriers, and fend off the RN fleet, with Super Entendards and Skyhawks?

Extending a runway might take time they don't have, or resources they can't bring in, in time.
 
Go on offense -- the Argentine aircraft carrier and other surface ships and air forces attack the British task force.

As the old saying goes, "nothing ventured, nothing gained."

You can't expect to achieve anything if you never take any risks.
Well they tried to.
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But it didn't work out too well.

Belgrano was sunk by the SSN Conqueror.

The carrier 25 de Mayo found that it couldn't find enough wind to launch its Skyhawks with a meaningful enough bomb load to have a good chance of securing a hit on one of the British carriers (the initial 4x500lb load had to be reduced to 2x500lb). After that she was pulled back into Argentinian territorial waters due to fear of losing her to a British SSN, one of which was looking for her. Note the British RoE for its SSN were changed on more than one occasion and finally allowed her sinking had she ventured out again. I'd recommend this book about her Falklands War experience, written with access to information from both sides.


Note that in 1982 the Argentinian Navy had only received 5 of the Super Etendards that it had on order and these had not then been cleared for use on 25 De Mayo.
 
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Extending a runway might take time they don't have, or resources they can't bring in, in time.
The Black Buck raids will likely still come in early May, but they were ineffective. For all their postwar fanfare the raids put one hole in Stanley's runway that was quickly filled in. Argentina's engineers have more than a month to extend the runway before the first Sea Harriers are overhead. If plans, materials and equipment are prepared in advance a runway extension might be doable. Otherwise you might be right. And that's one of the issues, that Galtieri did not give his armed forces time to prepare, since like many a dictator he was reacting to domestic issues. But for argument sake, I'm going to assume our Argentine air boss has been thinking about extending Stanley's runway for some time.

It must have surprised the Argentines when two days after the surrender of Stanley, HMS Hermes and Invincible sail at the head of a task force. Not the expected reaction - but that was Maggie, a PM you underestimated at your peril.
 
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The Black Buck raids will likely still come in early May, but they were ineffective. For all their postwar fanfare the raids put one hole in Stanley's runway that was quickly filled in. Argentina's engineers have more than a month to extend the runway before the first Sea Harriers are overhead. If plans, materials and equipment are prepared in advance a runway extension might be doable. Otherwise you might be right. And that's one of the issues, that Galtieri did not give his armed forces time to prepare, since like many a dictator he was reacting to domestic issues. But for argument sake, I'm going to assume our Argentine air boss has been thinking about extending Stanley's runway for some time.

It must have surprised the Argentines when two days after the surrender of Stanley, HMS Hermes and Invincible sail at the head of a task force. Not the expected reaction - but that was Maggie, a PM you underestimated at your peril.
What is often forgotten is that the Black Buck missions were not all about dropping bombs. The aircraft on Black Buck 1,2 & 7 dropped bombs with only that single hit on the runway in Black Buck 1 to show for the effort. Black Buck 3 was a bombing mission cancelled before take off due to unfavourable winds.

Black Buck 4, 5 & 6 were flown with Shrike ARM missiles to target an Argentinian Westinghouse early warning radar that was vital to Argentinain air operations into and around the Islands. Black Buck 4 was cancelled in flight due to a tanker failure. BB5 saw minor damage only to the radar but not sufficient to knock it out. The problem for the radar missions was that the radar had to be transmitting for the Shrike to guide. BB6 failed because the Argentinians were wise to what was going on and kept the radar switched off. BB6 was the mission that ended up, embarrassingly, with the Vulcan sitting at Rio de Janeiro airport after it broke its refuelling probe. More embarrasing still was that one of the Shrikes got hung up on its pylon.
 
If the Stanley runway was extended for Exocet-armed Super Etendards, Mirages/Daggers and Skyhawks how does this change the war plans on both sides?

I have to think Stanley is now priority 1 for SAS/SBS, so the Argies had better up their airfield perimeter defences.
 
Personally I think that whatever the Argentines tried they were onto a loser anyway.
Oh yes, I agree. But our air boss has to do his best. My plan would be to throw everything at the task force, including stressing the carrier's engines and catapults to get those 4x500lb armed Skyhawks into the air.

If they can cripple one of the two RN carriers things will change, and if Argentina loses their carrier in the process, it makes little difference to Argentina's position.
 
Hi,
I think we should keep in mind the logistics that would likely be involved not only in doing something like "lengthening" an airstrip but also what would likely be entailed in supporting any additional aircraft, aircrew, support personnel, support equipment, and other general support issues that would likely be required. As I understand it Argentina had a fair amount of issues just adequately supporting the troops that they had on shore at the time.

As is I understand it Argentina only operated the following fixed wing attack aircraft from Port Stanley; Pucaras, Aeromacchis and Mentors. Adding even a small number of Super Entendards and A-4 would likely add a significant enough logistics stream, especially with regards to fuel, munitions, and support equipment and personnel to make it probably a non-starter given the state of Argentina's air and sea transport capabilities at the time.

Regards

Pat
 
Hi,
I think we should keep in mind the logistics that would likely be involved not only in doing something like "lengthening" an airstrip but also what would likely be entailed in supporting any additional aircraft, aircrew, support personnel, support equipment, and other general support issues that would likely be required. As I understand it Argentina had a fair amount of issues just adequately supporting the troops that they had on shore at the time.

As is I understand it Argentina only operated the following fixed wing attack aircraft from Port Stanley; Pucaras, Aeromacchis and Mentors. Adding even a small number of Super Entendards and A-4 would likely add a significant enough logistics stream, especially with regards to fuel, munitions, and support equipment and personnel to make it probably a non-starter given the state of Argentina's air and sea transport capabilities at the time.

Regards

Pat
Apparently notwithstanding the issues you mention, they gave it a go.

 
Oh yes, I agree. But our air boss has to do his best. My plan would be to throw everything at the task force, including stressing the carrier's engines and catapults to get those 4x500lb armed Skyhawks into the air.

If they can cripple one of the two RN carriers things will change, and if Argentina loses their carrier in the process, it makes little difference to Argentina's position.
It is clear that the Argentinians tried to do just what you are suggesting on 2nd May 1982. Problem was that they just couldn't get the numbers to add up.

The air group on the 25 de Mayo at the end of April 1982 consisted of

4x S2E Tracker
2x S-61D Sea King (until 1 May)
8x A-4Q Skyhawk

The Skyhawks required 40knots of wind over the deck to be catapulted off with 4x500lb Mk.82 bombs. On 2nd May when they went to launch there was a 10knot wind blowing (unusually light for the season in the South Atlantic). The ship was only capable of steaming at about 20 knot max and 18 knots sustained. (Even brand new in 1945 these ships were only capable of 25 knots, since when she had grown heavier and aircraft needed more WOD even with the steam catapult. While new machinery had been fitted in 1968 it came from a sister ship, Leviathan, that had never been completed).

6 aircraft were prepared for the attack (4 attackers, a deck spare in case one of the attackers should go u/s, and `one with a Buddy refuelling pack in case anyone ran short of fuel on the way home). The probability was that they might achieve 4 hits (25%) against the British carriers that were their main targets and would lose 2 aircraft (50%) in the process. Losing all 4 would have been acceptable if both carriers could be damaged.

The low winds saw the bomb load reduced to 3 and then only 2 bombs per aircraft. So that would have reduced the expected hits to just 2 for the loss of 2-4 aircraft. At that stage the risk/reward calculation for the Argentinians didn't stack up so the mission was scrubbed and, with the loss of the Belgrano that day the Argentinian Navy went onto the defensive on the concern that the same might happen to the 25 de Mayo. In fact the SSN Splendid had been detailed to search for and find her ASAP, but that is another story.

There was another hope in the Argentinian plan. If the A-4Q raid could put the British Task Force on the back foot, the 3 Exocet equipped corvettes of their TG 79.4 (Drummond, Guerrico & Granville) might be able to sneak in close enough to launch their 12 Exocet missiles.

In practice things were more complicated. While both sides had some idea of where the other was neither side knew exactly where. One of the Argentinian Trackers sent out to search was detected on British radars and illuminated by a Sea Dart guidance radar. Knowing that it likely came from the carrier, the RN sent out a Sea Harrier initially at high level for 200 miles which then dropped down to 200ft for the last 40 miles. It then switched on its radar and found the Argentinian TF 79.1 (the carrier, 2 Type 42 destroyers and a tanker) 25 miles away. It was immediately illuminated by all sorts of radars including Sea Dart guidance radars. On his return the pilot was asked what he did. His reply? "I switched off the radar and f--ked off, Boss!"
 
Of course, IF the UK had lost a carrier the Harrier could take off from just about any flat surface...
Well yes, minus the Harriers lost on the carrier. And without a ski ramp the Harriers cannot carry much fuel or weapons.

Did Argentina ever look to buying Sea Harriers for their 5 Mayonnaise carrier? That would have made for fun IFF.
 
Well yes, minus the Harriers lost on the carrier. And without a ski ramp the Harriers cannot carry much fuel or weapons.

Did Argentina ever look to buying Sea Harriers for their 5 Mayonnaise carrier? That would have made for fun IFF.
ISTR that at one point there was a suggestion that they might try to buy Harrier in the 1970s. Not Sea Harrier. Can't find the reference for that just now. Will see if I can find it tomorrow unless someone beats me to it!
 
ISTR that at one point there was a suggestion that they might try to buy Harrier in the 1970s. Not Sea Harrier. Can't find the reference for that just now. Will see if I can find it tomorrow unless someone beats me to it!
Maybe they'd buy Matadors from the US instead, like Spain. Though considering their recent purchase of two new Type 42 destroyers from Britain, perhaps late 1970's Argentina is okay with buying British. IIRC, Spain was annoyed about Gibraltar at the time they were seeking aircraft for their carrier.
 
Could the early Harrier or Sea Harrier carry the Exocet or Harpoon?
No.
As far as air launched AM39 Exocet is concerned in 1982 it needed the Thomson CSF Agave radar and ULISS 40 INS to provide data to the INS system in the missile before launch. That was the equipment fit in the Super Etendard, and had only been available from about 1979. I believe that the Harpoon required something similar.

1976 saw the start of development of the BAe Sea Eagle missile. Production started in 1982, with service entry on Buccaneer and then Sea Harrier FRS.1 in 1985/86 and later on Tornado GR.1B. India also opted for the Sea Eagle on its Sea Harrier FRS.51.

Air launched Harpoon for the RAF was an emergency purchase following the Falklands War to equip the Nimrod MR.2 fleet, entering service in 1984 and carried in the weapons bay. The Falklands War saw the Nimrod fleet gain a number of improvements, some initially intended as a temporary measure. In-flight refuelling capability (using probes from the retired Vulcan Fleet), restoration of the wing pylons but each modified to carry a pair of Sidewinder missiles for self defence. free fall bomb dropping capability and improved ESM equipment.

Wiki says that the AV-8B Harrrier II had a Harpoon capability but I suspect that would only have been on the radar equipped AV-8B Plus version.
 

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