The phrase “black deer” in Russian sounds funny and offensive. In English, Black Buck also does not mean anything good - so the Anglo-Saxons contemptuously called South American Indians when they were in the era of colonialism.
By the end of the twentieth century, Britain’s colonial past had shattered like smoke — only a few scraps of overseas territories survived, from the once mighty Empire, among them the Falklen Islands, lost on the edge of the Earth, cold and marshy. But even those were almost lost in the spring of 1982, when an Argentine landing force landed on the Falklands declared the archipelago to be the property of Argentina, returning to the territories their “original” name - the Malvinas Islands.
To return the lost territories and restore the shaky status of “mistress of the seas”, Britain urgently sent a squadron of more than 80 warships and support vessels to the South Atlantic, while the orbital group was expanded - new communications satellites were required to coordinate military operations in the other hemisphere. Due to the extreme remoteness of the theater of operations - more than 12 km from the shores of Europe - the “transshipment base” on Fr. Ascension. The rear fueling station of the British squadron was organized here, from which the basic sea aviation fleet Her Majesty. Despite the enormous distances and outdated aircraft, the British were able to organize the work of the base patrol aircraft to cover the situation in the South Atlantic, and on May 1, 1982 a series of exciting operations began, codenamed "Black Deer" - Royal Air Force long-range bombing raids.
6300 kilometers to each side. Dozens of air refueling. Night. Full radio silence mode. Technique to hell - 1950 airplanes ... 1960-s delivered a lot of problems: avionics were constantly knocking down, cockpits depressurized, refueling hoses and cones were cut off. Around thousands of miles - the endless expanse of water.
What awaits them ahead? The risk of a meeting with the Argentine "Mirage"? Or "friendly fire" from the ships of Her Majesty? Did any of the commanders care to warn the squadron about the appearance of British bomber in the air?
It is not excluded that fate will give the pilots other interesting surprises, because the Falkland War, in terms of organization, looked like a fire in a brothel — poor coordination and negligence, ingenious ingeniousness, frankly idiotic decisions and frequent cases of “friend’s fire” were regularly noted on both sides and sometimes led to completely comic situations.
This story does not set itself the task of covering all the amazing events that occurred in the South Atlantic. We will not mock the disabled radars of British ships and the non-explosive bombs of the Argentine Air Force. Not! It will be just a parabola about the exploits of basic aviation, and its role in the Falkland War - a topic that is rarely spoken out loud and that is usually forgotten to take into account in the works on the Anglo-Argentine conflict 1982 of the year.
A tiny piece of land in the equatorial part of the ocean, which is not found on ordinary maps. Yes, and there is nothing special to watch - a few villages, the British garrison, the pier and the American airbase “Wideawayk”.
Ascension Island (Ascension island), known as part of the British overseas possession of Saint Helena, at various times served as a base for Her Majesty's ships sailing to the Southern Hemisphere; at the beginning of the twentieth century it was used as a relay center, during the Second World War it became an important transportation hub - a continuous stream of military cargo from the USA to the African continent passed through it. Currently, there is the US Air Force Base, a powerful communications complex and one of the five corrective stations of the GPS navigation system.
Ascension Island. In the south-western part of the runway is visible Wydawike Air Base
In 1982, the island played an important role in the Falkland War - the US Air Force provided the British with its airbase *, and the harbors of Ascension Island turned into a busy port - a mooring, refueling base and fresh water supply point for British expeditionary forces were organized here.
* American aid limited to the air base provided on Fr. Ascension and delivery of 60 000 tons of ship fuel for the needs of the fleet of Her Majesty. Also, information support and the provision of data from the Naval Ocean Surveillance System satellites (also known as the White Cloud Marine Space Intelligence System) is highly likely.
The British clearly hoped for more - an attack on the NATO bloc country obliges the rest of the bloc countries to act as a “united front” against the aggressor (Article of the North Atlantic Treaty 5). Alas, the general illogicality of that war and the extreme remoteness of the Falklands, led to the fact that the "mistress of the seas" had to take the rap themselves.
Already on 6 on April 1982 of the year, three weeks before the start of active hostilities, two Nimrod MR1 airplanes of the base patrol aircraft landed at Widedwake Air Base. The British got acquainted with the future theater of war and organized regular patrols of the ocean - two sorties a week on a closed route with a radius of 750 miles to control the movement of ships in the Central and South Atlantic.
On April 12, three new British vehicles arrived on Ascension Island - the Nimrody version of the MR2, followed by the 20 air tankers Viktor and K.2 and the Phantom FGR.2 fighter jets for air defense of the fleet's rear base. Also, the Wydawake airbase served as a “jump airfield” for the Harrier VTOL aircraft, which did not have enough time to take places on the decks of the Invinsible and Hermes aircraft carriers, and who got to the South Atlantic “on their own”.
Nimrod R1, 2011 year. Last flights
The appearance of the tanker aircraft in the aviation group allowed Nimrod to launch long-range 19-hour raids to the Falklands and South Georgia. The aircraft carried out the coverage of the surface and ice situations in the combat zone, carefully “feeling” the vast expanses of water with the searchwater radar rays. Like ghosts, the Nimrods slid along the coast of Argentina, watching the movements of the Argentine fleet; conducted radio interception and search for enemy submarines.
Muting two of the four engines for fuel economy, the 5-6 watches “hung” over the British squadron, providing HMS long-range radar detection to the ships of Her Majesty (in vain the British “complain” about the lack of expeditionary forces of the US D-15LO aircraft 2 "Hawk" - this function was performed by the basic "Nimrody", although not always successfully, due to its main specialization and relative small number).
They took off on mission in full “battle obvese” - six tons of combat load allowed to take on board a universal complex of weapons, including 1000-fnl. "Land mines", cluster bombs and anti-submarine torpedoes "Stingray". Counteractions from the Argentine aviation were least feared - due to the huge size of the theater and the relative small number of forces involved, the chances of encountering over the ocean with military aircraft of the Argentine Air Force tended to zero.
And yet, once the patrol "Nimrod" spotted an unidentified flying object with a radar - having approached the target, the British saw the Argentine Boeing-707 in front of them - because of their depressing financial capabilities, the Argentines used conventional airliners for marine intelligence. The planes shook each other's wings and scattered in different directions.
Reset antisubmarine torpedo "Stingray"
The Argentines were really lucky that time - since 26 in May, Nimrody was equipped with air-to-air missiles. Of course, the four “Siders” on the external sling couldn’t turn the “fat” sluggish “Nimrod” into an interceptor fighter, but they added a lot of confidence to the pilots: due to the presence of a powerful radio-electronic complex on board, the British aircraft could detect the danger in advance and take a more advantageous position. And four missiles allowed to stand up for themselves in the melee.
However, apply weapon “Nimrodam” did not succeed - neither “Boeing”, nor the military aircraft of the Argentine Air Force no longer appeared on the radar of naval intelligence officers.
In total, during the Falklands campaign, Nimrody from Ascension Island carried out 150 combat missions, each of which was accompanied by several in-flight refueling. The whole epic did without a single loss.
Despite the common misconception about the key role of American intelligence, which supplied the British General Staff with satellite images of the theater of operations, the main role in the information support of the squadron was still played by British aircraft of basic naval aviation.
While Nimrody of Her Majesty’s fleet was only being mastered in the new conditions, the British continued to increase the strength of their aviation grouping on Ascension Island - in late April five Vulkan B.2 strategic bombers were deployed to the Airborne Base, as well as six additional aircraft tankers on the basis of "Volcanoes".
The British plan was simple: “pinpoint” bombing of the most important objects in the Falkland Islands, among which were highlighted:
- Port Stanley Airport, actively used to deliver troops and reinforcements for the garrison of the Falkland Islands (concrete runway length 1200 meters were dangerously short for combat Daggers and Mirage, but its length was enough to land Hercules transport).
- Argentine radar stations.
The first combat flight as part of Operation Black Deer (Black Buck 1) took place on 30 on April 1982 of the year - at 22: 53 local time, a pair of chock-full Vukanov bombs broke away from Wydeyke airbase and gently rocked in the Atlantic wind flows , headed for the open ocean. Following the whirlwind rose 10 tankers, designed to provide long-range combat departure.
You should not be surprised at such an irrational number of air tankers - the British used 1950-s technology, in a depressing technical condition and in the complete absence of experience in conducting such operations. Any modern Tu-160 or B-1B will repeat this trick with just one or two refueling.
It should be understood that we are talking about the most distant combat flight in stories Aviation - a flight to the End of the World, then only the ice shell of the Antarctic. The record of the Royal Air Force was broken in 1991 year - then the Yankees, for fun, flew to bomb Iraq from the mainland USA, however, this is another story.
Scheme of refueling during the flight of the Black Buck 1
... Meanwhile, Her Majesty's bombers were gaining altitude. The engines buzzed tightly, twenty-one 454-kg high-explosive bombs glittered anxiously in the bomb bay - the British intended to dig the concrete runway of Port-Stanley up and down.
Alas, the fatigue destruction of the lead Vulkan’s structure intervened in the British’s plans - the oncoming air flow knocked out some of the cockpit glazing, the decrepit bomber turned around and immediately went to the forced one. A single “black deer” with a tail number XM607 (call sign “Red six”) with a crew consisting of: flight commander Lieutenant M. Weezers, co-pilot Fla. Officer P. Taylor, navigator of flight lt G. Graham , navigator-operator of flight-lt R. Wright, operator of radio-electronic systems of flight-lt G.Prior, flight engineer of flight-lt R. Russell.
The first refueling took place after 2 hours after take-off: the bomber took fuel from one of the Viktorovs, four more Viktorovas added refueling from four other tankers, who immediately turned back. The subsequent 2 hours, along the chain, transferred each other precious fuel to each other, until only two tankers remained with the Vulcan.
During the fourth refueling, the thunderstorm demolished its own adjustments - due to strong turbulence (or perhaps due to the old state), one of the tankers fell off the refueling hose. It was necessary to carry out an unscheduled refueling from the car, with a smaller fuel reserve (the tanker with tail number XL189 had to return to the base immediately after the fourth refueling, instead he had to accompany the bomber further to the South).
The last, fifth, refueling took place in 600 km from the coast of Falkland, after which the "Volcano" remained in proud solitude. The bomber dropped to a height of 90 meters and rushed to the captured islands above, avoiding the premature detection of the Argentine radar. When the coast remained less than 100 km, the Vulkan soared up sharply - gaining the ideal 3000 meters for bombing, it passed exactly above the target, covering the airfield of Stanley Airport with a hail of free-falling bombs.
The Argentine anti-aircraft guns were silent, the only radar turned on was crushed by a barrage of radio-electronic interference - the EW container Westinghouse AN / ALQ-101 (V) -10 suspended under the wing of the Vulcan showed good efficiency.
The eastern edge of the sky has already lit up the dawn of the morning when the weary "Volcano" of the Royal Air Force finally lay down on the opposite course. Gaining altitude 12 kilometers, the plane was carried away from the cursed islands; with horror the crew went through all the events of last night.
And ahead, on the approach to Ascension Island, a whole tragedy unfolded - the unfortunate tanker XL189, who had given all the fuel to the bomber on a mission, was now in distress over the ocean. The situation was complicated by the strictest radio silence - XL189 could not communicate with the base until the bombs dropped by Vulcan fell on the target. Fortunately for the British, a confirmation of the successfully completed mission was received in time from the Falklands, and a new tanker was immediately sent to the aid of XL189. The British managed to transfer fuel before XL189 nearly crashed into the ocean with empty tanks in 650 km from Ascension Island.
Strategic bomber Avro Vulcan. First flight - 1952 year. Decommissioned in 1984
As for the bomber itself, four more tankers and a base naval aircraft Nimrod were required for its safe return, which corrected the approach of Vulkan with a group of tankers.
In a similar scenario, six more sorties were being prepared (Black Buck 2 ... 7), two of which failed for various reasons (weather and technical problems). Despite several raids in the absence of complete resistance, the British failed to seriously damage the runways of Port Stanley Airport - a series of bombs tore the craters on the airfield, but only one or two bombs hit the lane itself. Also, certain damage was caused to buildings, hangars and control tower at the airport.
Aerial view of Port Stanley airport. Chains of craters from bomb explosions are clearly visible.
Nevertheless, a certain effect was achieved: in a fit of sticky fear, the Argentines transferred part of their aviation to the defense of Buenos Aires - the Argentine leadership seriously feared possible bombing of the capital.
During the fifth and sixth attacks, the British used the American Shrayk anti-radar missiles. The first “pancake” came out in a lump - “Shrike” stupidly missed the target and the attacked Argentinean radar AN / TPS-43 continued to work properly until the end of the war. The second use of the Shraykov was more successful - the Black Buck 6 was able to destroy the Oerlikon anti-aircraft installation radar.
PRR AGM-45 Shrike under the wing of the "Volcano"
However, an accident happened on the way back - the fuel rod fell off and the bomber had no choice but to go to neutral Brazil. The "volcano" with the hull number XM597 landed on the last drops of fuel and was interned until the end of the war.
Despite a number of high-profile accidents and outdated equipment, the epic with the British refueling machines ended extremely well - Volcanoes, Nimrody and Viktori held a total of more than 600 air refueling, of which technical problems were noted only in 6 cases, and There were no catastrophes and human casualties. The only "formal loss" was the interned board XM597.
Handley Page Viсtor - the tankers based on this aircraft operated on the Focklands.
First flight - 1952 year. The last "Victors" K.2 retired in 1993 year
First flight - 1952 year. The last "Victors" K.2 retired in 1993 year
Panorama of the air base on about. Ascension