Tag Archive | falklands

The most important part of a Harrier’s selling point

British air power in the Falklands Islands War in 1982 was limited to a handful of Harriers crammed on a pair of smallish carriers and a merchant ship, while the Argentines were able to throw all of their land-based A-4s and Mirage III/Vs at the British task force.

A low-flying Argentine Mirage attacks the British at San Carlos, Falklands, May 1982

However, the Brits did manage to use their “jump jets” to good effect, including creating a FOB ashore.

A Harrier hide.

The San Carlos Forward Operating Base was variously called West Wittering, HMS Sheathbill and Sid’s Strip (after Squadron Leader Syd Morris)

As noted by Think Defence:

The FOB was variously called West Wittering, HMS Sheathbill and Sid’s Strip (after Squadron Leader Syd Morris) depending on what service you belonged to. The final FOB, operated by 11 Squadron RE and commanded by the RAF had a 260m runway, dispersal areas for four aircraft, a separate vertical landing pad and a redesigned and reinstalled bulk fuel installation that could store 18,000 Litres.

More here.

Meanwhile, down in the South Atlantic

In Argentina, the 36th Anniversary of that country’s ugly defeat by a numerically smaller British expeditionary force in the Falkland Islands War– which the Argentine military has never recovered from– is still a fresh wound. Below from Euronews, with commentary from the Argie Minister of Defense:

Going beyond the rhetoric, Buenos Aries has recently taken possession of five very old former French Navy Super Etendards to go along with their vintage models and is reportedly hoping to lay hands on as many as 24 surplus Mirage 2000s the French have in storage, which is sure to be a hit in London.

Sure, the RAF keeps a quartet of Eurofighter Typhoons at RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falklands, but when it’s 24:4, things could get dicey if the Argentinians get lucky and the Brits have few of these sexy super jest to spare when accounting for those needed for Quick Reaction Alerts in the UK and growing NATO obligations.

Plum Duff flotsam

Here we see the SAS beret, stable belt, medals, wings and rank slides belonging to Captain Andy Legg (22 SAS) which will be going up for auction with Woolley & Wallis on May 3rd, 2018.

Captain Legg, as a young lieutenant, commanded the SAS team that was inserted onto the Argentinian mainland to gather intelligence about the enemy airbase at Rio Grande on Tierra del Fuego with an aim to destroy the Argentine Armada’s sole Exocet-carrying Super Étendard squadron on the ground in an echo to the SAS’s WWII North African lineage destroying Luftwaffe bases supporting Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

The recon mission, with 8 SAS commandos inserted by helicopter from the Harrier carrier HMS Invincible, was termed Operation Plum Duff. The plan was part of the larger Operation Mikado which would have seen nearly a quarter of the entire SAS– the 55 men of B Squadron– land directly on the runway Entebbe-style and exfil towards Chile afterward. While Plum Duff was a disaster and Mikado itself was scrubbed as a suicide mission, the event did tie down four battalions of elite Argentine Marines, arguably the best troops in their whole military, and they were sorely missed in the Falklands.

The estimate for the Legg collection is £40 000.

A trophy Sterling-Patchett, with an interesting back story

The Sterling-Patchett Mk 5 was a silenced version of the Sterling Submachine-gun. The modification was the work of George Patchett, who had originally designed the Sterling itself. The Mk 5 was adopted by the British armed forces as the Gun, Sub-machine, 9mm L34A1.

This is the commercially sold version with a “crinkle” finish, which featured a wooden foregrip to protect the firer’s hand from the integral suppressor unit, which became hot from the propellant gas which vented into it upon firing:

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30029460

This particular gun was captured from Argentinian forces during the 1982 Falklands Conflict by the British Army in June 1982 along with 20,000~ other sundry surrendered arms. It was issued (along with standard versions of the Sterling SMG) to the Argentine Marines, and was most notably used by their assault commandos – the Buzos Tacticos – during the initial stages of the Argentine invasion.

These Royal Marines of Naval Party 8901, seen outside of Government House during the Argentine invasion, would later return to the Falklands as part of 42 Commando and settle scores, being the first unit to raise the Union Jack at the compound.

Onyx on the rocks, err ‘impact hydrography’

While the RN committed a number of sexy modern nuclear-powered attack submarines to the Falkland Islands conflict in 1982– and they proved effective in making the Argentine Navy return to port after HMS Conqueror sank the WWII-era cruiser ARA General Belgrano with 323 lost at sea (among the bulk of that service’s losses in terms of humans on the butcher’s bill)– there was one creepy little diesel boat poking around close to shore.

El Snorkel has a great article from Lt Cdr Andy Johnson Submarine, Commander HMS ONYX (S21) during the conflict. An Oberon-class submarine, she was but 241-feet long and weighed only 2,400-tons, smaller than a WWII U.S. Navy fleet boat.

Commissioned in 1967, she had a cramped crew of 6 officers and 62 men and made the slow transit from the UK some 8,000nm south to the Falklands MEZ with a special 5 man diving chamber 10 MK 24, 2 Mk 20 and 11 Mk 8 torpedoes aboard.

She stopped halfway at windswept Ascension and picked up a team of British frogmen, flown ahead to await their ride south.

At Ascension Island, 12 May 1982, ONYX boarded SAS and SBS special forces personnel and supported them during a series of operations. IWM photo

Her shallow operating depth allowed her to creep in close to shore for commando and surveillance work in relatively uncharted areas where a nuke boat would be hard pressed. Officially, “her ability to operate silently close inshore enabled her to play an important role. In addition to providing a submarine deterrent and enforcing the exclusion zone surrounding the Islands, ONYX undertook reconnaissance, taking periscope photographs of enemy installations and likely landing areas for Special Forces operations.”

And it was sometimes very hairy.

From Johnson:

An effort to complete a reconnaissance mission at short notice nearly ended the patrol. Many of the charts used to navigate in those waters had not changed significantly since James Cook had first drawn them. The occasional soundings he made at that time were undoubtedly adequate for his small sailing vessel. They scarcely matched the requirements of a 2,500 ton submarine two centuries later. In consequence, ONYX discovered an uncharted pinnacle of rock in a most dramatic fashion – by running in to it whilst dived. Although everyone reacted admirably and control was quickly regained, it is probably safe to say the only people on board who appeared really calm were our ‘guests’ from special forces. Not entirely due to their steel nerves – no-one had time to explain to them what had happened! This piece of ‘impact hydrography’ put two out of the six forward torpedo tubes out of action. This was serious enough in itself, but was made worse since the two affected tubes were those used exclusively for wire guided torpedoes. As a result, the fore-ends’ crew had to reorganise our full torpedo load. This was akin to playing solitaire. However, they first had to make a free ‘hole’ by moving tons of additional equipment out into the rest of the submarine. Even then there were still weapons weighing tons suspended in mid-air as the reshuffle continued.

The rest here.

When the incoming missiles came into view, officers on the bridge were ‘mesmerized’ by the sight

A cara cara bird perches atop the remote memorial to the 21 men of HMS Sheffield

Some 35 years after the events, the MoD report into the loss of the Royal Navy’s Type 42 destroyer HMS Sheffield in the Falklands, following a hit from an Argentine Exocet missile, shows why is was redacted and withheld for the past several decades.

From The Guardian:

Some members of the crew were “bored and a little frustrated by inactivity” and the ship was “not fully prepared” for an attack.

The anti-air warfare officer had left the ship’s operations room and was having a coffee in the wardroom when the Argentinian navy launched the attack, while his assistant had left “to visit the heads” (relieve himself).

The radar on board the ship that could have detected incoming Super Étendard fighter aircraft had been blanked out by a transmission being made to another vessel.

When a nearby ship, HMS Glasgow, did spot the approaching aircraft, the principal warfare officer in the Sheffield’s ops room failed to react, “partly through inexperience, but more importantly from inadequacy”.

The anti-air warfare officer was recalled to the ops room, but did not believe the Sheffield was within range of Argentina’s Super Étendard aircraft that carried the missiles.

When the incoming missiles came into view, officers on the bridge were “mesmerized” by the sight and did not broadcast a warning to the ship’s company.

The rest here

Farewell, Lion: headed to the great razor blade store in the sky (not Port Stanley)

171014-N-VC599-068 NORFOLK (Oct. 14, 2017) Lt. Michael Murmuys carries the last flag flown aboard afloat forward staging base (interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) during the ship’s decommissioning ceremony. The ship, commissioned in 1971, was the 12th and last ship in the Austin-class of amphibious transport dock ships. After being forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation for the past five years, the “Proud Lion” returned to her homeport in September for decommissioning and dismantling. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/Released)

From the Navy’s presser:

Named for the Puerto Rican city of the same name, Ponce served mostly in the Atlantic Fleet, completing 27 deployments in the North Atlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.

Originally slated for decommissioning in 2011, the “Proud Lion” was refitted and reclassified, based on the USS Kitty Hawk’s (CV 63) role as an afloat special operation staging base during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. And, she was outfitted with a joint Navy – Military Sealift Command (MSC) crew.

Forward deployed for the past five years, the crew provided vital support to U.S. and allied forces in the U.S. 5th Fleet and Central Command, primarily during mine countermeasures operations, but also in international maritime command and control roles. In doing so, the crew launched, recovered and sustained multiple aircraft, riverine and other vessels. Their actions led to the ship and its crew being awarded the Combat Action Ribbon.

All points Falklands?

Contrary to some reports that had her going to Argentina, which caused heartburn in London, the 46-year-old Ponce now joins the inactive fleet and will be dismantled.

Why was that such a big deal?

Argentine Marines in Port Stanley, 1982. Members of the Buzco Tactico commando unit that landed and assaulted the (empty) Royal Marine barracks at Moody Brook outside of town, landed via small boats launched via LST. (Photo: Museo Naval de la Nación)

During the 1982 Falklands Islands War, the Argentine Navy used three new 10,000-ton Costa Sur-class light cargo ships and a 7,800-ton LST (ARA Cabo San Antonio) to invade the islands, with the latter transporting a mixed battalion of two Marine companies, an Army infantry unit, and 20 LVTP7 Amtracs in the initial attack and the cargo ships landing follow-on supplies to bolster the division-sized garrison.

Argentine Marines (Infantería de Marina) embark on ARA Cabo San Antonio, 1980s. Gotta love an LST when it comes to beach landings.

However, Cabo San Antonio was retired in 1997, leaving just the three cargo ships.

One of the trio, Bahia San Blas, has been converted since then to something akin to the amphibious cargo ships used in island hopping during WWII and has carried Argentine Army troops to Haiti and the former Yugoslavia on UN peacekeeping missions.

Bahia San Blas, note the 1940s surplus LCVPs on deck. She carries four, each of which is good for a light platoon. Current British garrison in the Falklands as part of British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI) is around 1,200

However, while Bahia San Blas can carry a couple hundred sea sick guys in sleeping bags, four LCVP’s on deck (or the Argentine Marine’s aging Amtracs) and containerized cargo, she lacks a dry well for larger landing craft or accommodation for helicopters, meaning she still needs a length of pier to unload and isn’t able to “kick in the door” in a serious amphibious assault with much more than a company-sized force.

Comment on the above from Admiral Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy, and the prospect of the Argies getting Ponce: “At a time when the Argentine government still refuses to accept that UK sovereignty of the Falkland Islands is not up for discussion, I would prefer if our friends such as the United States did not sell them a landing ship capable of launching helicopters and large numbers of troops.”

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