Saturday, August 28, 2010

Falklands 2, Could We Win?

This is a post I previously made back in August. I intend to revisit this idea of retaking the Falklands with the forces we have left after the SDSR next week. 

Much has been made of recent cuts in the navies escorts. Particularly the assumption that with the reduced number of escorts we would be unable to win a Second Falklands War. However this argument of less escorts does not take into account the quantum leap in the capability of the new ships and submarines in the Royal Navy today.

As the Falklands is probably the ultimate test of any Navy's ability to project force I will examine a scenario that could lead to a second conflict and attempt to test the UK's ability to respond to the situation militarily.


Time Argentine Invasion:  June 2011
Attacking Forces:  Argentina, Venezuela
Rational :  Argentina,Very large oil deposits discovered around the Falklands
                Venezuela, Hugo Chavez wishes to deflect criticism at home with a war against acorrupt capitalists

Initial Attack

Under the pretext of a joint military excercise Argentine and Venezuelan aircraft attack Mount Pleasant Airbase. They are some how able to catch the RAF typhoons on the ground and close the runway blocking British reinforcement's.

Venezuelan Aircraft Armed with Sunburn Anti Ship Missiles engage type 23 frigate HMS St Albans. HMS Clyde is sunk in port Stanley by Aircraft dropping retarded bombs. A large combined Venezuelan Argentine force is landed ashore. 300 British Army personnel based at Mount Pleasant put up a good fight inflicting heavy casualties but heavily out numbered and with no hope of re-supply eventually have to surrender.

(To make this scenario work I have had to give the opposing force many additional aids. The Argentine forces on their own have no ability to conduct this type of operation. Even with Venezuelan support two Typhoons in the air would probably over power them. The Venezuelans do not presently have Sunburn Anti Ship missiles and would probably be unable to knock out a type 23 with anything less.I have also assumed that no Royal Navy SSN is around the islands. If there was the opposing Navy would likely be decimated)

In the aftermath of the battle the joint Argentine and Venezuelan forces have captured the airfield at Mount Pleasant and repair the runway allowing large scale reinforcments.

The UK prepares to respond by sending a task force. However as the attack has come just before the winter the fleet cannot be dispatched for another 3 months. Task force sales in September 2011 to recapture the islands.

Defending Forces


Argentina has had a very tough time since the last war. It's military has been unable to even replace losses that it sustained in 1982. They have also be unable to update their equipment in line with modern advances. Most of their aircraft flying today were in the air in 1982. Their Navy is little better.


Dassault Mirage III   9
A4 Sky Hawk          20
IAI Finger                6
Mirage V                 6
Super Etendard        14


Destroyers                4
SSK                         3
Corvettes                  9


9 Brigades in total so I will generously assume they can deploy 3 to the conflict. Probably not with much heavy armour though as RN submarines would quickly prevent re supply by ship. Only airlift would be possible.


Air force

Venezuela has  a total of 24 SU-30 MKV Flankers with another 35 on order. I will assume that they can deploy and sustain 24 in this conflict. The Aircraft will be armed with Russian built Sunburn Anti Ship missiles.


I will presume that Venezuela can contribute a brigade to the Falkland Islands


Venezuela has 6 elderly frigates however given rough conditions in the South Atlantic I will presume they cannot contribute to the conflict. I will also assume that they cannot deploy any SSK's as they are too old and of too limited range to engage in the South Atlantic.

Opposing Force

Sinking two Royal Navy Ships and killing a large number of personnel who probably cause enough of an outrage to involve our allies. However for the purpose of this scenario I will assume that our allies will only provide moral support in the form of arms blockade and sanctions. The UK will however be able to abandon all NATO standing deployments and be able to surge its entire force. I will also assume that 16AAB and 3 Commando are not in Afghanistan and are available for deployment.

Royal Navy (Force to be deployed)

Type 22 Frigates 3
Type 23 Frigates 9
Type 45 Destroyers 3
Type 42 Destroyers 2

Trafalgar Class  4
Astute Class 2

(Amphibious Task Force)
Ocean Class LPH 1
Albion Class LPD 2
Bay Class LSD 3
Point Class RORO 6

HMS Ark Royal
HMS Invincible

Type 23 frigates are able to achieve an availability rate of 89%. Out of the 13 in service I have assumed that only 9 would be available. I have assumed that 3 Type 45 are available which is a conservative estimate. Three type 45 Destroyers and 2 of the elderly type 42's. It may be the case that by 2011 5 Type 45's would be available however I wanted to be cautious in my assumptions.

Air force

As with last time the RAF would be limited in its ability to respond however unlike last time the E3 D AWACS could give the fleet a limited radar coverage. With 7 E3 D and the RAF's increased tanker ability I will assume it is possible to give the fleet AWACS coverage for half the time around the Falkland Islands

The hole left by the E3 D would be plugged by Sea King MK7 AEW giving the fleet total radar coverage upto 150 miles.

Fighter Aircraft

Harrier GR9     24
Harrier FA2     12

While the FA2 is no longer in service a limited number have been maintained in storage. As far as I am aware these aircraft are still available. Given 3 months to prepare I am sure 12 could be reactivated for service. In 2011 Meteor will probably not be available however the Blue Vixen Radar and AMRAM will give the Harriers a massive advantage compared to the last conflict.


Assume 3 commando and 16 AAB along with elements of 7th Armoured. With the much improved amphibious capability in 2011 it would be possible to deploy heavy armour such as challenger and heavy artillery units such as MLRS and AS90 to the conflict. It should be pointed out that the British Army of today is far Superior in equipment, tactics and experience to the Army of 1982. For the purposes of this scenario I will assume that if these formation get ashore that the battle is already one.

Opening Round

First Tomahawk Attack on Mount Pleasant

The opening round of the conflict will likely be carried out by the Royal Navy SSN's. Two Astutes and a single Trafalgar class could first deploy special forces for the purpose of monitoring the airfield. These three vessels could deploy the UK's entire arsenal of 64 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Using SAS recon teams and satellite imagery it would be possible for the Submarines to launch 18 missiles at Mount Pleasant simultaneously. This would take mount pleasant out of the equation all together. With limited air refuelling the Argentine and Venezuelan forces would probably have had to deploy half their fighters at Mount Pleasant all most all would have been lost.

Combat Range GR9 Stormshadow
The UK has a limited stock of Tomahawk Cruise Missiles and can only deploy them from Submarines. However it has more than 900 storm shadows. Each of the GR9's can fire 2 at a time. With 2 sorties per day the carriers could fire 96 storm shadows per day. This rate of fire could be theoretically sustained for 9 days. The carriers could attack the Argentine mainland airbases from a distance far beyond that of the land based opposing aircraft. Allowing the two carriers to strike at will until all of the enemy air force is destroyed..

Round 2

With Mount Pleasant and Stanley Airfields out of action the Task Force could begin to move closer to Argentina. The Next round would probably see the Harrier GR9's armed with Storm Shadow attacking the remnants of any airforce in the Falklands and flying against the Rio Grande Airbase in Southern Argentina. The SSN's would engage airbase further North in Argentina knocking out most of the combined air force.

Round 3

As the task force moves closer in the remnants of the enemy air force would likely now attack. They may also try to engage the task force with SSK's. The task force would deploy 9 type 23's. These ships are now the world's preeminent ASW platforms deploying the Merlin helicopter and the type 2087 towed array sonar the type 23's can find and destroy the argentine SSK's at distance beyond where the sub can fight back.

The enemy airforce attacks would now come up against a much different force. Firstly ships would stay further out at sea relying on helicopters to ferry in Marines and Para's who would be able to set up air defence system's before a ship approached the coast. Apache Gun Ships and GR9's would provide cover against any opposing land forces until a beach head had been established.

In the last war most successful aircraft attacks were carried out by the Argentine A4 Sky hawks. These still make up the bulk of their air force. However flying at low level dropping iron bombs would be at best suicide against a type 22 or type 23 armed with sea wolf and CIWS weapons system. Flying with in a hundred miles of a Type 45 with Sea Viper would be embarrissing. Especially when the Type 45 would have an accurate radar picture from an AWACS or AEW Sea King.

The only aircraft able to engage would be the Super Entanders and the Venezuelan SU 30's with Sunburn. It is hard to say how many of these aircraft would have survived the cruise missile attacks however what is left will have to penetrate a CAP flown by FA2 harriers armed with AMRAM and controlled by AWACS. They will then have to penetrate a screen of type 45's to launch their missiles which would themselves have to penetrate not only an outer defence of type 45's but an inner defence of type 23's with sea wolf and then the goal keeper and phalanx CIWS. I would doubt if any missiles would get through such a screen. Missiles launched at great distance as they would have to would also be highly susceptible to decoy's launched by the fleet. I would suspect after 1 to 2 days of this their would be little in the way of opposing airforce left to hamper the landing of heavier units ashore.

FA2 vs Su 30 Flanker

On the face of it the Flanker is the better aircraft. However with the type 45 able to engage high flying targets at over 100 miles the Flankers would have to fly low to launch their missiles. Flying at the edge of their range they would have little time for dog fighting. Firing AMRAM from a high altitude at the Flankers would allow the Harriers to get the first shot in. In a low altitude dog fight the Harriers would have an advantage. It has been reported that in a low slow dog fight the FA2 can achieve a 2 to 1 kill ratio against even an F15.

SSN-22 Sunburn vs Sea Viper

The SSN - 22 Sunburn missile is perhaps the most lethal anti ship missile on the market today. At high altitude it can reach speeds of mach 3. At low altitude it can travel at a speed of mach 2.2. The missile Carry's a 300kg warhead and has a range of 100KM. While the SU 30 Flanker at present cannot deploy sunburn I am presuming for the purpose of this scenario that the Venezuelans can adapt it for use on their aircraft. In order to employ the missiles they will have to come to a range of 100KM. This is well inside Sea Viper's 120km operating range. While the SU 30 might cover the distance to launch before the Aster 30 missile hit it it would likely not survive after launch. If launching at a low altitude the SU 30 would have to come in much closer to get a radar lock on the Type 45. This would give the CAP a better chance of intercepting. Following launch at 100km the Type 45 would have around 30 seconds to react. Sea Viper is designed to deal with the Sunburn missile however it is hard to say what the exact outcome of this battle would be.

Type 45's pitted against SS N 22's would have a much greater chance than the Type 42's did against Exocet in the last war. I feel confident that the Type 45's could deal with the slower moving Exocet missle fired by the Argentine Super Etandars this time.

Round 4

With Heavy armour and artillery brought ashore as well as a significant number of Apaches the British forces can now mount a long range concentrated attack against the forces on the ground. This would allow UK forces to engage the enemy at ranges they could not return fire at. With no air cover, re supply and a heavy bombardment from land sea and air the enemy ground forces would quickly surrender.

In short i feel UK forces are far more capable of carrying out a second Falklands War than they were the first. Land Attack cruise missiles, AWACS, AMRAM and Sea Viper would all knock out their airforce long before it came near the fleet. With no effective ASW capability SSN's would keep the Argentine Navy in port. The ASW capability of the RN should be able to deal with 3 SSK's and the British Army is better and more capable than ever. The amphibious platforms of the RN and RFA would be able to take a larger and much heavier force ashore and could even do it from over the horizon avoiding the need for a San Carlos type landing in the initial stages. Rapier and Starstreak missiles would be able to intercept any low flying aircraft coming in to attack the beach head meaning the Navy would not have to send its frigates in to act as cannon fodder.

The British Army of 1982 had not fought a major engagement since Korea. The British Army of 2011 has been at war since the 1991. It is far better equipped and combat hardened than at almost any time since WWII.

Even with Venezuelan Support and a missile that Venezuela currently does not have the UK forces would still be victorious.

The question over escort numbers is a mute one. Yes we had allot more escorts in the last war but the type 21's were little more than cannon fodder. The Type 42's were effective out at sea but useless near land. The lessons learnt from these ships have lead to a massive improvement in the capability of RN escort vessels. Less is defiantly more. Also the Navy no longer has to worry about a soviet invasion so the entire force can be sent to the conflict zone.

Other Options

Venuzala is likley the only country who would possibly become involved in this campaign on Argentina's side. If the admiralty felt that the SU 30's in the area armed with Sunburn were too great a risk to send the navy against they would also have other options. Venuzala is relativley close to British Territories in the Carribean. All these islands have airfields long enough to accomadate Tornado and Typhoon aircraft. With a little aerial refulling these aircraft could launch storm shadows against Venuzala. If we destroy Hugo Chavez house, government facilities and airfields it wont be too long until he pulls out. The Typhoon has the apparnet ability to defeat the SU 30 at a rate of 10 to 1.

Their are three Britsh Over Seas Territories with runways able to accomadate Typhoons. I have illustrated the combat range of typhoons armed with storm shadow below.

Strike Range of Typhoon from British Territories


  1. Very very concise piece.
    I've said the same arguements quite a few times, its good to see someone who knows his stuff so well agree with them and provide better justifications.

    It is very flexible as to how things could go, as you say, destroying the Tyhoons on the ground and cutting the runway is easy enough if you surprise the defenders, but if they get wind of the incoming attack, from what you say Re: strikes on Venezula, the four Typhoons with a full AA loadout would eat both airforces in short order, then land, refuel, rearm with Storm Shadow and hit their airbases in response.

    But if we assume that the enemy destroy the Typhoons on the ground, and sever the runway, they still need to land an army, by sea.

    That could go one of two ways, either the landing is difficult but accomplished, or an SSN is in the area and the invasion fleet is sank with catastrophic loss of life, "Gotcha Again".
    If they can land, they can win, any advantage in training, equipment and experience does not alter the result when the numbers are 300:15,000

    Phase one of our counter is where, even if its all gone well so far, it ceases to go well, or have the option of going well for the invader.
    If I could just suggest not destroying the aircraft on Mt P, waste of a missile, they cant take off if we cut the run way, we have better targets and we might be able to nick them a few weeks later.

    Theres nothing south of the Equator that can find and kill an Astute operating at cruise missile range, as and as you say, the Carriers can hit the airbases from outside interception range, the best they can hope for is to intercept the Harriers, that ability would rather depend on their ability to see the incoming harriers.
    The SU30's look like they could stand a chance at that, but the SSN's can be used to sever runways and the Stormshadows can then hit the aircraft bunkers.
    Not to mention running a few harriers loaded with AMRAAM as wellto make a headlong rush a mite suicidal.

    Which brings us to phase three.
    As you say, the T23 fleet would eat them all up, but would they even last that long, 30/50 day endurance, I assume that not burning fuel like mad in high intensity battle, they'd be popped trying to get into or out of base, if not trying to intercept tour boats.
    The AAF nearly mutinied last time because the Navy wasnt pulling its weight, they'll be sent after our boats no matter how foolish once we start raining missiles on their airbases.

    Once you get to a Bitish force, with Apache support, its hard to even think of scenarios where it could go well for Argentina.

    I would point out that, unless somethings changed recently, we havent actualy got a Sea Viper system to work yet, but it doesnt matter.
    The war would be won by the SSN fleet, long before the surface fleet is engaged.

    Thank you, its good to see someone who knows what they're talking about agree with me

  2. Hi Raging Tory, Sea viper has now passed its trials following some modifications of the missiles. The French and Italian Navy are said to be incorporating the same modification. I think part of the problem was that the French who deployed Aster 15 first did not test it to the same degree as the RN.

    I agree that the Typhoons if airborne would make short work of any attacking aircraft. To be honest I just could not see any way to make this scenario work with out massively scewing the balance of luck and equipment to the Argentine side.

    thanks for your comments.