Preparing for the British invasion...

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tomo pauk

Creator of Interesting Threads
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Apr 3, 2008
...of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. A what-if that will hopefully cover what steps might be taken from Argentinian military before and once they've captured the islands in 1982. Yes, we all know why that happened, the junta is still in charge there per this scenario.
Timer for changes goes off 3 months before the actual invasion, plus until the Royal Navy arrives, until the invasion is beaten. Note that Argentina cannot just willy-nilly go to the shopping spree - economy is already in shambles, while the junta is not loved (for the proper reasons) - most of the preps need to get the current state of manpower and hardware up to the task. Changes include tactics, logistics and hardware, as well as units deployed. Invasion happens on historical date (April 2nd 1982).

(idea is shamelessly taken from another forum)
 
To start the ball rolling: better, more prepared ground troops; engineering units with mechanization, so the lengthening of the (Port) Stanley's runaway can be undertaken post haste.
 
The best move for the Argentinians would have been to wait another six months, as by then Iron Maggie and her merry band of sycophants would have sold or scrapped most of the Royal Navy. As per the latest Defence planning before the Argentinian invasion, HMS Hermes was to be taken out of service (perhaps to be scrapped quickly), as were a number of the older frigates that showed up eventually in the Falklands task force, and HMS Invincible was as good as sold to Australia. Personally, I like that the Falklands stayed British, but it would be interesting to speculate about the political consequences in Britain had the Thatcherites managed to make any military reaction to an Argentinian takeover hopeless due to cost-cutting the Navy to impotence.

Now, in case the Generals couldn't wait that long due to internal pressures, lenghtening the runway in Port Stanley would have had to be the priority, because in OTL the Argentinian planes operated pretty much at extreme range, which very much limited their tactics (like deceptive routing) and their loadouts. In any case, it would have been good if the delivery of Super Etendards and Exocets could have been expedited, assuming they were already paid for.
 
Now, in case the Generals couldn't wait that long due to internal pressures, lenghtening the runway in Port Stanley would have had to be the priority, because in OTL the Argentinian planes operated pretty much at extreme range, which very much limited their tactics (like deceptive routing) and their loadouts. In any case, it would have been good if the delivery of Super Etendards and Exocets could have been expedited, assuming they were already paid for.

Yes, agreed 100%.

Longer runway can also enable for 'shuttle' missions, where a part of aircraft can take off from mainland, do the combat, land to the island to top off the tanks, and return to mainland.
Having just another 5 S.Etandards armed with Exocets would've made things ... interesting for the Royal Navy. Even once the available Exocets are expended, the 5+5 of the aircraft can be armed with dumb rockets/bombs and rejoin the party.
The shipborne Exocets might be also stationed in the islands themselves, obviously together with fire control radars at vantage points.
 
The best move for the Argentinians would have been to wait another six months,

Echoed by author Patrick Brogan...

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I've read Australia 'owned' Invincible for 30 days.
 
The best move for the Argentinians would have been to wait another six months, as by then Iron Maggie and her merry band of sycophants would have sold or scrapped most of the Royal Navy.

During a trip to Argentina some years ago I visited the national army museum, which is located on a military base in Buenos Aires. For a museum, I was surprised at their response when I tipped up to the gate with my camera in hand, explaining that I was there to visit. For my troubles I was escorted around by a senior Argentine Army ranked officer, who could speak a little English, but I also had two female translators follow me around on the whole visit. Anyway, there is a building dedicated to the Falklands War and I paid special interest to this and for my efforts I had this officer openly discuss the conflict and he agreed with my statement that that very scenario might have meant a different outcome for the Argentine forces. I also happened to mention that had Argentina not invaded the Falklands, being careful to call the islands the Malvinas in honour of my location, then Margaret Thatcher's term in office would have amounted to one prime ministerial term owing to her unpopularity at home. They seemed quite stunned by that, having not realised that in Britain she was not a popular figure.
 
It's worth mentioning that the invasion plans for the islands had been drawn up some time earlier by senior naval officers and executing them was something that had been anticipated in secret for some time within the Junta. The timing was ripe as there was considerable protest and ill-feeling among the population against Galtieri and his regime at this time, as his was responsible for the disappearances of thousands of Argentinians in what has become known as the Dirty War, those lost became known as Los Desaparecidos, "The Disappeared", in dozens of holding cells at different locations around BA and other cities, where people were tortured and murdered, including ESMA, the former naval training facility, which is a state museum now.

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At the time, unrest in the plaza in front of the presidential palace in BA was a constant and the timing of the invasion meant that the public's gaze was focussed in a wave of national sentiment designed to turn heads from the hardships ordinary people were suffering in the country. The economy was shot, the population was near breaking point in the hardship they were feeling; revulsion and revolution was in the air, something that had brought the military juntas into power in the first place. The Argentine people understood how to remove unpopular regimes.
 
They actually did that. HMS Glamorgan was hit by an MM-38 fired from a box launcher mounted on a truck trailer.

Thank you. A more focused effort would've meant more problems for the RN.

Argentinians were trying to install the ww2-legacy Mk.13 airborne torpedo on their Pucaras: link
For their faster aircraft, perhaps the better weapon than the free-fall bombs might've been unguided rockets? Something closer to the Tiny Tim, or the Soviet 240mm rocket, rather than SNEB and the like?
 
Sticking with the airborne dimension - I recall Sharkey Ward stating that if the Argentines had made air superiority their main goal rather than trying to go for ships - eventually they would have worn down the Sea Harrier forces available to the Task Force by a simple process of attrition. Even if they lost 2 or 3 aircraft in exchange for a single Harrier - it would have a major impact.

Admittedly he makes a few contentious claims/opinions but the logic on this front makes sense. Simple numbers were not on the Fleet Air Arm side - planes would inevitably be lost to damage, accidents or simply being run ragged by a high tempo of operating at sea on a daily basis. The lack of AEW meant that they had to husband the small numbers of aircraft they had very carefully and couldn't maintain a constant presence. Losing a few more early on would have made it much harder.

Then with less air to air opposition - the Argentine Air arms (naval+land-based) would have an easier time of striking sea/land targets without having to duck and dive around the Sea Harriers. The performance of SAMs in the conflict was particularly poor when dealing with low flying, terrain hugging targets - there were simply not enough gun barrels to put up a decent AA screen around the landings or land operations. Blowpipe was erm...haphazard in its ability. Rapier had to be set up before being useable and was only able to cover a small area relatively.

The Pucara fleet would likely have an easier time of being able to fly around and do what they were designed for. The supply flights into Stanley wouldn't have to work around FAA flights to the same degree. Each of these would throw up an additional hurdle to an already close-run operation.

For the record though - I don't think the Argentines would have 'won' even if the task force was repelled. Britain had many more toys in the toybox and many more means of making it untenable to maintain a hold on the islands. Look at what one SSN managed to do with a single torpedo attack - basically the Navy surface fleet decided to stay put for the rest of the conflict.

Imagine the possibility of those same SSN assets being let loose outside of the exclusion zone - possibly striking Argentine ships in harbour, military installations on Argentine home soil - very public demonstrations of death and destruction on their own doorstep. Argentine would have no real means of responding or defending against this. Sounds unfair but in a war all these things become fair game and the Junta's hold over things was already a bit wobbly as it was. Thankfully that escalation never happened and while terrible - the Falklands was a relatively short (if bloody) affair.

Still, interesting territory....
 
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The Pucara fleet would likely have an easier time of being able to fly around and do what they were designed for.

There's something in this, TheAircraftBuilder, and a lot of it comes down to Argentine tactics as they were. Even within the framework of the British recapture of the islands the Argentine forces did not get the best out of the equipment they had, nor did they take advantage of the scenarios as they unfolded. On East Falkland before the British landings at San Carlos, Menendez ordered his troops to bunker in and wait, rather than take advantage of the loss of helicopter transports the British had suffered and the decision by the British Army to "yomp" across the island, he ordered his troops to sit and wait. Menendez had attack helicopters in the form of Agusta A.109s, light strike aircraft such as the Pucara and naval T-34 Turbo Mentors and MB-339s, yet little resistance to the British troop movements was provided to the extent that at times the Argentine forces were unaware of where exactly the British were at any given time.

Under the circumstances the British did everything they could with what they had; their Westland Scout helicopters had enormous responsibility placed on their shoulders owing to the lack of heavy lift helicopters, adopting the roles of load lifter, personnel transport, tactical recon, air-to-ground strike and so on, one of the hardest working aircraft whose contribution to the effort goes largely unacknowledged, yet the Argentine forces barely used their UH-1s and Pumas within the context of what was happening.

Under the circumstances of what was happening in the peripherals, the special forces attacks on Pebble Island airfield and Goose Green, the final advance onto Stanley was a relatively bloodless affair and eventually the surrender was something of an anti-climax. Max Hastings the journalist would have you believe the Argentine commander surrendered to him as he took an early morning stroll through Stanley as the British forces sat in wait for what they thought was going to be heavy resistance...

An Argentine A.109 captured during the conflict in the FAA Museum storage facility. Had the Argentine forces on the islands proper been more aggressive with theirs assets the task of the British forces in capturing the islands might have been much more difficult...

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A corollary from the suggested POD is that the second option that was offered to the Cabinet would be the response. To put together a far larger Task Force including improvised extra container ship carriers and two cruisers etc. and go in the following summer mob handed. Same result but more bloodshed.
 
...of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. A what-if that will hopefully cover what steps might be taken from Argentinian military before and once they've captured the islands in 1982.
First step, get Stanley airfield extended. This should have been part of the planning from the get go. Within 72 hours of the British surrender the airfield should be Skyhawk, Dagger and Super Etendard (with Exocet) capable.



Argentina needs to better understand the limitations of the British ROE. As such, the FAA nor RAF are unlikely to bomb the Argentine mainland, and absolutely not any civilian centres. Thus you can move much of the air force's best strike aircraft to Stanley without risking domestic security.

Next, ARA Santa Fe and ARA San Luis sail to Acension to lay in wait for HMS Hermes and Invincible.

Immediately upon thr surrender, round up every civilian, load them onto civilian ships and sail them all to the closest neutral country, I suggest Uruguay. Next send in 4,000 Argentine civilians as pioneers.
 
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Next, ARA Santa Fe and ARA San Luis sail to Acension to lay in wait for HMS Hermes and Invincible
Firstly, had the Argentinians attacked the RN on the journey south it would have represented an escalation of the war with all sorts of political as well as military consequences. The TF was certainly prepared to shoot down Argentinian snooper aircraft, like the B707, had they taken offensive action rather than withdrawn when intercepted by Sea Harriers. Subs would have been no different.

It also ignores the availability of 2 squadrons of Sea King HAS.5 (reportedly the best AS helicopter in the world at the time) on board the carriers and the Nimrod MR2 deployed to Ascension. And if needs be I'm sure the RN would have redeployed one of the nuclear boats to deal with such a threat if it was proving beyond the capabilities of the surface escorts and helicopters, which I doubt it would.

Santa Fe was a old US GUPPY conversion of a USN WW2 sub acquired by Argentina in the early 1970s and, AIUI, little upgraded if at all since then. Noisy and easily detectable. Not much of a threat in 1982.

San Luis was a different matter. She was a modern quiet, German built Type 209 and caused the TF helicopters a bit of difficulty in the inshore waters around the Falklands where underwater sound conditions favoured the sub. But in the open ocean of the South Atlantic that plays to the strengths of the RN helicopters and frigates/destroyers and the Nimrod MR2. It was after all what the RN/RAF had been training for in NATO for years in the Atlantic.



You can read about Argentinian sub operations and RN anti sub operations in the Falklands in this book published a couple of years ago.
Amazon product ASIN 1913336395
View: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1913336395/
Again Argentine timing sucked. Their second Type 209 sub, Salta, was in refit at the time of the Falklands War.

You also assume that the British ROE would not change if the circumstances changed. For political reasons Britain wanted to keep the war contained. But it was prepared to look at operations against the Argentinian mainland. Remember the SAS recce group that ended up in Chile after the Sea King carrying them developed a mechanical problem, or the proposed mission, thankfully cancelled at the last minute, for the SAS to raid Argentinian airfields on the mainland using RAF Hercules aircraft (think of the Israeli attack to free the hostages at Entebbe airport, Uganda in 1976).

If the Argentinians change their actions then I have no doubt the UK would react. The unknown question is how.

While the Black Buck Vulcan sorties from Ascension to the Falklands might have seemed unnecessary to some, they did send a powerful message to the Argentinians that the RAF had the capability to strike the mainland. Especially after that Vulcan caused a stir by landing in Rio de Janiero after it broke its refuelling probe while tanking south. Nimrod MR2P aircraft also carried out recce missions along the Argentinian coast while remaining in international airspace.

The best chance the Argentinians had was to delay any invasion by a month or two. Then U.K. would have been faced with the full fury of a SA winter making retaking the islands virtually impossible until much later in the year, by which time U.K. and world public opinion might have been different. But of course that doesn't suit Argentine domestic politics.
 
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You also assume that the British ROE would not change if the circumstances changed. For political reasons Britain wanted to keep the war contained. But it was prepared to look at operations against the Argentinian mainland
I said civilian targets. Let the SAS attack air bases on the Argentine mainland, we've already moved the best fighters and strike aircraft to Stanley. I don't think in this age before guided weapons that the RAF will start bombing Buenos Aires. As for the rest, yes moving submarines to Ascension is an escalation, but so what. Argentina is a military dictatorship, the leader has one goal, remain in power. Not escalating the war certainly didn't go well for him.

But the best move, IMO is neither the status quo or an escalation, but is instead a non-violent expulsion of all the islanders to a safe neutral country and then sending thousands of Argentine civilians and families to occupy all the residences and businesses, etc. And then stand down everything, send the ships and fighters back to base, keep just a small force and police on the islands, change all the signage to Spanish, and invite the foreign media, including the BBC to tour the new Malvinas. By the time British regular forces land on the islands on/about 21 May 1982 they'll face zero opposition, but instead will be filmed by the foreign press as the new Argentine governor and his family walk up to the British commander and welcome them to visit.

That's how you play it.
 

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