Friday, May 21, 2010

San Carlos waters, 1982

HMS Ardent burns after being bombed

The Falklands War is definitely fading away it seems. I haven't seen anything in the general media about the war that was big news back in 1982.

On this day 28 years ago the long-awaited British landings began at San Carlos in the straight between West and East Falkland islands. At the time I remember that this had caught observers by surprise. Most seemed to believe that the British would land closer to Stanley because of the nearly non-existent overland transportation infrastructure. Instead the British elected to land far enough away from the main Argentine units to have an essentially unopposed landing. There were a couple of platoon-sized Argentine forces in the area, but these withdrew, although not before downing two British helicopters.

The Argentine reaction was swift and forceful, as they sent no fewer than three waves of attacking aircraft from the mainland as well as many sorties from local aircraft. At least 10 Argentine A-4s and Daggers were shot down, but they did considerable damage, sinking the HMS Ardent and damaging four more warships. One of those, the Argonaut, was disabled and knocked out of the war. Three Argentine Pucaras were also shot down, as well as a British Harrier.

As damaging as the Argentine air raids were, they did not seriously threaten the landings. No troop ships were sunk or badly damaged. More ominously for the Argentine war effort, losing 10 of the 57 mainland aircraft that sortied represented a loss rate of nearly 18 percent -- clearly unsustainable.

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