Monday, April 16, 2012

The needle on the record of history keeps skipping.

Chris Ex Machina offers thoughts on Argentina's renewed bluster on the Islas Malvinas Falkland Islands.

The Argentines have probably noticed that the Brits no longer have the long-range Vulcan bombers that hit the islands in the Black Buck raids or the Victor tankers that refueled them on the way. Similarly, all but one of the HMS Invincible-class STOVL carriers in the Royal Navy have been mothballed or scrapped, and the remaining one has been de-clawed, since the Fleet Air Arm is utterly bereft of the stars of what may soon be referred to as the "First Falklands War", Sea Harriers.

To put it bluntly, the British no longer have the ability to project power across a hostile shore over transoceanic distances.

And does anybody think that Obama would back Cameron over the issue the way Reagan did Thatcher? Yeah, me neither. As a matter of fact, a shooting war on British soil, (even if it is British colonial soil,) to which the US responds tepidly to its treaty obligations would make NATO look pretty toothless.

38 comments:

Boat Guy said...

NATO-"Needs America To Operate" and, as you note, we won't even - if the Brit Govt had the spine to do something. The Brit forces do amazing things with the equipment and rules they operate under but I'd be betting on "Islas Malvinas" being under new management...

Tam said...

Boat Guy,

The only way I could see title on the islands not changing hands is if the Frogs were willing to back up the Limeys in the field and not just logistically. With the neutering of the RN, the Marine nationale is the only navy in NATO other than the USN that could.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say the Sea Harrier (and crews) won the war. Like the Spitfire and Hawker Huricane it just saved the day.

Gerry

Bram said...

Has anyone noticed that, thanks to the Peronists, Argentina has yet to replace their combat losses from the "First Falklands War" - much less upgrade their Air Force or Navy to anything approaching modern standards. After their international default, they can't even borrow money for used fighters.

Sure the Brits can't project power any more. But a modern destroyer, a few Euro-fighters, and an undisclosed number of subs is more than enough to fend off Argentina's obsolete military junk.

The Brits are lucky it's socialist Argentina, not free-market Chile who has a beef.

Tam said...

Bram,

All the Argentines need is a dithering British government, a couple of cargo ships, and a brigade's worth of warm bodies to present the Brits with a fait accompli.

Ken said...

The Eurofighters have to get there, though. There aren't many places en route where a body can get out and push, nor any Texaco stations neither.

The first go-round was a near enough thing; had a few bomb more fuses armed at the altitudes from which the A4s dropped 'em, it would have been a much worse few weeks for the RN.

A more serious issue that occurs to me is the "toothless NATO" issue Tam mentioned. In fact, it might be even worse: Suppose relevant observers calculate that no interference from westward will be forthcoming should China choose to do whatever it cares to do in the South China Sea...

...up to and including the Philippines or Taiwan.

RL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RL said...

Let's try that again...

At the risk of jinxing the Brits and FIDF; They have sufficient assets in place and much better intel than back in the day.

The Argies are likely just blustering for domestic consumption...But then again, their current political leadership is not particularly noted for it's solid grip on reality.

Jay in OK said...

Perhaps we should go give a thrashing to the Argetinians, just in memory of our Declaration of Independence. The Brits would appreciate the humor.....as dry-witted as they are!!!

Tam said...

Jay in OK,

(And if the Falkland islanders declared a desire to be independent from England, it would be a completely different matter. As it is, your analogy falls flat, since poll after poll shows that the Falklanders have no desire to leave the Commonwealth.)

Bram said...

The Brits have a Missile Destroyer, 4 Eurofighter Typhoons, and at least one nuclear attack sub permanently on station in the Falklands.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_the_Falkland_Islands

Now cruise on over and have a look at the Argentinians in this corner. They have some obsolete Mirages and A-4's that were easy to shoot down 30 years ago. Easy meat.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_Air_Force

The Argentinian Navy is just as bad. 30 years ago, their Navy sat out the war after the initial battles because they couldn't locate the British subs and tended to sink when they went looking.

It would be a great quality versus quantity fight, but I'll bet it all on the quality.

Tam said...

Bram,

Hence the dithering requirement on the part of the British government.

It would require "Don't Shoot, We're Not Done Negotiating!" orders from the Brits and a fair amount of audacity on the part of the Argentines, but once there were Argie boots on the ground, they'd have a lot harder time getting them gone than last time around.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't put much trust in the French Navy:

French Navy Motto:
To the water, it it time.
or in French:

A l'eau, c'est l'heure

Pronounced 'allo sai-lor'

I figure SAS is still in business, and by parachute or submarine insertion, could prepare for landings.
A few subs in place could torpedo ships landing Argy troops. Air landing operations by the Argentines would do for light units, but they would be unlikely to be very effective against the SAS.

Woodman said...

"It would require "Don't Shoot, We're Not Done Negotiating!" orders from the Brits and a fair amount of audacity on the part of the Argentines"

I think quite a few wars had this exact opening hand didn't they?

It is possible that Oblahblah might grab at this for a "Short Victorious War" pre-election. Since Libya didn't exactly pan out right.

Bram said...

I think the Brits learned their lesson regarding unscheduled Argentinian flights and ferries headed towards the Falklands.

Anonymous said...

Only if the BritGov develops a spine and orders the shooters to shoot, if they have a chance.

Devynsdad said...

But it would be really, really great for Obama's street cred prior to the elections for the US Navy and Marines to back Britain in a quick, easy victory.

The Argentinians better get a move on and poke Cameron in the eye with a stick before October.

ASM826 said...

Those days are over. Argentina can take the Falklands anytime they want them.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Well, for those who are wondering what the kerflufal is about, I'd check Ferfal's writings about Fernandez and her rule in Argentina. Remember, she was ANOINTED to replace her Late Husband. Think along the lines of Hugo Chavez.

But besides trying to blame England for her Mismanagement, she now has the gall to pee on Spain. Considering how much the EU has dumped into Spain to keep them afloat, her "Nationalizing" the Reposol Oil Wells may have just "annoyed" some People in Europe. And I don't think she has enough support in South America to keep going down that path. Remember, there's Leader right next door in Brazil who may not want to have to have to put up with such shenanigans in her neighborhood.

As for Obama "Intervening", yeah, pull the other one. You have a better chance of seeing the 82nd Airborne dropping on Damascus than the First Marine Division hitting Buenos Aries.

Ed Foster said...

I don't know. The Falklands are a pretty important thing to the Brit lower classes. No, I'm not being facetious, that's what they think of themselves as. Insanely class concious country, with an attitude of continuous class hatred they refer to as "Bloodymindedness".

I think there must be Brit Labour Party types writing most of the pap "The One" spouts nowadays.

I really don't think anybody could win an election over there if they were tarred and feathered with the label "Losers Of The Falklands".

It's the last time anything resembling a British Military functioned as something more than America's shoeshine boy.

The Pommies rehash that little war endlessly, and people cry when they see that Royal Navy recruiting ad with the diving A-4's and the burning ships, with Roger Whittaker in the background singing "The Last Fairwell".

Britain is a sad, shabby little place, filled with frightened, small-minded little people.

They have used Scots and Irishmen, Gurkas, Anzaks, Indians and Pakis to do almost all of their fighting from the late 17th century to the early 20th, and fell apart after 1914-1918 when they had to pick up the pike themselves for the first time in two centuries.

The RAF and Royal Navy performed admirably in the Second World War, but the regular British Army had to struggle to maintain a second rate performance, notable mostly for providing a supply train for the Aussies, South Africans, Canadians, and mostly Irish or Scot Guards units that did all the tough fighting.

Yet look at all the reused British documentaries you see on the History or Military Channel and you realize that America didn't do much except fluff the pillows.

They believe this crap, and it's important to them. Heinlein once said that he'd met a lizard that boasted he was a dinosaur on his mother's side. That's your typical Englisman today, and without that they have nothing.

Jay in OK said...

Fell flat -- sad face.

RobertM said...

Argentina seems determined to piss on Spain as well.

Will said...

"A more serious issue that occurs to me is the "toothless NATO" issue Tam mentioned. In fact, it might be even worse: Suppose relevant observers calculate that no interference from westward will be forthcoming should China choose to do whatever it cares to do in the South China Sea...

...up to and including the Philippines or Taiwan."

I can't see Obama assisting the Brits in this. Hell, he wouldn't piss on 'em if they were on fire. He doesn't like them at all.

And the "unintended consequences" of that inaction could very well bring us to this. But, of course, that really is the definition of politics, especially as played on the world stage.

Throw in the expected EU financial meltdown into the mix, and I'll bet that that choice of platters will look very tempting to China. Can you say "Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere"?

Paul, Dammit! said...

...a sobering aside, here: in the initial conflict, the UK had a serious resupply problem, as they don't have available non-military shipping capability (most military cargo is carried on civilian-owned ships) for materiel resupply. Idiots like John McCain, who should know better, are spearheading a repeal of the Jones Act, which mandates that American cargo be carried preferentially on American ships, and creates tax incentives for American ship contruction- without in-flag tonnage, the UK found many shipping companies unwilling to charter their vessels, and had to airship bulk items (at 150x cost). Without the Jones Act, US troops would face the same ammo and fuel shortages that the UK faced in the Falklands (and which would be far worse today).

Brad K. said...

would make NATO look pretty toothless.

The Argentinians will surely notice. But what about Chile, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Poland, Russia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Colombia, etc. Etc.

NATO, and the US, have kept a lot of "let's grab us some land and loot" thoughts on the back burner for some time now. De-famging the Brit Navy isn't just a local Brit problem.

Thanks for the heads-up, Tam.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the Brits loved this.

From the Daily Caller

"Only a month after lavishly praising U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, President Barack Obama ditched him at a press conference in Colombia.

Obama’s turnabout came April 15 when he was asked about Argentina’s demand for control of the Falkland Islands, which are home to roughly 3,000 British citizens. The islands are located in the South Atlantic some 300 miles from Argentina.

“Our position on this is that we are going to remain neutral… this is not something that we typically intervene in,” Obama replied to the question.

Obama also mislabeled the islands as “The Maldives,” partly because Argentina’s government says the Falkland Islands should be called the “Malvinas” islands.

In fact, the Maldive Islands are in the Indian ocean, not in the South Atlantic. They are some 8,200 miles from the Falklands."


Gerry

Tam said...

Gerry,

"Obama also mislabeled the islands as “The Maldives,”"

'Nukyular'; it's pronounced 'nukyular'.

kishnevi said...

Gerry--
which is of course why the US refused to support Argentina's claim when the rest of the Summiters wanted to include a statement in support of Argentina in a conference declaration. (That, and the matter of pretending Cuba is a democracy.)

There is a cold hard strategic fact behind this--despite all the emotional and historical ties to the UK, Britain is probably less important to the US on the world stage than the countries to the south of us.

Paul--the Jones Act is probably the main reason why the American merchant marine is actually in serious decline. Even with some larger than usual government subsidies, they couldn't manage to build a cruise ship for service in American (Hawaiian) waters--had to tow it to Germany to get it finished. Paying US wages to the people building ships and then to the people staffing those ships--which is what you need to do comply with what the Jones Act demands--is too expensive.

Only coastal traffic (cabotage) is in American hands--everything else is brought transoceanic on ships registered in Liberia, Oceania, or other superpowers of maritime commerce. The US actually has the same problem was the UK.

Ken said...

Bram, while I confess it didn't occur to me to see whether the Eurofighters could already be on site, there are only four of them: enough, perhaps, to do the job provided they have stores, spares, and fuel. How many combat sorties is one expected to make before something important goes sproing?

Looks like the Argentines have about three flyable Super Etendards and maybe, as Bram notes, along with a couple of P3s and maybe S2s for patrol. Air Force may be able to contribute as many as 14 IAI Fingers (upgraded Daggers) and 34 A-4ARs (again, how long any stay operational, etc.), plus some old Mirages. Usable surface assets: the Almirante Brown frigates and Espora corvettes, along with (apparently) three subs. All of the preceding are nearing the end of their useful lives.

Looks like the Royal Navy have the two helicopter carriers, four Type 45 destroyers (the fifth to commission this summer) and about 13 Type 23 frigates (might need 'em all), with a big edge in submarines. Looks like the RFA might juuuust be able to support it, maybe. It'll be a near thing; they'll ill afford losses even more than the last time.

I give the Argentines the edge in the air (if well handled) if only because they can tolerate more attrition, the RN on the surface and below it.

I suppose the payoff strategery for the Argentines, if they have the wherewithal and are able to occupy before the British can reinforce/intervene, would be to mine the jeezly crap out of the approaches at least twice and then say -- in the finest tradition of the Internets, if not of the service -- "COME AT ME, BRO."

Firehand said...

As to torpedoing Argy troop ships, anybody think the Brit government would be willing to face the screaming over that?

Bram said...

Ken,

That missile cruiser the Brits have based down there is the equivalent of our newest Aegis class. It could theoretically shoot down the entire Argentinian AF in the time it took to type this.

The Typhoons and the cruiser can work together for air defense and the airfield is now protected by an upgraded Rapier anti-aircraft system.

Like I said before quality versus quantity and I'll bet on quality this time.

Anonymous said...

John Said,
Bram, agree the Brit Destroyer is very capable but only has 48 tubes. In an air scenario a typical volley is - shoot, shoot, look, shoot - if several/many bandits inbound due to reduced re-engagement time. You can go winchester real quick - even on a Burke with 96 tubes. Even if the air platform is obsolete (see A-4s) it is still closing at a high rate of speed and if flown close to the water reaction/shoot times would be signficantly reduced. Also, with only one or two destoyers on station, crew fatigue would set in pretty quickly if required to maintain battlestations for extended periods of time.

Former Aegis Cruiser Weapons Officer

Aaron Burr said...

Let's leave the brits out for a sec, Argentina is in the process of pissing Spain off by nationalizing one of their oil companies. Argentina isn't exactly in a position to worry about the Falklands if it has to steal oil to keep the lights on.

Brazil Jr. is headed down a rocky path.

Ken said...

At this rate, Uruguay is going to end up running the whole shooting match down there by being the last joint standing, by dint of minding 'er own business.

Supposed to be pretty down there, and land is cheap too....

Boat Guy said...

Ed Forster; " It's the last time anything resembling a British Military functioned as something more than America's shoeshine boy"

Beg to differ. c.f. southern Iraq a few years ago; Brit "conventional" forces did a magnificent job against tough fighters, taking casualties but giving FAR better than they got... say what you will about the political/media class and other "elites" in the place that used to be Great Britain, but the folks in the forces are every bit as good as anybody around - and better than most I've seen (even moreso the case with SAS/SBS)

mariner said...

Paul, Dammit!,
Without the Jones Act, US troops would face the same ammo and fuel shortages that the UK faced in the Falklands (and which would be far worse today).

Even *with* the Jones Act (which is mostly just ignored by the Federal government), we were chartering just about anything that could float for Desert Fox/Desert Storm, at outrageous prices.
We'd have a hard time repeating that performance today.

A large percentage of U.S. tonnage is actually owned by foreigners using paper subsidiaries to do business in the U.S.

toadold said...

The UK could be very dangerous because their reduction of their former "conventional" forces the ruling elite of the UK, to keep their jobs, and keep access to potential non Middle East oil fields, might resort too some of their weapons that are really nasty to take Argentina out. A smart bomb on a limo or through an office window, snipers, some harbor mines, UAV's, cruise missiles launched from subs, or even nasty stuff could come into play given the prospect of the oil fields off the Falklands.

markm said...

"Argentina isn't exactly in a position to worry about the Falklands if it has to steal oil to keep the lights on."

If their rulers were rational and actually concerned about the good of the whole nation, that would be true - but if so, it's unlikely that they'd be in this mess. Wagging the dog might be the rulers' last chance to get enough public support to retain power.