Friday, 1 June 2012

Falklands War

This year is the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War. It was fought between Argentina and Britain over at the Falkland Islands in 1982. The Argentinians wanted the Falklands back which they call Malvinas. The Argentinians ruled the Falklands before the British took over and ruled the Falklands for 149 years before the invasion and were thinking of handing it back like Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the people of Falklands wished to remain with British identity and this made the handover almost impossible.

In 1982, Argentina was ruled by a military government and was having an economic crisis at the time. The military government wanted to gain the support of the entire nation by fulfilling the nation's long wish of taking back the Falklands. When the Falkland Islands was invaded, the battle was quick despite strong British resistance.

Britain, ruled by Margaret Thatcher was also in an economic crisis with unemployment going up along with union strikes and riots. If Thatcher was to succeed in retaking the Falkland Islands, she would prove to be an effective leader. Diplomatic talks were going nowhere so the only option left was to send the British forces to retake the Falklands. The warzone is over 8000 miles from Britain so aircraft carriers like the HMS Invincible and the HMS Hermes played a vital role in providing air support. Ascension Island was the nearest British airbase to the Falklands located near the equator. Vulcan bombers were used from Ascension Island to conduct bombing raids but had to refuel several times just to get to the Falklands and to get back.

One famous moment of the war was when a Royal Navy submarine HMS Conqueror sunk an Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano. The HMS Conqueror was secretly following the ARA General Belgrano in the south of the Falklands Islands. The Argentine cruiser was heading to the Islands through shallow waters which the HMS Conqueror was able to sail through. Instead of letting it go, the HMS Conqueror fired three torpedos and sank the Belgrano within 45 minutes. 323 sailors were killed. After this, the Argentine Navy stayed in port for the rest of the war.

Another famous moment of the war was when the HMS Sheffield was sunk by an Exocet missile fired by an Argentine Super √Čtendard. 20 British sailors were killed and the onboard went out of control. The Sheffield was using it's satellite equipment to contact Britain which blocked the radar signal. The exocets flying at 700mph, hit the Sheffield. It was the first ship to be destroyed by enemy fire since World War Two.

The Falklands War was also well known for it's air war. The Royal Navy aircraft carriers were equipped with Sea Harriers. The Sea Harriers scored 20 air to air kills with no losses but suffered two losses from Argentine ground fire. Equipped with American Aim-9 Sidewinders, these heat seeking missiles shot down Argentine A-4 Skyhawks and Mirage IIIs. The Argentine airforce relied on airbases on the mainland as the airstrip at Port Stanley was too small. The lack of air to air refuelling was one reason why the Argentine fighters were not effective enough due to limited range.

There was an rare irony occuring that both sides used FN FAL rifles in combat. A rifle from Belgium using the 7.62mm round that is great on semi-automatic but because of it's recoil, becomes unsuitable when firing at automatic mode. The rifle has been used by many countries around the world during the 20th century. 

The British eventually took back the Falklands despite heavy resistance from Argentine troops and fighter jets. With the Argentine forces surrendering, Margaret Thatcher won her next election while the Argentine military government resigning due to mounting public opposition.

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