Friday, 18 February 2011

Lessons Of The Falklands War

The above illustration shows the number of Royal Navy Sea Harriers and Royal Air Force Harriers with the British task force during the war.

Much of the discussion of the conflict centres on the use of the Sea Harrier fighters and Harrier ground attack aircraft as well as the Vulcan bombers.

But there are other important aspects to the conflict which are rarely if ever mentioned.

Force Generation

Throughout the war there was a significant shortage of combat aircraft.

This was particularly a problem before reinforcements arrived on the Motor Vessel Atlantic Conveyor on the 18th of May.

Air combat operations had started on the 1st of May.

At that point there were just 20 Royal Navy Sea Harriers with the task force.

However,on that same day 6 Fleet Air Arm Sea Harrier F.R.S.1 reinforcements had arrived at Ascension Island,2 more arrived at Ascension on the following day.

Between the 3rd of May and the 5th of May 8 Royal Air Force Harrier G.R.3s arrived at Ascension Island.

There was substantial aerial refuelling capacity on Ascension Island at this time,capacity which was at that time being used to support the ineffectual Black Buck bombing raids.

This refueling capacity could have permitted the Sea Harriers and Harriers to fly out to the task force rather than being carried South on a ship.

The above illustration* shows the shape of the task force's air fleet if the 6 Sea Harriers which arrived on Ascension Island on the 1st of May had flown to the task force on the 2nd of May with the other 2 Sea Harriers following on the 3rd of May.

Had the start of air combat operations been delayed by just 2 days until the 3rd of May the task force could have begun operations with 28 Sea Harriers rather than 20.

This would have added 126 "Sea Harrier days" to the task force's air power.

Based on the Sea Harrier F.R.S.1s average sortie rate this would equate to 178 additional Sea Harrier sorties during the first two weeks of combat operations.

As a single Sea Harrier bombing mission did more damage to Argentinian forces than the Black Buck raid of the 1st of May,this increase in Sea Harrier sorties would clearly have had a significant positive impact on operations.

Without those additional Sea Harrier sorties,over the period between 1st of May and the 18th of may H.M.S. Alacrity,H.M.S. Arrow and H.M.S. Glamorgan had been damaged,H.M.S.Glasgow had been put out of action for the duration of the conflict and H.M.S. Sheffield had been sunk.

Had combat operations been delayed by just 5 days,the task force could have had 33 Sea Harriers and Harriers on the first day of fighting.

This assumes that all 8 Harriers which had reached Ascension Island by the 5th of May fly out to the task force the day after arriving.

In 1982,2 of these 8 Harriers were retained for the very unlikely requirement of air defence of Ascension Island.

This would have more than doubled the number of Royal Air Force Harrier G.R.3 combat days from 140 to 289.

Based on the Harriers average sortie rate during the Falklands War this could have added 134 additional Harrier sorties to the task force's combat power.

Together with the additional Sea Harriers this represents an increase of 25% on the number of task force combat aircraft days.

This is achieved with no more aircraft than were present in 1982,it only requires that aircraft be flown rather than shipped from Ascension Island to the task force.

Sending the Harriers South by air would have had another side effect.

With Harrier G.R.3s available on the first day of combat the Sea Harriers could concentrate on air to air combat.

Consequently the 2 Sea Harriers lost to ground fire would have been Harrier losses instead.

This would have had the above effect on the shape of the combat aircraft fleet.

The result is 1130 Sea Harrier combat days versus an actual number of 948 in 1982 and 233 Harrier G.R.3 combat days versus 140 in 1982.

This would result in a 19% increase in Sea Harrier sorties over actual 1982 figures based on the average sortie generation rate.

As there were not enough Sea Harriers to provide adequate air defence in 1982,this 19% increase would have had a very significant impact on operations.

This gives a different perspective on the Royal Air Force Black Buck Vulcan bomber raids.

It is often argued that thery were a waste of resources as they had far less impact on the Argentinians than even a single Sea Harrier attack.

The usual counter argument is that the resources used for the Black Buck raids would have been sitting idle on an airfield somewhere if they were not used for bombing the Falkland Islands.

But it is clear from the above that the tanker aircraft could have been used for other more useful purposes.

The aerial refueling resources used to support the first 2 Black Buck raids could have had a very substantial effect on the outcome of the conflict if they had instead been used to support Sea Harriers and Harriers transiting to the British aircraft carriers.

There is just one question mark against the idea of flying those additional aircraft to the carriers early in the conflict.

That is,can the carriers support all those extra aircraft?

With 3 Sea harriers having been lost in the first week of operations there was certainly spare capacity.

The carriers were equipped to operate the Sea Harriers and the additional airframes and pilots would have been useful even if maintainers could not make full use of all 8.

The Harriers,being somewhat different to the Sea Harriers,would have been more problematic,requiring some specialist support equipment not found on the carriers they may have required maintainers,parts and equipment to be air dropped to the task force.

Accident Prevention

It is not uncommon to lose more aircraft to accidents than to combat.

This was also the case during the Second World War.

Even famous combat aircraft such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 were known for suffering heavy losses to accidents.

Today aircraft are far safer than they were then and combat losses have been far lower for Western air arms in recent conflicts.

But with aircraft fleets being far smaller and combat losses negligible aircraft accidents are again having a significant effect on operations.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm lost 2 Sea King A.S.A.C. Mk.7s in a collision,this was probably 2 thirds of the fleet in theatre and 2 of 13 aircraft in total.

There have been similarly significant losses to the Merlin,Nimrod and Chinook fleets.

Back in 1982 the Sea Harrier fleet also suffered as a result of accidents.

Of the 28 Sea Harriers which joined the task force during the Falklands War,4 were lost to accidents in theatre,14% of the combat fleet.

Another 2 Sea Harriers were lost to accidents in the United Kingdom before and during the war.

In total,of the 32 completed Sea Harriers,6 had been lost to accidents before the end of the Falklands War,19% of the total fleet.

These accidents were as follows:

1 Sea Harrier lost as a result of controlled flight in to H.M.S. Invincible during a peacetime air display;

2 Sea Harriers lost as a result of colliding in poor visibility during a combat interception during the Falklands War;

1 Sea Harrier lost as a result of an asymetric fuel load while undertaking trials in the United Kingdom during the Falklands War;

1 Sea Harrier lost as a result of sliding off the deck of H.M.S. Invincible when she turned sharply during combat operations near the Falklands;

1 Sea Harrier lost after exploding on take off during the Falklands War.

In addition a Royal Air Force Harrier G.R.3 was lost in an accident during the last week of the Falklands War.

In total,the British task force lost 5 aircraft to accidents (13%) out of the 38 aircraft which took part in combat operations during the Falklands War and lost 6 aircraft (16%) to enemy fire.

Without looking at accident reports most if not all of these accidents appear to have been avoidable.

If those 7 accidental losses had not occurred the British combat fleet in the Falklands would have appeared as shown above (assuming the aircraft lost during trials was retained in the United Kingdom).

This gives a 16% increase on combat aircraft days available to the task force.

Including a 17% increase in Sea Harrier days and a 5% increase in Harrier G.R.3 combat days.

The above illustration shows the British task force's combat aircraft fleet in ideal circumstances.

It assumes that no aircraft are lost to accidents,aircraft fly to the task force the day after arriving on Ascension Island and that all ground attack sorties (and losses) are performed by the Harrier G.R.3 fleet.

This would have given the British task force more than twice as many combat aircraft as it actually had in the early stages of the Falklands War.

It gives 1535 combat aircraft days in total,a 41% increase over the actual figure from 1982.

Of these,1295 would be Sea Harrier combat days,a 37% increase in Sea Harrier days and,pro rata,Sea Harrier sorties compared to 1982.

In addition the Harrier G.R.3 fleet would generate 240 combat days,an increase of 71% over the 1982 figures.


The Falklands war was a precursor to the future of air combat where cost dictates that combat aircraft fleets will be small in size.

In future,reducing accidental aircraft losses,both in and out of combat,will become of critical importance to the success of combat operations.

In addition,Lanchester's Theorem suggests that it will be important to maximise the proportion of the combat aircraft fleet which is available at the beginning of combat operations. 

In future,it will be necessary to maintain a larger percentage of the combat aircraft fleet at a high state of readiness.

This must extend to ending the "Fitted For But Not With" culture in the British armed forces.

Sidewinder missiles,laser guided bombs,Shrike anti-radiation missiles and electronic countermeasure systems should all have been available to the Sea Harrier and Harrier fleets on the first day of the war but were not.

Instead they were rapidly integrated during the conflict,in many cases arriving in theatre too late to see action.

In 1982,British forces were not ready for the Falklands War and suffered accordingly.

Despite this they were victorious largely as a result of the extraordinary performance of the Sea Harrier fleet.

That victory would have been far easier won had reinforcements been deployed to the task force more rapidly.

*It would be mathematically correct to start with the relative strengths of the combatants on the first day of war fighting and derive from that the attrition rate and length of the conflict.

However,that requires a number of assumptions which could be called in to question.

Instead we have applied a mathematically imperfect approach of counting the actual aircraft losses during the conflict.

This throws up the problem of 3 aircraft being lost before the 6th of May,which we propose should have been the start of combat operations.

We have also counted the total number of combat aircraft days between the 1st of May and the 14th of June.

Even though delaying combat operations until the 6th of May would eliminate many of these and increased attrition resulting from a larger air fleet would shorten the conflict.

We concluded that a mathematically flawed approach based on real figures was preferable to a mathematically correct approach using invented figures.


Chuck Hill said...

Points well taken.

TheRagingTory said...

Interesting point, I'd been in much the same boat, everyone always says the black buck raids wasted tanker resources, but no one was ever clear what else those tankers could have done

GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

I must admit I was quite shocked when I realised that 8 Sea Harriers were sitting around doing nothing for 16 days during the Falklands War.

I had never heard that point raised before.

It is about 3,750 miles from Ascension to the Falklands and the carriers could cover about 750 miles in a day.

Flat out it is only 5 days sailing from Ascension to the Falklands (though the task force took 2 weeks to get there).

Which means that in the case of delaying combat to the 6th of May many of the Sea Harriers would have had only a short unrefueled flight to their ships.

Arriving later,the Harriers would have had longer ferry flights and would have needed tanking.


Chuck Hill said...

This does raise the question of why the carriers sailed without their full complement of aircraft.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Chuck Hill,

yes it does.
It is not difficult to argue that a lot of men lost their lives as a result of that.

There may be three reasons:

British forces are not maintained in a combat ready state in peacetime.

There was political pressure to begin operations as soon as possible.

The Sea Harrier fleet had not entered service fully(some were still being built during the war).


TheRagingTory said...


Dont forget the military reason.
It was late Autumn/Early winter in the South Atlantic.

Did Hermes have another week of combat in her?
Or a week of harder weather to be a little more exact.
She spent 4 months in refit when she got home, she turned tail and ran almost as soon as the surrender, Illustrious was commisioned en route because Invincible was in such dire need of repair.

Thats ignoring the effect the harsher weather could have on the ground troops, or what Argentine Engineers could do in an extra week.

True, said engineers werent even on the island, but the RN/FAA higher ups were convinced the Sea Harrier Pilots werent coming home. The Argentinians would build a fast jet capable runway and the Shah pilots would die to buy the fleet enough time to land the ground forces.

Anonymous said...

We should always be careful with revisionism because one is never party to the full facts and making assumptions based on the basis of guesswork invariably are built upon foundations made of sand.

Black Buck, you start by saying they were ineffectual, rather than looking at the impact both militarily and in the minds of the military junta.

First of all they had a vital psychological impact because they proved that the UK could reach out and touch them, you have to understand the impact of this.

Second, it demonstrated to those in Buenos Aires that a strike on the mainland was entirely possible and it would not have escaped their attention that the Vulcan was part of the V Force with all that implied. This meant that Argentine aircraft were held in reserve for air defence duties instead of strike.

Finally, as you say, it denied the occupying force a long runway that could be used for fast jets.

So I think you start your piece with a fundamental misunderstanding of the reason Black Buck was initiated, they were strategic, not tactical.

That aside, your proposal of ferrying the Sea Harriers down south instead of them chugging along on board Atlantic Conveyor assumes that it would use the same resources as those used for Black Buck. Not so sure it would and the risk of a single person, single engine aircraft doing that journey, without any armament (tanks instead of missiles) might have been seen as a greater risk that using a ship.

Defence of Ascension might seem ridiculous with the benefit of hindsight but it is a basic military objective to secure your supply lines. Ascension was absolutely critical and the argentine air force had long range aircraft that were modified for recce and offensive operations, even a single lucky strike would have had a significant impact, see Black Buck above.

Your wider points are fair enough

TheRagingTory said...

I made pretty much the same comment on my blog.

Although the Argies werent going to use Stanly to launch fast jets from, they could have, and doing so would have been rather smart.
Sea Harrier against SkyHawk at extreme range = Harrier win
Sea Harrier against 4 Skyhawks = dead sea harrier.

Also, not only did the argies have long range strike aircraft, they had an aircraft carrier....

Chuck Hill said...

Of course next time, they will have a very nice airbase already built, to move into.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Anonymous,

you raise quite a number of points and I don't have time to address all of them at present.
I do have time to address some now but the rest will have to wait till later.

The Sea Harriers and Harriers on Ascension between the 1st of May 1982 and the 8th of May had all arrived there via long ferry flights from the United Kingdom supported by Victor tankers in some cases stopping in the Gambia.

The 2 Harriers which landed on H.M.S.Hermes on the 1st of June had flown directly from Ascension Island supported by Victor tankers.
The 2 Harriers which landed on H.M.S.Hermes on the 8th of June had also flown directly from Ascension Island supported by Victor tankers.

There is no reason why the 16 Sea Harriers and Harriers on Ascension between the 1st of May and the 8th of May could not have been flown directly to the aircraft carriers.

Apart from the fact that the Victor tankers were supporting Black Buck 1 and 2 at that time.

The Argentinians did not have the ability to maintain a combat air patrol between the British carriers and Ascension Island.
The chance of them intercepting an aircraft on a ferry flight to the task group was about as close to zero as it is possible to get.
The 4 Harriers which made that direct flight during the war were not intercepted.

With the exception of the aircraft aboard their carrier Veinticinco De Mayo,the Argentinians did not have any aircraft capable of conducting an air attack against Ascension Island.
Their Canberra bombers could not reach that far.
In order to attack Ascension their carrier would have had to withdraw from operations around the Falklands (aiding the British position there) and spend about 5 days sailing North without being detected and engaged by British ships,submarines or aircraft.
British forces knew roughly where the Argentinian carrier was,a Sea Harrier found her on the 2nd of May (the day Belgrano was sunk) and British submarines had been searching for her before that.
They must then have known that she was incapable of attacking Ascension Island in the first days of May.
Even in the highly unlikely event that she managed to sail 3,500 miles north without being sunk,the British could certainly have reinforced Ascension long before Veinticinco De Mayo could have got within range.
All of that assumes the Argentinians send her on a 3,500 mile suicide mission after they had withdrawn their fleet following the sinking of Belgrano.

It is therefore difficult to see the logic in witholding air defence assets from the task force which was under severe risk from air attack in order to defend Ascension island which was at little or no risk from air attack.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps joint command decided that retention of some air assets as a reserve would be a sensible thing, there was a very real danger of ships being sunk and that would mean a significant loss of aircraft so keeping some on Ascension would seem to me to be a risk based decision, was it right or wrong, only with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight can we be certain. These might also have formed part of the post conflict consolidation phase, you do not commit everything you have in one go, again, seems like pretty sensible planning to me.

The Argentine forces did have some long range assets (707, Neptune, Hercules) and don’t forget, they had showed considerable resourcefulness and surprised us, so again, with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps having aircraft for pure defensive anti air was excessive but in 1982, the picture might have seemed different.

Defence of Ascension was not just about defending from an attack but defending from a probing recce mission, don’t underestimate the fact that not all missions necessarily end with dropping bombs.

As I said, interesting points, but your main proposal, that instead of using AAR for the Black Buck, various long range Hercules missions, Victor radar recce, tanking aircraft coming down from the UK and supporting MR2 later in the conflict, we should have used them to get extra Harriers and Sea Harriers down to the task force is I think a bit on the thin side, failing to see the wider impact of Black Buck.

Asking ‘what if’ questions is always interesting and you may be right but without all the facts and crucially, perceptions at the time, we will never know.

I do detect however, a strong anti RAF bias to a lot of your posts which for me, devalues them, because you seem to start from the position that FAA = Good, RAF = Bad and work the facts back from there.

How about another analysis, how many ships and lives would have been saved if the RN/FAA had managed to avert the sinking of the Atlantic Conveyor, it carrying an entire expeditionary airfield which would have allowed the Harriers to be based onshore, decreased range to area of operations and increased sortie rates dramatically.

Now that would be an interesting analysis to see.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Anonymous,

regarding the rest of your first reply:

Firstly,Stanley was not a "long runway that could be used for fast jets".
It was a short runway unsuited to any fast jet in the Argentinian inventory.
Which is why there were no Argentinian fast jets based at Stanley during the Falklands War.
If the Argentinians had had fast jets there the Vulcans would probably have been shot down.

There are some claims that the Argentinians planned operate Skyhawks or Etendards from Stanley using arrestor gear.
However,there are also Argentinian sources who say it's use had been ruled out before the war as it was not suitable for fast jet operations.

Whatever the truth may be,the delta winged Mirage and Dagger aircraft would almost certainly have required a far longer runway.
Again,the runway length at Stanley and the runway requirements of Argentinian aircraft would have been well known to British forces at the time.
The heavy attacks from warships,and carrier capable aircraft made the prospect of operating fast jets from Stanley untenable in any case.

The Black Buck raids were ineffectual "both militarily and in the eyes of the junta".

Black Buck 1 and 2 between them managed to put a single crater in the runway.
As the accuracy of conventional Vulcan bombing was known beforehand,that was exactly what was expected by the Royal Air Force.

Concrete is cheap and easily repaired.
The hole in the runway was patched up within 24 hours.
That is exactly what was expected by the Royal Air Force.
This was the only hole the Black Buck raids managed to put in the runway in 45 days of combat operations.

The one thing the Argentinians would have learnt from that is that the Vulcan was not much of a threat.

On the other hand,bombing from carrier based aircraft and shelling from warships was highly effective.
In a single mission the Sea Harriers did more damage than the Black Buck Vulcans managed in 45 days.
To quote David Morgan,who flew on the first Sea Harrier attack on Stanley on the 1st of May:

"Thus ended the first sortie.
We had flown a total of 12 Sea Harriers against two heavily defended airfields,delivered a total of 36 bombs,destroyed a large number of enemy aircraft,set light to a number of fuel storage sites and buildings and escaped almost unscathed."

Clearly the Sea Harrier attack had far greater effect on the Argentinians than the Black Buck raids,"both militarily and in the eyes of the junta".

As the bombing capabilities of both aircraft types were known beforehand that would have been expected at the time.

The Sea Harriers (and later Harriers) flew many more attacks against Stanley.
An Argentinian claims that Stanley was hit by 237 bombs,1,200 naval gun shells 16 missiles.
Only 63 of those bombs were dropped by the Black Buck Vulcans and only 1 of those hit the runway.

The 16 Harriers and Sea Harriers which could have been flown South instead of Black Buck 1 and 2 would have done far more damage than the Vulcan raids.
Again,that would have been known at the time.

Reply length exceeded,continued in next reply:

GrandLogistics said...

Continued from last reply:

Lastly you said:

"it would not have escaped their attention that the Vulcan was part of the V Force with all that implied".

If you are suggesting that the Black Buck raids implied a threat of nuclear attack on Argentina,that would be illogical.
The Argentinians would have been well aware that they could be hit with Polaris missiles before they invaded the Falklands.
They clearly were not worried about nuclear attacks at the start of the war.
Nor did they stop fighting after the Black Buck raids so they clearly did not see the Vulcans as a nuclear threat.
The British Government also made it clear that it would not attack the Argentinian mainland.

The Argentinians may have diverted some of their Mirage IIIs to Argentinian air defence.
Their Mirage III fleet continued to fly large numbers of combat sorties in the Falklands until the end of the war along with the longer ranged Daggers and Skyhawks.

The strategic impact of the Black Buck 1 and 2 raids was at best small.
Far smaller than the impact of the Sea Harrier raids.
Which is as one would expect.
Bombers which need 2 raids and 42 bombs to hit a runway just once are not a significant military threat.

Your more recent post will be addressed at a later date when time permits.


TheRagingTory said...

Although there was not a military airport at Stanley and The Argentine Airforce didnt build a proper airfield at Stanley, such an airfield was well within their capability to create and is a no brainer militarily.

For reasons of their own, they chose not to, but relying on the other side being really stupid is foolish.

Were the Vulcans at much risk from Argentine defences?
These things were still expected to hit Soviet Field Armies with nuclear bombs at the time werent they?

Again, the arguement is not that the Argentines did operate Skyhawks from Stanley, its that they could have built a runway and operated them.
Naval bombardment and Harrier attacks would be been impossble against a proper airfield. Both being intercepted and destroyed well out of range.

"The Black Buck raids were ineffectual "both militarily and in the eyes of the junta".

Black Buck 1 and 2 between them managed to put a single crater in the runway."
Which was all that was required to shut down the extended airfield for Skyhawks.

Regarding nuclear weapons.
The Argentines went bat shit crazy when it was revealed the task force was carrying nuclear depth charges.
Politicaly, a British Vulcan dropping a British nuclear bomb is a lot more paletable than an American Polaris dropping British nuclear bombs.

"The British Government also made it clear that it would not attack the Argentinian mainland."
The German Government made it clear it wouldnt attack Poland...

On balance, it would have been better to get the Harriers down south ASAP.
But the BB raids were not (just) blatant pie grabbing.

Anonymous said...

GL, you said that Stanley was a short runway unsuitable for any Argentine Air Force fast jet, I am sure that would come as a surprise to the pilots of the ten MB339’s that operated from there, including one that attacked HMS Argonaut.

So I think your assertion that no Argentine fast jets were based at Stanley is somewhat wide of the mark. We captured 9 and shot down 1 I think, not sure, you might want to research that.

The objective of Black Buck was to cut the runway, not destroy it. A secondary objective was to prevent lengthening, it is easier to make 4000ft runway into a 6000ft one than it is to make a 2000ft one into a 6000ft one. They did not want to destroy the airfield because it would be needed post victory to reinforce and therefore prevent a counter attack, again, pretty sensible military planning.

Repairing and extending runways is not an easy task, that is why there are specialist units employed to do so and the Argentine forces had that capability so the need to prevent the runway going beyond 6000ft was pretty important, subsequent BB raids made sure of that.

Black Buck was part of a complicated tapestry of combined operations, they might have had little tactical impact but that was not really their point and you seem unable to grasp that any operation will always have different approaches, some will work better than others, some will fail, some will have hidden impacts that come to light much later, some are planned to do one thing but also a number of less obvious others.

To close, they played a part, decisive, maybe not, contributing to the main effort, a most certain yes.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

in your second response you raised the subject of weather and engineers.

In theory a commander should not be starting a fight he expects to lose,except in some limited circumstances such as where he has no option.

Having a larger air fleet on the first day of the war would be favourable to British forces in terms of attrition.

This would turn an expected slow,narrow victory in to a quicker victory with lower casualties.

Which in turn would shorten the length of the war making it less likely to drag on into the worst of the winter weather.

In any case we are talking about a delay of only 5 days to the start of the war.

It would be interesting to know when the reinforcements were expected at Ascension before the task force left Ascension on the 17th of April.

If it was known then when they would arrive,then the task force could have stayed at anchor at Ascension,resting,storing and doing maintenance until nearer the end of April rather than steaming round the South Atlantic.

The Argentinians had engineers at Stanley,they patched up the runway after the Black Buck raids.

This picture shows the repair:

But extending the runway was a major task which would require a lot of resources (men,machinery and material and the shipping to bring it to the islands) and most importantly time.

The faster the job needed to be done the greater the resources which would be required.

The war ended on the 14th of June but it took until October before British Phantoms started operating from Stanley with arrestor gear.
It would have taken far longer to extend the runway for non arrested operation by conventional fighters.
It is a big job and we knew that at the time.
The Argentinians had less than a month between invading the Falklands and the Black Buck raids.

More on that later.


GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

regarding your third response:

"Although the Argies werent going to use Stanly to launch fast jets from, they could have, and doing so would have been rather smart...etc..."

You make a number of very good points,however,three questions must be asked.

Could the Argentinians improve facilities at Stanley in the time available?

Probably not,it would have been a very big job,they might have been able to get a handful of fighters in there with arrestor gear though and that was definitely considered by British forces - see reconnaissance pictures from the conflict.

Would Britain have known if they had extended the runway at Stanley?

Probably,they reportedly had access to American satellite imagery,though it has bee said that this was of low resolution it should have been possible to see a large change such as a runway extension.

Could the Argentinians have based large numbers of aircraft there even if they had extended the runway?

Probably not,the task force could have had as many as 36 fast jets if the reinforcements had been flown down before the first day of combat.
For the Argentinians to have accommodated much more than that at Stanley would have required a massive engineering an logistical effort.

On your last point I have to disagree.
Argentina did not have any long range attack aircraft capable of flying a 6,000 mile round trip to Ascension island.
Nor did they have the large refueling fleet needed to do an Argentinian Black Buck mission to Ascension Island.


TheRagingTory said...

My point on the weather was merely speculative.
It puts starting early from "bad decision" and into "acceptable risk".

We dont know exactly what the thinking on the fleet was at the time, or at COBRA.

Regarding Engineers
I read somewhere the Argentine Army Engineering Corps had a unit (and equipment) more than capable of extending the Stanly airfield to be capable of operating their fast jets in the month they had available.
That could be wrong, or the airfield under discussion could have been of extremely low quality and short life, but that was what I read, and its the main reason the US said we didnt have a chance.
Who knows, perhaps lack of said airfield showing up on satalite pictures is what swung US opinion?

The Alternative, is that they could have had a large engineer corps building real fortifications.
Think Artilery Emplacements and bunkers instead of sheel scrapes and trenches.
The defences in place were formibable against light infantry, but the Tankettes deployed rolled over them, 30mm autocannons shouldnt be knocking out well built bunkers.
Even things like building discrete distance markers for artilery spotting are easy for a few diggers.

As for attacking ascension.
Again, I dont believe it was ever considered likely, but the carrier could have tried it.
To be fair, I wouldnt have left V/STOVL aircraft guarding it.

TheRagingTory said...

I also had a bit of a go at planning a No Fly Zone over Libya.
If you fancy fixing the numbers and doing a proper work up for the tankers and AWACS, I'm more than happy for you to pinch my draft.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

in response to your 4th response:

"Although there was not a military airport at Stanley and The Argentine Airforce didnt build a proper airfield at Stanley, such an airfield was well within their capability to create and is a no brainer militarily......etc..."

Britain almost certainly knew that the Argentinians did not have the time to significantly improve facilities at Stanley for fast jets and satellite pictures would have confirmed that they were not even trying to.

But let's consider the hypothetical situation where the Argentinians deploy large engineering resources to build fast jet facilities at Stanley and base some fighter squadrons there.

In that case the Argentinian Mirages and Daggers could maintain a fighter patrol and the Vulcan would likely be shot down.
For a fighter,a Vulcan is a big slow target which does not shoot back.

If the Vulcan did get it's bombs away,the engineering resources capable of doing the very big job of extending the runway would have little trouble doing the small job of patching up a hole in that runway.

Vulcan mission against an established fighter base would entail huge risk for minimal effect on the enemy.
If Argentina had fighters at Stanley I doubt it would have been considered.

Now,let's consider the same situation but with those 16 Harriers and Sea Harriers being flown down to the task force before combat starts instead of the Black Buck raids.

The task force would have had 28 Sea Harriers and 8 Harriers.
On the first day of the war,ship's crew and air group would be rested and aircraft availability high.
If the air group surged for the first day (that is common in air wars) those aircraft might generate as many as 4 sorties each on day one (Sea Harriers surgeded 4 sorties per aircraft per day during the peak of the Falklands air war).

That gives us potentially up to 144 sorties on the first day of the war.
Each of those sorties would be capable of delivering 3 bombs against individual targets -aircraft,fuel tanks,ammunition dumps.
That adds up to a maximum of 432 bombs delivered in a single day.

More realistically,many of those sorties would be dedicated to air defence and fighter escort but even then well over 100 bombs could be delivered against individual targets at Stanley on the first day of the war.

Those Sea Harriers would be dangerous opponents for any fighters which were in the air,especially as the Mirages and Daggers operate best at higher altitudes and the Harriers and Sea Harriers would be coming in low.
The Argentinian fighters would be getting killed in the air as well as on the ground between sorties and those aircraft can't be replaced quickly unlike the concrete on a runway.
If they tried to attack the task group they would have to deal with all the escorts as well - out at sea where their defences were not compromised by being close to shore.

That situation looks very bad for the Argentinians,even if they have multiple squadrons at Stanley.

I agree that naval bombardment would be out of the question but on the first day of the war all escorts would be protecting the carriers behind a Sea Harrier combat air patrol.

Regarding nuclear weapons,the WE177 nuclear bomb which the Vulcan carried was also carried by another British aircraft - the Sea Harrier!

Britain didn't need a Vulcan to deliver a nuclear bomb,the Argentinians would have known that.
They were not worried about nuclear retaliation as they knew it would be politically unacceptable both in Britain and internationally.
If the Vulcan raid was intended as a nuclear threat then it was ineffectual!

I don't know the motivation for the Black Buck raids so I have never suggested they were "pie grabbing",though others have.
But I will suggest that they were a waste of resources and ultimately extended the war and increased British casualties.


GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

I should have mentioned in that last post that I was referring specifically to Black Buck 1 and 2,the Shrike missions are a different subject all together.

In reply to your 5th response:

"My point on the weather was merely speculative.
It puts starting early from "bad decision" and into "acceptable risk".....etc.."

It will be interesting to find out exactly who knew what when,it is nearly 30 years now so there may not be long to wait.

There were probably estimates made of whether the Argentinians could extend the runway in time and how many aircraft they could base at Stanley.

What we can be very certain about is what was known on the 1st of May.
Sea Harriers took photographs of the runway 2 days before Black Buck 2 was flown so we knew the runway had not been extended and there were no fighters there at that point.
Photographs also show the suspected presence of arrestor gear at that time so it was suspected that some fast jets could operate there.

That is the same day the first Sea Harriers arrived at Ascension Island.
The difference in effect between the carrier aircraft and the bombers would have been apparent at that point.
It would have been clear then that the Sea Harriers could be flown to the task force in stead of flying Black Buck 2.

There are some interesting post war pictures here:

I have no idea what else the Argentinians could have done in 5 days with regard to fortifications given the terrain but British forces were not well equipped to deal with proper fortifications if they could have been built.
Given the scarcity of armour and artillery,even a good supply of barbed wire and mines would have been of great benefit to them.

I agree with you that the Argentinian carrier could have attacked Ascension but Britain knew she was nearly a week's sailing away from being able to do that and knew roughly where she was at that point.


GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

I am planning a short post on this talk of a no fly zone over Libya.

If it is based at Akrotiri the distance will be a major problem,it is a long way from Tripoli,about 1,100 miles.

Transit time alone will be about 5 hours on each sortie - most fighter sorties are shorter than that in total.
Expect long sorties,high tanker demand and low sortie generation.


Chuck Hill said...

So if the major threat to Ascension Island was the Argentinian CV, the best defense would have been an SSN tailing the CV.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Chuck Hill,

that is right.
The submarines were looking for her at the time and she was located by a Sea Harrier on the 2nd of May.
Veinticinco De Mayo would almost certainly have been sunk long before she got to Ascension.


GrandLogistics said...

Hello Anonymous,

in reply to your second response which began:

"Perhaps joint command decided that retention of some air assets as a reserve would be a sensible thing, there was a very real danger of ships being sunk and that would mean a significant loss of aircraft ....etc..."

Of the 8 Harriers on Ascension on the 8th of may 2 stayed there and these were later joined by a third and later 6 more.
According to the Royal Air Force they were retained for air defence,not as a reserve.
To quote the pilot of one of the Phantoms which relieved them of this task later in the war:

"24-26 May
In order to guard against the possibility of an Argentinean air attack on Ascension Island,three McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR2 aircraft of 29 Squadron are deployed to Wideawake Air Base.
Responsibility for the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) air defence commitment was assumed from
1 Squadron (Harriers)on 25 May."

There was no danger of ships being sunk by Argentinian aircraft in the vicinity of Ascension Island as the Argentinians did not have any combat aircraft capable of flying to Ascension Island.
Consequently there was no danger of aircraft being lost to Argentinian air attack in the vicinity of Ascension Island and no reason to retain the Harriers there.

One does not need 20:20 hindsight to know that Argentina could not conduct an air attack on Ascension Island.
One need only know that Argentina had no combat aircraft capable of flying a 6,000 mile round trip to Ascension Island.

The Argentinian Canberras were not capable of flying a 6,000 mile round trip to Ascension Island.

The Argentinian Neptunes were not capable of flying a 6,000 mile round trip to Ascension Island.

The Argentinian Hercules were not capable of flying a 6,000 mile round trip to Ascension Island.

The Argentinians did not have any combat aircraft capable of flying a 6,000 mile round trip to Ascension Island.

It is questionable whether even theit 70s could fly that far - it would depend on the model of 707 and the exact location of their base.

That would have been known in 1982.

To suggest that aircraft were being held back on Ascension on at the start of May for the "post conflict consolidation phase" is bizarre.
The war had just started and nobody knew who would win it.
When you are desperately short of fighters you certainly do commit all you have.
See Lanchester's Theorem.

There was little or no threat of an Argentinian reconnaissance mission against Ascension Island as even their longest range aircraft,the 707s,would probably have been unable to fly to Ascension and back (see above).

Even if they had the military risk of the Argentinians seeing what was at Ascension was insignificant.
The risk of the task force not being able to intercept Argentinian aircraft was severe as it could,and did,lead to ships being sunk and men killed.

As has been pointed out above,the military and political impact of the Black Buck raids was insignificant.
In contrast the Argentinians benefited greatly,both militarily and politically,from the shortage of Sea Harriers and Harriers in the first weeks of the war.
That made it much easier for them to sink British ships.

Reply length exceeded,continued in next reply....

GrandLogistics said...

Continued from previous reply.

With regard to this comment:

"I do detect however,a strong anti RAF bias to a lot of your posts which for me,devalues them,because you seem to start from the position that FAA = Good, RAF = Bad and work the facts back from there."

You appear to have a preoccupation with inter service rivalry.
I am aware that some people do not like to see their favourite service painted in an unflattering light.
However,my points are all based on logical deductions based on such facts as are known and supported by links.
Many of your claims so far appear to be rather wanting in terms of both logic and fact.
Such as your claim that the Argentinians could bomb Ascension Island.
Perhaps you should bear in mind your earlier comment:

"We should always be careful with revisionism because one is never party to the full facts and making assumptions based on the basis of guesswork invariably are built upon foundations made of sand."

Regarding you last point,had those 16 Sea Harriers and Harriers been flown to the task force at the start of May,by the time Atlantic Conveyor arrived the Argentinian air arms would have been far more heavily attrited and the British task force would have lost fewer escorts.
The use of Victor tankers to support the Black Buck raids rather than to fly those Sea Harriers and Harriers to the task force directly contributed to losses of British ships,including Atlantic Conveyor.


Anonymous said...


Your points are not based on logic but twenty twenty hindsight, always the sharpest.

Where did I claim that Argentine forces could bomb Ascension, in fact, I think I said rather the opposite. A recce mission might delivery much more effect, force the UK forces to devote more resources to force protection and slow the southbound material conveyor.

They had already shown considerable ingenuity, had refuelling assets and a relationship with other South American nations that we could not be certain of.

As for satellite pictures of Stanley, ever heard of cloud, another variability you think does not exist

You are single minded in your pursuit of a smoking gun and fail to understand the nuances of real operations, the impact of uncertainty whereas as I am saying they may well have been wasteful, they may well have been not.

Thats the point of revisionism, you ask a question, not present a fact based on supposition

Chuck Hill said...

GL, I find your argument compelling

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Anonymous,

in reply to your third response which began:

"GL,you said that Stanley was a short runway unsuitable for any Argentine Air Force fast jet, I am sure that would come as a surprise to the pilots of the ten MB339’s....etc...."

An MB339 is not what most people would call a fast jet.
It is a relatively slow jet trainer/light attack aircraft and certainly no fighter.
I am glad you mentioned it however,as it illustrates another point about the Black Buck raids.
The runway at Stanley was 4,000 feet long.
Even if Black Buck cut it in 2,there would be 2,000 feet of runway left.
The MB339 can operate from less than 2,000 feet of runway.
So can the Pucara which was also based at Stanley.
Which means that Black Buck could not stop those aircraft operating from Stanley even all went well and the bombs bisected the runway.

The Royal Air Force did not put holes in the dirt at the end of Stanley's runway to prevent it being extended,nor did they avoid bombing the runway it's self so it could be used after the war - at least not on Black Buck 1 and 2.

What they did do was dream up the best ever excuse for missing the target.

Black Buck 2 was flown on the 3rd/4th of May,3 days after Black Buck 1.
If they did not want to damage the runway,why did they put a hole in it with Black Buck 1,3 days earlier on the 1st of May?
Why would they not want to damage an enemy held runway on the 3rd day of a 45 day air war when they had no idea who was going to win at that point (they did know who was going to win for Black Buck 7 on the 12th of June)?
Why would they want to stop the Argentinians extending the runway when photographs taken 3 days earlier (and continually for the rest of the war) showed that the Argentinians were not extending the runway?
Why would they expect a bomb crater in the dirt at the end of the runway to stop the runway being extended when that hole can be filled in far more quickly and easily than a hole in the runway its self?

The idea that Black Buck 2 deliberately missed the runway stands no scrutiny.
The runway was the target.
The bombs missed.

Extending a runway is a very big job,patching a hole in a runway is a small job which can often be done in a matter of hours.
The Argentinians patched up Stanley's runway in less than a day,it would have taken a lot longer for them to extend the runway which is why they never attempted to do so.

Black Buck 1 and 2 were nothing more than attempts to bomb a runway.
Attempts which achieved very little but absorbed resources which could have been used to much greater military effect ferrying Sea Harriers and Harriers to the task force.

Those Sea Harriers and Harriers would have done far more to prevent Stanley being used by Argentinian aircraft than Black Buck ever could.
That would have been known at the time.
At best,Black Buck 1 could have temporarily prevented the use of the runway by arrested SkyHawks or Super Etendards if they had been based there on the 1st of May.

The Black Buck raids were a textbook example of how not to apply air power.
Maximum resources,minimal effect on the enemy.

Ever since we have been hearing the excuses.

Just to be specific,the above relates to the raids against the runway.

The 2 Shrike anti-radar missions were militarily useful but that is another story altogether.


TheRagingTory said...

Once you believe something, it becomes very easy to dismiss evidence to the contrary.

The RAFs first priority if the situation were reversed, would be to turn Stanley into a heavy fast jet capable airstrip.

The Americans confirmed they would do the same.

Likely the French did too.

Its a no brainer.

Once you have accepted that the correct course of action for the enemy to take is to build a good airstrip, it becomes quite easy to believe they have merely built a concealed airstrip, when you cant find it.

Lets face it, we've hidden cities, hiding an airstrip isnt beyond possible.

Airfield quality is also a big factor.
An airfield suitable for a Cargo Jet can quite easily wreck any attack aircraft trying to use it.
Patch repairs to let a C130 land are a different kettle of fish to operating heavily laden skyhawks.

"The Royal Air Force did not put holes in the dirt at the end of Stanley's runway to prevent it being extended,nor did they avoid bombing the runway it's self so it could be used after the war - at least not on Black Buck 1 and 2.

What they did do was dream up the best ever excuse for missing the target."
Unless, as above, Our leadership had convinced itself that airstrip had been extended at both ends?
If they had turned it into a 6 or 8km strip, a strike at either end is the best way to get it back down to 2000m strips.

It happens.
The Fall of France is my favourite example.
The French central command simply could not accept the speed of the German advance, nor how quickly it broke through French Lines and scattered them.
Time after Time, Formations were told to hold for weeks when at best, they could delay for hours. Forces were told they had a month to dig in, and were over ran the next day.

Their training told them that the Germans simply could not move that fast, and they ignored any evidence to the contrary.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Anonymous,

in reply to your most recent pesponse which began:


Your points are not based on logic but twenty twenty hindsight, always the sharpest....etc..."

Every point I made has been based on information which would have been known at the appropriate time.
If you think there is something which would not have been known,please point it out.

For example,I allowed for the possibility of some arrested aircraft being based at Stanley - although there were none there, there could have been and that possibility had to be allowed for.

You said:

"Where did I claim that Argentine forces could bomb Ascension, in fact, I think I said rather the opposite."

Allow me to quote from your first response which can be found above on this page:

"Defence of Ascension might seem ridiculous with the benefit of hindsight but it is a basic military objective to secure your supply lines. Ascension was absolutely critical and the argentine air force had long range aircraft that were modified for recce and offensive operations, even a single lucky strike would have had a significant impact, see Black Buck above."

Your point about other nations is a good one,if Brazil had taken sides with Argentina and allowed them to launch combat sorties from their territory,it would have been practical to attack Ascension Island if the Harriers had flown South on the 6th of May.

Though it still may not have been practical.
A -5 (Argentina had the -7) P2 Neptune has a combat of 1120 miles with an 8,000 pound bomb load,it is about 1,500 miles from Brazil to Ascension Island and Argentina did not have refueling probes for it's Neptunes or it's Hercules',it's Canberras or 707s.
The 707s could fly from Brazil to Ascension,Canberras probably couldn't with full weapon load and I don't know about Argentina's "B130 Hercybombers".

If the Harriers had flown South on the 6th of May and the Argentinians had launched a reconnaisance mission before the Phantoms or further Harriers arrived they may have been lucky enough to get away with it.
But to do that they would have to take resources away from tracking the task force to reconnoiter an island with unknown (to them) defences which they had little or no ability to attack and which was of far less military importance to them than the task force.
That is a lot of "if"s to line up straight.

You are correct when you say I am singlemindedly looking for a smoking gun.
I have been trying to find a smoking gun which proves that flying Black Buck 1 and 2 rather than ferrying the Sea Harriers to the task force was a good idea,based on what was known at the end of April 1982.
I have yet to find one.

It is easy to see the need for Black Buck 5 and 6,the Shrike missions.
The Sea Harriers and Harriers could not launch Shrike at that time,there were radar threats to deal with and those raids did not get in the way of reinforcing the task force.

It is very difficult to see the justification of the first 2 raids.

The definition of revisionism is claiming you were trying to stop the enemy extending the runway when your bombs miss the target.


GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

that is an interesting theory.
It reminds me of that Nelsonian moment during the planning stages of Operation Market-Garden - "I see no panzer divisions!".

But according to the Official History it was an attack on the runway which missed.
That inclines me towards the runway extension explanation being "pub talk" which has gone mainstream.

On another subject,I have some numbers for you about Libya.
I don't know how well the Typhoons will perform but there have only been a handful of operations where fast jets have operated at a radius of around 1150 miles (the distance from R.A.F. Akrotiri to Tripoli).

That distance means a fighter will spend about 5 hours in transit on each sortie (Typhoon's endurance is about 3 hours ish).
To make that journey worthwhile it will need to be a very long sortie with a lot of tanking.
I don't have detailed information but my ill informed guesstimate is a 9 hour sortie with about 18 tonnes of aerial fuel transfer giving around 4 hours on station over Tripoli.
Those very long sorties translate in to very low sortie rates.
In 2001,F15s were based about 1,500 miles from Kabul and generated 1 sortie per aircraft every 4 days.
The Royal Air Force usually generates lower sortie rates than the Americans but I have no idea if the Typhoons will follow that pattern.
My guesstimate is a squadron of 12 Typhoons at Akrotiri generating 4 sorties a day over Libya.
As fighters operate in pairs that means 2 aircraft on station for 8 ( 2 pairs,4 hours per pair) hours a day in total.

During the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001,Royal Air Force Sentrys were based at Thumrait in Oman,about 1,500 miles from Kabul.
There were 2 aircraft and 3 crews which flew a single daily sortie between them.
A typical sortie was about 12 hours duration,including 8 hours on station and required about 60,000 lbs of aerial fuel transfer.
Libya would probably be similar to that.

Working the numbers precisely for tanker aircraft is more than I can do but I would expect at least 100 tonnes of daily fuel transfer probably requiring at least 5 VC10s,due to timing more than capacity.

Guesstimate summary:

12 Typhoons,5+ VC10s and 2 Sentrys to keep 2 Typhoons and 1 Sentry over Tripoli for 8 hours a day.

If they do it for real we shall see how close my guess is.

The United States Navy will probably put a carrier in the Gulf Of Sidra,about 15 minutes flying time from Tripoli.
The 36 F18s could each generate multiple sorties each day with about 2.5 hours on station per sortie and no external tanking.
In Afghanistan in 2001 they generated about 1,6 hour sortie per aircraft per day with external tanking.
Based on that,each 12 strong squadron on the carrier would give about 4 F18s on station for 16 hours a day,assuming they have the night off (the Americans like to operate as "day carriers" or "night carriers").
With each sortie requiring about 9 tonnes of aerial fuel transfer.

That is about 4 times as much daily coverage from the American F18 squadron as a Typhoon squadron based at Akrotiri,if my estimate is correct* - a carrier has 3 squadrons.

Their Hawkeyes can operate over Libya without external tanking as well.

If there is a no fly zone implemented,it seems likely that a single American carrier will be providing at least 95% of the air cover.


*Some people think I am "pro navy" but I just look at the numbers,you can't beat the "tyranny of distance".

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Chuck Hill,



TheRagingTory said...

"based on what was known at the end of April 1982."

But even here, you have a massive advantage over the people of 1982.

Because you know what they knew was in fact correct.

We know, that Argentina in no way ready for war.

If I was in command, and my intelliegence told me, theres no way Argentina can attack acension, they have only 5 active anti ship missiles, their airforce will be grounded for lack of parts in three weeks of fighting, they've made no effort to fortify the island beyond basic infantry fire pits, or build a runway.
In the back of my mind, would be a little voice saying "yeah, last week you said theres no way they could attack the Falklands"

I agree it was a mistake, but we have to understand why it was made to learn anything.
If it was just naked pie grabbing, fair enough, but if it was another failing, that could perhaps be corrected, well, it would be a shame not too.

Chuck Hill said...

I find it hard to believe the UK would leave Harriers in Ascension for air defense. Surely they had better interceptor assets they could have gotten there quickly.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Chuck Hill,

that is a very good point.
Given the choice of a Phantom or a Harrier for air defence,the Phantom is the obvious choice.
It is far more capable in that role.
But they did retain 2 of the first 8 Harriers on Ascension for air defence on Ascension,a third aircraft joined them later,they can be seen in a picture on this page with sidewinders:

The Royal Air Force prides it's self on being able to deploy air power quickly over long distances so why did it take until 8 weeks after the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands and nearly 4 weeks after the start of combat operations to retake the islands before Phantoms took over air defence of Ascension Island?
Until the Sea Harriers passed through there on the 1st of May,Ascension had no air defences at all.

That doesn't give the impression that defending Ascension was regarded as militarily important at the time.

It is interesting to note from the above link that it was considered safe for 2 British warships to conduct a naval bombardment of the airfield at Stanley before even the first Black Buck mission had taken place.


TheRagingTory said...

Were the Aircraft at Ascension "test beds"?

Its my understanding that both Harrier Fleets were being bodged on the way down, to fit the new sidewinders and any other gear.
Could ascension have played host to a "trouble shooting" facility, to replicate and fix errors with the deployed fleet?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say there was no threat to Ascension because putting myself in the eyes of the commanders in 1982 I don't have the benefit of 20:20 internet assisted hindsight.

They were a threat and when looking at threats you make judgements about impact and likelihood based on what you know, with a degree of wiggle room for what you don't know.

I don't know why the RAF didn't deploy Phantoms sooner, perhaps it was infrastructure, personnel, maintaining other NATO commitments (1982 was at the height of the Cold War don't forget)or other factors.

Perhaps it was thought maintaining Sea Harrier at Ascension as a strategic reserve or deterrent against the Argentine forces was sensible thing to do. We might have made an educated guess that they had nothing to make a threat with, but then again, that assumes certainty and if there is one thing in war you do not have, that is it.

Attacks or recce against Ascension was a realistic threat and one which needed to be mitigated against, however you might like to think otherwise. If you look at Atlantic Conveyor, you will see a Sea Harrier maintained at a quick reaction readiness as soon as she left Ascension exactly because of probing flights by 707's

You maintain that the threat was amplified but once again, you do not know the decision cycle in 1982.

You claim that every point you made was based on information that would have been available at the time, sorry, that is complete and utter nonsense. An assumption based on hindsight, war is an uncertain, chaotic and confusing business so what might seem thoroughly obvious 30 years ago with the luxury of 30 years of hindsight, does not make it so.

You claimed that Stanley was unsuitable for fast jets but when I pointed out the 10 MB339 that operated from there you said they are not what people might think of as fast jets because they are slow trainers. Look at the max speed of the MB339 and A4's. The MB339 might be subsonic but then so was the Skyhawk and I think they did rather a lot of damage.

We might have known that the larger Argentine aircraft did not have AAR probes but then we would also be very aware of how long it took us to fit them to our aircraft, again, your certainty about what we knew and what we might have thought at the time seem to be at odds.

Attack was a concern, whether you like it or not, as was recce, a more likely threat

Don't think it is wise to be so certain, you might be right about Black Buck, you might be wrong.

I tend to think you are missing the bigger picture, the realities of operations and the general uncertainty of the time but there you go.

If you want to have a go at the crabs, blinkered to any inconveniences that might get in the way then crack on chap

I tend to think things are a bit more complicated

GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

according to the Royal Air Force 3 Harriers were held back at Ascension for air defence.


GrandLogistics said...

Hello Anonymous,

back in 1982 commanders had the benefit of military intelligence which is probably more useful than the internet.

If there was a threat to Ascension Island then why were there no air defence assets deployed there for the first month of the war?
Even though other military aircraft had been deployed there days after the Falklands were invaded.

Why were the only air defence assets for the following month a handful of radar less Harriers which had stopped off there on their way to the task force?

The Cold War didn't stop the Royal Navy deploying 28 of it's 31 Sea Harriers or most of it's surface fleet,replenishment vessels and amphibious capacity.
The Cold War didnt stop the Royal Air Force deploying 14 of it's 100 or so Harriers and many of it's Victor tankers,Nimrods and Hercules'.
Why would the Cold War prevent the Royal Air Force deploying just 3 of it's 150 or so Phantoms to Ascension Island?

According to Wing Commander Peter Squire a Sea Harrier was only put at Readiness State 5 2 days after Atlantic Conveyor left Ascension Island when they were a quarter of the way to the Falklands.
At which point they would have been within range of a land based 707.

Not one point I have made is based on information which would not have been well known at the time.
I asked you to point out which information was not known at the time,I notice you have not done so.

For example,the Royal Air Force would have been very familiar with the range of Argentinian Canberras,Neptunes and Hercules,as it had operated all of those types.
In Fact it was the Royal Air Force which sold it's Canberras and Neptunes to Argentina.
The range of the 707 was publicly available,the aircraft was in service with airlines all over the World.

It would also have been known that those aircraft were not probe equipped and that even if they were the 2 Argentinian KC130 tankers would probably not have had the capacity to support them on a 6,000 mile round trip to Ascension Island and back.

The MB339 is far slower than the subsonic Skyhawk and Sea Harrier.
It is a slow training/light attack aircraft which does only 470 knots at sea level versus around 600 knots for the Skyhawk and Sea Harrier.

If you want to call that a fast jet we can do that.
But doing so completely undermines your own argument.
You said the Black Buck raid stopped the Argentinians basing fast jets at Stanley.
Black Buck didn't stop MB339s operating from Stanley throughout the war.

The bigger picture is this.
Argentina had the high value targets of a naval task force well within the radius of it's aircraft and about to conduct an assault on their recently captured "Malvinas".

What intelligence assessment would have concluded that Argentina would withdraw their handful of Boeing 707s,Neptunes,Canberras and KC/C130s from that fight in order to attack an island well beyond the range of it's aircraft with air defences which were unknown to them in order to attack or reconnoiter unknown targets of unknown value on Ascension?

Not only was it beyond their known capabilities to attack Ascension but it also made no military sense.
That assessment is reflected by the complete lack of air defences on Ascension for the first month of the war.


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