Late in the evening of 18 on May 1982, the ships of the 317 of the operational formation welcomed the British amphibious group arriving in the battle area. Two large amphibious dock ships, six special-built amphibious ships and thirteen requisitioned transport ships (including the Atlantic Conveyor) were in the direct guard of the Entrym destroyer and three frigates. A special impression with its size and snow-white hull was made by a forty-four-thousand-one Canberra liner with 2400 military personnel on board.
Despite the losses, the grouping of the naval and air forces of England in the area of conflict increased significantly. By April 30, the British 317's operational connection had 2 aircraft carriers, which had 20 Sea Harriers FRS 1, 4 destroyers, and 5 frigates on decks, and the three nuclear submarines formed the 324 operational connection, which was in command of the United States Army, which was in command of the United Kingdom, X-Numx, XNUMX, XNUMX, XNUMX, XNUMX, XNUMX, XNUMX, XNUMX, XNUMX, XNUMX, XNUMX and XNUMX. and was driven directly from England.
Between 1 and 18 in May, the combat area left the Splendit nuclear submarine, the Sheffield destroyer died, one Sea Harrier was hit by anti-aircraft artillery fire, two more died under unexplained circumstances, most likely colliding with each other in the air. The destroyer "Glasgow", although it was damaged, was eliminated for several days, but was able to correct them on its own and by May 18 was in full combat readiness. At the same time, the submarine "Valiant" (the same type "Conqueror") and the diesel submarine Onyx arrived in the combat area, although it is not clear where the last 21 of May was when the landing took place. Together with the amphibious forces, a destroyer and three frigates approached, and the Atlantic Conveyor delivered 8 C Harriers FRS 1 and 6 Harriers GR 3, but a small comment is needed here.
By the time of the Falkland Conflict, the British fleet had 28 Sea Harrier combatant FRS 1 fighters, of which 20 immediately went to the combat area, and the remaining 8 were to arrive there later. But the British were well aware that neither 20 nor 28 cars would be enough to establish air supremacy. Then someone had a great idea - to throw the Harriers GR 3 into battle. These were the only planes, besides the Sea Harrier FRS 1, which could operate from the decks of British aircraft carriers, but there was a “small” problem: “Harriers” GR 3 was a pure attack aircraft, unable to conduct guided missiles "air-to-air" and to carry out air defense connections. The British tried to adapt the 10 Sidewinders prepared for shipment of this type, but nothing came of this venture. Although the media had repeatedly shown photographs of the GR 3 Harriers with air-to-air missiles suspended on the pylons, the planes did not have the proper electrical wiring, so they could only fight with an air enemy using 30 mm Aden cannons. However, sending even such aircraft was reasonable. Deck tasks aviation were not limited to air defense, respectively, striking at the coastal targets of the Harrier, GR 3 released the Sea Harrier FRS 1 for air patrols. In addition, it should be borne in mind that the sighting systems of the "Harriers" GR 3 for "work" on the ground were superior to those of the "Sea Harriers" FRS 1.
Thus, for in a combat zone the British 21 May possessed 3 nuclear submarines, and probably one of the diesel, 2 aircraft carriers with 31 aircraft on board (25 «Sea Harrier» FRS 1 and 6 «Harrier» GR 3) 4 destroyers and 8 frigates. And what about the Argentines?
By April 30, they had 80 Mirage, Skyhoek and Dagger, as well as eight Canberra old bomber bombers. One Mirage, one Dagger, two Skyhawks and one Canberra were shot down by the British, another Skyhawk crashed on its own, one Mirage and one Skyhawk destroyed excessively vigilant Argentine anti-aircraft gunners of the Falkland Islands. Thus, the total losses of Argentina amounted to 8 machines, but it should be borne in mind that during the war they managed to put into operation 9 Skyhawks, which at the beginning of the conflict were not on the wing. It is not known how many of them were commissioned by 21 in May, but it can still be assumed that to reflect the British troops, Argentina could put up an order of 84-86 machines from which, however, 6-7 were very old Canberras. So the strike power of the Argentines remained at about the same level as at the beginning of the conflict.
As for the aviation of the Falkland Islands, it is very difficult to deal with them. The 6 light attack aircraft of the Pukara and all the Mentors (which is mostly the result of a sabotage on Father Pebble) were completely destroyed, and at least three more of the Pukary were damaged on May 1, but perhaps they were brought into service? During the conflict in Falkland, Argentines transferred the 11 "Pukara", although again it is unclear how many of them arrived on the islands before landing. In general, it can be argued that the air power of Falkland did not suffer much - however, it initially aimed for near zero value and could not cause any serious damage to British ships. On the contrary, a single submarine, personifying the submarine fleet of Argentina, in the period of 1-10 in May at least twice (but probably still three times) attacked the British and only problems with weapons on letting her succeed. This proves how dangerous even a small diesel submarine can be if it operates in the area of intensive enemy operations, but after May 10, the San Luis submarine went in for repair and the Argentines lost their only underwater trump card.
The surface fleet, having lost the General Belgrano, retained the main forces: the aircraft carrier, the 4 destroyer and the 3 corvette, but now the prospects for its use were completely doubtful. The death of General Belgrano showed the Argentinean command the apparent vulnerability of their surface ships to enemy submarines. Then the fleet retreated to coastal areas, where it was reliably covered by ground-based PLO aircraft, but as a result, the opportunity to quickly attack British amphibious groups disappeared. Nevertheless, the Argentine ships could still be thrown into battle, with very unpleasant consequences for the British. In the end, the 780 kilometers separating Falkland from the mainland could be completed in less than a day, even on 20 nodes, and after all, the landing of a large-scale landing force, along with all its reserves, requires much more time. But the British command was well aware of the difficulties of Rear Admiral Woodworth, who simply did not have aerial reconnaissance means that would allow the Argentine fleet to approach Falklands in time (or even NOT in time). On the submarines also was not pinned on former hopes - whatever one may say, but 1-2 in May, they did not find the main forces of the Argentines. Therefore, the British decided to use the Nimrod radio reconnaissance aircraft for observation of Argentine ships, whose intelligence equipment was serviced by 23 operators and, according to the British, made it possible to survey the rectangle 1000 miles long and 400 miles wide in one flight. It looked like this - the plane took off from about. Ascension, approaching the Falkland Islands, not reaching approximately 150 km. Port Stanley turned around and walked to the coast of Argentina, scanning the ocean between the Falklands and the continent. Approximately in 60 miles from the coastline, Nimrod turned around again and flew along the Argentine coast, after which it returned to about. Ascension. Each such flight was a difficult operation - three refueling, 19 hours in the air, so it is not surprising that in the period from 15 to 21 in May there were only 7 of such sorties. The Argentines failed to intercept a single Nimrod, but they figured out that the position of their ships was becoming known to the British with a certain regularity.
At the same time, the Neptunes of the Argentines were completely out of order - the last flight took place on May 15 and no more of these specialized reconnaissance aircraft took off into the air. The consequence of this was the involvement of such vehicles as the Boeing 707 and C-130 in aerial reconnaissance. The problem was that the newly-minted “scouts” did not install any special equipment, i.e. the same Boeing was forced to search for the enemy using the avionics of an ordinary passenger airliner. Accordingly, the search capabilities of the Argentine Command declined sharply.
As a result of all this, the Argentines no longer hoped that they could establish and maintain contact with the British aircraft carrier group, as Neptune did on the day of the attack on Sheffield, but they believed that their ships moving from the coast of Argentina to the Falklands would be quickly discovered . Thus, the APA command could no longer count on surprise, and without it the weaker Argentine fleet could not count on success. As a result, a final decision was made - not to bring surface ships into battle.
In retrospect, we can conclude that the Argentines were too cautious: the attack by surface forces was not at all as hopeless as they thought. But they took exactly this decision and pushed them to this by two factors - the ability of the British to control the movements of their ships and the inability of the Argentines to find British aircraft carriers.
The British had their own difficulties. Shortly after the meeting, a meeting was held about the upcoming disembarking between the commanders of the amphibious group Clapp, the commander of the troops of the landing force Thompson and the commander of the 317 of the operational formation Woodworth. Nobody objected to the landing site proposed by Rear Admiral Woodworth, but by the time it was held a discussion arose. Clapp and Thompson insisted on disembarking in the early evening, shortly before sunset, in order to have maximum dark time of day for the bridgehead equipment. It was logical - even if the Argentines go to the counterattack, they will do it not earlier than in the morning, and having a night of preparation, you could meet them as expected. In addition, overnight, it was possible to deploy high-quality air defense, capable of covering the location of the landed troops.
But such a decision did not suit the commander of the 317 th operational connection. Rear Admiral Woodworth was well aware that he could not provide air defense of the amphibious unit either at the crossing or at the time of disembarkation, and therefore did the main rate on surprise, bad weather, which would limit the detection of British ships and at night. He, of course, long ago noticed that the Argentines never fly at night. Therefore, Woodworth insisted that the landing take place several hours after sunset: in this case, twilight would reliably cover his ships a few hours before reaching the landing site and would not allow the Argentine aviation to attack in the first hours of the landing. Apparently Clapp and Thompson were “slightly” surprised by this state of affairs. Woodworth himself describes this episode as follows:
“I believe that I clearly expressed my opinion to Mike Klapp and Julian Thompson. I did this without reminding them of the lessons of Sheffield and Glasgow. I did not need to utter the phrase: “Gentlemen, can you imagine what happens when a bomb or a cruise missile hits the warship?” And they, in turn, did not have to express the idea that was spinning in their heads: “We thought that the group until this time was to completely destroy the Argentine Air Force. What are you, ... who, have been doing all these past three weeks? ”There are times when I am very grateful to the refined, polite rituals of the discussion, with which we in the armed forces of Her Majesty settle our differences.”
Woodworth's plan was accepted and ... fully justified. Late in the evening, on May 20, the British fleet, unnoticed, approached the Falkland Islands, and embarked on a landing operation and the 04.30 company "B" of the 2 battalion under the command of Major D. Crossland was the first to disembark. Of course, it wasn’t without overlays - at the most “right” moment, the pumps of the landing ship dock “Fairless” refused, so the landing craft, full of soldiers, could not leave the ship, then the landing boats safely stranded in the dark, and then the B companies "And" C "3-his paratroop battalion, starting the nomination from the bridgehead," not knowing their own "and for an hour they fired at each other, even with the support of armored vehicles (one of the companies had two BMP). To the credit of the British, they stoically overcame the obstacles that arose - the commander of “Fairless” made a risky decision, but for all the 100% justified decision - he opened the doors of the boat port, the water poured into the dock and the boats sailed. The paratroopers from stranded boats, with an 50-kilogram display on the shoulders of icy water (air temperature was + 3 degrees), reached the coast by foot, and the commander of the 3-second parachute parachute, after both companies had requested artillery support from him, guessed that something was going wrong and, by personal intervention, stopped the shootout. During the hour of war with each other, both companies did not suffer any losses ... Of course, one can only rejoice at the absence of meaningless deaths. But how can you fight with two companies for an hour without killing and wounding a single enemy?
There were practically no Argentine troops in the landing area. All that the Argentines possessed was an incomplete company "C" of the 12 Infantry Regiment, as many as two platoons (62 men) under the command of Senior Lieutenant K. Esteban, who had two 105-mm guns and two 81-mm mortars at his disposal. Naturally, this “army” was not obliged to reflect the large-scale English landing forces, their functions were to observe the throat of the Falkland Straits. Equipping the observation point at Fanning Head and sending a detachment of 21 fighter with two guns there, the lieutenant himself with the main forces of the company settled in the Port-San-Carlos settlement, 8 km from the entrance to the strait.
Fighters with Fanning Head lasted about half an hour. Finding British ships, they opened artillery fire, and their commander tried to notify Lieutenant Esteban of the incursion that had begun, but ... the radio was broken. Immediately, British special forces landed earlier, by the time Argentines opened fire at some 500 meters from their positions, with the support of 60-mm mortars and the Antrim destroyer cannon (which, in the "best" traditions of 114-mm units, began to attack at the beginning of the attack out of action, but was promptly introduced into it) attacked the defenders. Their situation was hopeless, and, having suffered losses, they with a fight broke away from the British and tried to get out to their own, heading for Stanley. But it was not succeeded by Argentines and 14 June, on the verge of exhaustion, the soldiers surrendered to the British patrol.
Lieutenant Esteban, with four dozens of soldiers, received news of the landing only on 08.30 in the morning of May 21 and immediately made the only sensible decision - to retreat. But this decision was belatedly - two companies of British paratroopers were already advancing on his heels, having entered Port-San-Carlos some 15 minutes after the Argentines left. In order to "resolve the issue" for sure, a helicopter assault was sent to the rear of Lieutenant Esteban and called attack helicopters ... Nevertheless, forty Argentines demonstrated excellent training, giving an exemplary battle at departure. Despite at least fivefold (!) British superiority in forces and support of the latter by helicopters and ship artillery, the detachment under the command of Lieutenant Esteban could not only break away from the pursuit, but also destroy three British helicopters from small arms (including two shock) .
Forced to repeat: Argentines, fearing the invasion of Chile, sent far from the best land forces to the Falkland Islands. And one can only guess what difficulties the British landing force would have faced, stand up against the British in the Falklands elite of the Argentine army. Fortunately (for the British) this did not happen.
No more military operations took place in the area where an amphibious assault operation took place on the night of 20 on 21 in May, it is worth noting that English special forces and ships "made some noise" in other areas to divert the attention of the Argentines, but all this was nothing more than demonstration actions, in serious battles, the British did not get involved.
Deck Aviation also participated: in all, 4 "Harrier GR.3" was attracted for strikes against ground targets. Special Forces reported on the transfer of Argentine helicopters to the area of Mount Kent, from where they could be used to transfer troops to San Carlos, to the area of one of the British bridgeheads. The GR.3 Harrier pair worked perfectly, finding the landing site and destroying the enemy's 3 helicopter. But the second pair, sent to attack the positions of the Argentine 5 Infantry Regiment in Portgovard, were not lucky: one VTOL for technical reasons could not take off at all, and the second was shot down by the Bloupip missile during the second approach.
In general, it can be stated that the British landing began and continued extremely successfully (as far as possible for operations of this magnitude). However, the dawn of 21 in May, the British met with mixed feelings: it was clear to everyone that now the Argentines would throw into the battle everything they had, and the main threat to the British was aviation from continental airfields. So it happened, but before we proceed to the description of the battles, let's try to figure out how the British built their air defense.
The amphibious group, entering the throat of the Falkland Channel and concentrating around the entrance to San Carlos Water Bay, turned out, if one can put it this way, in such a square box about 10 on 10 miles, and the walls of this box formed the coastal mountains of the West and East Falkland islands . This put both the English sailors and the Argentine pilots under very peculiar conditions: on the one hand, the Argentines had nothing to sneak up on the English ships closely, taking advantage of the mountainous terrain of the coast. On the other hand, by jumping out of the mountains and dropping speeds even up to 750 km / h, Argentines crossed the British amphibious group in just 90 seconds - with relatively low horizontal visibility (of the order of 3 miles), the Argentinian pilot could visually detect the British ship for 27 seconds before his plane, roaring with engines, sweeps over the deck of this ship. In such conditions, it was very difficult to coordinate air attacks, and besides the presence of many reflective surfaces (all the same mountains) interfered with the work of the GOS “Exocet”. On the other hand, the British still had very little time to activate the fire assets of their ships on the suddenly emerging from nowhere planes.
The British commanders of the 317th operational compound had considerable disagreements on the question of how to cover the amphibious compound. 1st-rank captain John Coward proposed to advance both of the Project 42 destroyer available to the west of West Falkland (i.e. between the Falkland Islands and Argentina) in order to detect Argentine aircraft before they even reach the islands. According to his plan, for the attack of these aircraft it was necessary to provide an air patrol directly over the destroyers, which would also strengthen their own air defense. The aircraft carriers Coward offered to keep 50 miles behind the amphibious compound, from where they could provide air patrols both over the destroyers and over the landing forces. The commander of the aircraft carrier “Invincible” went even further - agreeing to the need to intercept enemy aircraft before they even approached the amphibious compound, he proposed to deploy not only destroyers, but also both aircraft carriers with their direct protection between the Falklands and the continent. Of course, to stand in the way of the enemy, covering the landing transports with his chest, would be in the best traditions of the Royal fleetbut Rear Admiral Woodworth did not dare to do so. He was confused not only by the danger of air attacks, but also by the fact that in this case the main forces of his formation would have to maneuver in the area of operation of the Argentinean submarines. Therefore, the British commander divided the fleet into 2 parts - an amphibious group with a sufficiently powerful cover had to go forward and land, while aircraft carriers with their direct protection were kept in the distance. An amphibious group was covered by 7 British ships, including one destroyer of the County type (Entrim), two old men of the frigate type 12 (Yarmouth and Plymouth), and a frigate of the Linder type (Argonot) , frigate type 21 (Ardent), and finally frigates of type 22 Broadsword and Brilliant are the only ships of Rear Admiral Woodworth that carried Sea Wolf air defense systems and were therefore the most dangerous ships for attackers at low altitude Argentines. Because of the qualities of their air defense systems, they were to become deadly weapons in the conditions of the “box” of the Falkland Strait. The aircraft carriers were far removed from the amphibious forces, and with them remained two destroyers of type 42 (Glasgow and Coventry), a destroyer of type County (Glamorgan) and two frigates of type 21 (Arrow and Alacrity) )
This plan certainly had many drawbacks. With such an order in the most dangerous position turned out to be transports and ships covering amphibious forces, which, in fact, became the main target for the Argentine Air Force. At the same time, the aircraft carriers were far enough away to provide any numerous air patrol over the amphibious group, but not far enough to go beyond the reach of the Super Endandar with the Exocsets. The only ships that had good chances to intercept the Exocets, the 22 frigates, Broadsworth and Brilliant, left with the amphibious vehicles, leaving the aircraft carriers extremely vulnerable to a rocket attack. In fact, the only chance for the British to defend their own aircraft carriers was to detect the attacking group in advance and have time to bring their “Sea Harriers” to them. Only, so far, the VTOLP did not demonstrate anything of the kind and there were no prerequisites for it to turn out in the future. Chances could be increased by increasing the number of air patrols - but, again, at the cost of weakening the air defense of an amphibious unit. As a result, both the amphibious and aircraft carrier groups proved to be very vulnerable to the enemy.
In support of Rear Admiral Woodworth, I would like to note that even in retrospect, in hindsight, it is very difficult to understand whether the British had any reasonable alternative to this plan.
Be that as it may, the decisions were made, so that, starting from 21 in May and for the next few days, the task of the British carrier aviation came down to providing air defense of the aircraft carrier group and covering the compactly located amphibious group. At the same time, Rear Admiral Woodworth, in order to avoid “friendly fire”, introduced the following order of air patrols of the amphibious assault: 10 zone of width, 10 of length of length and approximately 3 of kilometer height, where the transports and cover ships were located, closed for flights “X Harriers” ". Accordingly, any aircraft that suddenly appeared before an English ship could only be an enemy. The "Harriers" should have prevented the enemy from flying into this zone or chasing him out of it. The plan seemed to be good, but ...
To be continued ...