Saturday, 20 February 2010

How To Invade The Falkland Islands

Since long before their invasion in 1982,the government of Argentina has regularly threatened and inconvenienced the people of the Falkland Islands.

The islanders are well used to such bluster and regard it with a haughty disdain.

However,many outside the Falklands,particularly those not familiar with the situation,regard such behaviour with more seriousness than it deserves.

This is particularly the case when the World's media decides that Argentina's latest rhetoric is a newsworthy story.

Such coverage can give many the impression that a second Falklands War is imminent,however unlikely that may be.

Even though an Argentinian invasion of the Falklands is a remote possibility,it is interesting to consider how they might go about such an operation.

First let us consider the opposing forces,for the sake of brevity we will list only the major combat units on both sides.

British forces in the Falkland islands consist of:one Type 42 destroyer somewhere in the South Atlantic;one infantry company;one anti aircraft battery and 4 Typhoon combat aircraft of 1435 Flight.

In addition,there is likely to be a British nuclear powered submarine somewhere in the Atlantic,though not necessarily near the Falklands.

Argentine forces consist of:five destroyers;six frigates;three corvettes;three submarines;eleven army brigades with all support arms (including one parachute brigade and other elements of the Fuerza de Despliegue Rápido rapid deployment force);two brigades of marines with supporting arms;forty eight fighter aircraft;thirty six light ground attack aircraft,eleven maritime patrol aircraft and 10 Hercules transport aircraft.

The first problem which the Argentinian forces must consider is that they are unlikely to be able to counter the British submarines which may be operating in the area.

Fortunately Britain's small submarine fleet is unlikely to be able to sustain more than one submarine in the Falklands and that can only be in one place at one time.

It would also be unable to engage Argentinian vessels which could quite legally approach close to the Falklands prior to the commencement of hostilities.

If Argentinian vessels dispersed and approached from different directions the submarine may be able to sink only a single vessel before the invading troops are landed.

Subsequent to combat operations beginning,the British Submarine will have less restrictive rules of engagement and will be able to interdict sea traffic to the Falklands.

Consequently it may be neccessary to support Argentinian ground forces by air after the commencement of hostilities as they did in 1982.

Argentinian air assault forces are likely to be the brigade sized Fuerza de Despliegue Rápido.

However,the Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) Typhoons based at Mount Pleasant airbase could shoot down any Argentine transport aircraft.

The Typhoons will then have to be neutralised before the air assault.

Argentine combat aircraft are far less capable than the Typhoon but far more numerous.

They would have little chance of destroying the Typhoons in air combat.

Fortunately there are only 4 Typhoons based in the Falklands,with only 3 likely to be operational on any day,and these are dependent on a single airfield.

Neutralising that airfield even temporarily may permanently neutralise the Typhoons.

The airbase on the Falklands is protected by a battery of Rapier anti-aircraft missiles.

While a direct bombing attack on the airfield may prevent the Typhoons from taking off or landing,such an attack is likely to be costly.

It is then more desirable to neutralise the airfield by other means.

The small size of the Falklands infantry garrison makes a ground assault on the airfield a viable proposition.

However,it would be time consuming to deploy an adequate force to the islands and for them to get to and seize the airfield.

Such an operation is then only viable after the Typhoons have been neutralised.

If an artillery battery could be positioned within range of the air base (a twenty five mile radius for the latest types of Argentine artillery),it could temporarily neutralise both the airfield and it's air defences.

By cratering the runway,or scattering mines on it an artillery battery can neutralise a runway temporarily.

Airborne Typhoons would be unable to land when they ran out of fuel.

Aircraft on the ground would be unable to take off.

British reinforcements would not be able to be brought in without a runway to land on.

Although the runway could be cleared,it could not be cleared quickly enough.

A similar effect can be acheived by getting man portable weapons such as the Argentinian R.B.S70 anti-aircraft missile,various long range sniper rifles,machineguns,mortars or anti-tank weapons within effective radius of the runway to engage aircraft on the ground.

Again however,the Typhoon threat must be neutralised for a short time in order to land an artillery battery and the infantry needed to protect it from the Falklands garrison or a major ground force.

As the primary means of air defence for the Falklands airspace these aircraft must conduct regular patrols as well as maintain a "Quick Reaction Alert" (Q.R.A.) to deal with any intrusions.

With just 4 Typhoons on the Falklands,it is likely that there are no more than 3 aircraft available for operations at any one time.

Fighter aircraft operate in pairs.

With just 3 available aircraft it is unlikely that 1435 Flight could sustain two daily patrols and maintain two aircraft permanently on Q.R.A.,this would be well above what British combat aircraft have generated in recent conflicts.

Once a patrol (and it's supporting tanker) run low on fuel,they must land.

After landing those aircraft are unavailable for a time due to the need for fuel and maintenance.

If the Q.R.A. pair can be encouraged to scramble while a patrol is out,then all of the defending aircraft may run low on fuel at a similar time.

In a peacetime situation,Argentinian aircraft can enter Falklands airspace with little fear of engagement.

Having no airborne early warning* and few fighters,defending British forces would have to intercept to investigate any contact which appeared above the horizon of their land based radars.

With many aircraft available and able to operate beneath this radar horizon,Argentinian forces can force the Typhoons to quickly consume their fuel investigating widely dispersed contacts.

However,this is unlikely to force the British to scramble their Q.R.A. pair.

The Falklands Islands government operates fisheries protection vessels within it's territorial waters.

With ten maritime patrol aircraft operating below the radar horizon of British land based radars,Argentina would have little difficulty locating one of these vessels.

The arrest of one of these vessels by the Argentinian Navy would certainly attract the attentions of the only British warship in the area,Her Majesty's Ship York.

However,York has little anti-submarine and anti-ship capability.

The fourteen anti-ship missile armed Argentinian destroyers,frigates and corvettes and three submarines would then be in a position to commence hostilities by destroying H.M.S. York.

The only assets able to assist the British warship in a hurry would be the two remaining Typhoons on Quick Reaction Alert.

Unfortunately they do not have anti ship missiles and would have to use laser guided bombs** dropped from well within the missile engagement envelopes of the Argentinian warships.

Thus all defending aircraft may be airborne at the same time.

From the moment those aircraft run low on fuel,it will be some considerable time before they can return to base,land,be refuelled and maintained and take off again.

During this period,air assault forces can be deployed by the ten Argentinian Hercules transport aircraft with little fear of interception .

Once artillery is set up within range of the runway,the Typhoons will be grounded for the duration of the conflict.

The British will be unable to reinforce their troops by air while Argentina will be able to quickly build up a substantial superiority in ground forces.

With no prospect of victory or evacuation,British forces in the Falkland Islands would have little option but to surrender.

*Open source material refers to 2 different "surface wave" Over The Horizon radars on the Falklands,an older system made by Marconi and a more recent system made by Insyte (there is also a civilian "sky wave" radar at Goose Green) it is possible that these may be located in the North West of East Falkland but we are not aware of any official acknowledgement of the existence of such radars.

**Update:at the start of operations against Libya it was found that Typhoons were not equipped even to drop laser guided bombs.


Anonymous said...

Seems to me if the Argentines want to get the aircraft, they should land a special forces team by submarine and attack the aircraft with ATGMs or guided mortars. Are they in hardened shelters? Somehow I doubt it. And I bet that tanker aircraft isn't in a shelter.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Anonymous,

you are quite right.
There are other ways of attacking the air base.
The aircraft there are largely unprotected when on the ground.

With a single infantry company to protect it from ground attack round the clock,even a small commando force would meet little resistance.
A handful of guided mortar rounds could wipe out the air defences entirely.
Anti tank weapons would need to come in closer but would be able to take out any aircraft in the open.

Another option would be to use naval gunfire which can easily reach Mount Pleasant assuming the ships firing it make use of "innocent passage" to get into position.

I focussed on air based attacks because I wanted to address the often repeated claim that the Falklands could be defended by 4 Typhoons.


Anonymous said...

Problem is..the Argies are useless. Best case they can muster some South-American bravado.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Anonymous,

I recall a British colonel saying something similar about the Japanese a couple of years before they captured 120,000 British troops at Singapore.


Anonymous said...

"I think you should go and tell this bunch of retards :"

That would be the retards that won the last bout on this subject?

Having an opinion does not make you right.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Anonymous,

you really should not call them retards,there are many posters on that site who are subject matter experts with a great wealth of knowledge.
But then there are also the Royal Air Force types who insist that warships must return to port every few days to replenish...

In any case the last round was won thanks to a handfull of Sea Harriers which are no longer in service.

You might also like to read the follow on to this post:


Draxman said...

Interesting, but the Argie armed forces are really in no shape to attack the Falklands at the moment. The Royal Navy may be smaller than in 1982 and lacking Sea Harriers, but a single Type 45 destroyer could probably shoot down the entire current Argie air force on its own. Unless Argentina increases its military spending or gets help from an ally, I really cant see them pulling it off. In any event I assume that's what the 'powers that be' believe, though admittedly they've got it very wrong on certain occasions in the past.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Draxman,

you may be right but about the Argentine forces but British forces have problems too.

Take that destroyer you mentioned.
There isn't a destroyer permanently in the Falklands.
There is just a single destroyer or frigate covering the whole of the South Atlantic and often that will be thousands of miles away from the Falkland Islands.

No British destroyers have anti-ship missiles at present,unlike all Argentinian warships.
The radar horizon,against a low flying air target,for a destroyer is about a 15-20 mile radius (depending on class) so Argentinian aircraft can simply fly around it without being engaged.

There is a similar problem with the submarine fleet,now it is being reduced to just 7 boats,there may be as few as 2 of those deployed at any one time.
If one of those is supporting the nuclear deterrent and the other is firing cruise missiles at Libya then there aren't going to be any in the Falklands.


Anonymous said...

First I said, great blog!

i´m an argentinian guy, reading your posts can understand why the british politicians qhere so frightened in the past 2 years.
until now i think they are nuts, how my country whith lack of armed forces can retake the islands.
i doubt of the navy courage to take the action you describe, but i must admite its possible.
in 1982 the entire fleet was in ports after the sunk of belgrano old cruiser, they never think how to break the ssn blockade.
another point is how accurate are the expresions of argentine comannders about the ammo (said: we have only ammo for 2 hours)
the air force have a lot of problems whith fuel and we have the same 2nd & 3th generation planes.

but your posts have great information and makes me to think about.

best whises

pd (my english grammar is very awful, sorry)


Anonymous said...

Come on let's have another war, it's better than x-factor!

Anonymous said...

Would it b worth it to the Argentines? They know we have a much stronger garrison on the Falklands and a strong will to defend them. Should the islands b retaken at great cost to the Argentine forces, the population and remaining British soldiers would make life too uncomfortable for the invaders. Eventually they would leave just like in Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

If Argentina does not have sufficient forces at home they could b attacked by their neighbours, Chile for example.

Anonymous said...

About 70 marines defended the Falklands in 1982, they seriously damaged an Argentine ship and put up a huge resistance against overwhelming odds, that fourth aircraft could massively gain air advantage and buy time to turn around other fighters previously launched, that hunter killer might b there and if close to the islands could sink many invading ships, sea depth taken into account

Anonymous said...

I won't disclose how many men might b in a company but that would b a teeth arm, it takes no account of support for that company, even the army postal service are trained fighters. Their are also the RAF support personnel, in all I think it would b very stupid of the Argentines to attempt to take the islands again.