This is an opportune publication at a time when politicians are responding to increasing conflict threats by savagely cutting defence spending. The brilliant victory in the Falklands in liberating the islanders from Argentine bandits cloaks the disasters in Government policy that encouraged the Argentines to think they would get away with aggression that increased risks for the Falklands Task Force. This book is the first to look in depth at the logistics, the risks and how the British Forces overcame obstacles to defeat a much larger enemy that also enjoyed the advantages that a defender has against an amphibious landing. This book should be compulsory reading for the morons in Parliament who deprive the British Forces of the equipment they need to do their jobs. It will certainly be well-received by enthusiasts and professionals. Highly recommended.
NAME: Logistics in the Falklands War
AUTHOR: Kenneth L Privratsky
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Chinook, Sir Galahad, Atlantic Conveyor, air bridge, in-flight refuelling, food, fuel, ammunition, equipment, yomp, Sea King, Wessex, farm tractors, Land Rover, captured vehicles, Argentine, bandits, liberation, Free Falkland Islands
DESCRIPTION: This is an opportune publication at a time when politicians are responding to increasing conflict threats by savagely cutting defence spending. The brilliant victory in the Falklands in liberating the islanders from Argentine bandits cloaks the disasters in Government policy that encouraged the Argentines to think they would get away with aggression and increased risks for the Falklands Task Force. This book is the first to look in depth at the logistics, the risks and how the British Forces overcame obstacles to defeat a much larger enemy that also enjoyed the advantages that a defender has against an amphibious landing. This book should be compulsory reading for the morons in Parliament who deprive the British Forces of the equipment they need to do their jobs. It will certainly be well-received by enthusiasts and professionals. Highly recommended.
In any operation to respond to an aggressor, the military force depends heavily on the efficiency of its logistics support, even if the battle is close to home. Operation Corporate was not only a hastily put together force, but one which would be operating at the other end of the world, with no friendly ports between the battlefield and home. The story of how Britain pulled together the necessary ships, including the modification to troop transport of the iconic QEII passenger ship and other commercial vessels, is in itself an epic of war. Vessels had to be supplied with spares, routine and major maintenance brought forward by unbelievable deadlines, men and materials embarked, and new weapons systems delivered at express speed. This included the US Federal Government making available the latest Sidewinder AAMs which were to prove critical to the air battles between the sub-sonic VSTOL Harriers and Sea Harriers against the supersonic Argentine fighters and attack aircraft.
The wise habit of commanders is to assemble and ship all necessary supplies so that they can be fed smoothly into the landing force and then to support the advance. During WWII the US military was notorious for waiting patiently for supplies to be stockpiled, rather than fighting off the beaches and into the enemy heartlands. Operation Corporate had to cut a great many corners and be severely constricted by the failure of NATO and EU Allies to supply munitions and other supplies. The result was that men and materials were shoehorned into every available space and training took place during the voyage South. Ascension Island saw an incredible armada marshalled together as the half way stage and last friendly port. Boats and helicopters race back and forth between the warships and transports as supplies were correctly distributed after the hasty loading necessary to get the Task Force out of port and heading South with the least delays. The sight of these vessels grouped together, about to set off on the final thrust to battle, brought a lump to the throat. For any Briton who was there, it was a reminder that forty years of managed decline by low grade British politicians could not kill the British spirit. Set out before this tiny volcanic island was a fleet that Nelson would have been proud to command. There would be some further fine tuning of distribution during the rest of the voyage ahead of the landings. Ascension Island was an incredible and moving sight burned in the memory of all those who were there.
In authorizing the Task Force, Premier Thatcher was taking some big risks. Those risks were effectively addressed by the Task Force commanders and personnel, but the fact remains that the British guns were down to a handful of rounds each when the Argentine bandits surrendered. It was a very close run thing and something that perhaps only British Arms could have been achieved. There were elements of the planning and actions of Operation Corporate that were mirrored back in British history to Drake and the corsairs who took on and defeated the Spanish half a millennium before. The lessons of Op Corporate should have been learned but sadly the evidence of the first decades of the 20th Century show clearly that politicians are still incompetently and venially repeating the same criminal mistakes. One angry and frustrated General in 1990 suggested at a meeting that he should procure some trucks with A frames and take them down to a particular group of civil servants so he ‘string up the buggers’. Down the generations, many a senior naval or army officer must have shared those feelings about politicians and bureaucrats who lacked the understanding of the desperate needs created by their many earlier failures.
The author has done a very thorough job of examining the fine detail of Op Corporate logistics. He has pulled no punches and it may be that his relative detachment as a senior US officer has offered a clarity and honesty that is difficult for a British officer of similar experience.
Op Corporate was like the old joke of the town dweller in a sports car who stops to ask a yokel for directions and the countryman responds, “ well I wouldn’t have started from here”. There is always an element of that for the democracy responding to the tyrant, but Op Corporate faced it in spades.
The surface fleet had been run down progressively by successive British Governments from 1945, but the politicians expected the military to pull the chestnuts out of the fire whenever the politicians created a major mess. Britain had also seen a massive reduction in its merchant fleet, although this was in part a slight of hand. As the Unions forced ever heavier burdens on British shipowners, it became common to re-flag vessels to avoid the burden. Even so, it made the task of taking vessels from trade, to provide the cargo space required to move men, equipment and supplies to the Falklands, that much more difficult. The fleet also suffered the growing dominance of lawyers. That was to result in merchant ships not being armed with RN weapons crews aboard to protect the vessels. The greatest weakness was in aircraft carriers and had the Royal Navy not pulled a brilliant flanking move to smuggle the Invincible VSTOL carriers through as ‘anti-submarine cruisers’ the Task Force could not have been credibly pulled together.
Further innovation saw the return of the MAC ship that had been introduced in WWII to provide primitive carrier capacity on convoys. The container ship Atlantic Conveyor was fitted out with a makeshift flight deck between lines of containers that served as protected working space for the flight crews preparing or maintaining helicopters and VSTOL fighters. The risk was that the Task Force had very few warships and support vessels so that attrition was not really allowed for. This was to be highlighted when the Atlantic Conveyor was sunk by an Exocet missile, although the bright side was that the targeting of this updated MAC ship avoided one of the two real aircraft carriers being hit and taken out of the equation.
When the ground troops were moved onto the landing assault vessels and supplies moved across with them the logistics may have been thin but were adequate for the landing phase. However, every helicopter and vehicle was required for the advance across the main island to Port Stanley and victory. The loss of the Atlantic Conveyor required many significant changes to the plans because of the helicopters lost with the MAC ship. The troops had to move across harsh terrain on foot, carrying their essential supplies, and assault landing ships had to move some forces around to support the main advance. This led to increased risk and the British were unlucky to be caught by Argentine aircraft. Not only was the capacity of the destroyed Chinook helicopters a major loss, but Sea Kings and smaller helicopters had to be used for supply missions when they were already needed for other tasks.
In the face of all of these obstacles the British Task Force performed magnificently and demonstrated that the British Lion could still kill – “Don’t cry for us Argentina – the truth is we really screwed you”.