Falklands and Carriers

Zoo Tycoon

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Of course, all of this misses the point. What caused the Argentines to fail first and foremost, was a shortsighted logistics and civil engineering problem.

They also bring the necessary materials to expand the Port Stanley airfield to handle Mirage and Dagger fighters along with fuel and munitions so they can fly for a protracted period.

I’ve said for a long time the unrecognised hero of the Falklands War was the civil engineer that sited the island’s only hard runway airfield on an (almost) island near Port Stanley. The problem was that due to geological issues it couldn’t be expanded without enormous effort and certainly not possible in the three to four week window of opportunity before hostilities. Whoever it was also made sure its length in 82 was below that required for any practical Mirage operations…. brilliant strategic thinking.
 
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Hood

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This was in significant part caused by RN submarines weapon shortcomings. They did not have anti-ship missiles or long-range homing torpedoes; they were limited to either unguided 21-inch torpedoes, or slow, unreliable "Tigerfish", with max range merely 13 km on 35 knots.

If Argentinean carrier group were opposed by more adequately armed submarines - Soviet, or even American - their defense would most likely fail completely.
The shallow waters of the continental shelf didn't help sonar performance, especially for the towed arrays (for those subs which had them) which risked being fouled too.
Actually ESM proved more useful than sonar, hence the subs being used as early warning stations for as aircraft took off to attack the Task Force.
 

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I would recommend the book “A Carrier at Risk” subtitled “Argentine Aircraft Carrier and Anti-submarine operations against the Royal Navy’s Attack Submarines during the Falklands / Malvinas War, 1982” by Mariano Sciaroni, published 2019, for anyone wanting more information. It draws on both Argentinian and British sources.

A number of points come out of this.

1. Splendid’s RoE which, although the TEZ had been extended to Argentinian Territorial Waters by the relevant time, prevented any sinking within those waters, something which the 25th of May was taking advantage of when Splendid caught up with her.
2. London was requiring situation reports every 4 hours between 3-8 May 1982. That involved the sub coming to periscope depth, streaming its communications cable and slowing down to 6-8 knots for 20-30 mins at a time. In total in that patrol she made 103 SITREPS which her CO considered 102 too many. And that couldn’t be done while close to the Argentinians.
3. Splendid had difficulty both finding and tracking the carrier. Initial intelligence sent them in the wrong direction. Then when contact was made on the 3rd May it was lost until late in the day. On the 4th after being sent deep by a Tracker that didn’t locate them, they found themselves, on periscope inspection, following not the carrier but a small Argentinian transport returning from the Falklands.
4. While touched on in the video, not enough is explained about the Argentinian prosecution of a sub contact on 5th May. It wasn’t Splendid. Splendid was about 100 miles to the south and herself located an unidentified sub that day and withdrew as her tubes were filled with Mk.8 fish ready for the carrier. So far no one else has admitted to having a sub in the area.

The same author with Andy Smith published, in 2020, “Go find him and bring me back his hat. The Royal Navy’s Anti-submarine Campaign in the Falklands War”. It lists 62 anti submarine attacks between 24 April and 12 June 1982 by ships and helicopters of the Task Force, including the then latest Sea King Mk.5 helicopters.

While everyone knows about the Santa Fe episode, less well known are the problems that the Type 209 San Luis caused on 1/2 May in inshore Falklands waters. That sub attracted 10 Mk.44/46 torpedoes as well as depth charges and Limbo mortar salvos all for no result. At one point it actually fired a wire guided torpedo at a British vessel, which fortunately had its wire cut so was lost.

So both books show that anti submarine warfare is a cat and mouse game. The deep waters of the North Atlantic Ocean where the RN had trained and operated proved not to be the same as operating in inshore waters around the Falklands, where the sea and the sea bottom has a much greater say in what happens than many might expect. The question is are things really any better in that respect today than they were in 1982.
 

EwenS

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Well, by that standard, if the Argentines had up-to-date ASW systems, the British subs might well have found themselves hunted down and sunk.
My point was, that British subs were sub-standard (sorry for the pun) in terms of armament. And therefore were forced into situation, where even outdated Argentinean ASW capabilities were able to deter attacks. So its hardly demonstrate any significant efficiency on Argentiean side; merely that with inadequate weapons, British could not exploit their weaknesses.
RN trials of the UGM-84B Sub-Harpoon had taken place in 1981. The Falklands War accelerated its introduction to the submarine fleet. Courageous deployed with it when she entered the war zone on 28th May 1982.
 

H_K

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I’ve said for a long time the unrecognised hero of the Falklands War was the civil engineer that sited the island’s only hard runway airfield on an (almost) island near Port Stanley. The problem was that due to geological issues it couldn’t be expanded without enormous effort and certainly not possible in the three to four week window of opportunity before hostilities. Whoever it was also made sure its length in 82 was below that required for any practical Mirage operations…. brilliant strategic thinking.
Very true. This is another problem that IMHO could have been solved by more Super Etendards… with its better runway performance and light fighter heritage I’ve always wondered what could have been achieved if enough SuEs had been available for some to fly CAP from Port Stanley.

(Back of the envelope calculation: the SuE could fly a ~90 minute CAP at 100km from Port Stanley with 2 Magic AAMs and standard 600L drop tanks. Or alternatively it could fly a ~30min CAP over San Carlos if based on the mainland with long range 1,100L drop tanks… 380nm mission radius)

At low altitude the Super Etendard had similar turning performance to the A-4M… probably would have done better than the MIII.

Calculated performance of Super Etendard below (vs. A-4M and F-4J):

Super_Etendard_vs_A-4M_vs_F-4.jpg
 
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Kat Tsun

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somethng I was thinking of randomly...

what if Argentina had access to the A-7 instead of the Super Entandard. would it change anything?

No. It would have actively harmed them because the French were giving them spare parts and weapons.

If Argentina had a dozen or so missiles instead of 5, then it potentially could have won. They could be somewhat less picky about their targets and chip away at the task group's air defenses, possibly hit combat shipping, and annoy the main forward air defense carrier. The attack on Invincible might have actually succeeded in possibly mission killing the carrier and removing Harriers from the immediate theater if it were done from a couple directions with three or four missiles instead of one, and British fleet losses would have been more significant.

1642068843613.png

Exeter swatted the fifth rocket on 30 May but a few missiles (two or four or something) launched at Invincible might have harmed it, since a single rocket got rather far into the main defense zone (supposedly shot down somewhere near the edge of Invincible's Sea Dart) and just about every British warship tried to light it up.

As the quantity of Exocets delivered to Argentina increases, the chances of Britain losing something important (Invincible) increases exponentially. The main benefit to the British was that their ships that were attacked by poorly fused iron bombs, they were all escorts that got hit (thus, did their jobs), and Argentina husbanded its missiles and used A-4Qs as strikers predominantly. OTOH they were good enough at locating the British task force sufficiently to hit it with dangerous, modern weapons at least once, maybe two times I think, so the targeting ambiguity (the main defense of a naval task force) was pretty well eliminated.

At best Invincible defeats the Exocets with chaff or something, or shoots them down, or an escort does the same. At worst, she is hit and suffers a mission kill or some other severe damage that requires returning to the UK, which means no air cover for the immediate Falklands landing, and either the British have to come back later, push Hermes into the combat zone and risk damage from another Exocet attack, or rely solely on SAMs to protect the assault force. Using Hermes as the main task force unit and shifting the flag there would probably be the actual outcome so I don't think it would alter the war's outcome, Hermes would just start pounding the island with her Harrier squadrons, but it would make for an impressive story.

This is basically the best shot Argentina ever got to harm the RN's task force and possibly would have succeeded if they had another Exocet or two to sling into the fight given how genuinely awful Sea Dart and Sea Slug were at hitting crossing targets.

Anything else is sort of fantastical IMO.

I’ve said for a long time the unrecognised hero of the Falklands War was the civil engineer that sited the island’s only hard runway airfield on an (almost) island near Port Stanley. The problem was that due to geological issues it couldn’t be expanded without enormous effort and certainly not possible in the three to four week window of opportunity before hostilities. Whoever it was also made sure its length in 82 was below that required for any practical Mirage operations…. brilliant strategic thinking.
Very true. This is another problem that IMHO could have been solved by more Super Etendards… with its better runway performance and light fighter heritage I’ve always wondered what could have been achieved if enough SuEs had been available for some to fly CAP from Port Stanley.

(Back of the envelope calculation: the SuE could fly a ~90 minute CAP at 100km from Port Stanley with 2 Magic AAMs and standard 600L drop tanks. Or alternatively it could fly a ~30min CAP over San Carlos if based on the mainland with long range 1,100L drop tanks… 380nm mission radius)

At low altitude the Super Etendard had similar turning performance to the A-4M… probably would have done better than the MIII.

Calculated performance of Super Etendard below (vs. A-4M and F-4J):

Super_Etendard_vs_A-4M_vs_F-4.jpg

Putting Super Es in the Falklands would just make Argentina lose faster. The big brain move is to ignore the British fighters and attack their boats. Which is what Argentina did and played to their relative strengths of "hitting things that don't move with iron bombs" like moored ships and ammo dumps.

Keeping the bulk of aircraft in their homeland was the correct move because it made them immune to OCA strikes by Hermes, Invincible, or Vulcans, because rockets don't care about kinematics of the carrier jet, and because the Super E had sufficient range to reach the forward task group anyway. You don't fight an opponent with better planes, better pilots, and better rockets than you in an air to air fight. You hit his airbases, obviously.

That said that would still end in Argentina losing because victory is probably impossible.

The only practical way for Argentina to win is to kill the assault force before they land and that's impossible because the anti-landing troops (bombers) were prevented from doing this by a combination of bad weather, flight distance, lack of ammunition (Exocets), and hostile fighter cover. Even if they knew where the landing ships were (I'm not sure they ever figured it out) they were generally incapable of hitting them until after they'd begun offloading troops and ammunition. At which point they'd already lost.

I guess Menendez had attacked with his commandos and mortars he might have been able to repulse the first British landing but that would require a level of initiative and foresight that borders on psychic or futuretelling. It's not practical to expect someone to put mortars within range of San Carlos when they're expecting an assault close to Stanley. In fact I think they were expecting an assault landing south of Stanley, and while that inevitably came, it was well after their guys had been licked at Goose Green and Tumbledown.

Hitting the infantry brigade on its way to Bluff Cove might have been feasible but that was beyond the limits of combat range of the Super Es and the A-4s, though I guess the Super Es with Exocets might have been good enough, but I don't think the Argies knew where they were nor had enough rockets to seriously disrupt the landing force.

Air superiority (or rather, parity) was entirely in the hands of the British and there simply wasn't much the Argentinians could do about that. A few more rockets would have embarrassed Maggie if Galtieri's bombers managed to scratch the paint on Invincible though.

Once you start talking about flying jet bombers off of Stanley's tiny airport you're into fantasy land I think. The Pucaras did fine.
 
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Fluff

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I’ve said for a long time the unrecognised hero of the Falklands War was the civil engineer that sited the island’s only hard runway airfield on an (almost) island near Port Stanley. The problem was that due to geological issues it couldn’t be expanded without enormous effort and certainly not possible in the three to four week window of opportunity before hostilities. Whoever it was also made sure its length in 82 was below that required for any practical Mirage operations…. brilliant strategic thinking.
Very true. This is another problem that IMHO could have been solved by more Super Etendards… with its better runway performance and light fighter heritage I’ve always wondered what could have been achieved if enough SuEs had been available for some to fly CAP from Port Stanley.

(Back of the envelope calculation: the SuE could fly a ~90 minute CAP at 100km from Port Stanley with 2 Magic AAMs and standard 600L drop tanks. Or alternatively it could fly a ~30min CAP over San Carlos if based on the mainland with long range 1,100L drop tanks… 380nm mission radius)

At low altitude the Super Etendard had similar turning performance to the A-4M… probably would have done better than the MIII.

Calculated performance of Super Etendard below (vs. A-4M and F-4J):

Super_Etendard_vs_A-4M_vs_F-4.jpg
But as a defensive CAP, from the mainland, you would need considerable numbers of aircraft to cover the whole daylight period, to deter attacks, and the UK then counters by launching a mass attack, with the main purpose to knock down your 2 CAP aircraft, after a couple of days your out of the CAP business.

Even a 1 hour transit, gets me to 5 sets of aircraft, so 2 aircraft CAP, 10 aircraft, plus a couple for downtime, even time fuelling on the ground adds another 2 aircraft. So 2 aircraft cap, needs c14 aircraft.
 

Archibald

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As the quantity of Exocets delivered to Argentina increases,
Bingo.
And despite Mitterrand and Thatcher (God forbid) being polar political opposites, Tonton Mitterrand left no doubt and immediately picked a side - the British. This also applied to French armament industry, which in this case very much found itself
a) le cul entre deux chaises
b) seating on a bayonet, if you prefer (more painful that two chairs !)

Exocet deliveries to Argentina were instantly frozen, that's why they never got more than 5 of them. Note that final deliveries of S.E and missiles started again... the next year.

That war really took the world by surprise. Nobody ever thought before early April the Argentina junta would be dumb enough to commit suicide that way.
Yet with the poor shape of its economy, social turmoil and according very severe military cuts, there were doubts also Great Britain could send a viable task force that far away. As much as I loath Thatcher for many things she did, I have to say, she was brave to try this: she had much more to lose than to win. Then again the risk paid, and the old w... oman stayed in place until 1990.

But the bottom line was, everybody and his dog was aghast at that war, the crippling losses and the violence of it.

It was quite surreal, for France and the United States notably, and also for the Soviets. Basic reaction was "Damn, if two Uncle Sam allies start fighting viciously that way..." don't forget it was kind of "the Special relationship ally" versus "one of these Monroe doctrine countries" punching each others in the face.

The bitting irony is that the British press (Murdoch, biggest disgusting SOB in the entire universe, Mr. pond scum man) threw copious amount of shit at France after the Exocet attack; when the country actually did its best to quietly ruin Argentina S.E and Exocet missiles capabilities.

Also, when the British task force sailed close to French Brittany, both Armée de l'Air Mirage III and Aéronavale S.E fleets subjected the task force to mock attacks, helping them in their training against the coming Argentina threat(s).

...the running joke about the Falklands war is: a pyrrhic victory for British people. Why ?
Argentina defeat also led to the collapse of that horrible junta by 1983, good riddance.
Great Britain victory had Thatcher turning the tide of the coming 1983 election (she was bound to lose before the war), winning it, and then staying PM until 1990.
Not sure GB victory was that much of a benefit (just kidding, Thatcher for all her flaws did not threw live people into the sea from helicopters, as did the Junta vicious SOBs)
 
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Dilandu

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The only practical way for Argentina to win is to kill the assault force before they land and that's impossible because the anti-landing troops (bombers) were prevented from doing this by a combination of bad weather, flight distance, lack of ammunition (Exocets), and hostile fighter cover. Even if they knew where the landing ships were (I'm not sure they ever figured it out) they were generally incapable of hitting them until after they'd begun offloading troops and ammunition. At which point they'd already lost.
Theoretically they could deploy their fleet for all-out battle. They have a carrier with arguably better strike capabilities than British ones, a pair of modern missile-armed destroyer to protect it, and a cruiser with at least some combat value (even if only as missile-catcher). While they could hardly hope to win, they could hope to maul Royal Navy enough, so the landing would be considered too risky.
 

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“...Using Hermes as the main task force unit and shifting the flag there would probably be the actual outcome so I don't think it would alter the war's outcome........”


Hermes was the Task Force flagship throughout the Falklands War. Despite being the older ship, she was chosen as the flagship because was significantly larger and allowed more space for Admiral Woodward and his staff to plan the operation.

While losing either carrier would have jeopardised the operation, losing Hermes would probably have had a greater effect. Not just because the top people might have been lost but because, with her greater flight deck area she was carrying many more Sea Harriers / Harriers than Invincible.
 

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Putting Super Es in the Falklands would just make Argentina lose faster. The big brain move is to ignore the British fighters and attack their boats.

You don't fight an opponent with better planes, better pilots, and better rockets than you in an air to air fight. You hit his airbases, obviously.

The only practical way for Argentina to win is to kill the assault force before they land and that's impossible because the anti-landing troops (bombers) were prevented from doing this by a combination of bad weather, flight distance, lack of ammunition (Exocets), and hostile fighter cover.

Air superiority (or rather, parity) was entirely in the hands of the British
and there simply wasn't much the Argentinians could do about that.
I’ve highlighted a few of your comments… if the Super Etendard could provide proper fighter coverage from Port Stanley wouldn’t that turn the tables on the Sea Harriers?

With only a limited number of Sea Harriers available, any real opposition by a fighter that had at least 1:1 parity (or possibly even a 2:1 advantage given better kinematics and turn performance), and without fuel constraints… should have greatly limited the Sea Harrier’s own efforts. No more turkey shoot of Skyhawks and Daggers equals many more problems for the invasion force and troops on the ground. More symbolically, Black Buck may also have failed with a proper CAP.
 

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Putting Super Es in the Falklands would just make Argentina lose faster. The big brain move is to ignore the British fighters and attack their boats.

You don't fight an opponent with better planes, better pilots, and better rockets than you in an air to air fight. You hit his airbases, obviously.

The only practical way for Argentina to win is to kill the assault force before they land and that's impossible because the anti-landing troops (bombers) were prevented from doing this by a combination of bad weather, flight distance, lack of ammunition (Exocets), and hostile fighter cover.

Air superiority (or rather, parity) was entirely in the hands of the British
and there simply wasn't much the Argentinians could do about that.
I’ve highlighted a few of your comments… if the Super Etendard could provide proper fighter coverage from Port Stanley wouldn’t that turn the tables on the Sea Harriers?

With only a limited number of Sea Harriers available, any real opposition by a fighter that had at least 1:1 parity (or possibly even a 2:1 advantage given better kinematics and turn performance), and without fuel constraints… should have greatly limited the Sea Harrier’s own efforts. No more turkey shoot of Skyhawks and Daggers equals many more problems for the invasion force and troops on the ground. More symbolically, Black Buck may also have failed with a proper CAP.
Then the first activity for the whole harrier force, would be to overwhelm the half dozen Etendards, either in the air or on the ground. With only one runway a few 1000 pounders, and some cluster bombs would cover that fairly well. Then Argentina is back to flying from their mainland. Or drop a C130 in, at night, with the SAS on. 10 minutes later, no more etendards.....or SBS from the Sea, possibly more likely and lower key.
 

Zoo Tycoon

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Etendards at Port Stanley. It would have been obvious where they started from and would end up after so many minutes of flight. A simple observation of take off, by say covert SAS and the threat would be easily countered with either Sea Harriers or Sea Darts. At take off, with a known position/track and the hight energy advantage a Sea Harrier is almost assured to make a kill. If returning, and a Sea Dart system has positioned itself such that’s its Missile’s kill zone is over PSA then it’s game over for Etendard … either enter the kill zone, clue in name or run out of fuel.

The only way to counter this would be 24-7 CAP which would be impossible given the size of PSA and logistical support.
 
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Dilandu

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Considering surface warships, RN deployed:

* 2 light carrier-cruisers (with long-range SAM, so not exactly defenseless even in close combat)
* 5 missile destroyers
* 3 missile cruisers (let's put Bristol and Counties in this category, because they are quite bigger than Type 42's)
* 2 missile frigates
* 13 frigates (10 with Exocet missiles)

Argentina could deploy:

* 1 light carrier
* 1 gun cruiser
* 2 missile destroyers
* 4 destroyers (with Exocet missiles)
* 3 corvettes (with Exocet missiles)
 

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The Port Stanley airfield attracted 50% of all the air-dropped ordnance dropped during the entire campaign. Added to that was naval bombardment and ground artillery too. In contrast, only 28% of the weapons dropped were for counter-land operations. There is no doubt the British were determined to keep the airfield out of commission - it became something of a bomb magnet at the expense of other air-to-ground support needs.
 

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Considering surface warships, RN deployed:

* 2 light carrier-cruisers (with long-range SAM, so not exactly defenseless even in close combat)
* 5 missile destroyers
* 3 missile cruisers (let's put Bristol and Counties in this category, because they are quite bigger than Type 42's)
* 2 missile frigates
* 13 frigates (10 with Exocet missiles)

Need to clarify what you mean by "missile frigate." If it's just the Broadswords with Sea Wolf, don't forget that HMS Andromeda, a refitted broad beam Leander, also had Sea Wolf. She served as Invincible's close-in escort for most of the war.

Also, I think only two frigates lacked Exocet -- Plymouth and Yarmouth. (Unless one of the Leanders or Type 21s had to deploy without it for some reason.)
 

Dilandu

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Need to clarify what you mean by "missile frigate." If it's just the Broadswords with Sea Wolf, don't forget that HMS Andromeda, a refitted broad beam Leander, also had Sea Wolf. She served as Invincible's close-in escort for most of the war.
I stand corrected, forgot about her.
Also, I think only two frigates lacked Exocet -- Plymouth and Yarmouth. (Unless one of the Leanders or Type 21s had to deploy without it for some reason.)
I'll check sources, but I recall that one Leander was at anti-sub configuration. Or maybe I mixed up the ships.
 

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Considering surface warships, RN deployed:

* 2 light carrier-cruisers (with long-range SAM, so not exactly defenseless even in close combat)
* 5 missile destroyers
* 3 missile cruisers (let's put Bristol and Counties in this category, because they are quite bigger than Type 42's)
* 2 missile frigates
* 13 frigates (10 with Exocet missiles)

Need to clarify what you mean by "missile frigate." If it's just the Broadswords with Sea Wolf, don't forget that HMS Andromeda, a refitted broad beam Leander, also had Sea Wolf. She served as Invincible's close-in escort for most of the war.

Also, I think only two frigates lacked Exocet -- Plymouth and Yarmouth. (Unless one of the Leanders or Type 21s had to deploy without it for some reason.)

As for the carriers, only Invincible had Sea Dart. The second of class, Illustrious, didn’t arrive until 3 months after the war was over. Hermes only had SeaCat.

Andromeda didn’t leave the U.K. until 10 May 1982, arriving in the TEZ on the 25th May.

The Type 21s Antelope and Ambuscade (both arrived 22/5 - the only Type 21s without it at the time) and Plymouth and Yarmouth did not carry Exocet. None of the Ikara Leanders deployed south during the War.

Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter also formed part of the “second wave” arriving 21-26 May.

Edit:- frigates were 7 Type 21, 2 Rothesay, 1 Exocet/Seawolf Leander and 3 Exocet/Seacat Leander and the 2 Broadswords. Total 12 frigates plus 3 missile frigates in your categorisation.

In addition there were Dumbarton Castle, Leeds Castle acting as dispatch vessels between Ascension and the TEZ. And not forgetting the minesweepers Brecon and Ledbury and the Hecla, Herald and Hydra for CASEVAC and Endurance as well as Intrepid and Fearless.
 
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Dilandu

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As for the carriers, only Invincible had Sea Dart. The second of class, Illustrious, didn’t arrive until 3 months after the war was over. Hermes only had SeaCat.

Andromeda didn’t leave the U.K. until 10 May 1982, arriving in the TEZ on the 25th May.

The Type 21s Antelope and Ambuscade (both arrived 22/5 - the only Type 21s without it at the time) and Plymouth and Yarmouth did not carry Exocet. None of the Ikara Leanders deployed south during the War.

Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter also formed part of the “second wave” arriving 21-26 May.
Thank you for clarification - my knowledge about conflict seems to be rusty.
 

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I'll check sources, but I recall that one Leander was at anti-sub configuration. Or maybe I mixed up the ships.

Argonaut might be tripping you up. She got the Exocet/Sea Cat refit in 1980, deployed south in that configuration, and then went home and got the towed array refit in late 1982.

Andromeda didn’t leave the U.K. until 10 May 1982, arriving in the TEZ on the 25th May.

The Type 21s Antelope and Ambuscade (both arrived 22/5 - the only Type 21s without it at the time) and Plymouth and Yarmouth did not carry Exocet. None of the Ikara Leanders deployed south during the War.

Thanks for those clarifications. I suspected a couple of T21s might have been short on missiles, but didn't have an easy way to check.

I had not realized that Andromeda was so late to the party.
 
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Dilandu

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So, if we assume fleet action in late April - then the situation get interesting.

Let's make additional assumption, that both sides hold their missile destroyers with carriers for defense (Argentineans done that, and it seems reasonable that RN would do this too). Not sure about Type 22 frigates; their Sea Wolf, If I recall correctly, was viewed as important part of defense against Exocet attacks.

* Britain could detach for surface action two County-class destroyers, and 6-8 frigates, all armed with Exocet missiles. While County-class did not exactly carry heavy guns, their Seaslug would be a good approximation against surface targets.

* Argentina (assuming that it could field all the fleet) could send for surface action one gun-armed cruiser, four old Exocet-capable destroyers and three Exocet-capable frigates.
 

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Except at the end of April there are two groups of ships to protect.

The carriers Hermes and Invincible, with Glamorgan and then the 3 Type 42 (deployed ahead of the carriers as Radar pickets), the two Type 22 as close in AA escorts and Alacrity, Arrow, Plymouth & Yarmouth for AS protection (remember the Argentinian Type 209 San Luis I posted about yesterday). The RFAs Resource and Olmeda were also in this group.

Antrim was still down in South Georgia. The other escorts were with the landing force which was being kept out of the way to the north to protect it, but which still required escorts (no point risking it in the TEZ until needed).

On 1 May Glamorgan and the two type 21s were dispatched for a bombardment of Stanley. So at least they are available for your plan.

If you follow through on your plan, the carriers would have to be withdrawn from the TEZ and with it your CAP. There is no way that they would have been left without escorts. Even juggling around with the escorts to the two groups I doubt that Sandy Woodward would have been prepared to take the risk involved in your plan.

And remember that the Argentinians were intending to use a classic pincer move. Belgrano and the 2 DD swinging south and the 25th May, 2 Type 42 and the 3 Exocet corvettes swinging north. That disposition was known about by the British. Which group are you going after? Whatever that leaves the other to swing round the east of the Falklands to get at the carriers.
 

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Then the first activity for the whole harrier force, would be to overwhelm the half dozen Etendards, either in the air or on the ground. With only one runway a few 1000 pounders, and some cluster bombs would cover that fairly well. Then Argentina is back to flying from their mainland. Or drop a C130 in, at night, with the SAS on. 10 minutes later, no more etendards.....or SBS from the Sea, possibly more likely and lower key.

The British tried many times to neutralize Port Stanley airfield, and failed (as noted by @Hood) to inflict any significant damage, despite best efforts including a maximum effort strike by 9 Sea Harriers on Day 1 (May 1st) and multiple follow up strikes.

At the cessation of operations, Stanley Airport had suffered three Vulcan strikes, nine multi-aircraft attacks by Sea Harrier/GR.3 and many attacks using naval gunfire. The total munitions expended included 50 one thousand pound bombs, 135 five hundred pound bombs, many cluster bombs and over 1,000 4.5″ shells from Royal Navy vessels the garrison (25th Infantry Regiment and School of Military Aviation Security Company) suffered only three casualties.

Etendards at Port Stanley. It would have been obvious where they started from and would end up after so many minutes of flight. A simple observation of take off, by say covert SAS and the threat would be easily countered with either Sea Harriers or Sea Darts. At take off, with a known position/track and the hight energy advantage a Sea Harrier is almost assured to make a kill. If returning, and a Sea Dart system has positioned itself such that’s its Missile’s kill zone is over PSA then it’s game over for Etendard … either enter the kill zone, clue in name or run out of fuel.
Not realistic. The Sea Harrier CAPs were typically detected by Falklands radar at 200km, giving any fighter taking off from Port Stanley plenty of time to reach co-altitude before the Sea Harriers could be vectored in to intercept.

As for establishing a Sea Dart missile bubble around Port Stanley that was never achieved due to the risk to ships operating so close to shore (only nighttime naval bombardments were done)… and with more Super Etendards & Exocets available no Royal Navy ship could have stood in close to Port Stanley for very long.

Basically neutralizing a fighter threat out of Port Stanley was not as easy as it sounds… especially when the Brits only had a very limited number of Sea Harriers (~20) for most of the conflict, meaning that even 4-6 fighters at Port Stanley could have significantly disrupted British air operations.
 
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Archibald

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At the cessation of operations, Stanley Airport had suffered three Vulcan strikes, nine multi-aircraft attacks by Sea Harrier/GR.3 and many attacks using naval gunfire. The total munitions expended included 50 one thousand pound bombs, 135 five hundred pound bombs, many cluster bombs and over 1,000 4.5″ shells from Royal Navy vessels the garrison (25th Infantry Regiment and School of Military Aviation Security Company) suffered only three casualties.

Unbelievable. Gosh damn it, why was it so hard to crater the damn thing ?

Black Buck Vulcans, I can understand why they missed (although they made a hole, after all); also SHARs, because of the Oerlikon guns, Roland SAMs and the advanced radar;
- but the naval gunners, damn it - it is so hard to lob shells at a runway ?

To think they had Polaris (just kidding) and Buccaneers with LGBs and pods...
 

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Then the first activity for the whole harrier force, would be to overwhelm the half dozen Etendards, either in the air or on the ground. With only one runway a few 1000 pounders, and some cluster bombs would cover that fairly well. Then Argentina is back to flying from their mainland. Or drop a C130 in, at night, with the SAS on. 10 minutes later, no more etendards.....or SBS from the Sea, possibly more likely and lower key.

The British tried many times to neutralize Port Stanley airfield, and failed (as noted by @Hood) to inflict any significant damage, despite best efforts including a maximum effort strike by 9 Sea Harriers on Day 1 (May 1st) and multiple follow up strikes.

At the cessation of operations, Stanley Airport had suffered three Vulcan strikes, nine multi-aircraft attacks by Sea Harrier/GR.3 and many attacks using naval gunfire. The total munitions expended included 50 one thousand pound bombs, 135 five hundred pound bombs, many cluster bombs and over 1,000 4.5″ shells from Royal Navy vessels the garrison (25th Infantry Regiment and School of Military Aviation Security Company) suffered only three casualties.

Etendards at Port Stanley. It would have been obvious where they started from and would end up after so many minutes of flight. A simple observation of take off, by say covert SAS and the threat would be easily countered with either Sea Harriers or Sea Darts. At take off, with a known position/track and the hight energy advantage a Sea Harrier is almost assured to make a kill. If returning, and a Sea Dart system has positioned itself such that’s its Missile’s kill zone is over PSA then it’s game over for Etendard … either enter the kill zone, clue in name or run out of fuel.
Not realistic. The Sea Harrier CAPs were typically detected by Falklands radar at 200km, giving any fighter taking off from Port Stanley plenty of time to reach co-altitude before the Sea Harriers could be vectored in to intercept.

As for establishing a Sea Dart missile bubble around Port Stanley that was never achieved due to the risk to ships operating so close to shore (only nighttime naval bombardments were done)… and with more Super Etendards & Exocets available no Royal Navy ship could have stood in close to Port Stanley for very long.
I'd suggest that seeing your only airfield link to your homeland, pounded every few days, would have a great impact on your morale. Just from memory, the aim was to prevent any major transportation, both into and out of the Islands. It would not be realistic to try and stop pucaras operating, as they could use the grass. And of course, it was a war, not a battle for one runway.
 

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@Fluff The MB-339s and other aircraft never stopped operating from Port Stanley.

Morale and resupply may have been a problem historically, but of course with a fighter presence and more Exocet attacks from the mainland the airfield would likely have taken much less of a pounding… again this is all in the hypothetical scenario that Argentina found a way to use Port Stanley airfield better. Which I pointed out could be done if they’d had more Super Etendards (say 2 squadrons ~24 aircraft).
 

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Not realistic. The Sea Harrier CAPs were typically detected by Falklands radar at 200km, giving any fighter taking off from Port Stanley plenty of time to reach co-altitude before the Sea Harriers could be vectored in to intercept.

As for establishing a Sea Dart missile bubble around Port Stanley that was never achieved due to the risk to ships operating so close to shore (only nighttime naval bombardments were done)… and with more Super Etendards & Exocets available no Royal Navy ship could have stood in close to Port Stanley for very long.

Basically neutralizing a fighter threat out of Port Stanley was not as easy as it sounds… especially when the Brits only had a very limited number of Sea Harriers (~20) for most of the conflict, meaning that even 4-6 fighters at Port Stanley could have significantly disrupted British air operations.

No Etendards launched if SHARs is within 200km = job done, threat neutralised. The Etendards are then target practice for toss bombing (this was routine outbound tasking for SHAR commencing it’s CAP) and if they lasted long enough PMG’s.

Had one launched from PSA then 40-50mins later there’s only one location it has to be, which is a critical vulnerability, irrespective of the system.

- Exocets work just as well in the dark as in daylight
- Night time bombardment where in support of British Army doctorine of attack at night. Daylight bombardment were regularly undertaken;- as an example HMS Coventry on May 9 ref The Royal Navy and the Falkland War by D Brown.
- Ship supporting San Carlos were inherently close to shore during the daylight hours. Sure it was no cake walk, but after two days they were over the worst.

Although the six MB339 are claimed to have operated continuously, a closer look at they’re recorded operation is quite revealing;- one sortie on May 21 with the next two sorties on the 28 May followed by a single flight back to Rio Grande on the 30 May;- Ref Falkland The Air War by Burden/Draper/Rough/Smith. Although the total number of MB339 sorties is not given, reading the overall account suggests the total number from PSA by the six MB’s was in low double figures, say 10-20 between 24 April - 12 June. Two lost (one CFIT, one shot down) , three disabled on the ground, one made it home.
 
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Dilandu

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- but the naval gunners, damn it - it is so hard to lob shells at a runway ?
114-mm shells would not cause much long-therm damage. Basically the heaviest munition that Navy could throw at runway was Seaslug missiles.

P.S. An absurd thought: could Seaslug missiles be converted in reasonable time into coast attack weapon? Remove the whole forward section, install an impact-delay fuse and heavier HE/SAP warhead.
 

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114-mm shells would not cause much long-therm damage. Basically the heaviest munition that Navy could throw at runway was Seaslug missiles.

P.S. An absurd thought: could Seaslug missiles be converted in reasonable time into coast attack weapon? Remove the whole forward section, install an impact-delay fuse and heavier HE/SAP warhead.

PSA runway was built on bed rock. Low trajectory 1000lbs just bounced off. Even special runway cratering would struggle. An 1000lbs AP (forge case/capped) from 10000ft was the best hope but in 3 raids they nearly all missed. It’s a tough problem dropping dumb bombs from altitude onto such a small target….. and PSA runway was small.

Sea Slug was used for surface to surface aimed against a radar. A firefight was underway underneath is flight path. When the huge thing roared overhead at supersonic speed both sides stopped firing having been awe struck.
 
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P.S. An absurd thought: could Seaslug missiles be converted in reasonable time into coast attack weapon? Remove the whole forward section, install an impact-delay fuse and heavier HE/SAP warhead.
Sea Slug was used against land targets, at least on 3/4 occasions during the war, but as far as the damage went, it only took the life of a single soldier.
 
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No Etendards launched if SHARs is within 200km = job done, threat neutralised. The Etendards are then target practice for toss bombing (this was routine outbound tasking for SHAR commencing it’s CAP) and if they lasted long enough PMG’s.
If Falklands radar can see the Sea Harrier CAP approaching from 200km away, how do the Sea Harriers stop the Super Etendards from launching and getting to altitude? If the Sea Harriers toss bomb from altitude, how do they hit anything since in real life they never did any damage? If they come in on the deck, they can achieve surprise but still don’t hit anything in real life (due to the AA defenses) and have no altitude advantage if an Argentine fighter CAP is in the air.

You make attacking an airfield sound easy. In practice it is never easy, even without fighter coverage, and adding fighter coverage makes it exponentially harder…
 
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No Etendards launched if SHARs is within 200km = job done, threat neutralised. The Etendards are then target practice for toss bombing (this was routine outbound tasking for SHAR commencing it’s CAP) and if they lasted long enough PMG’s.
If Falklands radar can see the Sea Harrier CAP approaching from 200km away, how do the Sea Harriers stop the Super Etendards from launching and getting to altitude? If the Sea Harriers toss bomb from altitude, how do they hit anything since in real life they never did any damage? If they come in on the deck, they can achieve surprise but still don’t hit anything in real life (due to the AA defenses) and have no altitude advantage if an Argentine fighter CAP is in the air.

You make attacking an airfield sound easy. In practice it is never easy, even without fighter coverage, and adding fighter coverage makes it exponentially harder…
If you look at the Gulf War #1, the British tried out their airfield attack tactics on the Iraqis early on in the air campaign taking heavy losses doing so. It isn't a winning strategy. Airfields are generally easy to repair. What you need is a means to target the dispersed aircraft themselves along with the field's facilities. The runway is the least important target.
 

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Just giving the Argentinians more Exocets and working dumb bombs greatly increases the challenge to the British forces. All it takes is one missile to hit Invincible, plus a few more escorts would have been sunk.

The Tornado JP233 attacks against the Iraqi airfields where actually quite succesfull in that only one JP233 carrying Tornado was actually lost (CFT after dropping its load). That said yes airfields are notoriously hard to put out of action. I think the Iraqis ended up using the taxiways as runways.
 

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If Falklands radar can see the Sea Harrier CAP approaching from 200km away, how do the Sea Harriers stop the Super Etendards from launching and getting to altitude? If the Sea Harriers toss bomb from altitude, how do they hit anything since in real life they never did any damage? If they come in on the deck, they can achieve surprise but still don’t hit anything in real life (due to the AA defenses) and have no altitude advantage if an Argentine fighter CAP is in the air.

You make attacking an airfield sound easy. In practice it is never easy, even without fighter coverage, and adding fighter coverage makes it exponentially harder…

You’re missing the radar horizon thing (reducing detection to 20km maybe a bit less) and the potential for eyes on the ground which will always know when things are happening at PSA whereas those at PSA will not know what’s being dispatched from an inherently mobile aircraft carrier. So you CAP 20 km away below the radar horizon, upon receiving word that aircraft is committed turning 500kts into altitude can be done a lot quicker than from zero.zero. As soon as the Etendard is clear of the Roland MEZ, easy kill.

Your also missing the point about traffic being forced to return to PSA being a defenceless sitting duck… just like WW2’s favourite way to kill an Me262 , unless of course endless CAP’s could be launched;- with the tiny hardstanding and other logistical facilities at PSA, not a chance.

Real events showed MB339 operations from PSA were utterly pointless, as they just couldn’t get airborne.

I wholeheartedly agreed attacking an airfield is not easy;- the SHAR guys put a lot of effort into it. The SHAR routine Bomb toss against PSA was not about the runway, it was about keeping a regular rain of shrapnel over anything which would be susceptible to damage and generally upsetting the guys on the ground. The infa-structure of PSA was pretty badly smashed up by war end even if the runway was not too badly damaged, just look at the photos.
 
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If you look at the Gulf War #1, the British tried out their airfield attack tactics on the Iraqis early on in the air campaign taking heavy losses doing so. It isn't a winning strategy. Airfields are generally easy to repair. What you need is a means to target the dispersed aircraft themselves along with the field's facilities. The runway is the least important target.

There’s some interesting comments on PPrune about this. The JP233 runway cratering munitions didn’t make such big holes as hoped because they were optimised for runways built on moist loam/clay as they are in Europe;- these runways were on bedrock and sand. Because the surface damage was less than expected it didn’t show up on the recon so the planners decided to put 1000lbs PGM’s dropped from 20kft into the runway/taxiway intersections. However the after action investigation revealed the JP233 mine munitions were highly effective at keeping
any thinking person away so the extra holes were unnecessary.

Also as correctly pointed out above, ten years of war had made these airfield designers put multi redundancy into the operational surfaces;- many runways and taxiways useable as runways. Hence its not really representative of anywhere else on the planet.

I think it illustrated the Tornado was in the late eighties maybe obsolete, but that’s for a different thread.
 
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Just giving the Argentinians more Exocets and working dumb bombs greatly increases the challenge to the British forces. All it takes is one missile to hit Invincible, plus a few more escorts would have been sunk.

The Tornado JP233 attacks against the Iraqi airfields where actually quite succesfull in that only one JP233 carrying Tornado was actually lost (CFT after dropping its load). That said yes airfields are notoriously hard to put out of action. I think the Iraqis ended up using the taxiways as runways.
If the Argentines had this, the British would have been finished as it was:

1642121652152.png

Mk 82 Snake eye retarded bombs would have finished at least 3 to 5 additional vessels, and their loss would likely have led to additional losses.
 

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The only practical way for Argentina to win is to kill the assault force before they land and that's impossible because the anti-landing troops (bombers) were prevented from doing this by a combination of bad weather, flight distance, lack of ammunition (Exocets), and hostile fighter cover. Even if they knew where the landing ships were (I'm not sure they ever figured it out) they were generally incapable of hitting them until after they'd begun offloading troops and ammunition. At which point they'd already lost.
Theoretically they could deploy their fleet for all-out battle. They have a carrier with arguably better strike capabilities than British ones, a pair of modern missile-armed destroyer to protect it, and a cruiser with at least some combat value (even if only as missile-catcher). While they could hardly hope to win, they could hope to maul Royal Navy enough, so the landing would be considered too risky.

A kantai kessen would be slaughtered by SSNs since the British had supreme sea control over the entire area.

The Argentinians probably did as well as they could given the resources they had, beucase they played to their relative strengths (bombing and missile raids) and the British relative weaknesses (combat air patrol and AEW). Something like getting 5 or 10 more Exocets would mean they could genuinely bloody Britain's nose, but I'm not sure they would do anything besides delay the retaking of the islands. They lost the minute Thatcher decided to launch a major amphibious invasion, it was only a question of how much embarrassment the Tories would face.

To stop the amphibious force it would need to be killed at sea. This is probably impossible since even if the Argies knew where they were I think the crummy weather kept them from conducting combat air raids a good portion of the time while the assault force was transiting the region. This was very likely intentional since assault forces tend to use bad weather as protection from air raids and the Royal Navy had some of the best military meteorologists in the world.

Just giving the Argentinians more Exocets and working dumb bombs greatly increases the challenge to the British forces. All it takes is one missile to hit Invincible, plus a few more escorts would have been sunk.

The Tornado JP233 attacks against the Iraqi airfields where actually quite succesfull in that only one JP233 carrying Tornado was actually lost (CFT after dropping its load). That said yes airfields are notoriously hard to put out of action. I think the Iraqis ended up using the taxiways as runways.

One missile hitting Invincible does nothing but cause the flag to shift to Hermes and moving the main combat carrier into the battle zone, assuming it knocked out anything related to aviation. It isn't going to make Britain leave but it might delay the invasion or give them pause. It would certainly be embarrassing, too.

It might not even cause Invincible to leave the theater since she would still be useful with her AIO facilities, Sea Dart, and air control radars as a main anti-air warfare escort for Hermes.

Putting Super Es in the Falklands would just make Argentina lose faster. The big brain move is to ignore the British fighters and attack their boats.

You don't fight an opponent with better planes, better pilots, and better rockets than you in an air to air fight. You hit his airbases, obviously.

The only practical way for Argentina to win is to kill the assault force before they land and that's impossible because the anti-landing troops (bombers) were prevented from doing this by a combination of bad weather, flight distance, lack of ammunition (Exocets), and hostile fighter cover.

Air superiority (or rather, parity) was entirely in the hands of the British
and there simply wasn't much the Argentinians could do about that.
I’ve highlighted a few of your comments… if the Super Etendard could provide proper fighter coverage from Port Stanley wouldn’t that turn the tables on the Sea Harriers?

With only a limited number of Sea Harriers available, any real opposition by a fighter that had at least 1:1 parity (or possibly even a 2:1 advantage given better kinematics and turn performance), and without fuel constraints… should have greatly limited the Sea Harrier’s own efforts. No more turkey shoot of Skyhawks and Daggers equals many more problems for the invasion force and troops on the ground. More symbolically, Black Buck may also have failed with a proper CAP.

Argentinians weren't losing because they were "at their fuel range" or whatever. A-4Qs had tons of range and energy (infinite actually) given the air refueling capability which was used extensively during the campaign and never actually disrupted by British fighters.

They were losing because they were rubbish at air to air combat, with outdated tactics, outdated missiles, and outdated aircraft that couldn't hold a candle to combat interceptors with advanced radars like Blue Vixen and state-of-the-art missiles like AIM-9L. They would be slaughtered like the Syrians were when their outdated MiG-21s and MiG-23s met the F-15 at literally the same time a world away.

Forward basing CAPs, were it possible and not some magical fantasy, just means the Argentinians do less damage to the British task force and the Royal Navy's job is an order of magnitude easier. The enemy is literally right there, egging you on, so go kill him. They couldn't ask for a better target.

By keeping the planes in Argentina, which was not an ideal situation for sure, as it allowed the British to establish a cordon around the islands that would need to be breached to recon and locate the landing troops during their shipping phase by Neptunes, Hercs, or Learjets, the strikers were immune to most forms of offensive counter-air short of a nuclear attack by Hermes or an SSBN or something.

Which was considered, incidentally, and Invincible had a dozen WE.177s onboard for use, while Hermes had 18 and the bulk of the strike fighters. Invincible would probably lead the BARCAP with the destroyers while Hermes puts a squadron each on a main fighter base if that were the case. A few mushroom clouds later and the war is over because Argentina loses her entire air force. Might happen if only to save Hermes from a potential Exocet related incident?

- but the naval gunners, damn it - it is so hard to lob shells at a runway ?
114-mm shells would not cause much long-therm damage. Basically the heaviest munition that Navy could throw at runway was Seaslug missiles.

P.S. An absurd thought: could Seaslug missiles be converted in reasonable time into coast attack weapon? Remove the whole forward section, install an impact-delay fuse and heavier HE/SAP warhead.

Disabling the runway at Stanley would cause the British more trouble than not, leaving aside that Black Buck actually did do some significant (moral) damage and kept the Stanley airport from being used as a fighter base due to its immense vulnerability. The Pucaras did nothing particularly notable compared to the A-4s and Daggers, which were untouchable in Argentina proper.

At the end of the day all you'd achieve is slapping Falklands with a fatter bill of rescue than they already got. It wasn't until a couple years ago that the landmines were fully removed and the penguins' habitat made safe for the birds. How long until Stanley's airport gets repaved and re-graded from being hit by cratering weapons though? A year? Two? How much money would that cost? Who pays for it? Is it even possible to fix it?

Serious civil engineering questions arise that don't matter much if you don't touch the runway, and the Argies weren't launching many combat forces from Stanley anyway. Pucaras were mainly flung out of grass fields I think.

No Etendards launched if SHARs is within 200km = job done, threat neutralised. The Etendards are then target practice for toss bombing (this was routine outbound tasking for SHAR commencing it’s CAP) and if they lasted long enough PMG’s.
If Falklands radar can see the Sea Harrier CAP approaching from 200km away, how do the Sea Harriers stop the Super Etendards from launching and getting to altitude? If the Sea Harriers toss bomb from altitude, how do they hit anything since in real life they never did any damage? If they come in on the deck, they can achieve surprise but still don’t hit anything in real life (due to the AA defenses) and have no altitude advantage if an Argentine fighter CAP is in the air.

You make attacking an airfield sound easy. In practice it is never easy, even without fighter coverage, and adding fighter coverage makes it exponentially harder…
If you look at the Gulf War #1, the British tried out their airfield attack tactics on the Iraqis early on in the air campaign taking heavy losses doing so. It isn't a winning strategy. Airfields are generally easy to repair. What you need is a means to target the dispersed aircraft themselves along with the field's facilities. The runway is the least important target.

This is accurate.

Runways are only important if you're using them as a yardstick for landing a nuclear bomb in the general vicinity.
 
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They were losing because they were rubbish at air to air combat.
No. The 2 dogfights on May 1 were hardly fair fights. The Mirages didn’t have air refueling so had to fly with big drop tanks and without using afterburner… with only 5 minutes playtime. Pilot quality may have contributed, but probably not as much as some would like to think.
 

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Five minutes is plenty of time. The Libyans in MiG-23s were outmatched in skill but also in airframes, but initiated a combat with a pair of Tomcats at 11:58 which was resolved at 12:03 with the Tomcats killing both MiGs with missiles. The Argies, at the end of the day, only wanted for one of these. They simply didn't have the experience, skill, or sense needed to conduct a serious CAP or pose an air to air threat.

Which is why they were obsessed with hitting the carriers...

If the Argies were better pilots they probably would have won since they had air superiority fighters and the British had a glorified bomber. The Argies were just blundering around like a WW2 air force while the British, who were much better pilots, were racking up kills while suffering with short range IR missiles, driving helicopteresque dump trucks, and having no long-range weapons al a AIM-7.

Had the British had F-4s instead of SHARs I don't think the Argentinian air forces would have mattered at all honestly though, but that would be the sort of "fair fight" you're looking for I guess. Both Mirage III or Dagger and Phantom are roughly equivalent in weapons capabilities and general role i.e. they are air superiority fighters with BVR missiles. It would hardly be "fair" in that the Argies win, of course, because they were simply lesser pilots and this would be hugely amplified, but it would definitely remove the arm the British had tied behind their back with SHAR's otherwise lackluster air to air capability.

The British merely wanted for better planes, which is how the Argentinians, in their great mediocrity, were able to inflict any damage at all on the task force in the first place. The Argentinians despite having superior aircraft, weapons, and advanced experience in "hitting things on the ground", didn't do so hot when the ground shot back.
 
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