According to the plan, the first blow was dealt by a strategic aviation Great Britain - two Vulcan bombers (KhM598 and KhM607) were to drop 42-kg bombs on Port Stanley airfield and crush its runway. However, there was little difficulty - the distance from Ascension Island, where British planes were based, to Port Stanley reached 454 kilometers, while the combat radius of the Volcanoes did not exceed 5800 km. It would seem that it’s okay - a simple arithmetic calculation suggests that to ensure the strike, it was necessary to refuel the planes halfway from Ascension Island to the Falklands when flying to Port Stanley, and once again when returning, but it was smooth on paper ... A in reality, the bombers needed five refueling. For everyone. Accordingly, to ensure the departure of only two combat aircraft, ten Victor refueling aircraft were required.
This British operation (“Black Buck-1”) gives great food for thought to anyone who loves to speculate about how ground-based aviation regiments take off to perform combat missions to the expanses of the World Ocean. For a single aircraft, for a single flight over a distance exceeding its combat radius, by no means astounding 1,6 times, FIVE “air tankers” were required. And as a result, a good thing would be done, ... alas, the Black Buck 1 ended in a deafening failure. Both "Vulkan" flew from the island. Ascension of April 30 to 19.30, but one of them, for technical reasons, was forced to interrupt the flight and return to the base. The second one nevertheless reached the goal, but none of its runway bombs hit the mark - the closest hit was recorded in 40 meters from the southern end of the strip. True, one of the bombs accidentally landed at the location of the Argentinean 601 Battalion of the Air Defense and killed two sentries, but this can hardly be considered a great victory for the British weapons.
The reaction of the Argentines to the British attack is no less interesting - three minutes after the attack (which took place around five o'clock in the morning) a combat alarm was declared, and the Air Force command, fearing repeated raids, decided to cover Falkland with fighter aircraft. It looked like this - from the Rio Gallegos airbase flew an air group with the beautiful call sign "Predator", which included as many as two "Mirage III". The take-off took place almost two hours after the attack - at 06.40, and after another 50 minutes, to 07.30, the fighters arrived at the scene of action. Having rotated over the area for several minutes, the planes were forced to stay on the opposite course - for more they simply did not have enough fuel, and there were no air refueling mechanisms on them. In 08.38, both Mirage landed at their native airbase, and if we consider that the return journey took the same 50 minutes from them, then it turns out that in the best case, the fighters provided air defense systems of the whole 10 minutes. There was no sense in such a “cover”, it can only be assumed that the Air Force command chose to do at least something than not to do anything at all.
However, in fairness, we note that the provision of air defense of offshore facilities by ground aviation forces, forced to act on the ultimate combat radius, has greatly improved by the 1982 year compared to the times of the Second World War. In the war years, the planes could fly in a day or not fly at all, and then - after some two and a half hours after the attack, as many as two fighters already on 10 minutes! Here, however, it must be borne in mind that the islands are not ships, their position in space is well known and it is rather difficult to “miss” by them, but if the Mirage received an order to cover the ship’s group, then most likely they either did not find would have it for those 10 minutes that remained at their disposal, or, having miraculously found their ships, waved their wings with a greeting, after which they were forced to return.
But back to the Falklands - in 07.45, Argentines, trying to somehow provide the air defense of the islands, lifted into the air a couple of Daggers from the Rio Grande base. The result was the same — arriving at the Falklands, the planes patrolled for several minutes and, finding no one, flew back.
But the time of jokes came to an end - the Royal Navy entered into the business. The morning of May 1 caught British squadrons in combat positions - the TF-317 divided into 2 connections of one aircraft carrier and a small detachment of escort ships each, besides at least one radar patrol group took up a position between the main forces and the islands. The group, led by the aircraft carrier Hermes, maneuvered 95 miles east of Stanley, and the Invincible group 100 miles northeast of Stanley, the distance between them was small. According to the plan of operation, the 12 "Sea Harriers" "Hermes" were to strike at the two main Argentine air bases in the Falklands, and the eight VTOL "Invinsible" provided air defense connections. At the same time, a pair of aircraft from the Invincible moved towards Port Stanley, in case of the appearance of Argentine fighter aircraft over the islands.
The British acted like a textbook - in the best sense of the word. Twelve attack aircraft attacked both airbases almost simultaneously - in 08.30, the first four Sea Harriers attacked anti-aircraft gunners, the second struck the runways and the Port Stanley airfield (Malvinas Islands base), and a minute later the third group attacked the Condor base . Tactical surprise was absolute - in Port Stanley the British destroyed a fuel depot, several airfield buildings and 4 civilian aircraft, a Pukara attack aircraft (covered with cluster bombs during takeoff) died at the Condor base, the other two were damaged. In response, the Argentine anti-aircraft gunners were able to pierce the 20-mm projectile with a fist-sized hole in the tail section of one of the Harriers - on the aircraft carrier they patched the plane for a couple of hours, and he continued to fight.
Around the same time, the British landed reconnaissance groups in the areas of the Falkland Strait, the neighborhoods of Port Darwin, Goose Green and Portgovard, the Bluffkov Bay, Port Stanley, Cow Bay, Port Salvador, Fox Bay, etc. The British looked around for landing sites, checked the Argentines' ground defense ... On 08.40, 10 minutes after the airfields started attacking with British airplanes, two Daggers, who also tried to provide air cover for the islands, flew into the air, and again ended in nothing - circling a little over the Falklands, the Daggers left without finding an enemy.
But one should not think that only the pilots of the aircrafts acted - the sailors also enjoyed themselves with might and main. In the morning north of the islands, the only Argentine submarine San Luis heard noises - these were the ships of the British radar patrol: the destroyer Coventry and the frigate Arrow. Argentine submariners fired a SS-T-4 Telefunken torpedo at Coventry from a distance of just over 6 miles. Very little separated Argentina from a major naval triumph - a little luck, and the Conquehr laurels would get to San Luis, but the praised German quality failed - approximately 3 minutes after the volley, the operator reported that the torpedo control was lost, and all hope remains only on her homing head. Alas, she was not too quick-witted and pointed at a torpedo trap, which the frigate towed behind. A direct torpedo hit destroyed the trap. The British are on their guard.
Then two British frigates and three helicopters, which hastily soared from Hermes during 20 hours, drove the San Luis around the local water area, and the frigates maintained sonar contact, but didn’t come close, and the helicopters rained down torpedoes and depth charges. To no avail - the submariners acted skillfully and courageously. Almost a day, dodging attacks and using means of hydroacoustic counteraction, they avoided destruction and were able to escape.
Well, in 13.00, two significant events took place at once - the 3 ship separated from the Invincible aircraft carrier group: the Glemmorgan destroyer, the Arrow and Alakriti frigates, and went to the islands, having the task of firing into the positions of Argentine troops at Port Stanley. At the same time, an air battle almost ensued: the “Mentor” link tried to attack a British helicopter, but stumbled upon the Sea Harriers on duty and, of course, escaped, hiding in the clouds. According to some reports, the British managed to damage one such aircraft. It is difficult to say why two jet planes with a maximum speed of more than 1000 km / h could not do more against the antediluvian rotorcraft, which could hardly draw 400 km / h. Perhaps the British simply did not waste their time on trifles - the small range of the VTOL aircraft required fuel economy, and chasing the Mentors, the Sea Harriers could miss the Argentine jet fighters.
And then it began ... of course, it is easy to talk about the events of the past, sitting in a cozy chair with a cup of hot strong coffee. And yet, reading about the events of this day, you always come back to the idea that the phrase "theater of the absurd" describes the following events as well as possible: but in order to understand what was happening in the air over the Falkland Islands, you need to make a small lyrical digression .
As mentioned above, the task of the Royal fleet was an imitation of the beginning of the landing operation, in order to lure the ships of the Argentines and destroy the main forces of their fleet. The first step in this direction, according to the British, would be the destruction of Argentine air bases in the Falkland Islands. Argentina had nothing to counter the dagger strikes of KVMF aviation - the detection system on the islands was extremely imperfect, the Falklands air group was uncompetitive, the air defense was frankly weak, and the idea of providing cover from continental air bases was a utopia due to excessively long distances. Therefore, the British air strikes went unpunished, and the attempts of the Argentines to somehow react to them, except for a sad smile, do not cause. But then the situation changed dramatically.
The fact is that the next point in terms of the British operation was the landing of sabotage groups and shelling of the coast. And this set for the British carrier-based aviation completely different tasks: to cover their own ships and helicopters, intercepting enemy fighter and attack aircraft. This required control of the airspace over the Falklands, directing fighters to intercept the enemy invading it. But the British did not have any long-range radar weapons capable of providing reconnaissance and target designation, nor EW planes (which could also carry out radio reconnaissance), or even ordinary reconnaissance aircraft. All that the CWMF had in the conflict zone were two dozen low-speed, by the standards of jet aircraft, airplanes with a very limited radius of action and a weak radar (besides, it does not matter if the target is distinguished against the underlying surface). Therefore, the British have nothing left but air patrols in which British pilots had, as in World War II, to rely on the vigilance of their eyes, which, of course, was completely inadequate.
Therefore, the British did not even talk about any airspace control, but, being constantly in sight of the islands, the British air patrol from the hunter himself became a game. No matter how weak and imperfect the Argentine air situation control forces were, they nevertheless WAS, and, occasionally catching up with the British VTOL aircraft, could direct their fighters flying up from continental airfields. Thus, the Argentines finally have a tactical advantage, which they were not slow to take advantage of.
Closer to three o'clock in the afternoon, the Argentine leadership began to incline to the idea that the actions of the British were indeed a prelude to the invasion, so that it was decided to conduct reconnaissance by force. Descriptions of what happened next, in various sources, alas, do not match. Without claiming absolute truth (it would not hurt to work in the Argentine and British archives, which, alas, the author of this article cannot do), I will try to present a relatively consistent version of those events.
At about 15.15, the first group of 8 Argentine planes went up in the air, including two pairs of Skyhocks and the same number of Mirage. The Mirages were supposed to carry out air defense of the islands, and the Skyhawks were expected to detect surface ships of the British preparing to disembark - and their attack. Following them, the main group of 15.30 aircraft flew to 7, including:
1) An impact link from 3 “Daggers” (call sign - “Torno”), equipped with two 227-kg bombs each. The Thorno were to strike at the ships explored by the Skyhawks.
2) Two pairs of Daggers (call signs Blond and Fortune) armed with Shafrir air-to-air missiles, which were supposed to cover the strike force.
The first group flew to the Falklands without incident, but then ...
Typically, the British air patrol consisted of two aircraft, following at a height of the order of 3000 m with a speed within 500 km / h. And therefore it is extremely difficult to understand how the Argentine operators of the radar stationed in Stanley managed to confuse the on-duty pair of Sea Harriers with ... a surface ship. Nonetheless, they somehow managed to do this, and they sent Skyhawks to the “ship of His Majesty” that had just left for the islands. Presumably, the pilots of the British VTOL were extremely surprised to see who was flying directly at them, but, of course, immediately rushed into battle.
And it wouldn’t be possible for the Skyhawks, but on earth they still realized that even the most modern warship, even with the best British crew, is still unusual to fly at a three-kilometer height, and that the radar sees not a surface, but an air target. After that, the Argentines immediately sent over to intercept "Sea Harriers" both pairs of "Mirage."
The first couple tried to attack the British from the rear hemisphere, but they promptly discovered the enemy and turned towards them. The Argentines still fired "Sea Harriers" with rockets, did not achieve success and left the battlefield. Without winning, this couple still saved Skyhawks from imminent violence and gave the latter time to retreat. Then the planes diverged, as can be seen, and those, and others after the attack and vigorous maneuvering ended up fuel. A little later, at about 16.10-16.15, the second pair of Mirage discovered two more Sea Harriers off Pebble Island. It was probably a change of patrol returned to the aircraft carrier, and the Argentines attacked him, but, again, unsuccessfully. The problem of the Argentines was that for confident defeat of the enemy, they had to attack from the rear hemisphere, i.e. go in the tail to the enemy, otherwise their missiles had almost no chance to seize the target. But "Sea Harriers" did not allow them to do this, imposed a fight on a collision course and knocked down both "Mirage" with their "Sidewinders" capable of hitting enemy aircraft not only in the rear, but also in the forward hemisphere
One Mirage collapsed at once, its pilot managed to eject, while the second, trying to save the damaged car, reached the Stanley airfield. Where he went for a forced landing, after dropping the outboard fuel tanks and firing rockets. Everything could have ended well, but, alas, this time the air defense system of the Malvinas Islands airbase was at its height: having found a single plane, the calculations of the 35-mm anti-aircraft gun prepared for the battle, and when he dropped something suspiciously similar to bombs, yes and launched rockets, all doubts about his identity were scattered. The plane was ruthlessly shot at point-blank range, its pilot, Garcia-Cuerva, was killed. The death of a man who honestly fought for his homeland is always a tragedy, but fate joked especially cruelly: the fallen pilot was the author of illustrations for the Argentine Air Force textbooks, including the following: “Your life is in your hands: use the ejection seat in a timely manner! "
Thus ended the combat sortie of the first group of Argentine Air Forces, but the second approached. True, of the seven aircraft that left the continental air bases, only six are left - one Dagger with air-to-air missiles from the Blyuroky link has interrupted the flight for technical reasons. And it was necessary to happen to the fact that it was his partner, who was left alone, who received target designation for two “Sea Harriers”, marching to the islands (apparently, to replace the pair that had recently participated in the battle). This allowed the Argentinean pilot to take a vantage point and attack with a gentle dive, but then he changed his composure, and he fired a rocket without waiting for a confident capture of the GOS goal of his Shafirr. As a result, "Shafrir" went into the milk, having driven away at the peak of "Dagger" slipped the pair attacked by him, to which one of the British pilots, Lieutenant Hale, reacted with lightning speed and shot down the Argentinian "Sidedinder." Pilot "Daggera", Ardiles, died.
But the shock three "Daggerov" without interference followed the route originally laid for it and soon entered the detachment of British ships. The destroyer "Glamorgan", the frigates "Arrow" and "Alakriti" have already completed their task: approaching Stanley, they fired at the positions of the 25 Infantry Regiment, however, to no avail. Accuracy left much to be desired, and the Argentine soldiers who were in shelters suffered no casualties. But the main thing for the British was not to kill some soldiers, but to indicate presence, to convince the Argentines in an early landing, which they had achieved, and now three ships departed to join the main forces and have already left several dozen miles from the islands.
What happened in the future can greatly grieve lovers to calculate how many dozens of supersonic anti-ship missiles "Basalt" or "Granit" are capable of knocking down a single destroyer of the type "Arly Burk". Indeed, in theory, such anti-ship missiles (already at a low altitude) can detect kilometers from twenty-twenty-five, another 40-50 can fly to the ship, and the Standard can be launched at 1 rocket speeds per second, and even spending 2 missiles for one anti-ship missile, it turns out that one destroyer of the US fleet is able to cope almost with a full salvo of the Soviet aircraft-carrier killer ... in theory. Well, in practice, that's what happened.
Three British ship had no reason to relax. They had just completed a combat mission - having left their aircraft carrier, fired at the enemy shore (a British helicopter from which they tried to correct the fire, even sank the Argentine patrol boat), and now there was every reason to fear retaliation - an air strike from the Argentines. Native aviation did not cover them, so it was strongly recommended not to remove their hands from the control panels of the weapon. And so, at a high (most likely, supersonic) speed, but at a low altitude, the Daggers trio is coming out to the English.
Three British ships, which had in aggregate 4 ZRK "Sea Cat" and 2 ZRK "Sea Slug", being in a state of alert and having every reason to expect an air raid, managed to use ... exactly 1 (in words - ONE) ZRK "Sea Cat" - scored "Glamorgan". “Arrow” was able to open fire from an artillery installation (they did not have time on the other ships) and “Alakriti” in general was “defended” only with machine gun bursts. What is it? British British crews? On all three ships at once? !!
Of course, the "Sea Cat" is obsolete by the standards of 1982 year. Of course, its effectiveness was low. Of course, in all respects he was not just inferior, but completely incomparable with the American Aegis. But still this complex was made to replace the famous 40-mm anti-aircraft guns "Bofors" and had a relatively short reaction time. Nevertheless, out of this type of 4, the ZRK of this type was able to fire only one high-speed aerial target in a combat situation! The question is not that the missiles of the British ships did not hit the target, oh no! The question is that when high-speed targets appeared, the British air defense missile systems did not even have time to get ready for shooting.
The work of the Daggers did not shine with efficiency, which is not surprising - no one was going to use these planes before the start of the conflict as a naval strike aircraft. Therefore, the crews received the very minimum of training in a short pre-war time, and this was completely inadequate. All three planes dropped bombs, did not hit one, but still the total score in this collision was in favor of Argentina - Daggers, firing British ships during attack, achieved at least 11 hits on the frigate Alakriti and easily wounded one member of his crew, they themselves left without getting a scratch.
Such a result did not suit the English at all - and they threw a pair of “Sea Harriers” behind the departing “Torno” strike link. Probably, if the British had full-fledged fighters, the Argentines would have paid for their courage, but the British did not have them. And the slow-moving C Harriers, chasing the retreating Daggers throughout 130 km, failed to close the distance to use weapons. At the same time, the Argentines were not at all going to give the link "Torno" to be devoured by the British pilots - in the tail of a couple of "Fortunes" trying to catch up with the Daggers of the British deuce. The British, assessing the chances, gave up on the persecution and, not wanting to get involved with the Argentines who had sat down on their tail, withdrew from the battlefield. This decision looks a bit strange - in something, but in the absence of healthy aggressiveness of the English pilots it is impossible to reproach. Perhaps after the pursuit of their aircraft experienced problems with the fuel? If so, if the Argentine fighters had enough fuel to pursue the British, they would have a good chance of winning.
Argentines continued to raise aircraft - two Canberra EAC links, old bombers created at the very beginning of the 1950s, went to the sky. Surprisingly, but the fact is that “Sea Harriers” managed to intercept both links. True, the low speed of the British aircraft did not allow to achieve impressive combat success - one link, noticing the British, was able to break away from them and return to the airfield in full, but the second was less lucky: the British pilots shot down one Canberra and damaged the second. Be that as it may, not a single Argentine bomber of this type reached the British ships, and the "Sea Harriers" for the first and last time in all history The Falkland conflict demonstrated almost absolute effectiveness as an air defense fighter. According to the memoirs of Rear Admiral Woodworth, such high efficiency is explained by the power of the Invincible radar, which detected flying Canberras about 110 miles from the aircraft carrier and guided them to the closest air patrol.
But the Argentines continued to send their aircraft into battle, and the most dangerous for the British would be the raid of the Super Endandar pair with the Exochet anti-ship missiles - they were supposed to attack the outgoing Glamorgan-Alakriti-Arrow group. But it didn’t work out because the Argentine tanker involved in the operation failed at the most inopportune moment, and the Super Etandara had to be withdrawn halfway. In addition, several groups of Skyhawks were lifted into the air. The first of them was able to detect the enemy ship and attacked him, having achieved 227-kg hit by a bomb and several shells. But in actual fact, the British warship turned out to be defenseless Argentine transport, so that one could only be glad that the bomb did not detonate. The rest of the Skyhawks could have reached the target, but ... they were frightened off by the ground control service of the Falkland Islands.
If the Argentine pilots went to battle frantically (the Canberra pilots, who, on their air force, without fighter cover, honestly tried to find and attack the newest British ships, according to the author, they entered their names in naval aviation history), and the operators and the Falkland airbase controllers, the feeling, slightly panicked. One by one, the Skyhawk links went out to the Falkland Islands, listened to the air in anticipation of targeting British ships and ... received a command to immediately carry away the legs, because the enemy's fighter aircraft were in the air! Since “Skyhawks” were not covered by anyone, and they themselves could not fight with the air enemy, the pilots went backwards and returned home. As for the British, another group of their ships in 21.00 for about half an hour - for forty minutes she fired at the vicinity of Port Stanley and even killed an Argentine soldier.
Let's try to analyze the results of the first day of fighting.
For the umpteenth time it turned out that “if the pistol is a millimeter further than you can reach, then you do not have a pistol”. Eighty relative to the modern and fully combat-ready aircraft of Argentina made a total of only 58 sorties (28 or a little less - Mirages and Daggers, 28 - Skyhawks and 2 - Super Etandars), of which most were completely a waste of jet fuel. The Argentine aviation, being almost 800 kilometers from Stanley, was unable to provide the Falkland air bases from the 21 British aircraft (the Vulcan and the Sea Harriers 20).
There were few British aircraft, and they were not of the best quality, but the ability to “work” from relatively short distances, which was provided by the mobility of their “floating airfields”, allowed them to attack the ground targets of the enemy with complete impunity. In air battles, the Sea Harriers demonstrated their superiority over the Mirage. However, this superiority was not based on the best performance characteristics of British aircraft, but on the best weapons and properly chosen air combat tactics. The Sidewinders equipped with Sea Harriers possessed sufficiently sensitive infrared seeker to “capture” the enemy plane from the front hemisphere, which was an extremely unpleasant surprise for the Argentine pilots. The Argentines had missiles capable of “capturing” the enemy only from the rear hemisphere, so the Argentines' task was to reach the tail of the “Sea Harriers”, while the British only had to impose battle on the opposite course on the enemy. It should also be borne in mind that the British pilots had a lot of experience in training air battles with the Mirage (which the French Air Force was equipped with) and before going to war they had time to train properly. France did not conceal its aircraft from Britain, and therefore the British perfectly knew both the strengths and weaknesses of the French fighters. At one time, the tacticians of Argentina had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the “Harriers” (this aircraft was shown in Argentina in the 70s during a promotional tour), but they did not use it.
And yet, having a better position and having individual superiority over the enemy, the British carrier-based aviation failed at least two of the three tasks assigned to it.
Yes, Sea Harriers were able to strike at Falkland air bases, but their combat potential was not enough to disable them, thus the first point of the British plan was unfulfilled. An attempt to achieve dominance in the air over the Falklands also failed - the British could not prevent the Argentines from flying over the islands. Four air battles took place in the area (the unsuccessful interception of the Mentors and three Mirages with C Harriers), but all three Mirages with the British took place at the initiative of the Argentines. Thus, it turned out that even the inferior service of controlling the air situation is significantly better than its absence - at least two of the three air battles between the fighters began as a result of target targeting from the ground, and in one of these two cases (the attack of Ardiles) the British pilots were taken by surprise .
The only task that the British VTOL is supposedly able to solve is to cover their ships from the attacks of the Argentine aviation. Of the three groups of enemy aircraft (three "Dagger" link "Torno" and two links "Canberra") got to the British ships only one link. But it is noteworthy that the successes of the C Harriers (interception of prehistoric Canberras) are connected with external targeting (Invincible radar), but the British pilots did not succeed in sabotaging the attack of the modern Daggers.
Thus, the results of the first day of the fighting turned out to be disappointing for both parties. The Argentines suffered sensitive losses in the newest aircraft, not having achieved any result, and were convinced of the imperfection of their island air defense. The British could neither destroy the air bases of Argentina on the Falklands, nor achieve air supremacy.
But on the other hand, the Argentines, even with the price of blood, were able to identify the weaknesses of the air defense provided by the Sea Harriers, and could now develop tactics for its breakthrough. The British also succeeded in something - their activity was convinced by the Argentine military leadership that a large-scale landing operation had begun. And even before the first air battles boiled over the islands, the main forces of the Argentine fleet headed for the Falklands, receiving orders to attack enemy forces at the time of disembarkation.
To be continued