Factors Infuencing the Deeat 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 aireld onPebble Island,
close air support.Another error in Galtieri’s strategy washis assumption that the US would back theArgentine cause.
Argentina was oendedthat the US had denied its request or “ullintelligence support”
in a war against Britain,indicating that Galtieri and his junta werenaive about international aairs and politicsand the “special relationship” between Britainand the US. Te only intelligence Argentina was to receive rom the US was Landsatimagery granted perorce due to a contractualagreement with the National Aeronautics andSpace Administration (NASA).
Argentinathus managed to successully 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 andmollied 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,”
it was not neutralover the Argentine use o orce, and there wasnever any real chance that Argentina wouldbenet rom US military intelligence. Publicand ocial support or Britain remained highboth in the US and in Europe.Galtieri may have ailed to eiciently 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-lit helicopters rom the Islands;
, which took advantage o airelds onthe mainland and on the Islands;
Fuerza Aérea Sur
), or Southern AirForce, a component o the
designated tocontrol the air war in the South Atlantic.
was set up on 5 April under thecommand o an experienced air orce pilotand commander, Brigadier-General (BGen)Crespo.
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.
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.
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,
particularly as air assets onthe Islands were under Menendez’s author-ity. Tis was exacerbated by an awkward airtrac control system that involved multipledepartments, apparently necessitated by therequirement or intra-coordination o the airassets o the
, the Army Air Commandand
In act, the rst time the
actually worked together was dur-ing the 30 May attack on Her Majesty’s Ship(HMS)
Crespo himsel was limited as to whereto base his own 122 aircrat.
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.
Crespo resortedto three civilian airelds in the Santa Cruz province to supplement his available airelds,chie o which was San Julian. Te dispositiono major Argentine air assets during theFalklands War is illustrated in able 1.