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At the time of the Argentina invasion, the UK was the process of selling its aircraft carrier and reducing its naval capacity. If Argentina had waited a short time, it would have been much harder if not impossible for the UK to quickly put a task force together.

So why didn't Argentina wait? Were there internal political, or other factors that caused Argentina to move when she did?


Background on sale of HMS_Invincible (from wikipedia) (see wikipedia for references to news papers reports etc.)

On 25 February 1982, after several months of negotiations, the Australian government announced that it had agreed to buy Invincible for £175 million as a replacement, under the name HMAS Australia, for the Royal Australian Navy's HMAS Melbourne. The sale was confirmed by the Ministry of Defence.

Background on decommission plans for HMS_Hermes (from wikipedia) (see wikipedia for references to news papers reports etc.)

Hermes was due to be decommissioned in 1982 after a 1981 defence review (that would have made the Royal Navy considerably smaller) by the British government, but when the Falklands War broke out, she was made the flagship of the British forces, setting sail for the South Atlantic just three days after the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands.

Note at present the UK has no fixed winged aircraft carriers so if the Falklands was invaded today.... But the Falklands have a lot more defenses, so they will be a lot harder to invade.

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    I was under the impression that the Argentinians belived that the British would not fight to recover the islands if they were taken quickly enough. If that were the case then the capabilities of the British navy weren't really a factor. – Steve Bird Aug 21 '15 at 21:39
  • @SteveBird yes, they never considered that the British, after the gutting of their armed forces in the late 1970s and a long period of Labour governments, had the guts or the capability to mount a successful campaign to retake the islands. And they were nearly proven right, powerful forces in the UK government and defense department argued just that, that it would be impossible to succeed and that therefore they shouldn't even try. Thatcher went against them, stating more or less that it's better to try and fail than to never try at all. – jwenting Aug 22 '15 at 19:56
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They had originally planned the invasion to happen later, but it was rushed forward for internal political reasons. The population was getting restless, and "liberating the Malvinas" was seen by the junta as a good way to bolster support in the light of a faltering economy.
Classic case of using foreign military adventures to distract people from internal economic problems.

Read The Falklands War by Martin Middlebrook for both the military and political events leading up to (and happening during) the war. ISBN of printed edition 978-1848846364

  • You are right, but you can say the same thing about Thatcher. At the time of the Falklands war her popularity was at all all-time low. – fdb Aug 21 '15 at 23:47
  • @fdb Yes. The whole episode was quintessentially Bismarkian - nothing better than a foreign war to bolster support for a government. In Britain's case it worked wonderfully. Margaret Thatcher, by calling a 'khaki election' won in 1983 by a landslide. – WS2 Aug 21 '15 at 23:58
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There were two aircraft carriers used in the Falklands war, HMS Hermes, and HMS Invincible. Both continued in service, I think I am right in saying, for several years after the conflict.

But the Argentine air force was defeated, not so much by the VTO Harriers as by the ship-based missile systems. Given that the Royal Navy was geared up for a potential conflict with the Soviet Union, and policed the entire eastern Atlantic from Greenland to the Cape, as it largely still does, with inter-alia, packs of nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines, it would have been a remarkable thing if it had proven unable to knock over a 17-ship navy in the south Atlantic. The total number of ships used by Britain in the expedition was, I think, over 200.

Indeed had an Argentine victory at any time have appeared remotely possible I believe the United States would have been obliged to become involved in support, as a British defeat in such circumstances would have represented an intolerable blow to NATO morale.

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    The only concrete fact in this answer is stated incorrectly: British Harriers shot 20 Argentinian planes in air-to-air combat, and had no losses in air-to-air combat. The rest of the answer are speculations not related to the question and sowing only anti-British bias of the author. – Alex Aug 22 '15 at 1:01
  • @Alex I certainly don't mean to express anti-British bias - I am British to the soles of my feet, though never a supporter of Margaret Thatcher. The Harriers did indeed achieve some startling success against the much faster Mirages and others - which astonished many people since Harriers were never designed as aerial combat aircraft, but for infantry-support. Even so it would have been impossible to contain the very sophisticated Argentine air-force without Sea Wolf, Sea Dart, and Rapier anti-aircraft systems. – WS2 Aug 22 '15 at 18:44
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    @Alex For your further information Hermes was retired from the Royal Navy in 1984, two years after the Falklands War, and Invincible, twenty-three years later in 2005. I am puzzled as to why you do not consider these 'concrete facts'. – WS2 Aug 22 '15 at 18:46
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    @Alex I don't think I even mentioned Russians in my answer! – WS2 Aug 23 '15 at 8:26
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    @jwenting The other thing that assisted a British victory was that although we were greatly outnumbered in ground troops, Argentina's was a conscript army. The latter are notoriously ill disciplined. Whilst conscripts tend to retreat at the first sound of distant gunfire, professionally trained soldiers will dig themselves in. Argentinian farm and factory workers were up against the Parachute Regiment, the Royal Marines, the Guards and the Gurkhas - forces not easily pushed backwards, and undoubtedly far better equipped than they were. – WS2 Aug 25 '15 at 10:31

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