Discussions about the role of vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL) are very popular at Topvar. As soon as a suitable article appears to discuss this class aviationas disputes erupt with renewed vigor. Someone writes that VTOL aircraft are a waste of time and money, while others believe that VTOL carriers could well replace aircraft carriers with horizontal take-off aircraft, while someone seriously insists that the future of manned aviation is precisely for VTOL aircraft and that in a large-scale conflict in which cruise missiles will destroy airfields, only VTOL aircraft will be able to continue the war in the air. Who is right?
Without claiming the ultimate truth, the author will try to find the answer to this question by analyzing the role of the VTOL aircraft in the Falkland conflict of 1982, where the Argentine Air Force presented its chest and chest, and several dozen British vertical arms - "Harriers". The Falklands fight should be considered an excellent illustration of the capabilities of VTOL aircraft against classical aviation, because:
1) in the air met planes of about the same technical level. “Mirages” and “Daggers” are almost the same age as the “Harriers”, however, “Super Etandar” went into a series on 10 years after the British “vertical line”, which to a certain extent was compensated by the imaginary performance characteristics of this gloomy French genius;
2) training of pilots, if different, is not at all times. Probably, the British pilots were still better, but the Argentines were not at all "whipping boys", they fought desperately and professionally. Nothing like the beating of Iraqi babies, which the MNF aviation committed during the “Storm in the Desert” air operation, did not take place over the Falklands: the victories of both the Argentines and the British literally gnawed at the enemy during a bitter struggle;
3) and, finally, the population ratio. Formally, Argentine aviation surpassed the British in a ratio of about 8 to 1. But, as will be shown below, the technical condition of the aircraft and the remoteness of the continental Argentine airfields from the conflict area led to the fact that the Argentines had never been able to throw any superior air forces into the battle against the British. Nothing like the sky of Yugoslavia, where several MiG-29 tried to somehow resist hundreds of NATO aircraft, did not happen.
But not a single VTOL ... According to the author, the 1982 Falkland Conflict is completely unique and is able to suggest answers to many interesting questions. These are the actions of the underwater fleet in modern warfare, and carrier-based aircraft against the coast, and an attempt to repel the attack of the superior fleet by the forces of a weaker, but relying on the ground-based Air Force, as well as the use of anti-ship missiles and the ability of warships to withstand the latter. Nevertheless, the most interesting lesson is the effectiveness of the actions of a large naval formation, built around aircraft-carrying ships - VTOL carriers. So let's look at what the 317th operational connection of the Royal Navy of Great Britain, which was based on the carriers of the Harriers: the aircraft carriers Hermes and Invincible, made and failed.
Certainly, the origins of the conflict, its beginning - the seizure of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) by Argentines, the formation and dispatch of British expeditionary forces, who were charged with returning the islands to the hand of the British crown and the liberation by the British of South Georgia, are excellent topics for thoughtful research, but today we put it down and go straight to the morning of April 30 1982, when the British squadron unfolded in the so-called TRALA zone, located in 200 miles northeast of Stanley.
The forces of the parties
As you know, the British announced that since 12 on April 1982, any Argentine combat or merchant ship that was within 200 miles from the Falkland Islands will be destroyed. The TRALA zone was located almost on the border of the indicated 200 miles. Did the British believe that being outside the declared combat zone would save them from Argentine attacks? It is doubtful. Here rather different, much more pragmatic considerations played a role.
The fact is that the Falkland Islands were not just a provincial, but completely forgotten by the gods corner of the Ecumene. The largest settlement (Stanley) barely numbered one and a half thousand inhabitants, and the remaining settlements rarely had at least 50 people. The only concrete airfield was too small to receive modern combat jets, while other airfields were completely unpaved. All of this suggested that the British should not be seriously wary of Argentine aviation, based on the Falkland Islands.
Indeed, the forces stationed there were still a freak show. The air group of the Falkland Islands was made up of an air group with the proud name of Pukara Malvinas Squadron, which included 13 light turbo-prop attack aircraft Pukara (even during the fighting Falkland had more 11 vehicles of this type transferred). This pride of the Argentine aviation industry was originally designed for action against partisans in low-intensity conflicts and fully met these requirements. Two 20-mm guns, four 7,62-mm machine guns, 1620 kg of maximum combat load and speed in 750 km / h, coupled with an armored bottom cabin, were a good solution to problems that could create small groups of people armed with light rifle weapons. The radar for this air warrior was considered unnecessary, so the only aiming system for onboard weapons was the collimator sight. This squadron forces of the Argentines were not exhausted. In addition to "Pukara Malvinas", there was a whole dozen of vehicles with wings. Airmachi MV-339А six were training jet aircraft, which for the first and last time in all of them history tried to use as light attack aircraft. They were a little faster than the "Pukary" (817 km), did not have built-in armament, but on external hangers could carry up to 2 tons of combat load, and there was also no radar for them. Completed the list of the Argentine air forces of the Falkland Islands 6 combat aircraft "Mentor T-34". The combat value of this two-seater single-engine propeller aircraft with a maximum weight of less than two tons, capable of developing as much as 400 km of maximum speed, is truly difficult to underestimate.
Yet even such an air group had a certain usefulness for the Argentines: the planes could be dangerous for the sabotage groups that the British planned to land, and even an attempt to attack the British low ground could be a nuisance. Argentine planes could also become a formidable opponent for British helicopters, but, most importantly, despite the lack of radar, they could still conduct naval reconnaissance and identify the location of British ships, which was extremely undesirable for the British. After all, after the light attack aircraft-reconnaissance, the Daggers and Super Etandars could come from the mainland bases.
Since military air bases appeared on the Falkland, then there should have been an air defense system designed to cover these bases. Argentines have represented something like that, and we can safely say that the air defense of the island was to match their air "power": twin 12 35-mm "Oerlikon", several 20- and 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, portable SAMs "blowpipe" 3 launchers The “Taygerkat” air defense system and even one “Roland” battery. The air situation in the 200 radius was illuminated by the Westinhouse AN / TPS-43 radar stationed in Stanley. True, the hills and mountains left numerous dead zones, but still it was better than nothing.
In general, it is easy to see that from the point of view of military art and 1982 technology, the forces of the Argentines deployed on the Falkland Islands were not even weak, but clearly insignificant and obviously needed air support from the mainland bases. How could such support be provided?
In the lists of the Air Force and Navy of Argentina, there were about 240 combat aircraft, but in real life things were much worse than on paper. In total, 19 (according to other sources, 21) of the Mirage IIIEA and 39 Israeli Dagger type aircraft (including 5 training aircraft) were delivered to Argentina, however, according to available data, only 12 “ Mirage "and 25" Daggerov. " Worse, according to some sources (A. Kotlobovsky, “Application of Mirage III and Dagger airplanes”), no more than 8 “Mirage IIIEA” and only nineteen “Daggers” took part in the battles.
Here, of course, a fair question arises: why did Argentina, in waging a war with Great Britain, not throw all the forces at its disposal into battle? The answer, oddly enough, lies on the surface. The fact is that the relations of the South American countries have never been cloudless, and Argentina should have taken into account that while she is fighting with England, someone can see a chance for herself and strike at the most inappropriate moment for the Argentines ... By the beginning of the Falklands conflict Chileans have concentrated large military contingents on the Argentinean border, and this could not be a diplomatic gesture: the war with Chile was over quite recently. Argentine headquarters directly pointed to the possibility of joint action by Chile and England, this option (the simultaneous invasion of Chileans and the landing of the British troops on the Falklands) was considered quite likely. It is for this reason that the most combat-ready Argentine ground units, such as the 1-I mechanized brigade, the 6-I and 7-I infantry brigades, were not sent to the Falklands, but remained on the mainland. Under these conditions, the desire to preserve a part of aviation to counter Chile looks quite understandable, although retrospectively this decision should be recognized as erroneous. And even if the British troops on the Falklands met with the color of the Argentine ground forces, the battles could have become much more fierce and bloody than they were in reality. Fortunately, this did not happen, well, we will return to aviation.
The exact number of "Skyhawks" is also very difficult to determine, the data sources differ, but, apparently, they were on the lists around 70. Often there is a common figure 68 or 60 machines in the Air Force and 8-10 "Skyhocks" in naval aviation. However, only 39 (including 31 aircraft of the Air Force and 8 of Navy aircraft) were combat-ready of them to the start of hostilities. True, the Argentine technicians in the course of the hostilities managed to put into operation even 9 machines, so that all could take part in the battle of the order 48 "Skyhocks". Nor was it with the French Super Etandars. Sometimes, as part of the Argentine Air Force, 14 machines of this type are indicated at the beginning of the war, but this is not true: Argentina actually signed a contract for 14 of such aircraft, only before the conflict with England and the accompanying embargo only five cars got into the country. Moreover, one of them was immediately laid up in order to use spare parts for four other aircraft as a warehouse - due to the same embargo there were no other sources for obtaining spare parts from Argentina.
Thus, by the beginning of hostilities, the Falklands could have been provided by 12 “Mirage”, 25 “Daggerov”, 4 “Super Etandar”, 39 “Skyhawks” and - I almost forgot! - 8 light bombers "Canberra" (honored veterans of the air, for the first time an aircraft of this type took off already in the 1949 year). The combat value of the Canberra to the 1982 year was negligible, but still they could reach the British ships. Total turns 88 aircraft.
No, of course, Argentina had other combat vehicles "with wings" - the same "Pukar" existed in the number of not less than 50 units, there were still "wonderful" MS-760A "Paris-2" (training aircraft, in certain conditions capable of performing the role of light attack aircraft) in quantities of the order of 32 machines, and one more thing ... But the problem was that all these "Pukary" / "Paris" simply could not operate from the continental airfields, from which only Stanley was required to fly 730-780 kilometers. They did not act - the entire burden of fighting with the British was borne on their wings by Mirages, Canberras, Super Etandars and Daggers, as well as those light Pukary / Mentors / Airmachi, which they managed to base on the airfields of the Falkland Islands.
Thus, by April 30, even with such rarities as “Mentor T-34” and “Canberra”, Argentines could send no more than 113 air vehicles to the British, of which only 80 “Mirage”, “ Daggerov "," Super Etandarov "and" Skyhocks. " This, of course, is not at all 240 combat aircraft, which are mentioned by most of the review articles on the Falklands conflict, but even such figures in theory provided the Argentines with overwhelming air superiority. After all, before the battles began, the British had only 20 "C" Harriers "FRS.1, of which 12 were based on the aircraft carrier Hermes and 8 on Invincible." And therefore, the British desire to keep 200 miles (370 km) behind the islands is understandable. Being located more than 1000 km from continental Argentinean bases, the British could not be afraid of massive air raids on their compound.
Yielding to the Argentines in the air, the British were not too superior to them in surface ships. The presence of two British aircraft carriers against one Argentine to a certain extent was compensated for by the presence of powerful ground-based aviation in the latter. As for the other warships, during the Falkland conflict the 23 of the British destroyer-frigate class ship was in the combat zone. But by 30 April, there were only 9 there (2 was still near Ascension Island), the rest came later. At the same time, the Argentine Navy had a light cruiser, five destroyers and three corvettes, however, when the main forces of the Argentines went to sea, one of these destroyers remained in the harbor in readiness for a naval battle, probably for technical reasons. Because by April 30, four British destroyers and five frigates were confronted by a light cruiser, four destroyers and three corvettes (sometimes called frigates) of Argentina. The Argentine ships were losing heavily in the British squadron's air defense capabilities: if the British ships 9 had the 14 SIRM (3 "Sea Dart", 4 "Sea Wolf", 5 "Sea Cat" and 2 "Sea Slug") to which it was necessary to add 3 "Sea Cat" located on aircraft carriers, the 8 of the Argentine ships had the 2 Sea Dart and 2 Sea Cat, and their only aircraft carrier had no air defense missile system at all. But on the other hand, the opposing capabilities of the opponents were equal: all Argentine destroyers had 4 launchers for the Exocset anti-ship missiles, and two out of three corvettes had 2 launchers (two launchers with Guerrico were removed and delivered to Port Stanley to organize coastal defense). The total number of launchers of Ekoset of the Argentine squadron was 20. The British, although they had more ships, but not all of them were equipped with anti-ship missiles, so by 30 of April there were also 317 exo-launchers on ships of the 20-nd operational connection.
Unfortunately, the author does not know how much the Exochet anti-ship missiles were at the disposal of the Argentine fleet. Typically, sources indicate the presence of five such missiles, and this is why: shortly before the outbreak of the war, Argentina ordered the French 14 "Super Etandars" and the 28 CRP "Exocinet AM39" for them. But before the embargo was introduced, only five aircraft and five missiles arrived in Argentina. However, it is overlooked that the Argentine fleet, equipped with an early modification of the Exocsets MM38, had some such missiles, which, however, could not be used from aircraft. So the commander of the British squadron, not without reason, feared that the Argentine ships, having crept up to its formation, would inflict a massive rocket attack.
The only class of ships in which the British had absolute superiority, is submarines. By April 30, the British were able to deploy the 3 of the nuclear-powered icebreaker: Concaurus, Spartan and Splendit. Formally, at the beginning of the war, the Argentines had four submarines, two of which were American military-made submarines of the Balao type, which underwent a radical modernization under the GUPPY program. But the technical condition of the submarine was absolutely terrible, so one of them, Santiago de Estro, was withdrawn from the Navy at the beginning of 1982 and was not commissioned, despite the war. The second submarine of this type, “Santa Fe” (only one fact speaks about the capabilities of which: the boat could not dive to a depth greater than the periscope), were going to remove 1982 from the fleet in July. But nevertheless she took part in the conflict, was shot down and captured by the British during the operation Paraquette (liberation of South Georgia 21-26 of April), and could not be taken into account in the composition of the Navy of Argentina.
The other two Argentine submarines were quite modern German type boats 209, only one of them, "Salta", suddenly dropped out of service at the very beginning of 1982, was under repair and did not take part in the conflict. Accordingly, by April 30, the British could have been confronted by a single Argentine submarine - San Luis (type 209).
On April 30, there were two British operational connections in the conflict zone: Task Force-317 under the command of Rear Admiral Woodworth, which included almost all surface warships, and Task Force-324 (submarines). As mentioned above, aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates TF-317 finished refueling and other preparations for combat operations in the TRALA zone, 200 miles northeast of Port Stanley. Submarines TF-324 went into patrol areas on the route of the possible Argentine squadrons between the mainland and the Falkland Islands. There was not only an amphibious group with a landing force - it barely left Fr. Ascension, which was the base of the British forces closest to the conflict area, but was separated from the Falkland Islands by the order of 4 thousands of nautical miles. However, the absence of an amphibious group did not interfere with anything, since nobody was going to use it at the first stage of the operation.
The forces of the British in the Falkland area were very limited and did not guarantee the provision of a large-scale landing operation. This could be corrected in two ways: to provide Rear Admiral Woodworth with powerful reinforcements, or to radically weaken the Argentine army. The British chose both, and therefore before the amphibious group concentrated on the initial positions it was supposed:
1) by the strategic bombers of the MFBC and carrier-based aviation to disable the Argentine air bases on the Falkland Islands - the Malvinas Islands and Condor. After that, the basing of even light aircraft on the Falkleds became impossible, and the Argentines could only rely on aircraft from continental airfields. The British believed that with the defeat of the Falkland air bases, air superiority over the islands would pass to them;
2) fleet maneuvers, landings of sabotage groups and shelling of dedicated ships to convince the Argentines that a large-scale landing operation had begun and thus force the Argentine fleet to intervene;
3) defeat the Argentine fleet in a naval battle.
The British believed that, having achieved all of the above, they would establish air and sea domination in the area of the Falkland Islands, thereby creating the necessary prerequisites for a successful landing of the landing force, and then the conflict would not drag on.
In retrospect, we can say that the British plan had a lot of exaggeration. Not that the TF-317 ships should seriously fear the "Squadron Pukara Malvinas", but, of course, having lost the opportunity to conduct reconnaissance flights from the airfields of the Falkland Islands, the Argentines lost a lot. However, as part of their Air Force, there were airplanes capable, at the very least, to conduct long-range aerial reconnaissance, and the islands themselves were, albeit at the limit, but still within reach of aviation from continental airfields. Therefore, the planned destruction of air bases did not provide air supremacy over the contested islands - it was to be provided to the Sea Harrier pilots. As for the destruction of the Argentine fleet, it was obvious that two dozen VTOLPs, who still needed to cover the fleet ships from enemy raids, would not be able to solve this task, if only because of their small number, and the destroyers and frigates in the CWMF were not intended for these purposes. principle. So, for the first time in the entire history of the KWMF, submarines were to become the main means of routing the main enemy forces. However, there were plenty of possible courses with which the Argentine squadron could have approached the Falkland Islands, therefore, nuclear submarines had to be deployed in a very extensive area. It would be all right, but now it was not easy to assemble them together for a joint attack of the Argentine ships, and it’s rather naive to expect that one submarine would be able to destroy the Argentine squadron.
Nevertheless, despite all the tensions, the British plan should be recognized as logical and quite reasonable. Yes, and with the forces that the British had, one could hardly think of something more sensible.
Surprisingly, the Argentines found their own "Admiral Makarov", who advocated offensive actions, despite the fact that the "Armada Republic of Argentina" (outside the zone of action of ground aviation) was obviously inferior to its enemy. The commander of the Argentine fleet, Rear Admiral G. Allyar, proposed using the only Argentine aircraft carrier on British communications (rightly assuming that there would be more benefit from his Skyhocks 8 than a frontal attack on the British compound). Also this worthy husband offered to relocate several surface ships directly to the Falkland Islands and be ready on the eve of the inevitable landing to turn the old destroyers into artillery batteries in Port Stanley Bay.
But the Argentine leadership had other plans for the fleet: assuming that the overall superiority of forces would be beyond the British and not doubting the skills of the British crews, the Argentines came to the conclusion that even if the naval operations succeed, the cost of their naval forces could be. And he, this fleet, was an important factor in the balance of power of the South American states, and it was not part of the plans of the political leadership to lose it. Therefore, the Argentines chose moderately aggressive tactics: it was supposed to wait for the start of a large-scale landing of the British on the Falkland Islands - and then, and only then, strike the whole power of ground and carrier-based aviation, and with success (what the hell is not joking!) And surface / submarine ships .
To this end, the Argentines and deployed their fleet, dividing it into three operational groups. The basis of the Argentinean naval forces was the 79.1 Task Force consisting of the Weintisinco de Mayo aircraft carrier and the two most modern Argentine destroyers, which almost completely copied the British type 42 (Sheffield), but, unlike the British counterparts equipped with 4 PU, Exoset each. Not far from them was the 79.2 task force, which included three corvettes and was intended to promote the success achieved by deck aircraft and land-based aircraft. However, the idea of separating corvettes into a separate compound looked, to put it mildly, doubtful: three ships less than 1000 tons of standard displacement, not having a single air defense system, and only 4 PU for all three (especially in the absence of missiles) could not threaten british mix. The only Argentine submarine “San Luis” was not part of any of these task forces, but was supposed to attack the British from the north along with the 79.1 and 79.2 groups.
The use of the third and last Argentine Task Force (79.3) was intended solely for demonstrative purposes. The light cruiser “Admiral Belgrano” and two destroyers of the military construction “Allen M. Sumner” (despite the equipment of the destroyers of the missile control missile of the anti-ship missiles) were intended to delay the attacks of the British and thereby ensure the smooth operation of the 79.1 and 79.2 operations groups. The leadership of the Armada Republic of Argentina for the 79.3 task force did not suggest anything else: a breakthrough of the antediluvian cruiser of the Brooklyn type to the British compound at a distance of effective artillery fire would not have been a dream for the Argentines in a narcotic dream, if they used narcotic drugs. But to distract the attention of the British 79.3 was quite good: sending the connection to the south of the Falkland Islands (while 79.1 and 79.2 were going north) and given the relatively high survivability of the light cruiser, the chances of delaying the attacks of the British deck Harriers looked quite decent, the presence of two destroyers, large size, armor and 2 air defense system "C Cat" on "Admiral Belgrano" allowed to hope that the ship will be able for some time to stay against such attacks.
Thus, by April 30, the sides completed the deployment and prepared for large-scale hostilities. It was time to start.
To be continued ...