Black Buck Operations in Falklands Conflict of 1982

Operation Black Buck demonstrated to Argentina that Britain had both the will and the capability to perform long-range air strikes in the South Atlantic.

Before the sun rise on April 2, 1982, the Argentinean command troops landed in East Falklands near Port Stanley, attacked and controlled the British mariner base. This surprise attack was conducted by Argentine through the sea and air, and without making any prior war declaration.

On the same day, the Argentinean command troops was also landed in South Georgia located at South Eastern part of Falklands. On that day, the Argentinean command troop could immediately control Falklands and South Georgia without any significant counter attack, and not causing any victim in the British side, either its civilian or military personnel.

The occurrence of Argentinean invasion to Falklands was due to the fact that British was not so alert and did not pay much attention to the situational development in the land of its colony. As a matter of fact, there had been a long dispute on its ownership with Argentine. British paid less attention to the development of the Argentinean military strength, particularly its navy and air force, which were specially intended to “seize back” Falklands or Las Malvinas from British hand.

The surprise attack of Argentine was directly responded by British. Within a period less than two weeks, the British submarines had already been present in Falklands waters, and on April 8, 1982 British directly declared “200-Mile War Zone” around Falklands, effective commencing from April 12, 1982. The British Government declared that by then British would commit any military action against Argentinean activities.

The quick response of British was beyond calculation of General Leopoldo Galtieri, the President of Argentine, who designed such invasion to Falklands. The presence of British submarines in Falklands waters and the declared 200-Mile War Zone became a heavy blow for Argentine, since it could jeopardize the plan that had been designed. The offensive strategy of the British submarines would clearly limit the space of movement for the Argentinean battle ships. In addition, the plan to lengthen the runway in Port Stanley to be used as the advanced base for its fighter planes, as the most reliable strength by Argentine was by then threatened to fail.

Not more than two weeks after declaring the 200-Mile War Zone, on April 25, 1982 the task force of the British fleet had arrived in Falklands, and directly made a surprise attack to South Georgia. The battle ran in a short time, and British succeeded in occupying South Georgia again. On that day, the Argentinean submarine Santa Fe was fiercely attacked by the British anti-submarine choppers. Santa Fee was badly damaged and got sunk. The commandant of Argentinean troops occupying South Georgia, Colonel Alfredo Astiz, surrendered without any condition on the deck of the HMS. Plymouth.

Approximately one week afterwards, to be exact on May 1, 1982 British launched again its attack in the form of direct air raid ( DAR ), conducted by a number of bomber planes Vulcan. These attacker planes left from their Wide-Awake Air Base in British Ascentions Islands in West of Africa. A group of Vulcan bomber planes had to fly more than nine hours before reaching their targets, namely the air base in Port Stanley.

Operations Black Buck 1 to Black Buck 7 were a series of seven extremely long-range ground attack missions by Royal Air Force Vulcan bombers of the RAF Waddington Wing, comprising aircraft from 44 Squadron, 50 Squadron, 101 Squadron planned against Argentine positions in the Falkland Islands, of which five were actually flown.

This air raid is recorded as the longest direct air raid in war history in the world. This direct air raid operation under the secret code name “Black Buck” succeeded in dropping not less than 21 bombs at the weight of 1000 pounds. This operation was actually not so successful, because only one bomb hit the target in runway, that prevented Argentina operating its fighters.

However its psychological impact created was so big, because it gave a warning to Argentine that British was capable of destroying the targets in Argentine land if wanted, and showed Argentina’s military dictator General Galtieri that Britain was serious about retaking the Falkland Islands.
This proved to be able to decrease the fighting spirit in Argentine side. Three days later, the Argentinean cruiser ship General Belgrano was hit by a shoot of torpedo Mark VIII launched by a British nuclear submarine HMS Conquerer. General Belgrano got sunk following its partner, Santa Fee, and killed more than 300 crews.

The sinking of the General Belgrano sent a salient message to the military junta that ruled Argentina. The Argentinean Navy after the sinking was effectively confined to port, especially their aircraft carrier, ‘Veinticinco de Mayo’. That meant their only means of attacking the Task Force was via its air force which, though it had its successes during the war, had to face an array of weaponry both at sea, and after the landings at San Carlos Bay, on land.

This was the thing that motivated the British fighting spirit in Falklands, and brought them into a victory after a 74-day battle. On the contrary, the illustration of low fihting spirit of Argentinean troops was clearly shown when the British command troops attacked South Georgia on April 25, and in the last battle on June 14, 1982.

On April 25, in a very short time, British could seize South Georgia back, and the commandant of Argentinean troops in South Georgia surrendered unconditionally together with his troops and became prisoners of British.

On June 14, the leader of Argentinean troop in Falklands, Mayor General Mario Benyamin Menendez, who still had 9800 soldiers chose to surrender unconditioned to the Commandant of British Troops, Mayor General Moore, whose total troops was smaller, namely about 8000 soldiers. Benyamin Menendez even ignored the order of General Leopoldo Galtieri to do the counter attack vehemently.

Menéndez spoke with Lieutenant-General Leopoldo Galtieri — the President of Argentina — by radio regarding the situation. Galtieri said that Menéndez should counter-attack against the British forces with all of his soldiers, and told him that the Argentine military code stipulated that a commander should fight until he has lost 50% of his men and used 75% of his ammunition. He also added “the responsibility today is with you”.

Menéndez replied, “I cannot ask more of my troops, after what they have been through…We have not been able to hold on to the heights…We have no room, we have no means, we have no support…”. Menéndez agreed to meet with representatives of the commander of British land forces on the islands that afternoon, and Menéndez surrendered his forces in the evening.

Reference:

The book ‘Lessons of the Falklands War’, by Gatot Soedarto, CreateSpace/Amazon, USA.

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