Sun Tzu wrote : “ Those who win the battles are those who do not make any mistakes”
War is a reality of life of human being in the world. Although a war is something disliked most by human being, the war factually cannot be stopped nor abolished.The history recorded that the war between one nation with another nation has already and frequently occurred thousand years before Christ.
At the Falklands conflicts in 1982, although the weaponry and censor technology had been more advanced in comparison to the technology available during the World War II, the principles of the battle field are proven to be very important in determining winner or looser of the war.
Falklands islands and their surrounding sea environment which are very closed to Argentine, namely about 300 miles, for Argentine constituted a ‘ vulnerable zone ‘ and at the same an ‘ open zone ‘.
But for British, Falklands which is located approximately 8,000 miles away from its country, the battle field in Falklands constituted a ‘ desperate zone ‘ and at the same time as the ‘ open zone ‘.
Sun Tzu wrote : “ When you are in the desperate zone, do the battle ! We can survive the war in the desperate zone if we attack vehemently. “
As the vulnerable zone, the battle field in Falklands gave geographical benefit to Argentine, and at the same time also invited a threat to the land territory of Argentine. It was not impossible that, when cornered, British would attack and destroy the strategic targets in Argentine. In a war, there is always a limitation of conflict area, either based on an agreement of both parties in war, or based on a written or non-written agreement. However, there is no guarantee that such agreement will not be violated. For an example, the sunk of the Argentinean cruiser ship, General Belgrado, being hit by a torpedo from British submarine, occurred 36 miles outside the 200-Mile War Zone declared by British.
The ARA General Belgrano was an Argentine Navy cruiser which was controversially sunk by a British submarine during the 1982 Falklands War as she sailed away from the conflict zone. 323 people died, mainly young sea cadets.
Originally a US Navy cruiser, launched in 1938, the ship survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and was decommissioned from the US Navy in 1946. In 1951, the ship was sold to Argentina. In 1956, the ship was renamed ARA General Belgrano after a hero of the Argentine war of independence.(The Controversy )
Therefore, a direct air raid conducted by the Vulcan planes to the targets in Falklands, could also become a threat to the Argentinean land.
For Argentine, the Falklands waters was also an open zone. This could be advantageous for Argentine if it had a strong sea power, or at least its power was to be balanced with its enemy. Although having modern surface ships, equipped with Exocet MM-38 missiles and 4 submarines, the Argentinean power was far left behind comparing to British.
The presence of two British nuclear submarines in Falklands waters made the sea power of Argentine limited to have its operational space and mobility. Similarly its air power could not move freely in doing its attacks.
On the contrary, for British, the maritime campaign conducted independently in a long operational range from its country made the battle field in Falklands as a ‘desperate zone’, name a battle field giving only one option, namely totally destroyed or winning the war. Therefore , the campaign preparation in Falklands was calculated carefully and accurately.
First of all, the British Government had to be able to convince its people that the campaign to Falklands required a cost in very big amount. Such a campaign was necessary and had to be executed since it was intended to reinforce the sovereignty of United Kingdom, to protect the British citizens, and to recover the security in Falklands.
Secondly, such a campaign constituted a joint operation of three elements of armed forces, with their respective reserves. The war equipment to be mobilized not only consisting of battle ships, fighter planes and helicopters, but also requiring the assistance of the British commercial ships. From the very beginning British had realized that they had no superiority in space and time, but had the superiority in military power and shooting force. Such superiority they possessed had to be put down into a battle strategy with the minimum risk. Considering that the land in Falklands Islands and its natural condition had many gulfs, shallow waters and narrow straits, the British special forces needed to be mobilized.
The accurate preparation and big cost spent by British did not come to ashes. It was proven that in various battles, British was always leading as the one controlling the war initiative. This was mainly due to the very high combating spirit, since there was no other choice : combating vehemently and winning the war.
The risk of battle in an open zone was experienced by both parties. The losses suffered by British were mostly caused by the Argentinean air raid. On the other way around, many Argentinean fighter planes were shot down to pieces by British anti-aircraft missiles. Unfortunately in Falklands War, British did not have any heavy carrier ship as the ones used during the World War II. British only had a pair of light carrier ships to be used at the mobile base of V/STOL Sea-Harriers. Consequently, the factor of its own defense in the form of air protection became the weakness that had to be paid expensively.
On May 4, 1982, the British HMS Sheffield was hit by a missile of Exocet AM-39 launched from the Argentinean Super-Etendard aircraft. A big fire occurred in that ship, 20 soldiers died and 24 were badly injured. HMS Sheffield was badly damaged and six days afterwards it got sunk.
1982: Argentines destroy HMS Sheffield.The British ship HMS Sheffield has been hit by an Argentine missile fired from a fighter bomber. It is not clear how many of the 268 crew have perished.The sinking has shocked the British nation and foiled any possible diplomatic solution to the current dispute over the Falkland Islands between Britain and Argentina.( The sinking of Sheffield)
British decided to seize Falklands again by means of Amphibian Raid through the Falklands Sound Strait located in between East Falklands and West Falklands, with the target to control Port Louis, Fox Bay and Goose Green. The battle field chosen by British was the ‘vulnerable zone’ and at the same time a ‘surrounded zone’. It was the best alternative available by then, considering that the Eastern Coast of Falklands had been controlled by Argentine and guarded very tightly. Even, some strategic places had been reinforced by land-launched Exocet.
Such movement of British troops was detected by Argentine which directly increased its air raid. HMS Ardent was hit by a bomb causing severe damage and got sunk., while HMS Argonaut was badly damaged. Three other British ships, HMS Antrim, HMS Briliant and HMS Broardsword got the air bombardment. However most of the bombs dropped by the Argentinean fighter planes had no detonators, so that they did not explode.
There were more than 72 intakes of air raid conducted by Argentine, from the total amount of bombs dropped, it was estimated only 20% of them exploded. This was hardly unbelievable error, and it indicated that Argentine lacked of war preparation. The unexploded bombs occurred again in the air raid on the following day. Even, HMS Brilliant and HMS Broadsword got a chance to receive once again a present of unexploded bomb, so that both ships were released from destruction.
Sun Tzu wrote : “ The victory obtained in a battle is not merely caused by bravery. Those who win the battles are those who do not make any mistakes.”
As a result, on the first day of air raid, Argentine lose 9 Mirages, 5 Skyhawks, 2 Puracas, and 4 helicopters. On the second day of its air raid, Argentine succeeded in sinking HMS Antelope, but 8 of its air-crafts were shot down by the British Harrier. It was proven that during the 2-day air raid, the Sea-Wolf Missiles owned by British were not so effective to encounter the skillful maneuver of the Argentinean pilots. It was also proven that the British ships becoming the targets of the Argentinean air raid were the ships available at the vulnerable zone, namely at the long and narrow Falklands Sound Strait.
The success of Argentine combating at the open zone was in coincidence with the Argentine Independence Day, 25 May. On that day, Argentine detected the movement of a big ship in north of Falklands. Two Super-Etendard air-crafts were sent each bringing one Exocet AM-39 Missile. One missile launched successfully hit Atlantic Conveyor, a big transport ship carrying 10 helicopters and a big amount of ammunition, causing a very huge loss for British.
Almost at the same time, the Argentinean Skyhawks attacked the British ships and succeeded in sinking HMS Coventry in the north of Falklands Sound Strait.
The peak of battle in Falklands occurred on June 12, 1982 in which the movement of British Troops in land started to attack Port Stanley. The attack to Port Stanley was preceded by bombardment by the British ships, HMS Avenger, HMS Yarmouth and HMS Glamorgan. In this operation, HMS Glamorgan was hit by the Argentinean Exocet missile launched from the land, causing the damage and killed 13 of its crews. Though suffering from the damage, HMS Glamorgan was still able to operate.
The book “Lessons of the Falklands War”, by Gatot Soedarto, CreateSpace, 2013.