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Grey Havoc

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[PHOTO CREDIT: HISTORY WARS WEAPONS blog]


I was doing a bit of research on another topic, and came across some info on the Argentian TAM (Tanque Argentino Mediano) medium tank, which got me to thinking. After they had sized the islands, how come the Junta didn't ship at least a few of those tanks out there? Their forces there could have certainly done with the support. I know they thought at first that the UK would just fold, but they had enough time to realise their mistake before the exclusion zone really took hold and ship in a platoon, maybe two, even though the TAM hadn't fully entered service at the time.

Since the British Expeditionary Force was limited to light armor (Scorpions and Scimitars mostly), such a deployment might have given the Argentine defenders more of a fighting chance against the, overall much better trained and better equipped (for the most part), British forces.

Opinions?
 

Nik

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Didn't the UK land forces go equipped with anti-tank weapons, which they ended up using against bunkers ??

Also, given the Arg's apparent enthusiasm for mine-laying, and the seriously soggy landscape dotted with vehicle-swallowing bogs and random rocky outcrops aka track-breakers...

I get the feeling that the sheer speed of UK response short-circuited some of the planning: With spotty hindsight, looked like the Arg's navy and air-force expected to maul RN in mid-Atlantic. I don't think they expected Belgrano to eat a fish, and Harriers to dog-fight. After that, it was too late...
 

Abraham Gubler

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The Argentines started to build up forces on the Falklands after April 6 with the strong UN vote against them and the British despatch of a task force. It was a complete surprise to the Argentineans that they would have to fight to keep the Falklands as they strongly believed that once they grabbed it the rest of the world would support them and the British acquiesce. At first they thought the task force was a bluff.

The Army did not have standing plans to defend the Falklands as the initial planning had been conducted by the Navy. At first with they sent the light infantry IX Brigade but after the sailing of the troopship Canberra they despatched a second brigade. This was the X Mechanised Brigade from Buenos Aries. They were equipped with APCs and armoured cars but left most of their heavy equipment (APCs) in Argentina because of shipping limitations. Even then this equipment did not arrive in the Falklands until April 22, a week ahead of the RN task force.

The third Argentine brigade deployed to the Falklands was the III Brigade from their northern border. This was a light infantry brigade and was deployed by air in the last week of April. Most of their heavy weapons and support equipment were to follow by sea but never made it to the islands. Quite simply the Argentines lacked the shipping and preparation to deploy tanks and mechanised forces even if they wanted to. What shipping allocation they had was mostly consumed with artillery and air defence units: some 40 odd 105mm mountain guns and 50 odd air defence systems.

The Argentines kept their three premier infantry brigades on the mainland facing the Chilean threat. Their two armoured brigades were not deployed at all. Another reason their armoured units were not used is the Argentine conscript system which inducts soldiers early on in the year for all units. The conscripts in the armoured brigades would have very low familiarity with their equipment. IX Brigade was able to replace most of their new conscripts with recalled reservists with full training (by Argentine standards) but most of the other units deployed to the Falklands with soldiers who had only a few weeks of 9-5 training under their belts.

The initial Argentine planning was to invade the Falklands by the 1983 New Year period, the 150th anniversary of their original removal by the British, but they were rushed into the invasion because of the South Georgia incident. The Argentine Navy was given the timetable of an invasion after mid September 1982. If the initial timetable had been kept too then maybe the Argentine Army could have been brought into planning for a counter invasion garrison. Possibly this could include their medium tanks. But the difficulty of deploying them, supplying them and using them on the Falklands would still be extremely high.
 

Apophenia

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Grey Havoc said:
... on the Argentian TAM (Tanque Argentino Mediano) medium tank ... how come the Junta didn't ship at least a few of those tanks out there?
Neither TAM nor VCTP were actually in full service at the time of the Falklands conflict. That would have left the Argentinian army deploying AMX-13 light tanks or Sherman Firefly mediums (modernized in 1978 with 105s and 450 hp diesels).
 

Grey Havoc

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The image link in the opening post has died a death.
Here's a replacement image, courtesy of Wyvern posting in the South American Tanks thread over in Army Projects:
 

NoBarrelRolls

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Well, I am not really sure if the TAM would be able to operate in the soft ground of the Falklands. The only armor units (besides APCs) deployed to the islands were the Panhards AML-90 of the Argentinian Army. There was also an intention to deploy a detachment of SK-105 Kürassiers, that it didn’t materialized due to the british naval blockade

 

timmymagic

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Well, I am not really sure if the TAM would be able to operate in the soft ground of the Falklands. The only armor units (besides APCs) deployed to the islands were the Panhards AML-90 of the Argentinian Army. There was also an intention to deploy a detachment of SK-105 Kürassiers, that it didn’t materialized due to the british naval blockade

The Panhards were also restricted to the area around Stanley as they were road and track mobile only. The Argentinian's didn't really have any armoured vehicles with low enough ground pressure, light enough weight and low logistic footprint to be used on the Falklands.

The bigger question is why the UK only bought a limited number of Scorpion and Scimitar (and 1 Samson) and a very small number of BV's. They seemed to have been brought along more as an afterthought as someone in the MoD didn't think they'd be able to operate in the Falklands......terrain which is uncannily similar to parts of Scandinavia which the BV in particular was designed to operate in.

Additional Scorpion, Scimitar, Samson, Striker, Sultan and Samaritan would have been very useful (particularly the Striker with Swingfires ability to hit targets at range with precision). Add in a large numbers of BV's,and you would have dramatically simplified the logistics (and a Cymbeline equipped BV would have been useful).
 

Zootycoon

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The Brits immediately after the conflict made a series of video interviews with senior officers, junior officers and infantry that detail what went well and where lessons could be learned. I’m sure in one of those, Major General J Moore says he wished that he had brought along at least ten times the number of Scorpions, and Scimitars. They really had so little time to prepare, although fairly well managed there was a degree of chaos and had to live with those early decisions.
 

Grey Havoc

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They also lost a few vehicles in transit via enemy action, I think.
 

uk 75

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I think the forces for the Falklands were put together from the patratroop and infantry formations in UK and the Royal Marine Commandos.
None of these had organic armoured units so the addition of Scorpions/Scimitars was unusual.
Forces allocated to reinforce NATO in 1982 had very precise orders of battle.
 

TomS

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The bigger question is why the UK only bought a limited number of Scorpion and Scimitar (and 1 Samson) and a very small number of BV's. They seemed to have been brought along more as an afterthought as someone in the MoD didn't think they'd be able to operate in the Falklands......terrain which is uncannily similar to parts of Scandinavia which the BV in particular was designed to operate in.

Additional Scorpion, Scimitar, Samson, Striker, Sultan and Samaritan would have been very useful (particularly the Striker with Swingfires ability to hit targets at range with precision). Add in a large numbers of BV's,and you would have dramatically simplified the logistics (and a Cymbeline equipped BV would have been useful).
I've seen two very different figures for the number of Bv202s brought south. One source says 75, which would have been about all the RMs owned, I think. Another one says only 24. 5 Brigade also apparently brought some of their older Sno-Cats, which were not much use at all.

The shortage of armored vehicles certainly was a mistake, but as noted, they were not part of the normal TO&E for the Commandos and thus were something of an afterthought. Also, shipping was very short ("square" vehicle space especially) and to bring more CRV(T)s, something else would have had to be left behind. Given the rushed nature of the departure, it's not surprising some mistakes were made on this front.
 

TomS

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They also lost a few vehicles in transit via enemy action, I think.
Maybe some soft-skins at Bluff Cove (5 Brigade notably lost all of their headquarters Land Rovers, complete with their radios). Nothing else that I can think of.

Atlantic conveyor sinking ?
Nope. That was almost all aircraft -- six Wessex, three Chinooks, and a Lynx -- and aircraft stores -- ammunition, runway matting, spare parts, fuel blivets, and (least-heralded) a huge number of cargo slings. (and of course, some 4000 tents)
 

timmymagic

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They also lost a few vehicles in transit via enemy action, I think.
Maybe some soft-skins at Bluff Cove (5 Brigade notably lost all of their headquarters Land Rovers, complete with their radios). Nothing else that I can think of.

Atlantic conveyor sinking ?
Nope. That was almost all aircraft -- six Wessex, three Chinooks, and a Lynx -- and aircraft stores -- ammunition, runway matting, spare parts, fuel blivets, and (least-heralded) a huge number of cargo slings. (and of course, some 4000 tents)
And most of the Army's remaining Soyers Stoves which dated back to the Crimean war.

 

timmymagic

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The Brits immediately after the conflict made a series of video interviews with senior officers, junior officers and infantry that detail what went well and where lessons could be learned. I’m sure in one of those, Major General J Moore says he wished that he had brought along at least ten times the number of Scorpions, and Scimitars. They really had so little time to prepare, although fairly well managed there was a degree of chaos and had to live with those early decisions.
They're on Youtube, and they're well worth a watch.

 

nuuumannn

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Part of the reason of why the Argentine forces didn't deploy armour on the island might be to do with its policy in securing Stanley as a fortress. Maj Gen Mario Menendez, the Argentine commander behaved in a peculiar manner regarding the defence of the islands. In his arsenal he had a useful and potentially deadly array of fixed wing aircraft, helicopters and weaponry available to him, but he made little effort to engage with the British troops 'yomping' across the island, until they reached strongholds in the mountains surrounding Stanley. His plan was to produce a fortress around Stanley, reinforced by the outer ring of defensive positions in the mountains surrounding the settlement, which had predictable consequences. A question that has to be asked is why he did so little to hinder the British troops' progress across the island from their landings in San Carlos Water with the resources he had available to him.

Image is a TAM VCTP on display at the Museo Historico del Ejercito in Buenos Aires.
 

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Dilandu

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A question that has to be asked is why he did so little to hinder the British troops' progress across the island from their landings in San Carlos Water with the resources he had available to him.
Maybe he was worried that his troops would be spread thin and with British naval & air superiority they may outflank him?
 

timmymagic

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A question that has to be asked is why he did so little to hinder the British troops' progress across the island from their landings in San Carlos Water with the resources he had available to him.
He didn't have a spectacular amount of helicopter lift that was available and re-supply would have been very difficult with the Argentinian logistic system that was already failing to supply troops in fixed positions. But also he had few troops that were capable of engaging in that sort of operation against a capable opponent. You can well imagine what would have happened to the bulk of his conscript forces had they attempted that, his appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of his force was probably correct.
 

nuuumannn

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He didn't have a spectacular amount of helicopter lift that was available and re-supply would have been very difficult with the Argentinian logistic system that was already failing to supply troops in fixed positions.
The Argentine rotary airlift forces on the island was provided by Batallon de Aviacion de Combate 601, which had Bell UH-1Hs, Bell 212s, Super Pumas and Chinooks, as well as Lamas (Alouette IIIs). Menendez had Pucaras, T-34s and MB-339s capable of light strike, he also had Agusta A-109s capable of light strike equipped with podded machine guns and 70mm rocket launchers on stub wings, as well as Hueys fitted with GPMG door guns. he carried out no reconnaissance, no harrassing operations to slow their advance - his entire approach was somewhat passive. A waste of resources given their effort to take the islands in the first place, I do recall that Menendez was criticised by the Argentine military for his lack of grasp in holding on to the island, facing dismissal on his return to Argentina as a former POW.
To be fair though, the Argentine army had not faced a foe in combat for a century before the Falklands operation, nevertheless, under the citrcumstances, holding on to the island should have been a priority regardless of the varied skill level of his troops and the opposition they faced, which should have warranted a more aggressive approach to its defence.
 
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Evgeniy

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I would venture to suggest that this situation with tanks in the Falklands was due to two factors: 1. A general miscalculation of the Argentinean military and political leadership. 2.logistic problems that could arise with the transfer to the islands of tanks. And subsequent supply. Although, the well-known TAM can still be transferred in limited quantities. The same goes for artillery, which is even more strange.
 

TomS

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It's really inaccurate to say they there were no air attacks on the British ground forces. But it's also really hard to overstate how miserable the conditions were and how badly they impacted serviceability. The fact that the Argentine air forces were not set up with the idea of operations away from their main bases seem to have been a huge problem. They didn't have the benefit of well supplied

The MB-339s did attempt at least one antiship armed reconnaissance mission that resulted in one aircraft (of 6) crashing into terrain. They also launched a recce mission over San Carlos and at least one sortie against ground forces that again resulted in a lost aircraft. Of the four remaining, only one was fit to fly out and three others had to be abandoned in Stanley.

The T-34s were only marginally useful attack aircraft to begin with but all four deployed got blown up by the SAS before the landings. So it's hardly fair to complain about their absence.

The Pucaras are arguably the most disappointing, but again, the conditions were really not favorable for them. And the Pebble Island raid destroyed half of them before they got to do anything.
 

Purpletrouble

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Again it goes back to the Strategic direction here. Their only thought beyond taking the islands was (a) just keeping them hence a conscript non combat garrison and (b) accepting some UN force as a transition to Argentine rule anyway.

Fighting for the Islands was a very late realisation, for which zero planning had been done. Supplies of ammo, fuel and vehicles just weren’t there, and as alluded to above, this was not a military force in the same way of the British Forces - expedtionary by nature and expecting to always fight somewhere other than they were, plus experienced at all levels in doing this all over the world.

Of the 3 components of fighting power: physical, moral and conceptual, of which Napoleon said “the moral is to the physical as 3 is to 1” they had neither that nor the conceptual.

Hence their performance. You could draw analogies with Middle Eastern forces for instance, brilliantly equipped but...

plus logistics wise although they did very well sneaking in transport ac, I think the last sealift (ie any chance of vehicles and bulk fuel) stopped after Belgrano?
 

Foo Fighter

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An aside to the general state of affairs concerning the commitment of the UK government to the Falklands may have had a lot of influence on the decision to take the Islands. This could also have affected the speed of build up, after all, if the Argentine government was confident their action would be unopposed, why rush things?

 
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Purpletrouble

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They were driven by domestic political considerations - including the triumvate Military Junta which was actually dominated by the Army with Navy 2nd and Air Force distant 3rd, the former two wanting the glory of achieving this. Which led directly to failure because they simply did not do their professional jobs - which of course were only a means to Political power.

The topic is illustrative in a way, a focus on physical equipment affecting an outcome when it is organisational culture and logistics that actually determine everything.
 
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nuuumannn

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It's really inaccurate to say they there were no air attacks on the British ground forces. But it's also really hard to overstate how miserable the conditions were and how badly they impacted serviceability. The fact that the Argentine air forces were not set up with the idea of operations away from their main bases seem to have been a huge problem. They didn't have the benefit of well supplied
You mean to say they were unprepared? Yup.

The MB-339s did attempt at least one antiship armed reconnaissance mission that resulted in one aircraft (of 6) crashing into terrain. They also launched a recce mission over San Carlos and at least one sortie against ground forces that again resulted in a lost aircraft. Of the four remaining, only one was fit to fly out and three others had to be abandoned in Stanley.
Indeed, just the one sortie each - on 21 May, the day of the San Carlos landings, two MB-339s carried out a reconnaissance flight from BAM Malvinas (Stanley) and flew northwest, then south over White Rock Bay, then headed south east before dog legging and heading back to Stanley. On 28 May MB-339 and Pucara CAS sorties were flown, and that was it.

The T-34s were only marginally useful attack aircraft to begin with but all four deployed got blown up by the SAS before the landings. So it's hardly fair to complain about their absence
This is true, they were destroyed on 15 May on the ground, so that's them out, leaving Pucaras, MB-339s, A-109s, UH-1Hs... So that was effectively it. Other CAS raids were flown by A-109s, but not much to affect the British advance. Should we really concede that that was the best that Mendendez could do?

The Pucaras are arguably the most disappointing, but again, the conditions were really not favorable for them. And the Pebble Island raid destroyed half of them before they got to do anything.
So, in effect you agree with me, then? Although I do have to state that the Pucaras themselves were not disappointing. They were potentially a real threat to the British advance, as was the assembled army aircraft. The disappointment was how little the Argentine commanders used the resources at their disposal - this is the point I am making. The British got as much as they possibly could of the resources they had, unlike the Argentine ground forces, which were well equipped, but didn't make the best use of what they had. Again however, this can be put to their lack of experience in a modern war scenario.

I suspect I am alone in this hypothesis, so I guess we can agree to disagree.
 

Kadija_Man

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You must also remember the British had had a professional reactionary force in being for over 40 years at that point and it had been deployed at least half a dozen times since it's formation. The Argentines had a conscript army. The regular forces were reserved for the mainland, not the islands. The conscripts had low morale. They suffered as a consequence.
 

nuuumannn

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You must also remember the British had had a professional reactionary force in being for over 40 years at that point and it had been deployed at least half a dozen times since it's formation. The Argentines had a conscript army. The regular forces were reserved for the mainland, not the islands. The conscripts had low morale. They suffered as a consequence.
Yes, this is all well known. A conscript army isn't necessarily a burden, but the Argentine conscripts suffered in their lack of training. When Britain had conscription, her soldiers were in for two years, Argentina's were in for one only. When I was last in Buenos Aires I met and spoke with a couple of Malvinas vets when I visited the Museo Historico del Ejercito. I was taken around the Malvinas displays by a major in the Argentine army - to this day I cannot remember his name, but we talked at length about the conflict.
 

nuuumannn

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I did read somewhere that the Mechanised Infantry Divisions were kept near Buenos Aires during the conflict out of fear of invasion.
Ah, this partially confirms it:

"The Argentine Army also had the 10th Mechanized Infantry Brigade in the capital guarding against a theoretical seaborne invasion along the Buenos Aires coastline."

From wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_ground_forces_in_the_Falklands_War
 

TomS

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I'd argue that this was not the military leadership on the island failing to use the assets they had, but those assets actually not being available because of poor serviceability. I think they wanted to use the aircraft more but they were broken, conditions were too poor, or supplies such as fuel were too limited.
 

Purpletrouble

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I did read somewhere that the Mechanised Infantry Divisions were kept near Buenos Aires during the conflict out of fear of invasion.
Ah, this partially confirms it:

"The Argentine Army also had the 10th Mechanized Infantry Brigade in the capital guarding against a theoretical seaborne invasion along the Buenos Aires coastline."

From wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_ground_forces_in_the_Falklands_War
I’d suggest the Aregentine ability to move a Mechanised Brigade to the Falklands was zero in terms of sealift and logisitical support. (As was the UK’s ability likewise!) Truth is they stayed where they were because they couldn’t go anywhere else. The rest is PR.
 

Kadija_Man

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You must also remember the British had had a professional reactionary force in being for over 40 years at that point and it had been deployed at least half a dozen times since it's formation. The Argentines had a conscript army. The regular forces were reserved for the mainland, not the islands. The conscripts had low morale. They suffered as a consequence.
Yes, this is all well known. A conscript army isn't necessarily a burden, but the Argentine conscripts suffered in their lack of training. When Britain had conscription, her soldiers were in for two years, Argentina's were in for one only. When I was last in Buenos Aires I met and spoke with a couple of Malvinas vets when I visited the Museo Historico del Ejercito. I was taken around the Malvinas displays by a major in the Argentine army - to this day I cannot remember his name, but we talked at length about the conflict.
Oh, I agree conscripts aren't necessarily a burden. They are though, when faced with a professional army like the British one when the Argentines hadn't faced anything except internal security threats for over a century. Conscripts were subjected to a lot of Argentine propaganda, particularly about the Gurkhas and they believed it. The result was that British job was halfway done for them before they'd even arrived on the Falklands. The Conscripts ran away or surrendered at the first opportunity, they folded pretty easily.
 

Purpletrouble

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Hmmm that doesn’t fit with the toughness the Brits faced at Goose Green, Tumbledown for instance. The Argentinians may have been spectacularly badly led by one of the worst and appallingly unprofessional (and most stereotypical South American) Officer Corps ever (being an Argentine Officer must be a massive badge of shame?), but when push came to shove the troops could show courage and determination. For such badly treated conscripts their performance was a big cut above that of the Iraqis in 1991 for instance.

In hindsight it feels easy to say the Argentinians were lost before they started, but it certainly didn’t feel like that to anyone at the time - yet their gross leadership failures on pretty much all counts were baked in what passed for their military culture.
 
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drejr

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From what I've read in Argentinian sources the quality of the junior officers and NCOs varied greatly. Some like the late Lt. Estévez at Goose Green were pretty good at inspiring their men and led from the front, others were utter cowards or practically tortured their soldiers. The attitude of NCOs towards university-educated conscripts was particularly bad.

I imagine the lack of political support for the regime or its war, abuse from superiors, and the privations of Northern Argentinian conscripts who were both a few weeks out of basic training and unused to and ill-equipped for the conditions in the islands had more to do with their morale than scary stories about Gurkhas. Most of these came after the war.
 
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Fluff

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I would suggest the British correctly feared the air capability, hence the strikes on the airfields and aircraft. The Brits could not really know the serviceability or fuel/weapon status, so they took action. The argies seemed very static All the way through, I’m sure there were isolated points of bravery and resistance, but as mentioned above, this was a 2nd tier conscript army, v the very creme that the highly experienced British could deploy. Luck is luck, but training, planning, practice show through. Equipment has its place, overall U.K. took a good selection and used it as best they could.
 

DWG

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"The Argentine Army also had the 10th Mechanized Infantry Brigade in the capital guarding against a theoretical seaborne invasion along the Buenos Aires coastline."
I rather suspect having troops in proximity to the capital was probably more on Galtieri's mind than having them in proximity to the coastline. The whole point of trying for a short, victorious war was that it would distract people's minds from the dictatorship, and when that blew up in their face....
 

Kadija_Man

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Hmmm that doesn’t fit with the toughness the Brits faced at Goose Green, Tumbledown for instance. The Argentinians may have been spectacularly badly led by one of the worst and appallingly unprofessional (and most stereotypical South American) Officer Corps ever (being an Argentine Officer must be a massive badge of shame?), but when push came to shove the troops could show courage and determination. For such badly treated conscripts their performance was a big cut above that of the Iraqis in 1991 for instance.

In hindsight it feels easy to say the Argentinians were lost before they started, but it certainly didn’t feel like that to anyone at the time - yet their gross leadership failures on pretty much all counts were baked in what passed for their military culture.
Goose Green was but one engagement in a relatively quick war. Goose Green was made out to be a lot worse 'cause they gave the British Commander Colonel H. a VC (which is always good publicity for the masses). The British Government still wasn't sure about what was happening and reached into the medal's drawer rather quickly. The Argentines again folded rather quickly when faced with sterner stuff in the British Paras.

It was around Stanley that was important. The Gurkhas were there and they scared the Conscripts of the Argentine forces because the Argentines portrayed them as monsters, not men. I've met several Gurkhas over the years and they have been pretty nice but tough little fellows. I've heard stories of Australians who exercised with them when I was in the Army and they expressed in no uncertain terms their admiration for them. They were though, ultimate men, just men.
 

Purpletrouble

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I grew up in the old home base of the Gurkhas and also had the priveledge to work with them in Northern India & Afghan. They are incredible people.

Falklands wise the point is the Argentinians (what a silly fuss about nothing!), were not awful soliders but a product of their appalling leadership.They were capable of much more as they showed on occasion, and when they didn’t that blame goes direct to the leadership, and with the Junta - right to the top.

To repeat, as Napoleon said,“no bad regiments, only bad colonels”.

Easy as their defeat looks in hindsight, I’ve never heard or read anything that suggested people on the spot thought that at the time. Again it goes back to a military being that composition of moral, conceptual and physical components. Something forums miss a lot, especially (and understandably of course) those that haven’t done it.
 
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