Carrier attack on airbases 1982

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Starting a new thread to discuss the best way for a carrier to attack airbases, circa 1982.

(From the "P1154 scenario" thread re: the RN's excessive focus on attacking Port Stanley, and the potential alternate path of attacking Argentinian bases on the mainland instead)

1) The military rationale - temporarily suppress forward airfields/runways or try to destroy an air force on the ground in a lightning strike?
There has been an argument put forward, in a PhD thesis I think which may have become a book, that Stanley was something of a 'magnet' for the British planners and it absorbed far more ordnance and effort from Black Buck, Harriers, naval gunfire and later the British forces on the ground - they were fixated with destroying Stanley. Arguably they didn't have the proper means to do it.

At that time the RAF was developing JP.233 and of course munitions such as Durandal existed, 4 years later the French would use the rocket-propelled BAP-100 in Chad. Efforts to use Paveway with Harrier GR.3 LRMTS flopped too. There were effective means to destroy runways, the Task Force just didn't have any of them (well unless they really did have some WE.177A aboard...).

Even if the British had the best anti-runway equipment, it appears as a killer blow that knocks out an airfield for the duration is virtually impossible. To keep an airfield closed demands constant attention to hamper repair work and discourage makeshift operations. Maybe Port Stanley garnered too much attention for most of the war given that it was mostly used for resupply and evacuation. Then again it was used to fly in 4 x 155mm artillery pieces once RN shelling began and the 105mm pieces couldn't respond, as well as the trailer mounted Exocet launcher that hit Glamorgan and killed 13 sailors so it did give the defenders teeth.

Indeed there’s an argument that a simultaneous strike on Argentina’s air bases on the mainland would have been a better choice. Israeli Six Day war style - damage the runways first then destroy aircraft on the ground. Could have ended the Falklands air war on Day 1.

This was probably beyond the means of the RNs’ Harriers, but would have been an option with a conventional carrier with Buccaneers or Super Etendards, Durandals, buddy refueling, and good planning/training. The 4 main Argentinian airfields in the south were extremely vulnerable, with short runways (so easy to target) and ~60 aircraft crowded on aprons, there being only 16 hardened shelters and air defenses were almost non existent.

FWIW, discussion of whether aircraft aboard Royal Navy aircraft carriers could suppress Argentine air bases presupposes that they'd be operating under rules of engagement which allowed them to do so. It's entirely possible that they wouldn't be allowed to try, given the UK's concerns in OTL about keeping the conflict constrained to the area immediately around the islands.
 
2) The target set
These are the Argentine airbases used in 1982 from north to south. I've just looked on Google maps satellite view, so what I see might not have been there in 1982, however given Argentina's military and economic situation I'd think there wouldn't be huge changes to the military side.
  • Trelew; No taxiway; turning loops each end of runway, 1 hardstand at AFB, 1 big hardstand at civilian airport. Canberra
  • Comodoro Rivadavia: Parallel taxiway, 6 HAS in 2 locations, 1 dispersal area, 2.5 hardstand areas. Mirage III, C130, F28, Sqn Fenix
  • San Julian. No taxiway, 8 HAS in 2 locations, end of runway parking for rapid scramble, 1 hardstand area. Dagger, A4C
  • Rio Gallegos: Parallel taxiway, 16 HAS in 3 locations, end of runway parking for rapid scramble, 3 hardstand areas. Mirage III, A4P, Trackers
  • Santa Cruz; No taxiway, 1 hardstand area. A4P
  • Rio Grande; No taxiway, end of runway parking for rapid scramble, 1.5 hardstand areas. Dagger, A4Q, Super E, Neptune
This is a real mixed bag and likely indicative of many countries around the world. Rio Gallegos will require a real hammering to damage the runway and taxiway, attack the HAS to get to the protected aircraft as well as 3 separate hardstands where aircraft will be parked. In contrast Santa Cruz might be wiped out by a handful of aircraft in a single attack on the runway and hardstand.

Here is the CIA’s assessment of these airfields as of 1983. It notes only 8 HAS at Rio Gallegos and some improvements at Rio Grande which may have been post May/June 1982. We can ignore the first 2 bases (Trelew and Comodoro Rivadavia to the north) as they were too far for anything but Canberras

 
3) How to go about attacking the airfields
In the textbook anti airfield strike, Op Focus in 1967, the attacks were large and sustained. The first wave was ~210 aircraft against 11 airfields, the second wave was of similar strength against 14 airfields about 20 minutes later and included some re-atracks, and there was a third wave before midday. This destroyed the Egyptian air Force, however its important to note that the Egyptian front only lasted for 3 days so there was little time to recover.

I doubt that even CVA01 & 02 could duplicate that sort of effort against the 4 Argentine air bases within range of the Falklands if they were authorised to. They just lack the numbers, despite the Buccaneers and Phantoms being individually able to do far more than Mirages, Mysteres and Vautors. There would be no rapid turnaround for follow on sorties for starters, modern carriers don't really do that.

The two carriers could probably take out two air bases each day, launching a single full strike at each and reserving 6-8 Phantoms for CAP.

So about 15-20 aircraft per base. You could probably cut that in half due to the greater bomb loads of Phantoms and Bucs. But the CVA01 air wing was looking like 16x Phantoms and 16x Bucs, right?

Carriers keep 6-8x Phantoms each for CAP. So your available strike force is 8x Phantoms and 16x Bucs per carrier. Splitting that into two strike packages gives you 4x Phantoms with bombs and full AAMs and 8x Bucs per carrier per airfield. (12x aircraft per base, each carrying at least twice what the IAF planes did)

So depending on distances, two CVA01-class carriers probably could take down all 4 Argentine air bases in one attack(!).

I'm reading Op Focus as really only two attacks per base.

Depending on the CVA01 ability to reload the air wing, they might have been able to generate a second attack per base.

Mission I am assuming is timed so that all 4 bases are struck at the same time, despite different travel times to the bases. This splits the 4 strike groups into smaller chunks, and if the time/distance equations are kind the deck crews may have had enough time to rearm and launch the closer strike before the farther strike gets back. The first returns get sent to the farther base for wave 2, and the second group gets sent to the closer airbase for the second strike.

This really depends on how many loader vehicles/trailers there are onboard, so there may be a stop at a US base to borrow more bomb trailers so they can have enough trailers to load the entire strike group at once.

I'd say almost every base got 2 waves and important ones got 3. There was at least 1 base in upper Egypt that could only be reached by Vautors, so it likely only got hit once.

If it were me I'd want 2 waves, each with a bit of heft. So the first wave would be 6 Buccaneers and 2 phantom escorts for each base and the 2nd wave would be 4 Buccaneers with 2 phantom escorts but they also carry some air to ground ordnance like a couple of cluster bombs or rockets or a gun pod. That would use up the carrier's ~1 sortie per plane per day.

@Rule of cool @Scott Kenny I think you’re overestimating Argentinian strength. An attack of the 4 Argentinian airfields might be workable with as few as 15 strike aircraft.

The goal in most cases would be to achieve a single cut of the runways, thereby disabling them (2 cuts needed for Rio Gallegos which was ~3,500m long, the others were all short 2,000-2,200m runways).

Assuming a standard loadout of 3 Durandals on a triple pylon, I would expect 3 strike aircraft would have a high likelihood of getting at least 1 successful cut (Israeli experience showed very high success rates). So 6 aircraft for Rio Gallegos and 9 (3x3) for the other 3 airfields - total 15 strikers.

Ingress at low altitude / high speed would minimize warning time to under 5 minutes in most cases, making the strikers hard to intercept.

Disable the runway on the 1st pass then return for 1-2 passes straffing aircraft parked in the open with guns or rockets. I would want a mix of jammer pods to disrupt AAA radars and some Sidewinders for self-defense.

Fighter escort of 2 aircraft against Rio Gallegos. The other 3 fields might only rate 1 close-in fighter escort operating as a 4th aircraft in the same package.

That would be a total of 20 aircraft (15 strikers and 5 escorts). Adding some spares and enough for a defensive CAP around the carrier and I think 30 aircraft would be sufficient. This would obviously be the strict minimum and would be a high risk operation.

At least 1-2 follow-on strikes in the same day should be possible if the initial strike is successful. These could focus on any aircraft left in the open and on hardened shelters.

My recent reading has shown that airbases are very resilient, it wouldn't take too long to do a makeshift repair on a Durandal crater which is why the JP233 had a lot of delayed action and anti-personnel bomblets. This means that to really knock out an airbase major taxiways, hardstands, supply and repair infrastructure, personnel as well as the aircraft all need to be attacked. With so many targets in a major airbase it's not surprising that Israel really loaded aircraft into their attacks and then did 2nd a 3rd attacks.

I was assuming basic 1000lb bombs, not Durandals, so much higher numbers of planes needed.

Were Durandals ever cleared for F-4s or Bucs? If so, good, we can use a smaller attack flight per base.

I would not want to have any plane make a second pass over the airfield, use Rockeyes or the British cluster bomb to shred any aircraft on the ground. One pass, over and gone.

I'd be sending 1 whole carrier air group against Rio Gallegos alone, with it's 16 HAS, parallel taxiway and 3 hardstand to disperse aircraft around and 4 end-of-runway 'scramble' parking spots.

The other carrier I'd be sending 2 Buccaneer against Santa Cruz, 3 or 4 against Rio Grande and whatever's left on this carrier against San Julian with it's 8 HAS and 3 'scramble' parking spots.

The whatever's left after this big first wave I'd send later in the day to harass (in order of priority) Rio Gallegos, San Julian, Rio Grande then Santa Cruz.
 
Two question:

* What anti-air defenses Argentinean airfields have?
* How you suppose to dealt with them?

I should point out, that in case of British having better carriers, Argentina may boost its air defenses before the war.
 
Two question:

* What anti-air defenses Argentinean airfields have?
* How you suppose to dealt with them?

I should point out, that in case of British having better carriers, Argentina may boost its air defenses before the war.
Air defenses were extremely limited (20mm guns) - only Rio Gallegos had a radar controlled 35mm Skyshield gun. A jammer pod should be sufficient to render it ineffective.

Here is more info on aircraft disposition and radar coverage. Depending on the source there were 46-50 fighters at 3 bases on May 1st (Rio Gallegos, Rio Grande and San Julian) - about 60% of Argentina's entire fighter force This increased to 64 aircraft on May 2nd, with the arrival of the 2nd Skyhawk squadron at Rio Gallegos (12 A-4Cs) and the return of 6 Daggers at San Julian (they had been moved north on Apr 29 due to an air raid warning). Santa Cruz had no fighters, only 8 Pucaras, but it's unlikely an attacker could have known that so it would probably have to be attacked too.

Early warning from ground radars would have been limited due to their radar horizon. The San Julian radar was at 150m and would have had a ~50nm horizon, 5 minutes flight time. Most of the other radars seem to have been at lower elevations. By the time the operator confirmed an inbound track, called it in, and the alert was communicated to pilots and AAA guns, there would very little time for air defenses to react.

One big question would be early warning from Argentine air reconnaissance. Until May 1st there was only 1 radar equipped Neptune flying from Rio Grande - it did fly a patrol mission on May 1st but it's unclear what time(s). A 2nd Neptune joined on May 2nd.

Sources:
The Argentine Air Force During Malvinas War
Air Power in the Falklands Conflict: An Operational Level Insight
 

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radar controlled 35mm Skyshield gun.
Erm? You mean, Oerlikon GDF with Skyguard fire control system?

A jammer pod should be sufficient to render it ineffective.

No it wouldn't. Even assuming that it would jam Super Fledermaus radar (which is not guaranteed), it would still be able to use electro-optical sights to guide the fire.
 
If we're talking CVA-01, it's 1.25 sorties per day per aircraft and sustainable at intense operations for 4 days.
And assuming a full Hslf TAU...
That's 32 Buccaneer and F4 tasked with Attack, Strike, Counter Air, and special missions. With another 16 F4 tasked with CAP and DLI.
Approximately a third would be in maintenance, so a maximum of 21 offensive and 11 defensive operational.
 
You mean, Oerlikon GDF with Skyguard fire control system?

No it wouldn't. Even assuming that it would jam Super Fledermaus radar (which is not guaranteed), it would still be able to use electro-optical sights to guide the fire.
Yes Skyguard, my bad.

Jamming fire control radars is exactly what self-defense jammer pods were designed to do, starting in the late 70s. By all accounts they were very effective.

It is unlikely that a single gun mount in backup optical mode would be very effective against multiple aircraft coming in fast and low from multiple directions.
 
Okay, some air defense data:

* BAM Tandil had as its air defense a battery (9 pieces?) of Bofors L60 of 40mm.
* BAM San Julián had an Oerlikon 35 mm battery, and also two Oerlikon "loose" as the Skyguard DT had not yet arrived in Argentina (also nine RH-202 cannons).
* BAM SANTA CRUZ - A battery consisting of 8 pieces of 20 mm cannon belonging to the BAM Mar del Plata installed on April 30, 1982. A section consisting of 5 pieces of 30 mm cannon belonging to the Army installed on May 22 by GADA 101.
* Trelew Air Base - 3rd Bateria Antiaerea of RH-202 of 20 mm with 8 pieces belonging to the 5th Brigade Aerea.
* Rio Grande Air Base - 2nd Bateria Antiaerea RH-202 20 mm with 9 pieces, belonging to the V Air Brigade (air force), Batria Antiaerea Bofors 40 mm with 15 pieces (Navy), Four pieces of Hispano Switzerland HS-831 of 30 mm (Army)

So San Julian protected not by one, but by four GDF-022 cannons (each battery have two), of which pair were equipped with Skyguard, and pair were on local control. Also a rather large battery of 20-mm cannons, also under radar control. Considering that GDF's demonstrated themselves rather good on islands, you should expect at least some attacking planes shreddered.
 
A word on target load. Each HAS, there were 2 bases each with 8 HAS, would need at very least a direct hit with a 1000lb bomb, in PGW1 the US used 2000lb LGB penetrator bombs and followed that with a regular LGB into the hole. Major hardstand parking areas would need to be plastered with cluster bombs and iron bombs, although perhaps this could be done by toss bombing. POL sites would need to be hit, that would take up some bombs.

The real problem as I see it is cratering the runway, although I presume a Britain that has CVA01 & 02 could integrate some Durandals within the time it takes the TF to get to Ascension. The other hard thing is aircraft scattered around the airfields on various hard stands, alert ramps etc, these will have to be hunted individually and attacked with rockets, cluster bombs, iron bombs or guns if available, this is the task that will get the most AA fire, although suppressing AA fire is potentially another task.
 
Okay, some air defense data:

* BAM San Julián had an Oerlikon 35 mm battery, and also two Oerlikon "loose" as the Skyguard DT had not yet arrived in Argentina (also nine RH-202 cannons).
* BAM SANTA CRUZ - A battery consisting of 8 pieces of 20 mm cannon belonging to the BAM Mar del Plata installed on April 30, 1982. A section consisting of 5 pieces of 30 mm cannon belonging to the Army installed on May 22 by GADA 101.
* Rio Grande Air Base - 2nd Bateria Antiaerea RH-202 20 mm with 9 pieces, belonging to the V Air Brigade (air force), Batria Antiaerea Bofors 40 mm with 15 pieces (Navy), Four pieces of Hispano Switzerland HS-831 of 30 mm (Army)
What’s your source? The presence of the 35mm at San Julian doesn’t tie with the official source I linked to above.

Also AFAIK only the 35mm guns were radar directed and the only kill obtained against a Harrier was against the one Sea Harrier that did not have a functional RWR. The other Sea Harriers were able to break radar lock with chaff. A self-protection jammer would have been even more effective.

The optical or manually laid guns were not effective throughout the campaign.
 
What’s your source? The presence of the 35mm at San Julian doesn’t tie with the official source I linked to above.

Here:

https://www.zona-militar.com/foros/threads/defensa-aa-en-bases-continentales.75747/page-2

Also AFAIK only the 35mm guns were radar directed and the only kill obtained against a Harrier was against the one Sea Harrier that did not have a functional RWR. The other Sea Harriers were able to break radar lock with chaff. A self-protection jammer would have been even more effective.
Erm, as far as I know, GADA 601 is credited with five Harriers shot down or put out of service. Two were destroyed by GDF's, another one damaged by them, one was destroyed by Roland SAM and another was damaged by combination of 35-mm and machinegun fire.

The optical or manually laid guns were not effective throughout the campaign.
And why do you assume that Argentinean, facing the threat of full-scale British carrier group, would not obtain at least some additional air defenses for their airfields?
 
And why do you assume that Argentinean, facing the threat of full-scale British carrier group, would not obtain at least some additional air defenses for their airfields?
Because after the Argentinian military leadership had proven to the world they were an absolute disaster at governing Argentina, they then proved to the world they were an utter failure at soldiering.
 
A word on target load. Each HAS, there were 2 bases each with 8 HAS, would need at very least a direct hit with a 1000lb bomb, in PGW1 the US used 2000lb LGB penetrator bombs and followed that with a regular LGB into the hole.
The hardened shelters are an interesting challenge, though they were only slightly hardened so may not need an LGB. Each could fit 2 aircraft it seems.

100mm or 127mm rockets could be an option. Brandt’s 100mm rocket can penetrate 2M of concrete.

FRrlV8aWQAAQ2is.png


bam%2Bsan%2Bjulian.jpg
 
I don't think its a good idea to get too hung up on the politics of this scenario, Argentina invaded the Falklands at least 6 and more likely 9 months earlier than planned when Anya agreed to support Galtieris power grab in exchange for an invasion of the islands. Anya intended to invade in the southern summer of 82-83 after a year of preparation and planning, but was overtaken by events so stuck with what they had 1/4 of the way through the planning cycle.
 
Good summary. These are the 4 bases that matter. (Ignoring Trelew and Comodoro Rivadavia to the north as they were too far for anything but Canberras)

Here is the CIA’s assessment of these airfields as of 1983. It notes only 8 HAS at Rio Gallegos and some improvements at Rio Grande which may have been post May/June 1982.

I've been looking at pages 18, 26 and 28 of this document for the 4 relevant airbases.

Even dodgy little Santa Cruz had 7 well dispersed aircraft revetments that will require a direct hit with a cluster bomb to destroy the aircraft parked there. I'm starting to see why Israel was so intense in 1967, there are so many targets on even a minor military airbase that big numbers are a must.
 
The Buccaneer in Royal Navy service was intended either to deliver a nuclear weapon or later to use Martel missiles against Soviet surface ships.
I find the idea of it being equipped to take out enemy airfields completely fictitious. Ark Royal used the type until 1979 and it's only land strike weapon was the standard 1000lb free fall bomb.
The RAF opted for the JP233 dispenser as did the German Air Force with the MW1 but this weapon was never carried by its Buccaneers.
 
If a Buccaneer can carry 1000lb bombs then it could drop them on an airbase, or more specifically the hardstands where aircraft are parked, any above ground fuel tanks, various repair hangars, accommodation barracks and other soft targets. After all this is what the Vulcan and Sea Harriers did against Stanley and Goose Green on 1 May 1982.

Things only get beyond the Buccaneer when you start looking at putting holes in runways and HAS. Apparently toss bombing makes 1000lb bomb land at a 30 degree and and skid a bit rather than penetrate a hard surface. This is why the Vulcan bombed from 10000', to give the 1000lb a good chance to penetrate, but high level bombing of a long narrow target makes it hard to get a hit at all. The other difficult task would be destroying the HAS, I think (but don't know) a 1000lb bonb could physically penetrate a basic HAS but it would require a direct hit at a good angle and speed which might be tough for a Buccaneer.
 
The Buccaneer in Royal Navy service was intended either to deliver a nuclear weapon or later to use Martel missiles against Soviet surface ships.
I find the idea of it being equipped to take out enemy airfields completely fictitious. Ark Royal used the type until 1979 and it's only land strike weapon was the standard 1000lb free fall bomb.
Durandals are easy enough to hang on a bomb rack, the trick is going to be training to get them on target.

And honestly, I'd load the F-4s with Rockeyes or BL755s to shred everything in the open.
 
I am not sure that the Reagan administration and Jean Kirkpatrick in particular would have supported UK action against a South American ally of the US on its own territory.
Bombing targets on mainland Argentina would have alienated a lot of countries even in Europe who were already dubious about what Britain was doing in the South Atlantic.

Assuming (and this is pretty much like assuming Santa Claus exists) the RN had had two CVA type ships operational in 1982 Argentina would have purchased more German built conventional subs and gone after them before they could get in range of the mainland or the Falklands. West German versions regularly damaged US carriers in NATO exercises even though they were not supposed to by the rules of the wargame. An RN commander told me this in 1985.
 
I am not sure that the Reagan administration and Jean Kirkpatrick in particular would have supported UK action against a South American ally of the US on its own territory.
Bombing targets on mainland Argentina would have alienated a lot of countries even in Europe who were already dubious about what Britain was doing in the South Atlantic.

Assuming (and this is pretty much like assuming Santa Claus exists) the RN had had two CVA type ships operational in 1982 Argentina would have purchased more German built conventional subs and gone after them before they could get in range of the mainland or the Falklands. West German versions regularly damaged US carriers in NATO exercises even though they were not supposed to by the rules of the wargame. An RN commander told me this in 1985.

They didn't need to because Thatcher specifically wanted to keep the war limited. I think it was something like; a short war with as few dead as possible but lots of prisoners, was what she wanted.

However its an interesting thought exercise as its limited in both number 9f airfields and number snd type of attack aircraft.
 
If my Grandma was a buggy she would have wheels...
You have taken RN Buccaneers outside any real world roles and options and so this counts as fantasy rather than possible what-if which has to have some connection with real plans.
 
I am not sure that the Reagan administration and Jean Kirkpatrick in particular would have supported UK action against a South American ally of the US on its own territory.
Bombing targets on mainland Argentina would have alienated a lot of countries even in Europe who were already dubious about what Britain was doing in the South Atlantic.
Yet there was a standing plan to loan one of the LHAs to the UK if one of their carriers got damaged or sunk.

Complete with a whole bunch of suddenly-civilian former crew to operate it for the UK for a bit as "training contractors."

And the whole AIM-9L gift.


Assuming (and this is pretty much like assuming Santa Claus exists) the RN had had two CVA type ships operational in 1982 Argentina would have purchased more German built conventional subs and gone after them before they could get in range of the mainland or the Falklands.
That still would have required significantly more funding for the Navy, and enough training/time at sea to be competent.



West German versions regularly damaged US carriers in NATO exercises even though they were not supposed to by the rules of the wargame. An RN commander told me this in 1985.
Sure, and US subs have also damaged carriers and escorts. One Skipjack-class almost burned a DD to the waterline after the flare the sub fired to announce "torpedo in the water" got stuck in the aluminum superstructure/masts.


However its an interesting thought exercise as its limited in both number 9f airfields and number snd type of attack aircraft.
Also, if the attacks are limited to busting the runways, there's minimal fatalities and the ArgAF is effectively out of the war for however long it takes to fix the runways. A week or two, minimum.


You have taken RN Buccaneers outside any real world roles and options and so this counts as fantasy rather than possible what-if which has to have some connection with real plans.
My plan was assuming 1000lb bombs or and/or cluster bombs. Things the Bucs and F-4s have been carrying since the 1960s.
 
If my Grandma was a buggy she would have wheels...
You have taken RN Buccaneers outside any real world roles and options and so this counts as fantasy rather than possible what-if which has to have some connection with real plans.

I doubt the RN thought the Sea Harrier would be used to attack airfields back in the 70s, yet that was its combat debut. If instead of the Invincibles the RN had got the CVA01 then the Buccaneers would have attacked Port Stanley airfield. You get the conflicts you get, not the ones you plan for, so militaries have to be and usually are inherently flexible.
 
@uk 75 I understand your objections from both a politics and RN perspective. That said the purpose of this thread is also to explore « what it would take » to successfully attack multiple airbases from a carrier, circa 1982.

How one would go about it, how many aircraft, sorties, what types of ordnance, tactical profiles, how to achieve surprise etc. Generically against a target set that looks like the Argentinian forces, from carriers that might look like (take your pick) Ark Royal, Hermes + Invincible, Clemenceau, CVA-01 etc.
 
I think the historical RN force would really struggle to take out the airfields, even at one per day as they traveled south towards the islands. Hermes had 16 SHAR and 8 GR3, Invincible had 12 SHAR. Let's assume that the two carrier groups merged so that Hermes could provide the CAP and ASW, and 2 SHAR get to play post-strike recon.

This leaves us with 18 SHAR and 8 GR3s available for the actual strike package. (I'm assuming that a miracle will happen and all birds will be fully mission capable at the start)

I will assign 2x SHAR as escorts, they will only have Sidewinders (since IIRC SHAR never got Skyflash?). As many sidewinders as I can have them carry, but still only Sidewinders.

Since IIRC the GR3s didn't have a laser designator and only a spot seeker, they will carry BL755 cluster bombs to hit the parking areas since the GR3 pilots will have practiced this. I'd actually prefer to give the GR3 pilots the Durandals if they've practiced using them.

This leaves the SHARs to do the runway busting with 1000lb bombs. This will likely be a challenge for them, there's no good way to bust a runway with 1000lb bombs down low. Toss bombing will likely have the bomb skip and skid off the concrete, so I think this will actually require dive bombing(!) to have the bombs hit and dig into the concrete. That's why I'm having 16 SHAR each drop a pair of 1000lb bombs on the runway. Not sure how well it'd work with a low approach, hard climb as if toss bombing but continue climbing to over 10kft before turning over and diving back down before release to put bombs on target.

Giving the SHARs as many Durandals as they can carry would be preferable, but the pilots won't have much practice in using them.
 
Yet there was a standing plan to loan one of the LHAs to the UK if one of their carriers got damaged or sunk.

Complete with a whole bunch of suddenly-civilian former crew to operate it for the UK for a bit as "training contractors."

And the whole AIM-9L gift.
And that is where we get into the division of opinion in the US Govt circles.

Jean Kirkpatrick and the pro-South American/ Argentinian foreign policy faction prepared to turn a blind eye to all the nasty activities of various regimes in that region on the one hand and the pro-British Casper Wienberger /DoD on the other prepared to do just about anything they could to help UK. Fortunately the latter won out.
 
I think the historical RN force would really struggle to take out the airfields, even at one per day as they traveled south towards the islands. Hermes had 16 SHAR and 8 GR3, Invincible had 12 SHAR. Let's assume that the two carrier groups merged so that Hermes could provide the CAP and ASW, and 2 SHAR get to play post-strike recon.

This leaves us with 18 SHAR and 8 GR3s available for the actual strike package. (I'm assuming that a miracle will happen and all birds will be fully mission capable at the start)

I will assign 2x SHAR as escorts, they will only have Sidewinders (since IIRC SHAR never got Skyflash?). As many sidewinders as I can have them carry, but still only Sidewinders.

Since IIRC the GR3s didn't have a laser designator and only a spot seeker, they will carry BL755 cluster bombs to hit the parking areas since the GR3 pilots will have practiced this. I'd actually prefer to give the GR3 pilots the Durandals if they've practiced using them.

This leaves the SHARs to do the runway busting with 1000lb bombs. This will likely be a challenge for them, there's no good way to bust a runway with 1000lb bombs down low. Toss bombing will likely have the bomb skip and skid off the concrete, so I think this will actually require dive bombing(!) to have the bombs hit and dig into the concrete. That's why I'm having 16 SHAR each drop a pair of 1000lb bombs on the runway. Not sure how well it'd work with a low approach, hard climb as if toss bombing but continue climbing to over 10kft before turning over and diving back down before release to put bombs on target.

Giving the SHARs as many Durandals as they can carry would be preferable, but the pilots won't have much practice in using them.

The Harrier GR3 didn't sail with the Task Force when it sailed south in April. The first batch, after necessary modifications to allow them to operate off the carriers, were flown to Ascension Island at the beginning of May. They were then ferried south on Atlantic Conveyor and flown off to Hermes on 18 May 1982.

IIRC one of the modifications required was to their INS which was designed for land operations from a fixed base. Aligning it from a moving platform was problematic.

Edit. Hermes embarked 12 SHARs on leaving the UK and Invincible 8.

A further 8 SHARs of the newly formed (6 April 1982) 809 squadron were sent out along with the GR3 at the beginning of May and were divided amongst the two carriers on arrival on 18th May. These helped compensate for the losses suffered up to that point.

SHAR ZA194, the highest serial number to serve in the Falklands, was only delivered from BAe Dunsfold to 809 squadron on 28 April 1982.

And that is how you get to the total of 28 SHARS deployed during the Falklands War.

Edit 2:- Hermes was only able to embark the extra SHARs and Harrier GR3s because she had offloaded the Sea King HC4 helicopters of 846 squadron that had been aboard when she left the UK.
 
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The Task Force went south with 20 Sea Harriers, 12 in Hermes and 8 in Invincible. Hermes lost 1 and Invincible lost 2 (collided in bad weather) in the next couple of weeks. On about May 20 8 Sea Harriers and 6 GR3s arrived from the Atlantic Conveyer, the Hermes peaked ar 15 Sea Harriers and 6 GR3s and Invincible at 10 Sea Harriers.

That's the day to head west of the islands to beat up an airfield or maybe two and make a very hasty retreat.
 
6 GR3s? The Official History of the Falklands Campaign says 8 in the OOB. Unless there were some replacements sent down later?

The Task Force went south with 20 Sea Harriers, 12 in Hermes and 8 in Invincible. Hermes lost 1 and Invincible lost 2 (collided in bad weather) in the next couple of weeks. On about May 20 8 Sea Harriers and 6 GR3s arrived from the Atlantic Conveyer, the Hermes peaked ar 15 Sea Harriers and 6 GR3s and Invincible at 10 Sea Harriers.

That's the day to head west of the islands to beat up an airfield or maybe two and make a very hasty retreat.
Okay. So we need 6 SHARs for CAP for the whole combined carrier group.

That leaves 19 SHARs and 6 GR3s for our strike package.

I'm going to be brave and assign a single SHAR for the post-strike recon pass. Still going to assign 2 SHAR as escorts with max Sidewinders. This leaves 16x SHAR and 6 GR3s for the strike proper.

I'm still stuck on how to break the runway. 1000lb delay fused bombs would be very hard to use, it really would be better to load probably half the SHARs with ~6x Durandals each. Then the other half of the SHARs play skip bombing into the hardened shelters from the open sides, and the GR3s lay BL755s down on the parking ramps.
 
6 GR3s? The Official History of the Falklands Campaign says 8 in the OOB. Unless there were some replacements sent down later?


Okay. So we need 6 SHARs for CAP for the whole combined carrier group.

That leaves 19 SHARs and 6 GR3s for our strike package.

I'm going to be brave and assign a single SHAR for the post-strike recon pass. Still going to assign 2 SHAR as escorts with max Sidewinders. This leaves 16x SHAR and 6 GR3s for the strike proper.

I'm still stuck on how to break the runway. 1000lb delay fused bombs would be very hard to use, it really would be better to load probably half the SHARs with ~6x Durandals each. Then the other half of the SHARs play skip bombing into the hardened shelters from the open sides, and the GR3s lay BL755s down on the parking ramps.
9 GR3 left UK in early May to fly to Ascension. 1 diverted to Madeira and returned to UK. 8 reached Ascension where 2 were retained for air defence until sent south a month later. Others were sent out at the end of May.
 
More on GR3 in Falklands.

3-6 May 10 GR3 flown from U.K. to Ascension. 1 divert to Madeira then to U.K. taking no further part in conflict. 1 found to have locally incurable fuel leaks returned to U.K. without further participation in the war. 2 retained Ascension for local air defence.

Remaining 6 sent south on Atlantic Conveyor. Transferred to Hermes 18-20 May 1982.

3 losses on 21,27 & 30 May 1982.

Further 6 GR3 flown from U.K. to Ascension on 29-30 May.

1 June 2 GR3 flown south to join Hermes as replacements. (both from second batch). Hermes now has 5 GR3 with 6 on Ascension.

3 June 4 GR3 loaded on Contender Bezant for journey south. No further part in war. (One of AD aircraft and 3 from second batch. 2 left on Ascension at that point).

8 June one GR3 of the initial group deployed to Hermes severely damaged at FOB San Carlos in landing crash disabling the strip for a time. Took no further part in conflict.

8 June 2 GR3 flown to Hermes from Ascension as replacements. (One of AD aircraft and one from second batch). Hermes complement of GR3 now restored to 6. None left on Ascension.

From Falklands Air War.
 
The RAF opted for the JP233 dispenser as did the German Air Force with the MW1 but this weapon was never carried by its Buccaneers.
This was trialled from a Buccaneer, I vaguely reccal pictures of it somewhere. But when I'm not sure.
 
This was trialled from a Buccaneer, I vaguely reccal pictures of it somewhere. But when I'm not sure.
There was apparently a ground test rig using Buccaneer S1 XK525 to test aspects of JP233 sub-munition dispensers in 1981. The aircraft had been on the dump at West Freugh prior to that. See below:-

1708524084802.jpeg

From PPrune

“The first JP233 test flight was flown over the range at West Freugh, U.K., on February 23, 1982, using a British Aerospace flight trials Tornado (ZA354/BS07). Trials continued throughout 1983 with the release of the munitions, initially from height, and then at lower levels, including against a prepared surface to confirm its concrete-busting performance.”
 
To fire rockets precisely, your aircrafts would be forced to go into even 20-mm autocannons envelope.
Yes I think that’s an interesting conundrum given the technology of the day - no matter what weapon you choose (rockets, standard or delayed impact bombs, cluster munitions) overflight is necessary.

So the question is what weapons and delivery profiles were best suited against a target defended by light AAA (manually directed)… assuming radar directed guns could be disrupted with chaff or self-protection jammers (as seems to have been the case in the real world).

Fast straight and low? (Cluster or delayed impact bombs)
Pop up and wing over? (Rockets/guns)
Toss bomb?

Especially for the initial strike. Follow-on attacks could use precision bombing from altitude (depending on the SAM threat - in this case not a concern) or guided missiles (Martel / AS-30 or Bullpup equivalent) once the runway was neutralized.
 
Yes I think that’s an interesting conundrum given the technology of the day - no matter what weapon you choose (rockets, standard or delayed impact bombs, cluster munitions) overflight is necessary.
Assuming, of course, British would not obtain something better than free-falling bombs. Like laser-guided bombs or even good ol' Walleye electro-optic.
 
A dash west to attack one or more mainland airbases with the real life Task Force is a very high risk but also high reward tactic.

On 1 May all 12 aircraft from Hermes launched at one, 3 to attack Goose Green and 9 to attack Port Stanley airfield. Of those 9, 4 tossed bombs in, some air burst, to keep the attackers heads down and do what damage they could, while the other 5 actually flew over the airfield directly attacking what they could see.

Assuming Invincible takes care of TF defence, at least 1 SHar for post strike recce, 4 for escort that leaves 10 SHar and 6 GR3 for any actual attack. Like Port Stanley some (6?) would be used as toss bombers leaving 4 SHar and 6 GR3 for direct attack. I'd think that's enough to attack a single airbase, but nothing fancy like cratering runways and penetrating HAS. Still, with even Rio Gallegos and Rio Grande having 8 HAS each that leaves plenty of soft targets and aircraft in the open.
 
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