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Falklands 1983

uk 75

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It is one of the great what-ifs of recent history, what would have happened if Argentina had waited until John Nott's defence cuts had been implemented and invaded the Falklands in March 1983?
With only Illustrious working up and Ark Royal still under construction, the Royal Navy had sold Invincible (Australia), and Hermes (India) and scrapped Fearless and Intrepid as well as Sir Lancelot et al. The RAF had retired its Vulcans in readiness for Tornado. The Royal Marines and Army forces had also been reduced. The Ice Patrol ship Endurance had been sold to a private company in Chile.
The British Government were expecting Argentina to make such a move. It let slip that nuclear submarines were routinely operating in the South Atlantic. It had also been working to build a new airport for the island capable of taking long range jets. But work had been slow because of continuing budget cuts.
With only the Falklands Island Defence Force and a detachment of 16 Royal Marines plus a fishery patrol vessel bought from the RNR, the Argentine airborne forces who arrived in first light on 1April met hardly any opposition.
The Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, told the House of Commons that Britain had looked at its options and decided to accept Secretary of State Kirkpatrick's offer of mediation. The Leader of the Opposition, Michael Foot (to cheers from both sides of the House) said that the Party of Suez and Munich had sold the country cheap.(Looking at the Defence Secretary) he added, the small minded acountancy of a Tory Government was now being paid for by the Falkland Islanders. His party would not rest until the Fascist Junta in Buenos Aires..
 

zen

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So the reality is Argentina couldn't wait due to it's internal politics.
The good news is various US Establishment figures were sympathetic to Argentina.
 

CNH

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"The good news is various US Establishment figures were sympathetic to Argentina."

Why is that 'good news'?
 

kaiserd

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Perhaps best not to get into the weeds of the various political machinations (going to be very tinged with specific individuals perspectives).
One very specific thought that does come to mind is more Argentinian Super Etendards and Exocets....
 
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zen

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"The good news is various US Establishment figures were sympathetic to Argentina."

Why is that 'good news'?
If you're pro-Argentina and pro-Junta and or if you want to explore an AH scenario such as this, then that is a factor in it's favour.
Until Reagan directly intervened, US policy was at best fence sitting.

Anyway back to the plot.
With potentially a host more preparations for invasion and holding the islands and the UK divested of key assets. Seizure of the islands as per history would leave Thatcher with a FCO telling her there was nothing they could do and No.11 telling her it wasn't worth it anyway.
But under these circumstances no Admiral is coming to her rescue.

All that is left is sinking ships by submarine and fostering Chilean aggression. Which won't go down well in Washington.
 

uk 75

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The problem for the Argentines was the absence of a large airfield on the Falklands to fly in 707loads of troops and kit even after the airborne assault had taken Stanley.
The Argentine Navy could not leave its bases as the Royal Navy had let it be known nuclear subs were operating in the South Atlantic.
Although Mrs Thatcher agreed to mediation by Secretary of State Kirkpatrick who succeeded Al Haig, her new Defence Secretary (Nott resigned after the debate above), Michael Heseltine, flew to Washington with an ultimatum to the Reagan administration. The gist was, get Galtieri to withdraw or the UK would join France and leave the military structures of NATO. This would mean the removal of all US military facilities in Britain.
Cap Weinberger was sympathetic. Kirkpatrick threatened to resign if her Latin America was undermined. Reagan accepted her resignation reluctantly and George Schulz became Secretary. Two days later a full scale outbreak of "spontaneous" anti-Galtieri demonstrations persuaded the Junta to replace him with a younger US-trained Admiral.
In return for much needed US loans and investment the Argentines withdrew their paratroopers from Stanley and release Governor Hunt and the garrison from their "house arrest". The handover was supervised by men of the US 82nd Airborne.
Mrs Thatcher met Reagan a month later in Washington. Details of the Heseltine Ultimatum were not released until 2013
 

zen

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That would only strengthen Heseltine's pro-European views and his position inside the Tory party.
As was, until the Falklands Thatcher was looking ever more shaky and talk was of replacing her. Under the circumstances of the humiliation she could be replaced quickly.
 

uk 75

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The point of my rather sketchy political backdrop was to make two points as valid in 1983 as they had been in 1982.
The US would have had to choose between a key NATO ally and its Latin America policy at a time when the Soviet Union was still seen as a major threat.
Argentina might have been able to sieze the Falkland Islands but the Royal Navy could still have denied it access by sea. It could also have divided the Argentine Navy (likely to take the casualties) from the Army and Air Force.
 

Hood

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I am not sure that one year would have made much difference to the response.

It has never been clear that Invincible's sale to Australia was a done deal and indeed it is more likely that it would not of happened. Few if any of the retired ships would have actually been scrapped by then, they may of been sat in a harbour under care and maintenance but they were unlikely to have been sold to a scrappie and torched within 12 months. Their resurrection would have taken longer but it would of been done.

Its not certain that by 1983 there would have been a backlash against the Nott Review and some of the more contencious elements may not have been carried out.

Was the Vulcan a big loss? Arguably a lot of military resource was taken up in prepaing those raids. Yes the psyhcological impact may of been greater than the material, but it wasn't a war winning impact.

On the other hand, Argentina would of had more Exocets and it would have taken delivery of some of the new German MEKO destroyers and corvettes so there would of been gains on that side. Ultimately the risks for Argentian were no less, any scale of defeat risked the whole endevour.
 

Fluff

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Mrs thatcher declares port Stanley as the capital of the U.K.

writes open letter in the enquirer, giving Argentina 48 hours to withdraw.

argentina doesn’t take the enquirer, Maggie launches 1 nuke, buenos Aries suffer more than 8.7 million casualties.

game over dude.
 

zen

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Mrs thatcher declares port Stanley as the capital of the U.K.

writes open letter in the enquirer, giving Argentina 48 hours to withdraw.

argentina doesn’t take the enquirer, Maggie launches 1 nuke, buenos Aries suffer more than 8.7 million casualties.

game over dude.
No because the old maxim is "one flies, they all fly".
Soviets will detect launch and assume a sophisticated first strike is in progress. They will launch....
 

Fluff

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Mrs thatcher declares port Stanley as the capital of the U.K.

writes open letter in the enquirer, giving Argentina 48 hours to withdraw.

argentina doesn’t take the enquirer, Maggie launches 1 nuke, buenos Aries suffer more than 8.7 million casualties.

game over dude.
No because the old maxim is "one flies, they all fly".
Soviets will detect launch and assume a sophisticated first strike is in progress. They will launch....
There’s an exception for the national capital.

or, we take the scampton gate guard, and do a free fall bombing run.
Same result.
 

zen

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More likely was the mad SAS mission in a Herc with the entire regiment and only rational if we've bribed Chile into making war on Argentina.
 

kaiserd

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Mrs thatcher declares port Stanley as the capital of the U.K.

writes open letter in the enquirer, giving Argentina 48 hours to withdraw.

argentina doesn’t take the enquirer, Maggie launches 1 nuke, buenos Aries suffer more than 8.7 million casualties.

game over dude.
No because the old maxim is "one flies, they all fly".
Soviets will detect launch and assume a sophisticated first strike is in progress. They will launch....
There’s an exception for the national capital.

or, we take the scampton gate guard, and do a free fall bombing run.
Same result.
Perhaps suggesting (advocating?) what would have been one of the worst war crimes/ crimes against humanity in human history is in exceptionally bad taste and objectively a really bad idea (both in terms of behaviour on this forum and the rules of this forum, and in relation to it’s near impossibility and implausibility in this specific theoretical context)?
 

Fluff

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Mrs thatcher declares port Stanley as the capital of the U.K.

writes open letter in the enquirer, giving Argentina 48 hours to withdraw.

argentina doesn’t take the enquirer, Maggie launches 1 nuke, buenos Aries suffer more than 8.7 million casualties.

game over dude.
No because the old maxim is "one flies, they all fly".
Soviets will detect launch and assume a sophisticated first strike is in progress. They will launch....
There’s an exception for the national capital.

or, we take the scampton gate guard, and do a free fall bombing run.
Same result.
Perhaps suggesting (advocating?) what would have been one of the worst war crimes/ crimes against humanity in human history is in exceptionally bad taste and objectively a really bad idea (both in terms of behaviour on this forum and the rules of this forum, and in relation to it’s near impossibility and implausibility in this specific theoretical context)?
Ok ok, geez, who needs the thought police.

the argies do get the enquirer, take the hint, and pull out.

U.K. throws one hell of a party, and we all lived happily ever after, and no one ever dies again.

ok now?
 

zen

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When it comes to tactical first use, that was Soviet doctrine during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Which is why it would have gone nuclear.
Allied views tended outside of MacArthur's "let's nuke the Norks and push on to Beijing!" to be to avoid using the damn things unless we really have to.
Well for 3 days anyway because then we'd only have nukes left.

Would we have nukes Buenos Aires?
No.
As I've pointed out, it's certain only to trigger WWIII.

But we'd certainly make Argentina's economy crash and maybe we'd give Chile lots of money to invade them.
Which tended to be British policy when we couldn't fight someone directly.

I don't think trotting out the idea of mass slaughter is wrong in the context of war. It's frankly part and parcel of the dirty business of fighting a war (second best option in war).
Just in this specific context it's not a runner.
 

Fluff

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Ok, seriously, what would be wrong with conventional attacks on the mainland? Accession with a sqn of Vulcans, phantoms for local AD, attack military airfields, ports etc first.

It’s not like Argentina could say they only attacked military targets, there were virtually none on the falklands, so tit for tat.

also could we drag up some old treaty ceding all of South America to us, in return for 20 slaves and 2 barrels of good rum?

there would be other options, at least to harass.
 

Hobbes

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Given the amount of infrastructure required for the Black Buck raids (most of the tanker fleet to support one bomber), conventional attacks on the mainland would have been slow (1-2 bombers at a time), and likely to result in RAF losses (no fighter escort at that range). The effect would have been psychological only, and that could have gone either way: bombing a capital full of civilians is likely to strengthen resolve rather than dissuade the government.
 

Fluff

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Given the amount of infrastructure required for the Black Buck raids (most of the tanker fleet to support one bomber), conventional attacks on the mainland would have been slow (1-2 bombers at a time), and likely to result in RAF losses (no fighter escort at that range). The effect would have been psychological only, and that could have gone either way: bombing a capital full of civilians is likely to strengthen resolve rather than dissuade the government.
Of course, but the first 1 or 2 would have been dramatic, and if you can tank a Vulcan, you can tank a phantom.

also possible would be one way missions, especially for harriers, launched from container ships, or frigates, eject, and head for chile. maybe even rato a hunter of a ramp? 12 of these in one wave, would swamp the limited AD of Argentina.

sas and sbs attacks, assassinations, ‘accidents’ for Argentinian civilian ships and aircraft. Sink the belgrano in port.


Of course we already had the exclusion zone, so the only supply route was air. 2 men, one anti materiel rifle, in one night you could shutdown their transport fleet.
U.K. would have the fleet to block main shipping lanes for Argentina, sure lots of noise at UN, but doable for a period.

also bombing cities, can go 2 ways,while one way is Dresden/Coventry, many casualties, but production continued, or Tokyo, burned whole city to ground. Pretty sure that stopped production and was noticed.

also depends on the government response, if your military can shoot some of the enemy down, then morale improves, an end in site maybe. If you cannot hit them, and they come every night, maybe the people decide a change is needed.

lots of options, if you have the will.
 

Hobbes

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Of course, but the first 1 or 2 would have been dramatic, and if you can tank a Vulcan, you can tank a phantom.
I don't know how much one or two Phantoms could do against an entire airfield's worth of Argentine airforce...
 

uk 75

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I did read a book about HMS Conqueror some years ago where the author wrote that Mrs Thatcher told President Mitterrand that she was prepared to use a nuclear weapon if the task force took significant losses. This persuaded him to give the UK full information about Exocet. The author suggested that a second Polaris boat was available (rare for this to happen) and could have been sent to the South Atlantic. The target for a strike would have been Cordoba as it was a military base. The book was a library book and I may be misquoting.
As in 1991 when the Allies let Saddam know "through channels" that they would respond with nuclear weapons if he used WMD it is possible that Britain used the nuclear option as "disinformation".
I think that Argentina was more vulnerable to British pressure through the IMF and World Bank and the UK's importance to Washington as a base in the Cold War.
For what it is worth I do not think any British Prime Minister would use or threaten the use of the deterrent against a non-nuclear power.
 

Grey Havoc

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For what it is worth I do not think any British Prime Minister would use or threaten the use of the deterrent against a non-nuclear power.
Unless they tried to use Chemical or Biological weapons against British forces and/or civilians. In addition in the present day, nanoweaponry would also be likely be a red line.
 

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Interestingly, the Argentine Army apparently intended to deploy mounted infantry in a patrol role; a provisional troop from the General Jose de San Martin Cavalry Regiment, aka the Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers (normally the Presidential Guard unit), was formed for duty in the Falklands but ultimately had to be held in reserve in Argentina because of a lack of available transport.
 

Grey Havoc

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Some interesting thoughts on HMS Vanguard in a Falklands scenario (relevant time stamp below video):

01:31:27
 
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Foo Fighter

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I heard there would be a US carrier or two available if needed. How real that is I do not know but Argentina would have been on the hind foot either way.
 

zen

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I heard there would be a US carrier or two available if needed. How real that is I do not know but Argentina would have been on the hind foot either way.
It would have to be manned by US personnel who knew how to operate US standard equipment.
RN standards are not the same, and RN equipment wasn't the same either.
 

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More Exocets and no Vulcans, mean a lot more losses on the British side as it would have freed the Argentinian Mirage IIIs for escort missions. and more British ships would have been crippled by Exocet strikes. Whether that would have been enough to turn the tide is a different question, as it was just giving the Argentinians reliable bomb fuses could have been enough to stem the British response.
 

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I did a paper a few years back on the Falklands, looking very much at the Argentinian side, of which there is relatively little published.

It was quite clear the Vulcan's had nothing to do with the Mirage IIIs removal, it was (a) fears over countering Chile and (b) lack of infra to operate them.

Above all what came out was the total failure of thinking on the Argentinian side at any of the levels of war: Strategic, Operational or Tactical.

Strategic - completely underestimated the affront to the UK and that everyone would either turn a blind eye, or support them viz Argentina. Especially the Americans. Hadn't even considered having to plan for fighting for the Islands. They really expected to be able to waltz in and present a fait accompli and that would be the end of it, perhaps at worst with a UN force and transitional arrangement before they got complete control.

Operational - Air Force the junior service, not involved barely at all in the planning or initial Op, Army not a lot better. This was a Navy first, Army second, Air Force distant third, yet the actual fight was, and could only be, overwhelmingly by Air Force. Hence they had no plans, no infra, wrong aircraft and so on. Their logistics wasn't even a distant third in the planning and was abysmal, units literally almost starving. The actual defence was static, which reflected lack of vehicles and logistics but effectively sat and waited for the Brits to beat them. A key part of this was total failure to put an proper air component in the islands. Even a sqn of A4s with bomb stores would have changed it a lot, let alone Daggers there - again the Air Force hadn't been consulted or included, and so the planning to extend the runway (and they did have some kit) wasn't done/a priority. As we saw post war, it could have been done by them, and the Air Force knew very well the importance of that. Similarly they'd have expedited Exocet procurement if they'd known this was coming. This one failure probably doomed them as their air support was minimal, jets operating at end of their range with no margin for manoeuvring plus reduced bomb loads. Thus whilst the Brits never achieved Air Supremacy, they did achieve enough Air Superiority when and where they needed it.

Tactical - wrong troops, wrongly equipped with wrong logistics to support or change that. Some good outliers (tanking Etendard Exocet, countering Vulcan raids). They were right about low level attacks given how Sea Dart/Wolf dealt not too brilliantly with that, but they'd have been slaughtered at medium or higher. However they didn't join that up to arming their bombs! That is a sign of a very incompetent/non joined up engineering to aircrew talk if nothing else!

All in all, their Air Force and troop son the ground did a decent job, against horrifically bad Senior Leadership and planning. But of course that reflects that these were Leaders who sincerely thought the way to deal with difference was to chuck people out of aeroplanes, murder them generally and remove their children. So with absolute scum like that, you cant really expect inspired or even competent military planning, necessarily considering what if/problems you can't just murder away!

So, to get back to the point - 1983, not a huge change really, more Exocets, harder for Brits to generate task force (but not impossible), but given the road to war was scrap merchants and so on (to some extent, doing their own thing independent of the Junta), Britain may have started to take quiet steps to counter that and have something, anything in the pipeline to be there or reinforce it (ships sent south as before, additional troops), or even just some actual intelligence effort that would make the invasion less of a surprise.

Hmm this has ended up as a long response!
 

Arjen

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I am slightly disturbed to see something called warshipporn showing an image of the sinking Belgrano - 323 sailors went down with her.
 
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Desertfox

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Sad to see such a great warship go down, she was the first major US ship to sail from Pearl Harbor after the attack.
 
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