Monday, 1 November 2010

Falklands:No Carriers And No Runway?

The British Prime Minister David Cameron personally took the decision to retire Britain's carrier capable Harriers and the aircraft carrier Ark Royal which they fly from.

As a result the Royal Navy will be without a fixed wing aircraft carrier for the first time since it commissioned the World's first carrier,Her Majesty's Ship (H.M.S.) Argus,during the First World War.

The Falkland Island's defence depends on three things.

The Royal Navy's carrier groups provided the conventional deterrent to an Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands.

A modern British carrier task group can retake the islands if Argentina invades them,which makes any attempt at invasion pointless.

This deterrent is the Falkland Island's primary defence.

A secondary deterrent is the "tripwire force" which garrisons the Falkland Islands.

This force is not capable of defending the islands on it's own but does send the message to Argentina that if they want to invade the Falkland Islands they will have to fight for them.

The ability to reinforce the Falklands garrison by air if there is sufficient advance warning of an attack provides a tertiary deterrent to invasion.

This depends on the runway at Mount Pleasant remaining available.

Unfortunately the runway at Mount Pleasant will not be available in future.

Just after the Harriers are withdrawn from service.

This will leave the small "tripwire force" on the Falklands as the island's only defence.

Except at weekends.


Martin said...

What a F**K up thta will be. Sorry Cant fight the argies due to runway re surfacing. Luckily there are no trees in the Falklands or we would probably have problems with leaves in future.

To be honnest I am kind of hoping the Argies do try something. It will put the present government out on their arses for a considerable period if we loose the falklnads and can't even try to re take them. They wont be able to blame that one on the last government either.

Martin said...

Pitty we did not still have a few FA2's they could have been stationed at Port Stanley airfield as a stop gap until the runway was finished.

TheRagingTory said...

This is a spectacular **** up even for the UK.

The FI have a second airstrip dont they?
Could we "hard land" a few C17s on it?

Hardly ideal I know.
My usual point remains, the biggest worry on the Argentine side should be what, if anything, the UK will do to the mainland.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

whether a C17 can land at Stanley is an interesting question.
I would say the regular runway is too short but there is an unused length and I have no idea if that would be usable for a Globemaster III.


GrandLogistics said...

Hello Martin,

the Typhoons should still be able to operate as they don't require the full length of the main runway.

It's the big aircraft flying in reinforcements which would have a major problem.


Zé das Couves said...

I'm a Brazilian that loves Argentina, but I would never, ever expect rationality from an Argentinian government, especially a Peronista one -- and especially an unpopular Peronista one. Or from their military -- you shouldn't even discount an isolated action from some Navy or Air Force elements.

If no credible Royal Navy carrier force is available, put an entire infantry battalion, with lots of MANPADs and good all-terrain mobility/protection (Viking/Bronco), in Mount Pleasant. And make those four Typhoons an entire squadron, turning what is just a tripwire into a real deterrence.

It will not be cheap, but it will be much cheaper in the long run.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Zé das Couves,

the problem for the British is that the cost of sustaining a large force in the Falklands is more than they can afford.


Zé das Couves said...

Well, GrandLogistics, it seems to me that the problem for the British is that they are poised to suffer a humiliation the likes of which they've never really seen.

People in the US and the EU aren't truly aware of how strong the anti-Western sentiment in Latin America is. Or of how irresponsible our new leftist overlords can be. Here, perception is almost everything. In 1982, you had people like Reagan and Thatcher at the helm. For all their faults, they weren't "weak horses" (to use Bin Laden's figure of speech) like Obama and that guy Cameron. And, of course, you could still mount a task force.

Argentinians are insanely patriotic. They also are well fed, educated, imaginative and, given time and opportunities, very competent. Without credible British forces, they're quite capable of retaking the islands and brave international pressure. A pressure that I don't envision as exceedingly strong in the first place.

As for the costs of defending MP with a battalion instead of a company, and a squadron instead of a flight, are they really staggering? There's already an adequate infraestructure there (in the 1980s, the islands were garrisoned by an entire brigade), and some economy of scale is to be expected when you have "round units" instead of fractions of them. Besides, for all the limitations the British armed forces are living now (I'm well aware of them), it's not as if you had to create new units to meet this requirement.

Anyway, as I said, it would be cheaper in the long run.

P.S. You have a really great blog. I've never seen a better explanation of how empowering, and cost-effective, aircraft carriers are. Many thanks!

Zé das Couves said...

Sorry, my English is not that good. I wanted to say "and BRAVING international pressure."

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Zé das Couves,

don't worry about your english,it is very good.
Far better than my Portugese!

British soldiers are only expected to spend 20% of their time away from home.
To keep one battalion on the Falklands might require as many as 5 battalions.
British infantry is already working near it's full capacity supporting operations in Afghanistan so these would need to be additional new battalions.
A recent estimate by the Ministry of Defence said the cost of a single infantry battalion was £105 Million a year.
5 additional battalions would cost £525 Million a year.

To keep 1 Typhoon in the Falklands permanently probably requires 4 Typhoons to be kept in service.
To keep a whole squadron of 16*
would probably fully occupy 64 Typhoons.
Recent figures suggest a Typhoon costs about £16.8 Million** for each year of service life.
A fleet of 64 Typhoons would cost about £1,075 Million a year.

Together the infantry battalions and Typhoon squadrons needed to keep a full squadron and battalion in the Falklands would cost about £1,600 Million a year.

An aircraft carrier and a wing of F35s is likely to cost about £700 Million for each year of service.

Surging "battle" assets to retake the islands is more cost effective in the long run than sustaining "presence" assets to defend them.


*The planned size of Typhoon squadrons seems to vary somewhat.

**Operating costs for the Typhoon may decline in future,this is based on the most recent figures.