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Clansey C, 2012. Factors Influencing the Defeat of Argentine Air Power in the Falklands War, The Royal Canadian Air Force Journal Vol. 1 No. 4

Clansey C, 2012. Factors Influencing the Defeat of Argentine Air Power in the Falklands War, The Royal Canadian Air Force Journal Vol. 1 No. 4

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Published by: Foro Militar General on Apr 17, 2013
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8
Factors Infuencing the Deeat o Argentine Air Power in the Falklands War 
The Royal Canadian aiR FoRCe JouRnal Vol. 1 | no. 4 Fall 2012
 
Factors InFluencIngthe DeFeat oF argentIne aIr Power In the FalklanDs war
 By oFFIcer caDet colIn clansey, cD
A column o No. 45 Royal Marine Commandos march toward Port Stanley. Royal MarinePeter Robinson, carrying the Union Jack ag on his backpack as identication, brings up therear. © Crown copyright. Imperial War Museum (IWM) www.iwm.org.uk/sites/deault/les/public-document/IWM_NonCommercial_Licence_1.pd 
 
9
Factors Infuencing the Deeat o Argentine Air Power in the Falklands War 
The Royal Canadian aiR FoRCe JouRnal Vol. 1 | no. 4 Fall 2012
t
he Argentine deeat in the FalklandIslands War was due in part to the over- whelming superiority o the Royal Navy (RN).
1
Most o the action, however,involved the air powers o the Royal Air Force(RAF), the Fleet Air Arm o the RN, the
Fuerza Aérea Argentina 
(
FA
) or ArgentineAir Force, and the
Commando de Aviación Naval Argentina 
(
CANA 
) or Argentine NavalAir Command.
2
Tis paper will analyse thestrategy and tactics o the Argentine air orcesas the most eective arm o the Argentinemilitary junta. It will argue that the Argentineairmen displayed great skill, courage, andtenacity in their missions but that ultimately their deeat was due to the absence o rationalleadership on the part o the junta, the pres-ence o Chile as a strategic distraction, covertair intelligence given to Britain rom othernations, and inerior technology. Te Argentine grand strategy envisionedby Lieutenant-General Galtieri, Presidentand Commander-in-Chie o the ArgentineArmed Forces, was to unite his people andprovide a diversionary ocus rom the post-Perón revolutions that had essentially torn hiscountry’s economic and social abric asunder.
3
  Te invasion o the Falklands was intended togive his people something to rally around andthus bolster national pride;
4
it was initially apolitical tool, aimed at motivating the negoti-ation o the sovereignty o the Islands.
5
Tere was no ocial intent or a large-scale military conrontation with the British. Indeed, theArgentine troops were originally slated toreturn to the mainland ater the invasion,leaving only a small garrison behind.
6
In a sense, Galtieri’s initial success washis downall. On 2 April 1982, he orderedthe invasion o the Islands. Five hundredArgentine troops successully captured PortStanley rom its guard o 69 Royal Marines,and or the next 10 weeks it became
Puerto Argentino
.
7
Te resulting euphoria in main-land Argentina summarily convinced Galtierithat there would be no turning back, andhe altered his military strategy rom one o takeover, leave, and negotiate to one o deendthe islands at all costs. Te invasion precipi-tated a urious British response in the orm o a large-scale military mobilization to retakethe Islands. Forced now to adopt a deensiveposture, Galtieri unilaterally ordered theairlit o the entire 10
th
Mechanised Brigadeand the 3
rd
Brigade (a total well over 10,000troops) to the Islands or their deence, adrastic increase rom the initial 500 usedor the invasion.
8
Tat he took this decision without consulting his own senior sta showsan overconidence that belied a strategicineptitude.
9
Not only was planning a grounddeence an error (Argentine troops were notas well trained or experienced as the RoyalMarines and the British Army), but the allo-cation o resources necessary to support thetroop airlit constrained his strategic options. With the British response in the ormo the ormidable ask Force 317 only a ew  weeks away,
10
Galtieri would have been bettero using his time and airlit resources to moveequipment to the Islands to construct a longerrunway. Te only hard runway available in theFalklands lay at Port Stanley, and although itcould accommodate military turboprops andtransports, it was too small or larger civilianor military jets and strike aircrat.
11
Strategicanalysts in both the United States (US) andBritain viewed the lengthening o the runway as the most obvious rst move, as it wouldhave enabled Galtieri to orward-deploy hismore advanced ghter aircrat, such as theSkyhawks and Daggers.
12
However, his airlitcapability was limited: he had at his disposalonly seven C-130 Hercules and a ew FokkerF-27 transports, along with some impressednational airline aircrat capable o landingon short runways.
13
In using all o his trans-port capability to lit troops to the Islands,not only did he orego any opportunity toimprove the runway, he also limited his abil-ity to lit artillery or vehicles to support thetroops he deployed.
14
he mismanagemento his limited strategic airlit capability thuscaused the deence o the Islands to be lacking
 
10
Factors Infuencing the Deeat o Argentine Air Power in the Falklands War 
The Royal Canadian aiR FoRCe JouRnal Vol. 1 | no. 4 Fall 2012
in mobility, tactical repower, and, with theexception o a small improvised aireld onPebble Island,
15
close air support.Another error in Galtieri’s strategy washis assumption that the US would back theArgentine cause.
16
Argentina was oendedthat the US had denied its request or “ullintelligence support”
17
in a war against Britain,indicating that Galtieri and his junta werenaive about international aairs and politicsand the “special relationship” between Britainand the US. Te only intelligence Argentina was to receive rom the US was Landsatimagery granted perorce due to a contractualagreement with the National Aeronautics andSpace Administration (NASA).
18
Argentinathus managed to successully acquire satel-lite imagery o South Georgia, the open seaso the south Atlantic, and the Falklands,presumably to assist in targeting the Britishtask orce with bombers; however, the USprovided Britain with the same imagery andmollied London by showing that Landsat was a civilian image acquisition system thatpresented only low-resolution images o little intelligence value. Although the US wasneutral on the matter o sovereignty o theFalklands itsel and initially maintained an“even-handed approach,
19
it was not neutralover the Argentine use o orce, and there wasnever any real chance that Argentina wouldbenet rom US military intelligence. Publicand ocial support or Britain remained highboth in the US and in Europe.Galtieri may have ailed to eiciently exploit his time advantage in terms o ask Force 317’s distance rom the Islands, buthis air orces were more competently led andthus better prepared. Argentine air assets were divided among the three services: the
Commando de Aviación del Ejército
, or Army Air Command, which operated tacticaland troop-lit helicopters rom the Islands;
CANA 
, which took advantage o airelds onthe mainland and on the Islands;
20
and the
Fuerza Aérea Sur 
(
FAS 
), or Southern AirForce, a component o the
FAA 
designated tocontrol the air war in the South Atlantic.
21
  he
FAS 
was set up on 5 April under thecommand o an experienced air orce pilotand commander, Brigadier-General (BGen)Crespo.
22
Its primary mission was simply to attack the British eet. It was a modern,capable, and well-trained air orce, andalong with Chile’s, one o the best in SouthAmerica.
23
Crespo immediately set to thepreparation o his pilots or the oncomingonslaught, exercising them vigorously againsteach other and against the Argentine navy standing in or British warships.
24
 While all army, navy, and air orceunits physically deployed to the Islands wereunder the command o BGen Menendez, who reported to Vice-Admiral Lombardo(Commander South Atlantic heatre o Operations), Crespo himsel reported dir-ectly to the ruling junta. He was expected tocoordinate his operations with Menendez,but it was not a clear system o commandand control,
25
particularly as air assets onthe Islands were under Menendezs author-ity. Tis was exacerbated by an awkward airtrac control system that involved multipledepartments, apparently necessitated by therequirement or intra-coordination o the airassets o the
FA
, the Army Air Commandand
CANA 
.
26
In act, the rst time the
FAS 
 and
CANA 
actually worked together was dur-ing the 30 May attack on Her Majesty’s Ship(HMS)
Invincible 
.
27
Crespo himsel was limited as to whereto base his own 122 aircrat.
28
Most o hissouthern mainland bases were not su-ciently disposed to acilitate large-scale airmobilization; or instance, Rio Gallegos wasunderdeveloped, and the Naval Commandbases at relew and Rio Grande were eitherlimited by their distance rom the theatre or by their inadequate acilities.
29
Crespo resortedto three civilian airelds in the Santa Cruz province to supplement his available airelds,chie o which was San Julian. Te dispositiono major Argentine air assets during theFalklands War is illustrated in able 1.

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