Argentine soldiers with FN FAL rifles, Falklands War.

May 1982


S&T 269 | JUL–AUG 2011

There were also wider implications for non-involved militaries. For the United Kingdom — as an active member of NATO with major responsibilities within that organization — it was viewed as unlikely any major commitment to a war beyond Europe’s borders would ever again occur. For Argentina. in which Argentine commandos were to sabotage a Royal Navy warship harbored in Gibraltar. the question was instantly raised as to the intrinsic value of fighting over a cluster of islands located 400 miles off southern Argentina. Anaya commanded Operation Algeciras. During the 1982 war.Falklands Showdown: A Strategic Analysis of the Anglo-Argentine War. the war can also be taken as having been the first fought within Antarctica — as encounters occurred on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia. it was also an old fashioned fight in that it could also fairly be called a colonial war (perhaps the last of them). Indeed. It was a unique sequence of events that brought new terms into the public vocabulary while revealing the capabilities and highlighting the shortfalls of two different military systems. just north of the 60 degree Antarctic Circle. continued on page 10 » Jorge Anaya in 1976. and even as far south as the South Sandwich Islands. though. the chaotic nature of that nation’s politics. 1982 by Adam Coleman Context T he 74-day Falklands War provided the world with a new perspective on military conflict and intelligence gathering in the early 1980s. the plan was thwarted at the last minute when communications were intercepted. S&T 269 | JUL–AUG 2011 7 . In early 1982 they were in diametrically opposed positions. provided a platform from which to demonstrate its capability as a regional power. Revisions in tactical and operational methods were real outcomes for many services aside from those of the participants. for those fighting on and around the windswept islands deep in the South Atlantic. Its implications arguably changed the mindset of governments and militaries across the globe and. it provided a test of military competence to a degree neither side’s participants had ever dealt with before. and the takeover of its government by a military junta in 1981. For observers outside the conflict. At the same time. It’s important when looking at the Falklands War to begin by putting oneself into the mindset of the warring parties at that time.

40 NCOs & 76 privates) Royal Air Force — 1 (officer) Falkland Islands Civilians — 3 (women killed by friendly fire) Of the 86 Royal Navy personnel. 18 from the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. 19 from the Special Air Service (SAS). 35 NCOs and 143 privates) Armada de la República Argentina (Navy) — 375 (including 321 on Belgrano. 19 & 1 on HMS Sheffield. 907 military personnel were killed during 74 days of the war. Fourteen naval cooks were among the dead. Argentina — 649 Ejército Argentino (Army) — 194 (16 officers. Thirty-three of the British Army’s dead came from the Welsh Guards. 21 from the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. 22 were lost on HMS Ardent. 3 from Royal Signals.  ◆ 8 S&T 269 | JUL–AUG 2011 . and 8 from each of the Scots Guards and Royal Engineers. 18 & 1 on HMS Coventr. which was the largest number from any one occupational branch within the Royal Navy. 14 NCOs and 11 marines) Royal Fleet Auxiliary — 4 & 4 Hong Kong laundrymen Merchant Navy — 6 & 2 Hong Kong sailors British Army — 123 (7 officers. 4 naval aviators and 34 marines) Fuerza Aérea Argentina (Air Force) — 55 (including 31 pilots and 14 ground crew) Gendarmería Nacional Argentina (Border Guard) — 7 Prefectura Naval Argentina (Coast Guard) — 2 Civilian Sailors — 16 United Kingdom — 258 Royal Navy — 86 & 2 Hong Kong laundrymen (see below) Royal Marines — 27 (2 officers. 13 on HMS Glamorgan.Killed in Action Summary In total.

S&T 269 | JUL–AUG 2011 9 .

For instance. with an emphasis on physical fitness. That foundational concept of mental determination and physical toughness was to prove itself on a daily basis in the Falklands. except for some techniques for helicopter operations. essentially. aggressiveness. reconnaissance. Emphasis in the training process was also put on personal initiative and leadership at every level. as was the economic pressure to “retrench” being put on the armed forces at that time. deployment of assets. with its positions filled through selective recruitment. the British armed forces still maintained a high degree of professionalism within all its branches. at least from a strategic capability standpoint. and a deeper will to win down to the man-to-man level. The Royal Navy was then already seen as a service in decline due to the strictures of the 1981 Defence Naval Review. if a military asset didn’t have use in the North Atlantic or Europe it was seen as non-essential. in combat. as well as its combat doctrines. the end of British power in the South Atlantic was at hand and the islands that had for so long been a national quest would soon be open for the taking. Both had consequences on how the military was to be configured. For the Army. though. that sug- gested to the Argentines. At the same time. though. They won every strategic and operational aspect of the fighting and. Each force also had behind it a national populace that was culturally and politically supportive of their militaries. defeated the Argentines by bringing to bear better preparation. In the larger circumstances of early 1982. little of the experience from Northern Ireland proved applicable in the Falklands. Significant emotional sentiment erupted on both sides as the tactical blow-by-blow occurred. There are other specific examples of such cuts.» continued from page 7 Though neither Britain nor Argentina fought a “total war. While there were numerical differences.” they did commit key resources in terms of their most professional units and equipment. That physical capability of the recruits was further enhanced by 10 S&T 269 | JUL–AUG 2011 . except for a small number of tactical exceptions. The Army was professional. Obviously the issue of Northern Ireland was important. The creed that every soldier must contribute and must be able to step up following the incapacitation of his leader was paramount. key units such as the Royal Marines were soon going to be entirely without landing ships. leadership. The British Army British military doctrine in the early 1980s was being influenced both by factors at home and abroad. each force possessed conventional hardware drawn from among the world’s most valuable and deadly at that time. in the future. thus educating recruits into the notion that going beyond normal levels of exertion was possible and expected. In the end the British were the victors. Training was multi-phased.

at Goose Green the forward Argentine positions were set up so as to have interlocking and mutually supportive positions. Aside from their younger average age and poor training. coupled with an inculcated orientation to operate aggressively. the Parachute Regiment and the Blues and Royals armored units –approached the fighting with tremendous esprit d’corps. The Argentine Army possessed both regular and conscript components. minefields were laid and basic field-craft was practiced. an untenable position from which soldiers would be willing to act so as to achieve victory. and had thereby amassed hardware as capable as that of their opponent when used appropriately. For a ground force centered on such units. success is often magnetic. fields of fire were established. That was true in all aspects of military life. Almost every land battle in the Falklands proved to be an effort revolving around one key unit. The insularity of elite units can create an environment in which those in them see themselves in a competitive relationship with other members of their own army. It hardly provided a basis from which to confront a core member of NATO. regarding another small group of islands south of Tierra del emphasis on hand-to-hand and close-quarters combat. as those men also belonged to the same elite tactical grouping. they were able to fight but never to win. to a lesser extent. were willing and motivated to perform to the highest level. That was due to the fact the Argentine Army of 1982 was a force trapped in a time capsule of earlier military thinking. Phillip Neame. In short. of course. however. and specific units — among them most notably the Royal Marines. even while lacking the overall situational awareness and larger competencies that would’ve been necessary in order to overwhelm their opponent’s desire to persevere. when looked at singularly. They were trained and led according to the proverbial book. with support from the Royal Artillery and. but a consistent weakness on the battlefield came from its inability to utilize the available firepower to best effect. That emphasis enabled average British soldiers to function in varied tactical environments with minimal adaptation time needed — something the Argentines proved unable to do. Their weapons and clothing were the same. and the efforts attained by each unit actually increase along with the hours and tempo of battle. when applied to combat. The soldiers of the British Army in the Falklands. positions were prepared. who at times were able to motivate their subordinates. the Falkland Islands weren’t a good place to deploy an unevenly S&T 269 | JUL–AUG 2011 11 . This is Tom’s work. Within the units of the British Army there was an organizational pride that showed itself in many instances during the war. sir. That. with any available weapons. Much has been made regarding the minimal training of the latter group’s young soldiers during their mandatory oneyear service. The interspersing of Regular Army cadre within those units also contributed some capable NCOs and junior officers. Yet. however. As was said by one junior NCO to Maj. and the model of discipline presented to the common soldiers was primarily geared toward making them obediently accept their low place in the military hierarchy.” The Argentine Army The three arms of the Argentine military — the Army (Ejercito). been a relatively big spender immediately prior to 1982. The Argentine military had. They were well led and held their officers in esteem. begs the question as to why they couldn’t perform at the level needed for victory. the distinction emphasized was the one between officers and enlisted. no matter what numbers they were committed against. In the weeks prior to the British stepping foot back on the islands. That manifested itself in a willingness to add an even sharper edge to combat operations. the Royal Air Force or Royal Navy. each displayed efforts that made them capable adversaries. Their Army was the beneficiary of much of those purchases. Modern Argentine military experience in the time prior to 1982 consisted only of some small counterinsurgency operations in the northern part of their own country and an episode of brinkmanship with the Chileans in 1980. For example. who’d raced to the head of the advance as his company tried to find its way through a hail of fire at the height of the Battle of Goose Green: “You wait here. Even so. and it created what was. We don’t want to risk you on this. Rather than being cultivated as valuable individual members of their units. the conscripts in the Falklands were equipped as well as their Regular Army counterparts. Navy (Armada – ARA) and Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Argentina – FAA) — all held diverse and ultimately incompatible approaches to warfare. even in small groups. That answer is rooted in their deeper military traditions as well as their approach to the situation in 1982.

and all of that was what their soldiers expected. that service proved the first to retreat from the fighting. however. Given the fact the French themselves had provided the Argentines with the training needed to efficiently utilize those weapons. which occurred at Port Howard on West Falkland. little was done by their officers to resolve the situation. Snow then fell many times in an already wet and bleak environment. with their AM. Being an Argentine soldier in the Falklands wasn’t a pleasant experience. a force without leadership will always fall. The growing lack of respect for the officers culminated in several incidents of violence against them after the surrender. and by the time of the first ground fighting in May the winter was setting (in the Southern Hemisphere). Opposing Navies & Air Forces The Argentine Navy was equipped with a mix of old and new ships.trained and less than fully motivated ground force. when soldiers were clearly going hungry. Basically. while old. was equipped with A-4 Skyhawks as well as modern helicopters with anti-submarine capabilities. then. but included several modern diesel submarines. 12 S&T 269 | JUL–AUG 2011 . and their overall fleet was bolstered by the recent acquisition of a handful of (then) ultra-modern Dassault Super Etendards. Argentine officers are generally immaculate and usually appear in dress or service uniforms. ate the same food in the field. and they’re in stark contrast to their weather-beaten and fatigue-uniformed British counterparts. logistics was another erratic and sad aspect of the war. Exocet surface-to-surface missilecarrying vessels. Finally for the Argentines. the Argentines were able to fight and hinder the British. the Armada certainly possessed everything it needed to accomplish some crucial degree of devastation. yet. always gave the clear impression they were in command. the Argentines failed to take action that could’ve restored the situation for them. were the weapon system the Argentines used to devastating effect in their efforts against the Royal Navy. but they were never able to defeat the will of their attackers to press forward. the farther a unit was from the main base at Port Stanley the smaller was the logistical support it got.39 Exocet missiles. Their one aircraft carrier. at times when the British were clearly off balance tactically. Faced with such a challenge. even before shots were fired. The rigid distinctions between officers and enlisted proved a weakness for both groups. In one classic example. April was the middle of autumn. which added yet another dimension to the declining morale. Given their military culture. In combat. Argentine training did little to ensure initiative was ever taken. Ultimately. Those planes. Therefore. despite their near-identical appearance with the enlisted around them.” The Argentines were commanded by a socially separate and privileged officer class. soldiers found to be eating pilfered chicken scraps were staked out on the freezing ground as punishment for what was termed “unsoldierly conduct. Discussions by this author with several Argentine soldiers who were in the Falklands revealed their initial disbelief British officers carried a load like everyone else. Its withdrawal from surface combat was made after only two hostile contacts: the sinking of the Guppy-class submarine Santa Fe at South Georgia. Photographs from just after the war reveal much. and several UK-built Type 42 destroyers.

S&T 269 | JUL–AUG 2011 13 .

5-inch anti-aircraft gun. Depending on circumstances those Sea Darts. It’s important to note that in neither case were the final victims of those Exocets their actual initial targets. So missions that might encounter a good chance of being hit by anti-aircraft fire were passed up in favor of launches being made at the missiles’ range limit. Traditional older weapons. In that sequence of events. In fact. with the intention of destroying the crucial HMS Invincible and Hermes. Argentina possessed five of those missiles at the time of the war’s start. they caused tremendous concern to the Royal Navy. though. Though dangerous. and even infantry machineguns strapped to ship railings. which thereby removed its helicopter cargo from potential service. First. In fact. the angle of strike into the target was critical. make a low run toward the British fleet. and they certainly could’ve been expected to have pressed harder their offshore attacks to exploit it had they known of it. The Argentine naval air arm had one weapon that worked its infamous way into modern military history: the air launched Exocet.and sea-launched configurations. the Oerlikon. coupled with their use of iron gravity bombs in a traditional “toss bombing” method. Much has also been written about the Argentine error of incorrectly timing their bomb fuses. Finally. (In NATO operations the AEW function was carried out by UK allies.) The Royal Navy also carried a variety of then-modern surface-to-air (SAM) missiles on its frigates and destroyers. and with only five “Sues” on hand. they had to run a gauntlet of Royal Navy fire. one of the missiles was shot down mid-flight by a gun round from HMS Avenger. had been retired several years prior to 1982. had as much success. and another that led to an internal fire on a cargo ship (Atlantic Conveyer). The missile then exploded inside its target. so their losses mounted even as their commitment to combat fell. any loss would’ve been immediately critical. generating much complementary structural damage. Without proper AEW. As mentioned above. the last purpose-designed British plane for use in that role. the initial set up of the air-launched missile and subsequent data transfer required it to be attached only by a Super Etendard. only arriving in-theater several weeks after the end of hostilities. Nevertheless. the Royal Navy couldn’t count on that threat being gone totally. The Royal Navy displayed several tactical weaknesses during its time in the operational area of the South Atlantic. but without success. but their effect was destructive and not decisive. though. Driven by two rocket motors when launched from a suitably configured Etendard. and tried to add to that count as hostilities evolved. all the while risking attack by Sea Harriers. While far from being the “wonder weapon” that’s sometimes portrayed. They scored two successes — the hit leading to the sinking of HMS Sheffield (a Type 42 destroyer). In a typical mission profile. their encounters with that weaponry had less of an inhibiting effect than did their pilots’ general unwillingness to push hard in their attacks. At the time. something that was an untested state of the art 14 S&T 269 | JUL–AUG 2011 . drop their auxiliary tanks and then return home.and the destruction of the former World War II Brooklyn-class cruiser General Belgrano. Even so. the missiles and their implication captured the front pages of the world press. it’s fair to say it was more good luck than good management the fleet’s lack of a satisfactory airborne early warning (AEW) system wasn’t better exploited by the Argentines. the Exocet didn’t prove decisive for several reasons. which resulted in many bombs that hit ships failing to explode. a common theme of much reporting during the war concerned the effect of the Exocet missile — both in its air. the Exocet invariably caused great damage when it hit and penetrated a ship’s hull at a 90degree angle. The Argentines launched three Etendard/Exocet attacks. Argentine jets would leave the mainland. It appears they weren’t aware of that Royal Navy shortfall. the less than maximal effort put forth by the Argentines in the first days after the British landings continued to decline as more and more pilots failed to return to their airfields. toss all their bombs in a single pass. it took the loss of several ships before the conversion of a radar carried by Sea King helicopters was adapted. such as the 4. and it remains among the key military artifacts and human memories of the entire war. and so it still maintained active surface screening until the end of hostilities. Irrespective of any purported deeper postures speculated about since the end of the war. Thus the Exocets certainly occupied British thinking. No Etendard therefore meant no air-launched missile. The Falklands War was also the first time night vision goggles were used by the Royal Navy. the fact remains the Argentine fleet simply disappeared from the tactical map. and if the homing head on the missile failed to receive accurate data it couldn’t locate its intended target. data transfers to the missile proved to be prone to error. Second. Rapiers and Sea Slugs were effective at times and useless at others. its efficiency decreased rapidly as the angle became oblique. hence the Fairey Gannet. For the Argentine Air Force.

Burden. Several countries provided intelligence: battlefield satellite images came from the US. 1986. and that numerous atomic missile submarines were moving into the South Atlantic. All of that came together to give British commanders a situational awareness from which they could make timely and correct decisions. repacked. Goose Green: A Battle is Fought to be Won. tested and/or stored. and successfully carry out. the Soviet assistance to the Argentines wasn’t enough to enable them to crack any British cipher system or interfere with the transmission of information they weren’t intended to hear. In comparison. a war of a type and in a location you thought you would never have to fight? The answer was that you have a proven core force with a willingness to persevere through setbacks. call in favors as necessary. the Argentines struggled simply to supply the bare logistical needs of forces just 400 miles from their homeland. et al. that special forces units were preparing to operate on the Argentine mainland. It all worked well enough that. In the early 1980s the Soviet Union certainly wasn’t an ally of Argentina. London: Guernsey Press. France provided data on the Exocet as well as tactical tips on how Sea Harriers could best defeat Mirages. which entered the theater via Ascension Island (a UK territory) in the Atlantic and remained effective in all aspects of military supply. 3rd ed. by the Soviet Union with the Argentines. The goggles worked to give the British a further operational edge.000 miles from home. 1983. New York: Harper & Row Pubs. London: Arms & Armour Press. Outside Influences An often overlooked aspect of the war was the various gyrations by both sides that came from their collection of intelligence. collectively they worked to remove obstacles and help enable ultimate British success. enabling support to ground units that made attacks at night. 1982. Mark. and the latter had actually expected its friendship with the US to cause the larger course of the crisis to turn in its favor. and general intelligence concerning the overall Argentine military situation came in from Chile. via signals intelligence (Sigint) sharing. in some cases. caused them to take into account each other’s intentions. For both sides the indirect involvement. follow an overall plan. Weapons of the Falklands Conflict. whether each such favor was active or passive. and they provided a wealth of open-source documentation concerning the Argentine force composition. as well as the supply of the latest special forces weapons from sources that still remain covert. The British also had current copies of Jane’s military manuals. New Zealand even offered to arrange an on-station reinforcement of a frigate. Rodney. More materially. There’s no doubt the US and several other Western countries gave the British support at all levels of military. airfield support at Ascension Island. The British also managed to affect the Argentines by the use of the “unknown. For the British the overarching fact was they were 8. to a lesser extent. At the operational level. The effect was the Argentines prepared to counter those false threats. the rapid sending of replacement parts directly from manufacturers. then. allocating resources in responses that ultimately did nothing for their real-world war effort. Conclusion The central question of 1982 for the British was: how do you prepare for. it was easier for the United Kingdom than it was for the Argentines to call in favors from many sources and. Dorset: Blandford Press. S&T 269 | JUL–AUG 2011 15 .  ❖ Sources Adkin. while their leadership applied itself only sporadically and only from the top down. That vital locale provided a safe area where equipment could be cross-decked. Simply put. the local tactical intelligence available to the British on-scene was of lower quality than that available simultaneously at their highest command levels. the UK’s military contacts led to their forces’ immediate provisioning with AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles. work as a combined-arms team. Falklands: The Air War. Bryan. Perrett. Sunday Times of London. It worked throughout the war as an ideal and necessary link in the logistical chain for the preparation of combat operations. by the United States with the British and. government and public arenas. 2nd ed. War in the Falklands — The Full at the time. and have leadership — at all levels — who demand no less than victory. and what therefore mattered above all else was their logistical chain.” They ran a disinformation campaign that indicated the Royal Air Force was basing aircraft in Chile. 1992.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful